When I first wrote Million Dollar Consulting in 1991, I found that the palm reader/psychic on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, required more licensing and oversight than anyone claiming to be a consultant. I thought that was rather droll!
Since then (and Million Dollar Consulting is now in its sixth edition 30 years later), I’ve made my money by providing value to clients in the form of simplicity, not complexity. Clients—whether Fortune 1,000, closely held, non-profit, government, academic—need clarity and transparency, not elaborate models and opaque commentary.
I’m ideally suited to this reality because I’m just not that deep. I search for the causes of problems, the risks and rewards inherent in different options, and the need to prevent problems but also deal with them should they occur anyway.
Let me be even clearer: I often ask a client the “if…then” question. “If you do this, then what is likely to happen?” Most people fail to significantly consider risk. They are too eager to capitalize on reward. I call this the “risk/reward” ratio (Talib, in Antifragile, calls it “upside/downside”—great minds think alike.)
A case in point. Many years ago, the major utility servicing Atlantic City and all the casinos therein was modernizing and employing new technology. This enabled them to reduce costs by cutting staff, and they were doing so with a very generous and humane offer. However, one such offer gave a generous bonus to all linemen (as they were known then) over 50 years of age who took early retirement. Although I wasn’t involved in that project, I asked the executive with whom I worked if I could take a quick look.
“I’ll give you 24 hours,” he said, “we need to announce this.” Well, IF they went through with the offer, THEN they would have lost every single lineman who knew how to rig lines after an ice storm. Every one, because they were all over 50. And there were ice storms in the winter, and all of the casinos would have gone dark.
Once I presented the facts, that offer was never announced. I simply asked, “If we do this, then what can happen?” Consulting is about common sense. Thank goodness there was no barrier to entry in this profession. I found that the psychic retired years ago after sending a couple of kids through college.
But I guess she knew that would happen.