My partner, Maribett Varner, recently said “Ken you’ve never met a consultant you didn’t like.”

Over the past few years I have begun engaging consultants for their specific areas of expertise. At one point I had two compensation consultants, a business process guru, and a pricing strategy engagement all at once. Right now I have four different subject matter experts on retainer advising us on various strategic initiatives.

Last year I had a moment of clarity after receiving a compliment from a well respected, influential consultant. This fellow, Bill Schwarz of the CEO Alliance, has worked with the best of the best – including Boeing, Aflac, Georgia Pacific and many others. In my opinion, he is the go-to deep thinker as it relates to business operations. My moment of clarity came in a meeting with my executive team where Bill explained just how well I was with my adoption of his suggestions. To be honest, I hated this. I had a very visceral reaction to his praise.

After a day or so marinating in what bothered me about this, I figured it out. I don’t pay consultants to compliment me. I pay them to tell me what I’m not getting right! I want to know my flaws, my weaknesses. I want to draw on their worldly experience and business insights to positively change my behavior.

I need this third party objective perspective and I want it unvarnished.

Then it hit me. That’s also the real value we bring to our RMI clients. Sure, we’re hired to drive their online marketing efforts and optimize them into profits. That’s all well and good but what’s needed is for us to tell them how to make breakthroughs in strategy. This is where we have to be willing to say “You’re not doing it right.” This is difficult. Frankly, it’s often when my client teams will ask me to go meet with the C-suite… to tell them something dire that’s not getting through the regular chain of command.

I have a simple request for my consultants and partners. Please do not shirk away from this responsibility. Tell me when you think I’m not doing it right. If you are a client, allow us permission to tell you the truth. Demand that we give you our perspective on the strategy, not just the promotion. Finally, if you are an agency, tell the truth. Tell the client that when their idea is stupid and they are screwing up. They need it and your value and credibility with them will go through the roof.

Back to my story…

Bill now tells me I’m screwing stuff up all the time… and I couldn’t be happier.

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