Back To The Beatles

A few mornings ago a TV commentator mentioned that when he was young he was an avid Beatles fan. And when he had his heart set on a particular Beatles Album, it became a matter for great anticipation…excitement though tempered inevitably with a need for patience. If  he did his homework well for a time, was exemplary with chores, his parents might as a ‘treat’ get him this album. When they did, it was a major event, it was hugely special, and he was elated!

He contrasted that to today. When his own kids ask for a DVD, without thought (until recently anyway) out came some money. If they wanted to download some music, out came a credit card. Christmas is wracked with commercialism…it takes a tow truck in some homes to deliver all the ‘gifts’.

In the corporate sphere, many companies in the downturn are saying they will ‘buy in’ consulting expertise, but refuse any more to have hordes of consultants in to be surrogate project managers, or to hold a manager’s hands while they implement. It’s an understandable distinction and a lot smarter than across the board, indiscriminate reductions which don’t look at value in the slightest.

In a sense our consulting interventions have to become more like the Beatles album rather than the mindless consumerism of today. Clients really should carefully select the outcomes they want, co-create with a consulting partner an approach they really anticipate implementing, for truly measurable value they know will make a real impact to their business. They may have to budget other things more carefully, they may wish to ensure that they are getting a premium product, not a repackaged ersatz knock-off with nicks and scrapes, and poor sound quality.

And if we on this basis create a real fan base, we’ll be much better placed to ride out any downturns. Leaders will still need to be coached, to get advice in areas that are vital to their business, to have crucial leadership teams aligned and focused, to connect better with their customers, to keep key talent engaged, and more. They may defer some work, but not forever.

And if they choose more judiciously, and we can work to appeal emotionally as well as pragmatically when the choice is made — really commit to their success (rather than our own methodology or our own Pavlovian reaction to any scintilla of interest from them no matter how remote or frankly ill conceived from the client’s perspective), then our ‘albums’ will be bought over and over, our music shared with everyone else they know and respect, and we’ll build an enduring practice that reflects that.

The day of the intemperate purchase may be over…purveyors of real value will end up prospering and benefiting — in consulting as in all else.