Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Consulting Dilemma

I got a lead for a new consulting client that is hitting the VCs and wants help rewriting their business plan. My friend who sent me the lead pointed me to the company's web site for more info should I be interested in bidding on the project.

I took a look at their basic concept Nothing to blow anyone's socks away . I knew I had to decide: do I act excited about the opportunity and try to dress up this pig, or do I take a pass?

I'm in marketing, and my job is to, well, market. That means taking things that aren't exciting, interesting and dynamic and make them all of those things. Plus I am supposed to go out and make money. On the other hand there is the opportunity cost of taking such a project, plus potentially being attached to said project if the spin doesn't quite work out and it ends up as an unmitigated failure.

A similar consulting dilemma comes up when a consultant comes up with a negative report on a project he is working on. For example, let's say a consultant feels that the project he is working on should be killed. If the consultant gives the company his honest opinion, he may lose the client for good, especially if management has a vested interest in the project. If the consultant tells the client what he wants to hear, however, he will not only keep the client, he will keep the billable hours going as the project continues. I have never been in this situation, but I tell myself that my ethics are such that I would give my honest opinion. However, I understand that others in this situation may feel differently, especially if they had a mortgage payment coming due.

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