Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Most Dangerous Words In the English Language.

The most dangerous phrase in the English language just might be, "This option is the same as that option."

I made this mistake in Chicago recently when I was trying to get to my hotel and there was a long row of cabs from which to choose. I thought, "What difference does it make which one I pick? They're all going to take me to where I need to go." I got in one of the cabs with a fellow named Emil, who had not been in the country for long. He told me my hotel was in downtown Chicago, so we proceeded to ride around for an hour and forty-five minutes only to discover that my hotel was in the suburbs. To make up for lost time, he drove at speeds exceeding eighty miles an hour (while I pleaded with him to slow down) while reading his direction book.

What could I have done differently? I should have told the cab monitor that I wanted a driver whose first language was English and who had been operating a cab at least five years. Because I didn't pay attention to the differences with cab drivers, I exposed myself to unnecessary risk.

Ironically, many people make similar mistakes to what I made with the cabbie when they go about selecting a consultant, whether it's an accountant, architect, real estate agent, advertising professional, or management consultant. In many cases the cost may appear to be the same, the services or products are the same, but there are significant differences between individuals. Here are some things to find out before hiring a professional. The easiest way to find out who and what they are about is, well, to just ask.
  • Do you have a set of principles that guide your practice?
  • What specifically do you do that gives you an edge over your competition?
  • What evidence is there that your methods work better than the competition's?
  • Do you have a service model? How does it apply to me?
You would be surprised how few consultants have really thought about the answers to these questions. When you find one that has concise, concrete answers, you have found an unusual person.
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