Step Up or Back Up!

I was at a graduation party this weekend and heard something I hate to hear. I was talking with a relative I hadn't seen for 20 years. Her husband is an accountant so I mentioned I worked for a firm in NYC before starting RARE-TECH. In talking about technology for accounting firms he mentions that he has a backup and business continuance plan in place.

After digging a little, (which I cannot help -- I'm a technology guy), I find out his backup plan is in need of serious help. He is not sure what's being backed up, if it is being backed up and the backup has never been tested to see if the data is recoverable. He knows he is in a bad situation. But he doesn't realize how bad.

Let me explain his setup and you will better understand. He has one PC and he does all of his accounting work on that machine. The PC is hooked up to an external hard drive. He hits a button and "magically" everything is done. (Needless to say I will need to go in and clean up the mess left by their consultant.)

As a technology consultant this where I get red-hot and just completely lose my cool. You see I have a reputation amongst my peers for hating consultants. In my various management roles I loathed hiring technology consultants for anything. I would rather spend the money taking classes and getting my staff up to speed on a technology rather than hiring someone from the outside.

Funny thing for a technology consultant to say, you would think. But that's why my company motto is "Technology consultants are abundant, Technology partners are RARE." I believe this philosophy very much. In fact, I market myself as a technology partner (but in the yellow pages I'm a consultant).

What's the difference? Many consultants (not all) are what I like to call "Aim, shoot and run". They come into your business with the aim of selling services, they shoot off their mouths about how they will make you more secure, improve efficiency, protect you from disaster, stop comets, put out fires with their super breath and they will even slay the dragon that is attacking your villagers. All this for the low, low price of more than you can probably afford. Once they implement a solution, they run never to be heard from again. Either because they don't care or they do not have the skills to support what they have just implemented. As a result of these kinds of consultants the word has become synonymous with another popular term, snake oil salesman.

This why I like the word partner, it means you are vested in the client. It means you want them to continue in business. It may be beneficial at first to come in and make a killing in one implementation. I believe it is much better to sell solutions companies need and make sure they understand how to use them, offer options. Some businesses, for instance, do not have the budget to have you monitor their backups. Perhaps you can teach them how to do it themselves. Or implement a reasonable online backup solution with automation if it is within budget.

Seeing that you care means that you are recommendable. Word of mouth is better than any print ad you can buy. Like I said there are many good consulting companies out there. Quite a few I would even recommend if I were not able to take a job due to location or workload. However, there are many like my relative's consultant who just bleed money and leave companies on the verge of failure.

To them I say, "Step up or backup .. and let the real professionals do a real professional job." I don't mean to be so emotional, but I truly love what I do and I hate it when people give technology and technology professionals a bad name.

Have you had your own bad consulting experience? Please comment and let me know!

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