Why my Business Coach doesn’t much like my New Year’s resolutions…
So the New Year is once again upon us and we’re busily making promises to ourselves to eat better, exercise more and empty our “too hard” baskets. And, in our professional lives, we are urged by management consultants and accountants to make resolutions to improve margins, cut expenses and enhance profitability. But to me, something doesn’t feel right.
For years we have listened to the academics, the self-proclaimed experts and every business consultant who has traipsed a well-worn path to our office door and blindly accepted their buzz-word laden advice about how we can improve our operations and enjoy the fruits of strong profitability and business growth. If only we could better “capture” our time, prevent “leakage” and “leverage” off our human resources. And what if we could “drill down” and take a “deep dive” into a detailed “SWAT analysis” and then ensure that our team focuses on “deliverables”. Imagine the “super-profits” that could be generated. Well I’m calling BS.
And before I offend all the well-intentioned business consultants and financial gurus out there, I am not for one moment questioning their worth or the value they add to an organisation. On the contrary, there is enormous benefit in an objective outsider bringing their experience and expertise to strategic and business planning. My perspective is simply that of the Principal of a professional services firm; an outlook to the surrounding landscape viewed through the lens of the values of a profession, rather than a commercial enterprise. And I don’t pretend that those of us called to a profession are compelled to serve the greater good without keeping one eye focussed on our profitability.
My point is simply that we should consider fairness, balance and the interests of our clients/customers/patients in all the business decisions we make. It’s Ethics 101 that, as a starting proposition, the interests of those we serve should take priority over our own. So while it’s no sin to try and improve margins and increase prices, I reckon we need to test the temptation to recalibrate pricing and charging methods against our enterprise’s values and our own moral compass. Yes, Mr Consultant, I know that my pricing model lags behind others in my space. And yes I understand that I’m missing an opportunity to improve returns. But at least it’s a choice informed by considered judgment, rather than simply being ignorant misadventure.
So this year, I’ll listen to good advice, and heed the wise counsel of advisers, but if there’s to be any increase in pricing there will have to be a commensurate improvement in our value proposition through better service delivery or product offering. Because a value is non-negotiable. And as a professional, no matter what our calling, should we not insist that we are diligent and competent in our work and that our service pricing is fair, proportionate and transparent?
Client-centric business practices and profitability need not be mutually exclusive, right?