30 Days of Blog - Day 15 - Consulting perspectives

Welcome to the halfway point! Day 15 of 30. It's been a long journey so far and there is plenty more to explore. 

Today I am going to be talking about consulting in the coffee industry. I mentioned on one of my first posts that I started consulting as a business because I didn't really know what else to offer after winning the WBC. There is a little more to it than that though. It is very true that I didn't have plans for other businesses, but the fact was that I enjoy teaching and showing others the things that I know. To give my perspectives as well as help more people around the world make tasty coffee.

Consulting was a natural fit and helped me start working quickly. 

It seemed like around the same time, or a few years later, everyone I knew was quitting their jobs to start doing work as a consultant. Don't think I'm claiming to be the one who started a trend or something, I highly doubt anyone even know that's what I was doing at the time anyway (especially with that I know now). Regardless, tons of new consultants began storming the market, giving massive amounts of partial information to whoever would pay for it. 

A lot of people have big misconceptions about consulting, especially in the coffee industry. Some want to get into it because they want the "big bucks", assuming that the numbers they have heard are going to put a ton of cash in their pockets. Some foresee being a glamorous globe (US?) trotting call person who gets wined and dined while being paid well for what is essentially their previous salaried position. Whatever the expectation, freedom of schedule and financial independence are common expectations.

It's not always quite so awesome.

I will say, consulting has allowed me the freedom to be with my wife and daughter much more than a traditional job. I have had the ability to take days off, schedule doctor appointments whenever available (there are SO MANY), and even take a little time off for vacation. 

The other side of the consulting story includes a much more difficult career than it always appears on the surface. Consulting is a lot more than just showing up to a cafe and doing some training for a great paycheck. On top of the common expectation by a prospective consultant to make tons of cash and live the good life, the impression by companies hiring that consultant vary. Companies look at the total estimated bill and must weigh their perceived value versus the cost. Some of these companies might look at a high price for a consultant as a waste of money when they could just hire a person for that knowledge full time, especially if that knowledge is easily gained. 

So a consultant must have knowledge and expertise that is at least uncommonly available if they want to get ahead. Don't mistake this for being ridiculously confident. That's how most companies hiring a consultant get tricked.

Another thing that is misunderstood is just how money paid relates to a consultant's income. Professional business owners should understand that a dollar of revenue rarely, if ever, equates to a dollar of profit. There are expenses related to time spent in various functions, office spaces, utilities, travel, and numerous other small expenses (like for example running a website).

For a look into my business, let's say I am talking to a potential client and they really want me to help them design their bar, help build the menu, create a training program, and help implement their standards with staff upon opening. This is a considerable amount of work to achieve, and the timeline will need to reflect a reasonable length to achieve all goals at the best execution possible. How much should be charged for this work? Different consultants have wildly different estimates for a job like this, but whatever the fee the consultant will still have to account for their "non paid" time somehow.

Part of the reason consultants fetch a higher price than an hourly worker is because they must pay themselves for all of the other work involved. While the job will entail on site time, materials creation, face to face training, and follow up, the consultant must make enough to still come out ahead after other expenses including:

  • Office expenses
  • Office supplies
  • Travel or other costs
  • TAXES - including self employment tax and employer taxes if you have employees
  • Invoicing
  • Accounting
  • Networking
  • Web Site upkeep, fees, and content creation
  • Client acquisition 
  • Administrative tasks - Like proposals, organization, and meetings

Some of these things may mean hiring staff, or spending a lot of time doing it yourself. Regardless, just like with any business the amount of work that should be done for a properly run business is quite large, and those seemingly oversized consulting payments may actually not be so lucrative as they seem. 

I would say this is especially important for any of you who have the starry-eyed dream of being a consultant. This is not to say that consulting can't get you ahead in life with great pay. But that it takes a LOT more work and organization than it seems. 

In the end I want to say that when applied properly, a consulting agreement between businesses and individuals can lead to a mutually beneficial future for both the consultant and the business working with them. The consultant must let go of ego a bit and have the perspective to help the business in question, and the business must be willing to trust the consultant and of course make sure to hire the one who is a great match for their company!

Lastly I want to say to businesses seeking consultation, do your research, have conversations, and find the ones who are truly capable of and interested in your business's success. There are a lot of consultants out there and not all are created equally. 

I like to say one of my jobs as a consultant is to fix all of the problems that the last person who was hired created because they had no idea what they were doing. Well, I like to say it but it drives me crazy that I have to do it so much.

Hope that didn't seem like too much of a rant today because I do truly love working with people and businesses around the world in pursuit of better coffee and excellent business.

See you tomorrow,

Pete

Posted on September 18, 2017 and filed under Blog.