Okay, I know I’m swimming with sharks here. Also, I promise not to self promote. (At least not blatantly.) I do have to say something as I watch firms in the construction industry shell out big bucks to hire consulting firms to help them get an edge. This opens them up for huge costs and abuses. Some, in their desperation, sign agreements that the devil wouldn’t even offer. I’m going to try and give you some perspective as I’ve heard the horror stories told at the consultant watering holes. I will probably completely alienate myself from my own peers but hey, right is right! Right?

There are several primary consulting services being offered in the market. They are financial, management, marketing and sales. Oh, and marketing is NOT sales. Now many of these firms are legit but in these economic times some are exploding their fees to ridiculous rates or providing services that are readily available at low costs. As contractors, many of you are focused on the project. The financial or sales aspect of your business may be foreign. Let me point out some of the abuses:

1. Marketing Programs: I’ve seen prices up to $10,000.00 for a website “tweaking” and up to $20,000.00 for new sites. That’s simply crazy. Worse, the production of fliers, slicks or brochures for anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000! These rates are ludicrous. A website doesn’t need to be a bunch of buzzers and bells. A good, attractive and functional site is enough. Site maximization services are borderline scams. It just isn’t worth thousands of dollars to be on page 1 of Google. We’re in construction folks! There are ways to climb the page without buying your way there. Let’s not even get into the ROI on radio and TV. Marketing cannot do your sales work. It merely provides exposure and brand awareness.

2. Management Programs: Management of personnel comes down to motivation and people skills. You can install systems, accountability formats and employee engagement techniques all you want. To truly manage properly, incentivize your people, compliment successes and let people know that in this economy, performers keep their positions. Save the money and talk to your people.

3. Financial Management Programs: I feel the accounting industry has let these companies grow in prominence. A good accountant will understand your business and what’s financially feasible. They can analyze your costs, profitability and bottom line. They tend to see things in black and white. Absolutely necessary in this economic climate. With the volitility in the markets, banks all over the board and capitol at a premium, you need straight advice. If your accountant cannot play that role for you, dump them for one that can. Going to a second source and paying a second fee actually defeats the whole purpose.

4. Sales Consultants: Okay, yes, I am one. But they’re popping up everywhere. First of all, have they ever successfully sold themselves? Have they managed sales reps? Have they trained sales personnel? Have they done this in your industry? You can spend thousands for a sales training program that is a boilerplate laid over your company. It’s not designed for your specific personnel and is ineffective or useless. Industry specific is the key. I also suggest one on one as opposed to group training. It makes all the difference in the world. Oh, by the way NEVER let an outside organization blindly call your clients as a representative of your company. They will embarrass you at some point. Why would you take that chance anyway?

There you have it. A very simplified but honest look at a tricky industry. I’m not saying these services aren’t necessary, but higher fees don’t bring greater results. A retainer over $2,500 monthly is foolish. At that rate you should expect 5-10 meetings a month. Big bucks for creative work such as logos, statements of qualifications, fliers and promotional concepts can kill you. I’ve seen consultants laugh over the amount of money they’re getting out of a client. Some of them are making huge dollars and see themselves in the realm of a high priced attorney.

Even with all this, I still wholeheartedly recommend getting help if you need it. On the converse side, a good consultant is well worth keeping around a long time. They learn your business, have your back and want you to be successful. They can actually save you the cost of an employee or two by what they do. There are many out there. They wouldn’t be the ones with their dorsal fin sticking out of the water though.