My experience, with this environment, is that to be successful any consultant / client relationship must be established on the ‘right’ foundations.
In this, understanding each other’s roles from the outset is a paramount consideration. Too frequently, many relationships stumble at this first hurdle.
A consultant is generally a sharp instrument used to address key issues.
To use these services, or skill-sets, on mundane administrative tasks, unless this is a core part of the brief, will waste the essential cutting-edge value that the consultant can bring.
In terms of the financial arrangement, it should be understood that in client terms, a retainer is like a membership subscription.
To use a golf members’ analogy, at its most basic level, it does not entitle the paying member to anything other than a right of access to the facilities and or the ‘attention’ of the club.
The payment of the subscription only allows the member to have the right to pay to play (at a preferred rate), buy drinks at the bar, hire a golf cart, hold a handicap, etc.
These prices will be at rates preferential to those charged to the public, but there are no free drinks or rounds, just because you are member.
From the available sources my preferred definitions for a retainer would be:
‘Fee paid to a person or firm to secure the privilege of obtaining its services as and when required’
‘An amount of money that you pay to someone, so as to be sure that that person can work for you when you need them to.’
No relationship can hope to prosper, if either party withholds key information from the other.
The client must give the consultant all of the relevant intel required – effectively a ‘warts and all’ scenario.
Conversely the consultant must give, and be permitted to do so, an uncensored version of what he or she finds in the process of evaluating the business’ challenges and problems.
Defining mutual expectations, to help to ensure that the client is getting what it needs.
This will also require that the consultant be remunerated commensurately for these inputs.
Timeframes & outcomes:
In this process, it will be necessary for both parties to understand the fees and payment schedule, the timeframes within which the work will be completed and the results likely to be forthcoming.
The latter is particularly important.
Most inputs are within timeframes that require time for the inputs to mature in order to be effective.
Therefore, although quick wins can sometimes be affected, this is generally not a sow and immediate reap environment.
A consultant is not a magician and there are, under most circumstances, no ‘miracle’ cures.
What a consultant brings, above all else, is a fresh perspective.
This viewpoint, backed by solid analysis and the experience of working in the field of business and other related businesses, will enable a fresh look at the challenges being faced by the particular client’s business.
Working with the management team will then ensure the input of the required corrective processes, new products and or services.
Communications / reporting line
This will be a key element to ensure that:
a) The information is ‘heard’ and processed effectively.
b) It is in the hands of those who will implement the recommended initiatives and or remedial actions.
The very wise CFO of a client once commented in terms of point a):
“It is a great pity that people are willing to spend so much time evaluating the ‘tone’ in which a message is being delivered, or analysing the deliverer, instead of paying attention to what is actually being said.”
In terms of point b), I recently had the challenging and rewarding task of helping to relaunch Pecanwood, one of South Africa’s premier golf estates.
This was a multi-layered brief including re-staffing, training, marketing, overseeing the physical upgrade of various on-site facilities including the clubhouse, etc.
One of the key briefs from the then CEO and the board member responsible for the country club portfolio, was to find new revenues’ streams.
In this discussion, the matter of turning the golf course / country club into a profitable area, within the overall budget for the estate, was discussed.
My response, as a first step, was to look a removing the club’s operations as a red line from the overall budgets, as a cost centre, and an ongoing cause of disagreement at every AGM.
Making the country club operations break even (something that had not been achieved since the estate’s opening some 20 years earlier) would have the additional benefit of cooling the fires of the argument, in which all non-golfing homeowners were in fact subsidising the golfers’ hobby out of their back pockets.
This alternative was greeted initially with some disbelief (could this actually be achieved?), but then with great enthusiasm, when it was realised that I had both a plan and the belief that it could be made to work.
The strategy, one layer of which involved a pre-paid corporate partnership, was designed, signed off and implemented.
This was despite continual opposition from various golfers, one of whom opined that the outcome of the partnership would result in the golf course becoming too busy!
Although some sniping still continues, this is not all bad as it does draw attention to the dangers of vested interests, especially those which are not aligned to the collective good
This is especially the case with this example, as with the signing of the partnership the country club did indeed move into the black for the first time since the estate had opened.
The other benefits were that the ROI, versus my fees, over the initial 3 years of the partnerships would be 10 to 1.
One year on from the re-launch phase, I also saw the rounds’ numbers, which showed a 30% increase – 45% of which were attributed to activities within the corporate partnership.
Next week part 4 of this Business of Golf Discussion Series piece will conclude the exploration of the benefits of using a consultant’s’ services.
John Cockayne Mobile 0027 (0) 73 8967931 & Email firstname.lastname@example.org
John’s eclectic business experience in tandem with his writing skills – makes him much sought after as a business consultant and writer. In terms of the latter, and amongst a number of current roles, he is the golf editor with, or a columnist for, a number of top platforms and publications including Destination Golf Travel Global, GolfVistaSA, GolfRSA and Business Day.
John is a very experienced event manager, has had extensive marketing experience, worked as a project consultant on three continents and has developed and run a travel agency and two tour operator businesses. He is also a Founder and Life member of the PGA of South Africa and is no stranger to working inside the ropes having held operational roles as a head professional, director of golf, club manager, coaching director and as a tournament official on the Sunshine Circuit.