What does it feel like to cross over to the Dark Side? ​Confessions of an ex consultant client

 

​Por Diana Bueno Bieletto, Gerente de Inteligencia en OCESA y ex miembro de High Speed Solutions.​

There are increasingly more reality food shows. Professional chefs wanting to be the best; amateurs wanting to experiment; children submitted to cruel criticism from expert chefs; grumpy faced chefs telling a family how to improve their restaurant. For some reason we love to watch them: juicy beef, chocolate cakes, brilliant lasagnas #pornfood. But we can all agree that as much as we might crave the food and know the theory of what a good dish should be like, it isn´t the same as really tasting them. I use this as a very post-modern example of theory vs practice. And I´m telling you this because that is what happened to me a few weeks ago….. As a consultant.

What the hell does this have to do with it?

Recently I had the opportunity of working with High Speed Solutions as a client for the first time after working with them as a consultant for 10 years. I shared my experience with the agency and they invited me to write about it. Those who know me know that I am not a person prone to exaggerate or to being too emotional, but what occurred to me led me to an important reflection:

I worked side by side with “the agency”; The ones who make recommendations, those who view your problem as an easy one almost from the brief and then they go on to carry out the project either to confirm or refute that hypothesis. Sometimes being a consultant, strategist or researcher is like being the chef that knows the ingredients of the recipe because they always cook the same thing and they know the portions needed for the dish to be exquisite.

As a consultant it is easy to see what is wrong with the “patient” you have in front of you because the symptoms of all the brands are more or less the same. They hurt in similar ways, the topics regarding the challenge or solution are not infinite. A big part of their problem is really not having time to step away from their day to day, their category, and not being able to see beyond their everyday reality and think in a more strategical manner.

But after those 10 years of working as a strategist and consultant I “passed over to” the client´s side anda few days ago I tasted the honey of having a consultant in front of me. It´s as if the reality show has an audience, they would get out of their seats and at last taste the dishes. Or as if the chef had at last come into the restaurant to eat and not to cook: Although I knew in theory what the dish probably tasted like, this chef really enjoyed herself for the first time and now knew what a good meal was about.

This conversation with the consultant lasted less than two hours and I saw things that had not occurred to me after working for more than a year on the “client’s side”. I listened to the recommendations I know I myself would have given if I had been the agency, but I just never had the time, the dedication or the mind to think. During these months I entered the company’s mindset and I forgot to give recommendations WITHIN it. I forgot to read the context of my company, I was drawn in by the tide, I got caught up in the day to day.  And as if that wasn’t enough I began to replicate those lines “it can’t be done, It´s always been that way around here” that I had questioned for years when I was a consultant.

I sincerely believe that it was not a lack of competency on my behalf, it was the natural dynamic of someone who puts her soul into her category and wants to see it grow, but forgets to put herself in the critical and innovative shoes that a consultant wears every day to go to work.

I think that what was most interesting was not my self- criticism, but the pleasure of listening to someone who for the first time was thinking about my industry, my business, someone who had new, fresh and even obvious ideas for problems that my team and I confront 8 hours a day. At last I could talk about the challenges of my job with someone who was really interested instead of boring my friends in coffee shops or my boyfriend pretending to be interested as we are driving in traffic on the Viaducto and I´m tell him about my brilliant idea at work.

That is why today, my marketer friend, I take the liberty of recommending that if you really love your brand or your industry and are sincerely interested in seeing it grow, give yourself the gift of talking with a consultant. If you honestly want to find new opportunities, and approach problems differently, hire a strategical agency that will focus on your problem from another perspective. If you truly enjoy conversing about your company and your new process, allow yourself to be accompanied by a consultant, it is a delight that is incredibly enjoyable. Basically, stop watching Top Chef, and book a table at the Pujol restaurant*.

*This blog entry is not sponsored by Pujol.