Sometimes your client or potential client needs to fail before you can help him. That was a difficult lesson for me to learn, but has proven to be an important one. And if you’re going to be successful in the service industry, you better learn this one, and fast.
Earlier in my career as a consultant, I would try to argue and convince my clients of a course of action that I thought was best for them. Most of the time my advice became strategy or a tool that eventually brought results. But from time to time I encountered, and still do to this day, people who believe they know more than I do and decide that their solution is preferable to mine. As a consultant, this know-it-all attitude has always puzzled me. After all, if you know the “what” and “how,” why hire me in the first place?
In the early, lean days of The A Group, I would take on the flawed strategy projects because I needed the money. They were disastrous. No one ever won. My team would begrudgingly execute a plan we knew was not going to work. The anemic performance would cause the client to blame the implementation, of course. That’s a lose/lose situation.
One day I wised up. I walked away from a potential big project because I knew that even a well-executed but flawed strategy was not going to bring results. The potential client went to another firm that took the project as directed. It failed. A year later they were back. This time there was no big argument, no arrogance, but collaboration and eventually success.
As counter-intuitive as walking away from a potentially lucrative project might be, sometimes it’s your only option. Unfortunately, the ignorant and arrogant are not able to learn from others’ mistakes. They must make them and pay a high price before they are ready to be helped.
What has been your experience with an arrogant leader/client and a project doomed from the beginning?