Thursday, October 15, 2009

Consultants - Who needs 'em?

Once upon a time I asked myself this very question. I couldn’t understand paying someone for some abstract service of “consulting”, like giving advice. I get free advice all day, every day, even if I don’t want it! To be honest, I’ve long avoided using certain words to describe myself, consultant being one of them. The other was expert. I’ve gotten over that one.

Truth be told, if a person has a high level of knowledge and experience in a field, they should not shy away from referring to themselves as an expert. You worked hard, you devoted yourself, and now, you have a breadth and depth of knowledge in your discipline that surpasses most and rivals the top people in your field. You are an expert. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you know everything, that your opinion should be taken as the final word on a subject. Rather, you are a good source for an educated opinion or guess when a question is asked, you are a good person to learn from about that topic. So yes, I am a wine expert.

And now, I am a wine consultant. Same concept as being an expert, except now you get paid to share your opinions, advice, guidance. So who needs a wine consultant? Well, the truth is many of the things I can do for you, you can do for yourself. For example, I have a client who wants a complete overhaul of his wine list at his restaurant. Could he select and purchase wine, write it up on a piece of paper and hand it to a customer to peruse without my help. Absolutely! Now here are the questions to be asked:

What wines are you buying for the new list? Why these wines? What does your product mix look like as compared to that of your closest competitors and the market at large?

What kind of pricing strategy are you implementing? Are you making the most money you can on your list?

Is your staff equipped to sell the wines (after all, a wine list is a sales tool, you still need the human element)? Do they know what to say and how to say it, how to serve it? Can they explain the offering to your guests?

How is your wine stored and where? How much storage space is available? How will that affect your purchasing strategy?

I could go on. The point is you as a restauranteur could

A: Spend a few years taking wine courses to bring your knowledge base up so that you can create, implement and administer a wine program well.

B: Make all the determinations of storage, purchasing, market positioning etc. on your own.

C: Conduct ongoing wine training for your staff or hire more wine savvy servers and bartenders (who then expect more financially)

D: Hire a full time sommelier and pay payroll taxes and worker’s comp insurance for them.

E: All of the above.

Consultants - who needs ‘em? People who want to do something positive for themselves, their asset portfolio, their business and their lives, but don’t have the expertise or time to do what they would like to get done. As Robert Kiyosaki says in his iconic book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the rich are wise enough to hire and pay people who are smarter than them to get things done for them. Wine Consultants, unite! We are important and needed, so let’s get crackin’!

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