Death by consultants

During the course of setting up our business, I always joked that if I could start again I should’ve become a consultant instead. Admittedly it never got big laughs, though I still enjoyed telling it.

This is one of my big issues surrounding the culture of start-up businesses; that its biggest advocates are often consultants. I struggle to think of a more perfect job than being a consultant, in that you give some advice and regardless of whether it helps or not, you get paid.

I suspect there are more people that profess to a be a consultant or business guru than there are start-ups. And so if you ever decide to make the fateful decision to start a business, be prepared for consultants to flock to you like flies on the proverbial.

I remember when we first came up with our lassi flavours, we were keen to find out how they could be produced on an industrial scale. We also wanted to try and replicate a more commercial set up within our own kitchen and bring costs down.

So we sought the advice from a university that seemed to have a good track record in helping food and drink start-ups. We met them and explained exactly how we made our lassis at the time. (For anyone who knows anything about commercial manufacturing, particularly of drinks, please turn away now). We told them how we made the yoghurt using local milk and bacterial cultures. After a day of doing this we began combining the yoghurt with fresh fruit, which involved peeling bananas, chopping pears, picking grapes and so on. Then we would put all the ingredients inside a blender before pouring into our bottles.

At this point they should have told us that we couldn’t be less cost-effective or inefficient if we tried and explained exactly how everybody else makes their drinks. This would have involved using purees and juices rather than raw ingredients as well as sourcing a ready-made yoghurt rather than making our own from scratch.

This is what they should’ve told us, but they didn’t. Instead they took 3 months to write a report that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. It explained how we should essentially carry on making the lassis as we were doing, but placing the blended fruit in the microwave, which acted as a means of pasteurisation. Even we, who knew nothing about manufacturing, could see this was a pretty stupid idea and so never used any of the advice they gave us.

I look back at their report and laugh… admittedly through tears of anger, as the whole experience set us back about £5000, 3 months of anticipation and meant we were no closer to getting our drinks to market.

Any consultants out there, you have every right to reply…

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