For start-up’s, the best advice is free
I wrote a post recently, entitled 'Death by Consultants'. In it, I tried to describe the problem of too many people looking to offer start-ups advice for a fee and it was incredibly difficult for a new businesses to discern which advice is worth paying for.
The blog was fairly dismissive of consultants generally and gave the distinct impression that their advice wasn’t worth much.
However, after publishing a post last week I had an kind and insightful response from a consultant we had met in the early days of Lashbrook Lassis. His name was Graeme Laws and at the time he was working for the Manufacturing Advisory Service: a government funded organisation set up to help small manufacturing businesses such as ourselves. Graeme didn’t charge us for his time and was incredibly generous and encouraging with his advice. He met us on several occasions; on a one-to-one basis, as part of a seminar group with other start-ups and also invited us to a conference – all of which was free.
This led me to appreciate upon reflection how fortunate Jo and I were with some of the people we met who gave us help without charge. And I was struck with a pang of guilt as I re-read my original post that did not paint consultants in the most flattering of lights.
Therefore, I would like to apologise for this narrow view of consultants. I would also like to say as loudly as written text will allow, that the only advice start-ups should accept is that which is offered for free – and there is plenty of it around.
We were assisted on numerous occasions by government-funded consultants who helped us focus our efforts and examine where we could improve what we were doing. Jo and I also attended a 6-week course that was paid for by the local council, which went through every aspect of starting a business.
All this support we had was incredibly useful; though would we have paid for it? Well, no. Not that their advice wasn't excellent, it's just that cash is ultimately king (we were actually told this by a consultant). And when you are running a business on a shoestring, you should not be delving into your cash reserves to pay for a consultant, especially when there is so much help out there for gratis.