The difference between consulting a business as a professional and supporting it as a friend:
a.) supporting a product as a friend:
An old friend of mine recently started a company producing organic hot sauces. I bought a bottle. I don’t necessarily care how good the hot sauce is at this point. I ordered a bottle because I want to support my friend in this endeavor. Good or bad, I will put this stuff on my food and eat it – that risk is worthwhile to me.
b.) advising as a professional:
A year ago, I was involved with a student consulting organization through a local school.
The group took on a very small BBQ sauce client.
At a meeting, the client team told the rest of us that they were having trouble increasing sales, and asked for ideas.
A couple of people threw out some arbitrary suggestions – website design, “local events,” etc.
I instead asked what is, in my mind, the most important element of tackling an issue like this, which was, simply:
“Is it good?”
(They all stared at me like I’d just ordered a hot dog at The Capital Grill.)
“I said: ‘is it good?’”
After a moment, one of them finally said, “yeah, I mean, it’s won awards and stuff.”
Which only made me want to specify: “but have you tried it?”
(Because if not, you cannot sufficiently represent it!)
That’s the difference between being a good consultant and being a good friend. With Steve’s sauce, I frankly don’t care if it’s good. With a client’s sauce, you should know for sure whether or not it is.
When everyone else is trying so hard to play nice, there is a lot of value in someone who can point out that Grandma actually makes horrible cookies and nobody buys them at the cash register.
Otherwise, no amount of money spent on web design, repackaging, color-printed coupons – or, frankly, your fees – will be fruitful.