Consulting is a big responsibility, regardless of the market segment. It is a complex activity that fits within the decision-making processes, and makes entrepreneurs extremely jealous.
The presence of a “third” figure that come between a boss and a company (or a project) is not always easily digested and many prefer to fail alone rather than succeed with help from someone.
All this becomes even more complicated when that someone has a specific expertise in areas that teem with makeshift managers and last-society friends.
This is the reality of the foodservice industry.
How come a wide range of entrepreneurs and investors do not perceive the value of expert advice?
The reasons can be many:
- Diffidence (half of the customers tell us of their bad past experiences)
- Lack of resources (no budget even for the most solid chairs, let alone a consultant)
- Inability to effectively coordinate with other professionals (“I pay, I decide!”)
- Conviction of having all, but the skills needed to oversee the different aspects of a business.
It is also true that, often consultants fail to help people understand the benefits (especially long-term) associated with their intervention, nor are they able to educate the client to develop realistic expectations about the nature of their collaboration.
However, there is one aspect that catches the eye: in our years of experience in working abroad, we found substantial differences in the customer-food consultant’s report between Italy and the rest of the world.
The differences may be broadly categorized into three main factors:
- Consideration: abroad, the consultant is actually seen as an expert, a resource, a coin to spend to avoid outrageous mistakes and lose money or time behind sterile initiatives.
In 2012, for example, we were in a professional visit to Harrods and we found ourselves in the middle of a small domestic crisis for the service: the Harrods manager immediately called their food consultant (our colleague) and no one dared to lift a finger without his intervention.
- Vision of themselves: out of the Bel Paese, the entrepreneur is paying a lot less to realize the idea exactly as he had in his head, and focuses on functionality, on the definition of business models that will last over time, and strong adhesion to market demands.
We are reminded of the Starbucks model, with its broken couches and the screw heads visible in most of the furniture. It is not perfect and does not want to be. Starbucks is not only the result of an entrepreneurial vision, but the result of what users have decided to make it, how they decided to “inhabit” it. This kind of conceptual flexibility is not really prevalent in Italy; in fact, according to some, it can ruin a business!
- Budget (the constraint not so much in readiness the readiness to spend, as in the approach): it is not what you requested prior to ‘classical bargaining’ (and then use it as a benchmark and meet other consultants, with the aim of commanding the most advantageous economic offer), but an explicit available budget! The mechanism is not: “I would like to do this, how much will it cost”, but: “I have this availability, can you do it?” This quantum leap makes a whole lot of difference, without wasting time for anyone and, above all, making ‘trust’ and not ‘money’ the key element in the collaboration.
The Made in Italy idea is still a goldmine for enlightened entrepreneurs; those who know how to match the style and quality of the products also have a more solid level of professionalism and strategic vision.