Consultants are a waste of time and money

Today my state and federal tax returns were due. I paid my (substantial and onerous) estimated taxes back on April 15th, but extensions were filed to finalize some deductions and so today was also tax day. Oh, the rhapsodic joy of having two tax days this year! Everyone should be so lucky.

Despite being assured by my accounting firm on 14 October that no additional taxes were owed, when I got the call to come pick up my return on 15 October – that is one (1) day later, for all you mathematically-challenged, overpaid tax professionals out there; e.g. 15 – 14 = 1; take off you shoes and socks if you need help counting – I was cheerfully informed that I owed a rather large amount of money because they made a mistake. Turns out that instead of actually reviewing the data I gave them around 6-8 months ago, they made some “assumptions” which proved false when one of these aforementioned tax professionals actually looked at the numbers on the day the return was due. Somehow, I always assumed accountants were the nerds who did their term papers a month in advance. Go figure.

Needless to say I had a grand time running to the banks and post office between 3:20 PM when I actually got the returns and the 5:00 PM mailing deadline. Of course I had nothing else scheduled for today. Nope, nothing at all. These fine professionals had my information for the better part of a year and managed to get my taxes to me on the day they were due less than 2 hours before the deadline, with a surprise bill to double the fun! Talk about customer satisfaction!

In case you were wondering, I fired them today.

This accounting firm loves to tell people all about their business consulting services, supposedly the best around. Today’s miserable, arrogant, incompetent performance stacks up with most of my experiences with consultants over the years. Expensive, time-consuming and ultimately an infuriating waste of time and money. Thus the harsh title of this post.

Selling PassageMaker’s services is engaging and thoroughly enjoyable, but it is time consuming because our services really don’t fall into any of the normal definitions. We perform assembly and light manufacturing, but we are not a manufacturing company. We help clients do business in China but we are not a trading company. We never take ownership of the physical product, so in a sense we are not even a supplier. Our core services – Sourcing Feasibility Studies, Vendor Coordination, Assembly-Inspection-Packaging, and Factory Formation – are simple in concept, but so flexible in practice that there are a thousand ways they can be customized to serve the customer’s needs. We want to fulfill the client’s operational requirements in China; to identify, establish and manage the client’s supply chain, so that there’s a tangible service provided that adds real and quantifiable value.

Because PassageMaker falls outside of recognized business models – indeed, in my experience we are unique – prospective clients sometimes refer to us as “consultants”. Oh, how I recoil from that label. As someone once put it, “a consultant is someone who will tell you the time of day by showing you your own watch”. Shoot me if I ever fit that description.

While it is time-consuming to explain the full scope of our services, the philosophical foundation – Trust & Transparency – resonates with our clients. Many of our clients have been through the wringer in China, and our open pricing, commitment to customer satisfaction and quality of service are a breath of fresh air.

Yes, we sell a set of services, not a product per se, and that may seem like what a consultant does, but we are NOT a consulting firm. Them’s fighting words.

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