Businesses Love Affair With Mediocrity
Businesses Love Affair With Mediocrity
Businesses Love Affair With Mediocrity

I wonder sometimes why companies hire consultants. It seems that the first order would be to help them fix something in their business that is broken or seeking improvement. Folks that sit at the top of companies are smart, and I am pretty sure that most of the time they really do know what is broke and what needs fixed in their business, even when their actions indicate differently. The business is their baby. They do not need a consultant to tell them where the problems exist, although verification is always good. No, I think many times they seek the help of a consultant to make them feel better.

While that conclusion is certainly not always the case, what else explains the vast amounts of money that companies spend year-in and year-out on “improvements,” “education” and the next “new thing” only to keep doing things the way they always have? It is frustrating to work for a company, collect fees from them, get accolades all along the way, measure and track significant improvement, then two years later get fired and watch them revert to their old ways and habits in six months or less. Perhaps I am a bad consultant that gets fired a lot, which could be the case. However I watched this same movie over and over while in corporate America. Our company CEO, an extremely bright guy would hire and fire consultants every few years, we would all go through the drill almost like a cycle.  In conversing about this very topic with my friend Jay Ehret this week from The Marketing Spot, a consultant himself, summed it up as “Companies are just being who they are.”

Watching so many businesses that could be so much more has me thinking about branding. It seems that many times the things that set great brands apart were always subtly there for anyone else to grab; it just took someone to “see” it differently, and then to actually implement and execute. Those uncontested waters contain great stories of profitable growth.

It is conventionally believed that companies can either create grater value to customers at a higher cost or create reasonable value at a lower cost.  That said, many companies strategy is seen as making a choice between differentiation and low cost. But what happens when you achieve differentiation and lower cost simultaneously?

 Value innovation is created when a companies action favorably affect both the cost structure and the value proposition. Eliminating and reducing the factors that an industry competes on create cost savings. It is in this space that uncontested markets are created, making the competition irrelevant.

Value innovation embraces a strategy that encompasses the entire system of a company’s activity.  It requires companies to orient the whole system toward achieving an exponential leap in value for both the customer and the business. Align the whole system of your firm’s activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost.

The companies that do it really well have made that exercise part of the fabric of their business, and have pushed past the fear, or whatever else was holding them back. It truly is much more fun to create the rules as opposed to following them. Is your business doing this? Mediocrity eventually erodes profits, and isn’t as safe of a space as you may think.

About the Author

Eric Brown
Eric Brown's background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.
  • Well put, Eric.  Several companies tend to look at consultants with skepticism and as the first people to be eliminated during difficult times.  But little did they know, the rewards of treating and managing consultants correctly and effectively can be substantial.  My advice to those companies, ” Don’t fire your consultants, manage them.”  Thanks again.  

  • Danielroyse

    Hey Eric,

    Great post!  Keep it


    Let us know if you ever feel like doing guest post.  We’re always looking for new writers.





  • That’s kinda of a sharp critic but I share your point of view!

  • Eric, As you and I have discussed, it is difficult for entrepreneurs to pull the trigger on new and exciting ideas. Even more difficult to re-shape a business into an exciting brand, despite clear evidence of value. The reason is because there is comfort in the cradle of familiarity. People tend to persist in what they’ve always done in the way they’ve always done it. That doesn’t necessarily change because you pay a consultant. The familiar is still familiar and it’s still comfortable.

    Love your Value Innovation paradigm.

  • While it is logical to assume that people who sit at the top of their own businesses know exactly where the problems are in the business, what needs to be fixed and how to fix it…you may be surprised at just how many actually don’t know where to begin. A great idea can only get a company so far and often times it is a consultant who has worked across many businesses (vs. the one business in question) who can lend a perspective on what is broken, what is working and how to make vital shifts to ensure the business is successful long term.

    It also greatly depends on what type of consultant is brought in (strategy? structure? marketing? product? tech?) and their experience working with senior management in a significant way vs. a short-term fix & go way. (The latter is rarely successful.)

    I’m certainly biased as a consultant but wanted to weigh in because I’m approached daily by companies run by very smart people who don’t truly know how to proceed in their own business.

    • Good points. In my own experience, the people at the top quite frequently got there by accident! Right place, right time type of deal..

  • Well put, Eric. And don’t forget the people (staff and contractors) who personalize the brand. That helps bring it to life. Like the DSO for example (I see that you are a fellow “Detroiter.”) I recently commented on how they are doing it right:

    • Hi Liz, Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to comment. 
      Much agree with you, and when the staff and contractors are behaving consistent with a brands persona, grand things occur.I am a Detroiter  for sure. I office a couple days a week at the Green Garage in Midtown, just around the corner from the DSO should you ever wish to meet up, 

      • Would love to do that. I’ll look at my ‘next time in Detroit’ schedule and make that connection with you.


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