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Consulting Conflicts

A response to 'Consulting Etiquette' and why it defeats the purpose of a consultant

Consulting Conflicts

While I am reluctant to criticize another consultant’s article, I cannot find one line of Dr. Sudhir H. Kale’s “Consulting Etiquette” (Global Gaming Business, August 2010) worth the ink and paper it took to print it. In fact, much of the article is simply intolerable sans rebuttal.

The most objectionable are several suggestions listed under “Creating An Image,” including: circulating a puffed-up biography of the consultant, sending a limo to pick him up, putting him up in the best suite, providing the consultant superior office space, never questioning the consultant in front of staff, and looking the other way on extra expenses. Dr. Kale is right; such treatment will help create an image (or more accurately, reinforce a stereotype) of an overpaid, out-of-touch, elite outsider who has no clue of the real world the casino staff and customers are experiencing.

Where is Sarah Palin when you really need her?

For any consultancy to work (especially a project dealing with customer service or operating issues), the consultant has to establish a respectable relationship with the staff as well as being able to see the casino through the eyes of the customers.

In my history, most gaming managers are “consultant-reticent.” They do not like the idea of having to discuss (or defend) their job to an outsider in the best of times. One can only imagine how today’s manager would treat a “$350 per hour” stranger who travels by limo and stays in the best suite—and was hired a week after upper management forced the manager to lay off 40 percent of his staff.

The other problem with the VIP treatment is that it separates the consultant from the day-to-day customers that support the place. Besides the project at hand, I also tried to alert my clients to any major or even minor problem I observed during my stay. Is management aware that “outside agency-placed reservations” are tying up the entire check-in procedure at the front desk, or that the free breakfast room locks it doors 15 minutes before posted closing, or that there are no signs on the floor to the slot club booth, or that the blackjack dealers do not really understand the new “early surrender” rule, or that free internet service does not allow a guest to send an email message, or that the maids are leaving all the lights on and air-conditioning blasting after they clean a room? I have made all these observations to upper management over the years, and I would not be able to do so if I was traveling in a high-profile cocoon.

Casino managers deal with BS-ers every day, and thus reserve judgment on folks until they see them in action. As a consultant I was extremely fortunate that I wrote a weekly Las Vegas column as well as several articles a month for consumer-level gaming publications. Casino managers already knew my name, and that I was considered a “slot club expert.”

But that did not mean that they took everything I said as gospel. Key points had to be defended and arguments won if objectives were to be met. I fondly remember dozens of circumstances where a general manager (or even an owner) and I would hotly argue a point in front of the entire management team no holds barred, and whatever the outcome, at least I came out with more respect than when I came in.    

I can only imagine how Dr. Kale’s line “Quibbling on small amounts or expenses only demonstrates your pettiness” went over with casino management readers, as there is nothing petty about trying to maintain an accurate budget. Consultants deserve to be paid—well and on time. But there should be no surprises in monthly or overall project invoices. The consultant should also be up-front regarding any kickback fees he is getting from other consultants, services or vendors he recommends—a practice I personally find objectionable.

The casino may be responsible for the consultant’s eating expenses, but not those of his friends and family in the gourmet room or at the spa or on the golf course (unless the casino has asked for the consultant’s opinion of such facilities). I mostly flew Southwest and JetBlue, so first-class travel was not an issue—and I always liked to travel to the casino the same way most of the customers do. It is a great way to begin a consulting experience.

Trust me, Dr. Kale, most managers will remember (at this job and the next) any fee-gouging or expense abuse long after they forget “how much a consultancy changed their company.”

 Jeffrey Compton is the retired founder of CDC Consulting and president of CDC E-Reports, a b2b gaming news and information service with over 1,200 paid subscribers.

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