The FAQ below come from I and Chun Yu’s experiences in our consulting work for two business owners, Mario (fruit stand) and Bebe (vegetable stand). They are extremely casual and personal, so the author will not take any responsibility for any consequences caused by them (lol).
What can my client be look like?
Most stand owners look very clever and argute, so are my clients, Mario and Bebe. When I first met my client Mario, the short guy with dark skin sitting in the corner lonely, in the opening ceremony, I was afraid that my client would be too silent or inactive for communication and business improvement. But things turned out to be the opposite. When I and Chun Yu, my business partner, followed Mario to the fruit and vegetable market (his home field!), he suddenly became enthusiastic, powerful, and ready for welcoming customers at any time. His smile, even if mixed with some professional habits, is bright and filled with sense of humor. Though the accent and the lack of proficiency of his English do have caused some difficulties, his enthusiasm and openness as a businessman make the process mush more smooth and less tiring.
How smart can my client be?
Clients can be very smart actually, and sometimes they even outdo you in utilizing many business, marketing, and even psychological knowledge.
Once when I was collecting statistics about the costs and prices of different kinds of fruits in Mario’s fruit stand, I noticed that there were two pile of apples which were visually similar to each other, while they were charged for different prices (on pile for 12/ kg and the other for 10/ kg). But later when I asked Mario about the apples, he replied that the two piles were exactly of the same kind. “If you don’t set a price of 12/kg, nobody will buy the ones for 10/ kg”, said Mario.
Anchoring effect in psychology! As Ariely said in his book <Predictably irrational>, people always judge the prices of products based on comparison. Mario is really a ‘cunning’ guy, who is also good at using price discrimination and tell humorous jokes to his customers (all of which are the secrets of attracting more customers). After all he has 17 years’ experiences of running the stand, and is already an expert of the traditional strategies typically adopted by a stand owner.
Maybe the things that they really need are some systematic theories and delicacy in management, such as more accurate accounting methods and better-designed appearance. And these are exactly what we want to provide. The program is a process of mutual studying, where we both learn a lot from each other in every day’s interaction.
Checking the sales record with Mario’s wife
How stupid can my client be?
Clients are never stupid. Instead it is your ideas that are too stupid, or at least they are not simple, convenient or time-saving enough for them to adopt.
Sometimes there are other factors, tangible or intangible, impeding the implementation of your plan, such as lack of labor in the store, adverse policy environment and restrictions caused by the geographical location. Also, the lack of capital can also cause a vicious circle of debt trap, just like Bebe’s situation, where she borrows money from the bank to pay the supplier and the interest further erodes her profits. Many of them are, unfortunately, unchangeable in a short period of time; but we can always find some fields where we are able to make a difference.
What is the happiest moment in consulting?
For me, it’s the moment when I see our plans really work! Especially if the outcome is achieved through the efforts of both you and your clients.
At first our clients, Mario and Bebe, both have incredibly messy records of their sales and inventory. But the even more challenging problem is that they don’t have enough labor for complicated record keeping, while they fluctuating costs and prices require quite sophisticated recording. I and Chun Yu has designed several different versions of sales and inventory accounting sheet. In the beginning our clients showed little interest, but with the versions becoming more and more simplified, Mario started to take an active part in it, and Bebe soon followed.
Finally, Mario and Bebe had both learnt the book keeping with the sheets we had provided in a somewhat clumsy way, with their little calculators. When they beamed at us and said they had found the records useful, we really wanted to hug each other and celebrate in tears. Achieving something makes me feel good, and achieving something with my clients makes me feel like a member of their business.
How is the consulting different from university knowledge?
The most different thing is that there is no standard answer here. This can be a challenge, since it means you have no concrete guideline or framework; but in the other hand, you are also gifted a world of possibilities, where you can try anything that may be helpful to the business. There is also lots of unpredictability and unexpectable things waiting for you, and overcome these challenges is exciting and full of fun.
Shopping for decoration materials for Mario’s fruit stand
I keep sweating a lot and feel my eyes dazzled in my business partner’s shop. Am I infected by any bacteria from the working place?
Believe me, you are just too hot. Unfortunately, your client’s place doesn’t have a fan or AC. Take more tissue and water with you. By the way, a hand fan only cost 20 pesos in the market. I’ve tried that and I really recommend it.