How to open a can without a can opener (or creative survival skills 101) — with some thoughts about consulting services

burning money

My weekend decision to post this video about how to open a can when you have no can opener available — in fact when you have no “tools” in any conventional sense (like a screwdriver or something you could use to pry a hole in the lid) —  in part is because, well, this is the weekend and I can take a break from serious business stuff. However, there is a more pragmatic message here — ingenuity and creativity with the human mind, coupled perhaps with a bit of understanding of physics, metals and the can manufacturing/sealing process) can result in simple and low-cost solutions to seemingly vexing problems. (And, yes, this knowledge will be useful in a disaster situation, where power is out, there is no ready availability of tools, but somehow we have some canned food nearby.)

In practice, discovering these creative solutions requires a combination of connections, knowledge, and insight. Most of us have the ability to pull the resources for really effective (and inexpensive) marketing programs with free stuff from the web, non-competitive peers, our employees and suppliers, and sometimes even our current clients.

Contrast this approach to the expensive consulting/advice option. I’ve recently received a well-written and nicely presented proposal from consultants who have offered to help us devise enhanced marketing programs for our websites, with much better SEO. They come recommended by someone I respect. But I took just a few minutes in reading the proposal to say “no” (unless it is 100 per cent barter or contra-trade) because they drafted it initially as a fact-finding mission, where we would pay them $90 an hour to learn from us what we wanted and how our business currently operates.

Sure, this is a strategically correct consulting protocol. But it is a “no sale” for me, because the consultants didn’t show me how they could really make a difference and I could see the next step too clearly — they would mirror our perceptions with an expensive model that absolutely requires their services for success.

Notably an industry association that I’ve worked with for decades ran into the same sort of challenge. They paid a fortune to have a system set up; but its keys, ownership and operation  rested in the consultant’s hands. The only solution was to break free completely and rebuild from scratch — an expensive proposition.

Yet, great consultants can be worth their weight in gold. They’ll pin down the problem, devise creative solutions (such as the can opener alternative) and contribute to their clients’ business health. The challenge: When do we start paying for really good stuff, when so much is available for free?

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