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COMMENTARY BY WILLIAM CARTER: The joy of paying for knowledge you already have

“Nothing beats the feeling of affirmation you get from someone with a Mission Statement.”

When I grow up I want to be a consultant.

I don’t know what it is they do, exactly, but the streets are awash with them these days and it seems like a great gig if you can get it.

The best I can figure is that consultant fees, or as I like to call it, “ass-coverage insurance,” is something you pay to someone who is missing the knowledge or the drive to actually do the thing you’re consulting him or her about, but nevertheless possesses the ability to convince you that they know everything and that if you don’t give them large amounts of money you are a dumb-ass.

They plant this idea in your head using a highly sophisticated form of hypnosis using glossy, four-color brochures, Power Point presentations, and state-of-the-art websites … all of which were agonized over by a group of advertising consultants before being presented to the sheep, uh, I mean perspective clients. These brochures and things all have lists of other clients they have scammed … uh … served over the years as well as a prominently displayed “Mission Statement.” The mission statement is never simple or clear like “Our mission is to take your money,” but instead is filled with such beautiful prose as to give the impression the world would be a much better place if God Himself had asked for their advice. There will also be a least one picture in the brochure – and I can almost guarantee this – of a group of lesser consultants sitting around a conference table gazing adoringly as the Alpha-Consultant, with his tie loosened and his sleeves rolled up, points to a chart or a graph. I don’t know why.

This is how they work … and I know this because the City, uh, I mean some place I know of, has a history of buying a whole bunch of ass-coverage insurance.

A herd – they always travel in herds – of newly hired, shiny consultants shows up to help address the problem of, oh, I don’t know, let’s just pull something out of the air and say horrendous traffic or child-eating coyote infestations. They then ask a lot of questions and enter the answers into their laptops or scribble them down on yellow legal pads while murmuring softly and nodding wisely. They will then leave for a few days and go back to their lair to consult with their financial consultants who tell them, in effect, “Money good … more money better.” Your consultants will then come back to you, plead a skyrocketing cost in yellow legal pads and tack on a 132 percent increase to the initial agreement which you gladly pay because they are, after all, consultants.

With great fanfare the consultants will then present their “findings.” As to the fictional horrendous traffic, their answer will be: fix it. Child-eating coyotes? Get rid of them. You become giddy with relief because even though their “findings” are exactly the same ones you came up with before paying someone hundreds of thousands of dollars, nothing beats the feeling of affirmation you get from someone with a Mission Statement. And the beautiful thing about it is that, as a consultant, you don’t have to worry about whether or not your client likes the answer they bought and paid for because you never promised to fix the problem to begin with. You just offered your services to, uh, consult with them about it.

The whole thing is ingenious, really, and the perfect opportunity for me to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a billionaire before I reach retirement age. As of this moment, I am offering my services as a “Life Consultant.” For the low, low fee of only $199.95 a week, I will advise you on such things as whether or not you should jab a fork in your eye or whether or you should drink milk three months past its expiration date. The only requirement, besides the money, is you have to inform me beforehand of the answers you would like to hear. This makes it easier for both of us and your satisfaction is guaranteed.

But there is a downside to this industry. If you think about it, I doubt seriously there would be a national day of mourning if the consultant business winked out of existence. On the other hand, the outcry would be deafening and chaos would reign if, for example, garbage collectors or pizza-delivery guys or maybe even newspaper columnists were suddenly out of the picture.

Who am I kidding, though? Consultants will always be with us because the days of being challenged with a problem and taking care of it yourself with the aid of a little common sense are long gone.

The future lies with throwing lots of money at ambiguous answers to real questions and I want in.

I think I’ll go and write my Mission Statement now.

Posted on: 2/15/2013


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