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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

The Shepherd

A shepherd was tending his flock in a field, when a new sports car screeched to a stop on the road nearby in a cloud of dust. The driver, a young man in expensive designer clothes and sunglasses, leans out of the window and shouts over to the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have here, can I take one?”

The shepherd looks up slowly up at the young man, then looks at his peaceful flock, and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The young man steps out of his car holding his I-pad, with which he proceeds to connect to a series of websites, first calling up satellite navigation system to pinpoint his location, then keying in the location to generate an ultra-high resolution picture of the field. After emailing the photo to an image processing facility, the processed data is returned, which he then feeds into an online database, and enters the parameters for a report. Within another few seconds a miniature printer in the car produces a full color report containing several pages of analysis and results. The young man studies the data for a few more seconds and returns to the shepherd.

“You have exactly one-thousand five-hundred and eighty-six sheep, including three rams, and seven-hundred and twenty-two lambs.” “That’s right,” says the shepherd, mildly impressed. “Well, I guess that means you get to take one of my sheep.”

The young man makes his choice and loads the animal onto the back seat of his car, at which the shepherd says, almost as an afterthought, “Hey there, if I can tell you what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?” The young man, feeling confident, agrees.

“You’re a consultant,” says the shepherd. “Wow, that’s right,” says the young man, taken aback, “How did you guess that?”  “No guessing required,” answers the shepherd, “You showed up here even though nobody called you. You took a fee for giving me an answer that I already know, to a question I never asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog.”

While this week’s story does not paint a pretty description of consultants; here in the real world there sure seems to be a lot of skepticism about the value they can bring. So the question needs to be asked; Can consultants help your business or are you better off working through your challenges and pursuing growth on your own?

The answer is – in true consultant form – it depends.

It often depends on how you answer this simple question- Are you working on your business or are you working in it?

All too often business owners spend so much time in the day-to-day of their business that they either don’t give themselves the time to effectively strategically run the business or they don’t have the inclination to periodically sit back and take a look at what the business is doing and where it is going.  A business consultant is in the position of being able to look at the business from the outside and as a whole and will very quickly identify areas that need attention.

As we continue to re-build Tama County’ economy let’s strive to think strategically so we can build successful companies and a winning economy.


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