“How do you do that and make money?” “Are you crazy, why would you give away what you know?” “There has got to be a catch – really…for free?” These were the top three questions heard from bankers after we announced that all of our national market research on Core & IT providers was accessible to CEOs and CFOs for no cost or obligation. Yes, we even provide our analysts’ time up front to discuss the entirety of your Core & IT contract renewal options, make recommendations to the bank and specifically detail what steps you should take even if you do it on your own. Is it crazy consulting? No. It’s called Naked Consulting and while not a new concept in business, this model is quite rare in a community banking industry accustomed to the rote approach of paranoid vendors holding back the answers until after you have signed their contract. Coined by a old friend of mine and best-selling author Pat Lencioni (Five Temptations of a CEO, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Death by Meeting) it describes a way of consulting whereby you build trust, confidence and respect with bank leaders [in you] by being vulnerable, disclosing and completely honest in advance. And yes, you do give away proprietary business intelligence, insights, advice and direction in the early stages of earning business relationship and without expecting a penny of compensation in return.
I had the great fortune of hiring Patrick as my CEO Coach for about 2 years (circa 1998) just as he was publishing his first book. I learned a lot from him about being vulnerable, completely clear and not being afraid of saying what I thought was important even if it meant taking a slightly weaker negotiating position. This style of management and consulting has served me well over the years and while he had not yet invented the concept of naked consulting back then – his most recent book Getting Naked finally does and I recommend it strongly.
Bankers are familiar with the painful traditional process of engaging a 3rd party consulting firm and so few bother to answer their calls or even respond to an email. If you do have the time to accept the dance invitation it usually means at least one long lunch; slow death by power point (complete with logos of other banks); a showering of references that won’t return calls; proposals that promise the world; artificial discounts that expire at the end of the month and a the never-ending pursuit of a very friendly salesman that not only pretends to be interested in you, he won’t leave messages on your phone.
This tired old model is risky and takes precious time away from running the bank – and you still have no answers to your problems. Even after you corral your management team, present your due diligence and get consensus, the bank must still take a leap of faith that the consultant can actually do what they say and for the price they have quoted. It may take months to begin to see any results.
By contrast, Naked Consultants make the old model obsolete. No lunches, no empty promises, no up-front time calling references, and no lengthy proposals to read in order to get convinced the 3rd party can deliver. The Naked Consultant leads with his best dance moves as the music starts – not when the dance is over. By example, our Naked Consulting model at Paladin offers a $0 Core & IT Cost Reduction Assessment that never requires a face-to-face meeting or a commitment to hire. The entire process takes about 1 hour of banker time and the exact financial benefit, business analysis and specific recommendations are delivered in less than 10 business days. Since there is no risk and no cost to understand the solutions in advance, bankers wait until after we deliver our Report of Findings to recommend hiring Paladin to their management team. Our Naked Consulting model builds loyalty immediately and even though the unethical banker could take the information and run, they really want us on their side of the negotiating table to help with that Core contract renewal. One banker put it this way, “Why go it alone when we know that you can be trusted completely?” Another told me, “You are 100% interested in first helping the bank instead of just helping yourselves.”
Of course there remains a great deal of skepticism out there about the Naked Consulting model. This is reasonable to understand. What else but suspicion can we expect from bank leaders forced to sift through the never-ending supply of 3rd party consultants that make you play ‘spin the bottle’ rather than just getting naked? We have all been taught there is nothing for free and if it sounds too good to be true…
The bottom line is that it is really difficult today to know who to trust and what vendors to hire in helping with complex problems like renegotiating that multi-million dollar core contracts. You don’t have time to be distracted and take your eye off the ball in pursuit of an empty promise or horse and pony show that goes nowhere. And so I wish to give you one piece of sound advice (in advance of course). If you meet a prospective consultant at your bank and he shows up wearing no clothes – hire him immediately.
Aaron Silva can be contacted at 877-746-4859 x704 or firstname.lastname@example.org.