Some days ago, a Zimbabwean lady tweeted the following, ‘My baby has been throwing up lately, so I texted his Paed asking a simple question, and they asked for ZWL$7500 for phone consultation’. This tweet opened up an interesting discussion on two topical issues. One was the issue of telemedicine which is the transfer of medical information via telecommunication technologies for the purpose of consulting or for remote medical procedures or examinations. Recently, the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) reviewed their policy on telemedicine. That is a topic for another day; today, let us discuss general consultancy issues.

Consultancy Dynamics: An Overview

A consultant is someone (even an entity) whose occupation is to be consulted for their expertise, advice, or help in an area or speciality. It is important to note that someone can be a consultant without it necessarily being their occupation. For example, a medical doctor can serve as a consultant because they can proffer expertise, advice, or help. Consultancy thus refers to services offered by a consultant. I am a Business and Management Consultant. That means that the subject I am discussing today also directly affects daily.

Broadly there are two broad angles to consultancy work. The first one involves material or tangible work, e.g., a business plan or proposal for a client. The second one involves intangible work, e.g. a client requesting for business strategy advice. The majority of people do not have issues paying for the former. However, when it comes to the latter, they mostly feel entitled to get it for free. Not a day goes by without people asking for business advice or help. While I can be okay with doing that for free at times, it should not always be.

That is why I used that lady’s tweet as an example to illustrate this. Let us look at that tweet again:

It Is Not Simple As You Might Think

She said, My baby has been throwing up lately, so I texted his Paed asking a simple question and they asked for ZWL$7500 for phone consultation’. What she said revealed her mindset regarding consulting over the phone. Firstly, saying ‘asking a simple question’ implies that she thinks her need is simple. In essence, she implied her baby throwing up was simple. Yet she had to ask an expert the so-called simple question. The fact that she had to ask the question from an expert implies it was actually not a simple question. If it was simple, she should have had the answer by herself. So that you know, a baby throwing up can point to so many things, so it really needs expert analysis.

Secondly, we already knew that she texted the paediatrician but she said ‘for phone consultation’ at the end. That tells us that she felt the consultation should not have either cost that much or at all. Why? I guess because it was over the phone. Yet again, we see a mindset paradigm that needs to be shifted. Had she physically gone in for a consultation, she would probably not have minded paying. Yet when looking at a phone consultation, convenience is added to the equation. She did not necessarily have to travel, saved on time and the like.

Interestingly some of the people who commented mentioned how ZWL$7500 was so cheap. That is roughly US$10 or even less. All in all, the issue boils down to how many Zimbabweans do not yet appreciate paying for intangible consultancy services. By ‘intangible consultancy services, I am referring to paying an expert when they or for them to give you valuable information.

Behind The Seemingly Simple Information Is Hours Of Training And Experience

The mindset issue I am talking about is not only isolated to Zimbabwe. It is a global issue but I have noticed people from developed countries tend to appreciate intangible consultancy services better. I recall one time a Zimbabwean lady from the UK contacted me. She needed advice on something she was doing. To be honest, it was the kind of advice I could have simply given her for free. Regardless, in the end, she sent me US$150, appreciating my giving her that advice. Yes, the advice might have been seemingly simple, but my ability to give it did not come by accident.

It was a result of countless hours of studying, research, writing, training, and more. Personally, I have researched, written, and published more than 2000 business and finance articles online. If you are to put that into perspective, that translates to over 200 24-hour days of effort. On top of that, I have undergone several certified academic programmes in business and finance. For instance, I have studied Entrepreneurship, Digital Marketing, Digital Journalism, Virtual Assistance, Data Analytics, Project Monitoring and Evaluation.

All those hours of training and experience are what capacitate my expertise in Business and Management Consultancy. Thus when I give you a few statements of advice, they are well-informed. The same applies to that paediatricians; they endured long gruesome hours of training and experience to get there. What looks simple now took many long hours to simplify.

It Is Not Always By Might Or Power

Many people still do not appreciate this aspect of consultancy services. Especially in Zimbabwe, this is a widespread problem. People want to see you sweating and spending hours on something for them to feel you deserve to be paid. This forces us at times to pretend to stretch the time even when we know the solution is simple. What matters is you get a solid solution; it is not about the weight or duration of my efforts.

I always love the analogy of someone calling a technician to fix a problem on a piece of machinery. Upon inspection, the technician might discover it is just a particular screw that needs to be turned. Yes, it simply needs some screw being turned, but they knew it and which one exactly you did not. You still must pay them despite it appearing like they did nothing.

We need to start appreciating more the role of consultants. Yes, they can help you for free but do not feel entitled to that. The world we live in is being ruled by data or information. That is why big data and data analytics have become such huge focuses. The people and brands making it big nowadays are differentiated by one thing – they know specific things others do not. That is why you should never belittle an expert giving you information. If you ever become a consultant one day, you will appreciate this better. I would love to hear your comments on this interesting subject.