Spring is blooming in the Northeast as I write this.  The lawn is green, the flowers are blooming and the cacophony of the weekend orchestra (lawn mowers and grass blowers) is warming up for an award-winning season.

As with every morning, I walk my dog around the neighborhood to wake up her olfactory to the latest version of mother nature.  On this morning, I saw the most incredible, yet subtle, calamity of lawn care.  A commercial building around the corner has a rather extensive hedge of sorts. Much of the foundational shrubbery have reached their end-of-life song and a sprawling variety of weeds grows in their place. 

Fortunately, the new owners have hired a diligent lawn service to keep the property looking more presentable.  Specifically, this day the service was pruning the hedge.  And, with great professionalism, shaping the weeds to match the rest of the bushes.  Even my easily distracted pup stopped chasing squirrels long enough to wonder about this violation of horticulture.

Upon reflection, I realized this abomination is more than humor to start my day.  It is representative of how many businesses are run.  Far too often when realizing a “skills gap” or simply needing temporary expertise, we seek outside assistance.  Under the right circumstances, I strongly believe in this path.  Not only can it be beneficial but often the best approach to solving even strategic situations.

Are we hiring a lawn service to achieve the work best suited for a qualified gardener?

Consultant vs. Contractor

It is imperative to decide between hiring a consultant or a contractor.  Wait, is there really a difference?  Is this more than simply a semantic argument?  In my eyes, this is critical to directionally managing future successes.   As I define it, a contractor executes on a specific need (lawn service) versus a consultant who identifies the strategy to executing that need (gardener).

Neither contractor or consultant are bad or inappropriate given the right situation.  That last aspect is where things often go horribly wrong.  If a problem is well defined and the solution is simply out of grasp given the current resources (skills, availability, etc.), hire a contractor with a specific set of skills to temporarily augment the team.  But, if a solution is illusive and a problem persists, it might be best to consider a trusted consultant to dig into the identified symptoms to arrive at a root cause, a cure, and a plan of action.

Is it possible a contractor can possess the necessary sleuthing skills?  Or, can a consultant execute a strategic plan?  Absolutely!

Just remain leery when the lawn service offers to trim the hedges – trust but verify.  And, when you are seeking outside help – make sure to step back and understand if you are simply augmenting skills or trying to solve a problem.