Expertise: The real thing

Kerry Knudsen

Between now and next issue, we will be sending out our annual “Readers’ Survey.” This time, we will ask whether you have ever hired a business consultant. We all know the old saying that a consultant is somebody that got fired from his last job, and we all have seen the tired repetition of maxims by “consultants” that were cutting edge back when cutting edges were flint. However, we are talking about real consultants. People with education, experience and training in business areas related to, but not part of, your company’s day-to-day practices.

I hired BDO several years back to research and report on several areas of W.I. Media Inc. It was well worth it. I learned much of how the value stream of real information plays in industry versus the make-believe world of cut-and-paste/advertiser-directed publishing so common in contemporary trade magazines. It was a ringing confirmation of what we have done over the years to secure the respect and loyalty of our readers. That would be you.

There was also an amusing aside: the investigator told me as he was leaving that BDO would like to buy our lists — that they far exceeded the quality of what they, themselves, were selling.

Back to consultancy. Clearly, we are all — suppliers, manufacturers, installers, workers … — in uncharted territory. For the most part, it appears the secondary wood manufacturing sector is relatively unscathed compared to other such industries as travel, entertainment, food service and gaming. However, we would be foolish to think that’s the end of it.

As I noted in this month’s e-letter, Wood Industry’s sister magazine, Coverings, for the flooring sector, saw a stunning explosion in magazines returned for the May/ June issue. This is not “cancel my subscription,” or “change my address” requests. It is magazines delivered by Canada Post to specific addresses that are no longer there. The returns went from around 45 per month to over 700 on just the one issue, and that doesn’t even start to address July/ August or the recently mailed September/October.

What does this mean for the Wood Industry? I will tell you truthfully that I don’t know. However, I am confident that none of the self-proclaimed industry experts that are now out there trying to save their asses as we pull into our shells and try to see through the smoke. For my money, you can put a marker on all the losers that once sold spam lists, moved to domain names, and then website development, digital anythings, social media and selfie media, and check back in two months to see who has started a new “direction” with “virtual.” Virtual magazines, virtual meetings, virtual conferences, virtual trade shows. “What the hell?” you can hear them chant? Everything that once worked is dead. “This is the ‘new normal,’” they say.

Did you ever stop to think that if it is new, it is definably NOT normal?

We here at W.I. Media can help a bit. We have the resources to do deep research and come up with detailed reports. However, we remain under fire from a few disruptive advertisers that would rather see the industry falter than pay a professional fee, join in promoting the sector and roll up their sleeves. That is the old normal. Very old.

Short story: we want to do what we know how to do, but we can’t with the pushback from inside our own business family. We have shown the possibilities from time to time, but we can’t go all-in with the Yahoos in all the trees. (Look it up. Yahoos are not a tech company. They were invented by Jonathan Swift in the 1700s on the other side of the pond. Google Jonathan Swift Yahoo. When you get to the part where they defecate on the heads of those beneath them, you’ve got it. Some things never change.)

Looking back, I guess I misspoke. Yahoo is a tech company so stupid as to steal a metaphor three centuries old without knowing what it meant. Everybody into the pool.

OK. So, I’m irked. But “irked” is not our business, so let me make the suggestion that your business, depending on size and reach, may be a candidate for a business consultant to look at trends, demand, competition, revenues, government involvement and labour. No more “a penny saved is a penny earned” sagacity stolen from the 1700s on this side of the pond. Lean may be lean, but a lean future is not an intelligent goal.

If you do it, we would love to hear your thoughts. We did, and we will be around for the foreseeable future, potshots at Yahoos, and all.