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As our world becomes increasingly interconnected it seems as though our values are starting to blend into a muddied puddle of uncertainty. The rise of high speed, mobile communication and the mass dissemination of accessible data has resulted in a great deal of complacency in regards to the dangers of group thinking. While community formed from our shared humanity is a step closer to world peace, it also blinds the individual of their own unique needs and leads them to unwillingly pursue aspirations that might not best serve them.

Take for example the definitions of success or happiness. These terms will never be universal. That being said, if you ask any sample size of individuals to define these words they are likely to answer in relatively simplistic terms: health, family, friends, stability, shelter, fun and love. What they are less likely to say is: riches, fame, admiration, attention, popularity or the like. However, when we interact with strangers and with the world around us it seems that we tend to project the later rather than the former. We are wired to need to project a level of success & accomplishment and shamed if we cannot.

For the entrepreneur, this presents an interesting conundrum. The push & pull between the pursuit of a place in history... of legacy and the alternative: a lifestyle of quiet contentment. Today's advertising messages, media coverage and interpersonal communications via social platforms would have us believe that the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit of more. More consumption. More belongings. More experiences. MORE. We have created economies dependent upon such practices. We have created entire industries around fame and attention (see reality TV). It is more & more difficult to distinguish between what we value or need and what we want or think we have to have. This brings me to the story of The Fisherman and The Banker, which was recently sent to me by an entrepreneur & colleague who (like me) is always navigating the fine line between the desire for more success and a casual lifestyle of balanced contentment. I will not suggest that one is more virtuous than the other. I will instead share this proverbial tale and allow you to apply it to your own life as you see fit.

The Parable of The Fisherman And The Banker

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”





 
 
1.       Be Opportunistic

As a brand consultant, it is your role to enhance, empower and grow the influence of your client’s identity in the marketplace. You’ve been hired to offer an outsiders perspective and put your resources to use. If you’re doing your job well, you should be looking to add value to your client relationships on a daily basis. Read an article that might benefit the client? Send it over. Meet a key industry contact at a conference? Make the introduction. Hear of a competitive strategy that might impact the sales forecast? Share the insight. Information, understanding, contacts and perspective are your products. The regular sharing of smaller ideas can lead to big projects. Always be looking for new assets you can assemble and dispense and you’ll become indispensable to clients.

2.      Really Care

As a consultant you are often in the relationship with your client alone. This makes consulting a highly intimate endeavor that requires a personal touch to succeed. The best thing a consultant can do for themself is to care about the person on the other end of the table. Not just care because they are writing checks, but care because they are a human being, deserving of respect. Get to know your client to the degree that they are comfortable with. Look for signs: Do they talk about their family? Do they talk about hobbies? Those are windows to connect. A friendly banter is encouraged. Avoid overtly personal confessions or sharing, but open up enough to let them see you as someone they would be able to spend time with talking about things other than work. If your conversations with clients aren’t always focused on handling business, you’ll likely get even more business accomplished. A consulting colleague of mine lives by the mantra, “Relationships Still Matter”. The phrase pays.

3.       Offer Honesty

Being hired to build, analyze or promote an entrepreneurs' brand is one of the toughest jobs in marketing. It is crucial to remember that each time you engage an entrepreneur regarding their business it is like talking to a parent about their child. A business is very much like a baby and the owner is invested in a similar fashion; their livelihood is tied to its success. Thus it is important to consider the sensitivity of your client when offering any form of advice, strategy or direction. Simultaneously, you also have a job to do. You’ve been hired to offer your expertise and open up new avenues for thinking about this client’s brand. Their product or service is in need of your honest opinion. There is a fine line between telling a client what they are doing is wrong/ineffective and offering constructive criticism along with solutions/ideas that can take the brand to the next level. The effective marketing consultant is capable of balancing between the brutal truth, which will allow for the right decisions to be made around the profitability of the business, and offending commentary. A consultant must have conviction and passion for the solutions they are selling… even if it takes a great deal of convincing to get the client to come around. In the end the client will have nothing to say besides thank you as their brand flourishes.