Let me introduce you to my father. His name was Frank H. Wheeler, Jr., but everyone called him by his nickname given to him in college – ‘Moon’ (it’s not what you think – it was because he had a round face that resembled the ‘man in the moon’). Moon was a most interesting character. He was born and raised on a Mississippi cotton farm in the depression. He received an aeronautical engineering degree from Mississippi State; flew a P-51 fighter plane in the Pacific theatre in WWII; worked for North American Aviation at LAX after the war; built, flew and competed in his personal aerobatic biplane (Pitts S-1C); and spent the vast majority of his life as a Chevrolet dealer. He was a smart, capable and educated man. He was also a perfectionist who once told me that “If you’re going to do something, and do it right, do it yourself!” Even though truth lived within those words, that advice was not scalable.
Fast forward to the ‘70s, and I’m now a partner in the family dealership with my father and brother. Life is good. But I had a problem – I had majored in broadcast/film arts in college and had no formal business training. So I watched and studied my father to learn about running and managing a company. Unknowingly, he also gave me what I now consider the worst piece of advice he possibly could when he said, “Son, don’t ever hire a consultant. With your mind and skills, you can teach yourself to do whatever you need, and you won’t waste all that money.” My father was of the belief that with an owner’s or instructional manual you could learn how to do whatever needed to be done.
It took many years, but I slowly came to the conclusion that my father was wrong. I don’t blame him for that for he was simply a result of his upbringing, experience, and education. But later in life, as I led my automotive advertising agency for 22 years I began to rely more and more on help from others (friends, mentors, competitors, and yes – even consultants) to help me with the opportunities and challenges I faced on an almost daily basis. I learned that God didn’t create us to be Lone Rangers but to be relational with each other and, more importantly, with Him. After all, Jesus didn’t send His disciples out into the world one-by-one, but two-by-two.
As a Christian consultant, I always like to leave my clients with some ‘lagniappe’, which is Cajun for “a little bit more” – added value, if you will.
Advice for working with, and getting the most, from consultants:
Know what you need or want before you reach out. None of us goes to the dentist if we can’t tell the doctor which tooth hurts.
Spell out your expectations clearly to your consultant – make it part of the contract – ask them to repeat it back to you. Don’t leave any doubt on the table.
Evaluate the chemistry between you - would you want to do life with this person? If not, find someone you would. Check the references too.
Be honest and transparent. Give the consultant everything he or she needs to perform at their best. Don’t make them guess. This can be painful for you – but with a confidentiality agreement in place, it solidifies the trust between you.
Execute on what you learn. Dr. Henry Cloud says to ‘pull the tooth’ – it may be momentarily painful, but the relief that follows is worth it. Advice put on the shelf and not acted upon becomes ‘Shelf Help’ – and it’s worth very little.
Learn from every consultant engagement so each successive engagement pays even bigger dividends.
Let me conclude with one final story about my father. In 1987 he was critically injured in a plane crash. As he lay in the hospital I had the opportunity to share my belief that he didn’t have to handle his pain, both emotional and physical, alone. He could give it to Jesus, who would help him carry that burden. It was okay to ask for help and allow someone to walk the path of life with us. He opened his heart to Christ and entered an eternal life with God.
As I reflect back on that moment I realize that in some small fashion I was acting as a consultant to my father – sharing with him what I felt was the most important information I could possibly give him. I’m so grateful he listened.
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About the Author
In the midst of the economic storm of the last decade, Harris discovered God’s calling on his life. Harris has been a Convene Chair and Coach for 9 years – serving as a catalyst to help his clients lead lives that are 30x, 60x, even 100x more significant than they ever dreamed possible.