Do You Have The DIY Disease?

In-house – the bane of the consultant’s existence:  In-house graphics, in-house writing, in-house marketing, in-house technical support.  The urge to do it yourself outpaces the real ability – and capacity – of you and your staff.  I’m starting to see this urge in firms that are way too small to do it all themselves and get the desired results.  I recently saw a new job description that was so overwritten that it looked to my experienced eye like an outright sentence to hard labor: If the new hire followed this to the letter, she would spread herself impossibly thin in the first week! She might call that “hitting the ground running”. Her boss might call that “doing more with less”.  There but for the grace of God go I.

One of my first cold calls years ago was to an established design firm that was then located in the Fort Point Channel. I think my standard opening question was “Who is the person who handles your marketing?”. With a telltale strain in her voice, the woman on the other end (the same one who had answered the phone) replied, “Oh, we do all of that in-house.”  The conversation ended quickly, mainly because I wanted to blurt out “and it probably sucks!” I made a note in my contact management system that these people (“blockheads” was the precise term I used) would never realize that they would benefit from my help, and would be completely closed to being persuaded.

I knew I was talking to a gatekeeper, and this gatekeeper was responsible, at least nominally, for the firm’s marketing under the principal’s direction. Her tone was both brusque and hidebound, maybe trying to speak for the principal by parroting what she thought the principal would have said.  Interestingly, I eventually pitched the principal of that firm two years later. Several gatekeepers who had doubled on marketing had since come and gone.

Is it the pride of a designer who can design his own logo and letterhead, that makes him think that he can turn his hand to marketing writing and achieve the same kind of clarity?  Is it the nature of an engineer to want to be on intimate terms with every detail of her creation?  Is it the cost-consciousness of the business owner, who is commited to the bottom-line survival of his company, even if it is at the expense of quality?

Are you too cheap, too proud, too obsessive, too paranoid, or too comfortable?  A big part of our job as consultants is to convince you that you are.

Overcoming this objection makes Design-product Systems resemble a relentless, punishing, religious crusade – and me a martyr.

I repeat; There but for the grace of God go I.

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