The owner of a medium-sized business wanted help with his annual plan after two years of losses. After reviewing his data and the economy, I had to tell him that the economy had only caused a small portion of his sales decline; the bulk of the drop was a loss of market share. After we explored his cost problems, I told him that his cost-accounting system was not reliable.

The owner was discouraged by my assessment of his problems, but I told him this was good news because both his sales problem and his cost accounting problem could be solved. He used a good sales consultant to dial up his team’s performance, and a cost accounting expert showed him that bids could be lowered and still be profitable.

Eight months after my initial work, his company had ramped up sales, was running at capacity, and about to call up employees previously laid off. I did not solve his problems, but I provided the direction needed to address these challenges. My clients are generally good executives who benefit from outside insights about where they focus their attentions.