Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Danger sign: The third wheel

If you could invent a client Geiger counter, the sudden appearance of a third-party consultant would ring it like a freshly unearthed chunk of uranium.

It's only happened to me a few times, but I was reminded of the dangers a few weeks back in a first-meeting conference call. Everything was going swimmingly, until the client offhandedly mentioned that she had hired a marketing/branding expert to help hone her company image.


Our creative team gamely put together the folder and brochures on a rush schedule, but the die had been cast. The addition of another party--with a vote on our fate but with whom we had no contact or collaboration--created a process akin to doing microsurgery with mittens on. You just can't do it. We ended up getting paid for our time, but in the big picture, everyone's time was wasted. Ours. The consultant's. The client's. She would have been better off simply hiring the marketing/branding expert to provide the creative materials from the outset.

The moral of the story? The only time a third wheel makes sense is if you're building a tricycle.

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