Top Five Reasons NOT to Hire a Green Business Consultant

By September 1, 2011
The website I founded, GreenTechBuyer, matches homeowners and property managers with top local companies for appropriate green technology projects. There’s open access to basic info about energy efficiency and renewable energy options, and visitors choose whether they want to receive free proposals from our partners. We don’t charge for recommendations, but people often advise me that the company could make more money as a ‘green business consulting service’ than as a simple matchmaker. They’re probably right about the money. Still, I couldn’t in good conscience charge a small business for telling them how to save on energy bills. Here’s why:
  1. You already know what you have to do.

    Photo credit: Martin Poole

Most small businesses don’t own their office space, so all they can control is what they bring inside and how it gets there. That applies to people, products and processes – and making them all less wasteful is pretty simple. Use less paper and plastic. Put everything electric on a timer or sensor. Provide locally sourced food. Don’t spray poison everywhere. Encourage telecommuting, carpools, walking and biking. Recycle. You’ve now been consulted.

2.   Somebody internally already wants the job…for free!

If you have more than three employees and none of them are an over-eager do-gooder, go get one. Then mention at a company meeting that you would like to make sure the company operates in the most environmentally friendly manner possible. Follow that with stating that you’d love for somebody to take charge on this important initiative. Wait for aforementioned do-gooder to volunteer.

3.   You’re going to have to deal with vendors directly anyway.

Even saving sometimes requires buying, and smart people avoid buying through middlemen. Whether it’s solar power or power strips, it’s best to stay close to the source. If nothing else, you don’t want to be dependent on a consultant’s schedule when something breaks or doesn’t go according to plan. You probably don’t want more people than necessary running around with your billing info either. Let the vendors’ sales teams earn their commission.

4.   They’re  probably taking a cut.

The word ‘consultant’ is too often a euphemism for reseller. This is certainly not unique to the green industry. I’ve actually run both direct and indirect sales departments, and, trust me, you’re usually better off as a customer dealing directly.

5.   It actually encourages inaction.

By hiring a consultant, you imply that running a business sustainably takes special skills. It doesn’t. It just takes a bit of practical insight and a commitment to following through when making the right decision becomes inconvenient. Set an example.

There you have it. Stay green, clean and lean.