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The Burton Effect – Why Big Business Can Be Bad Business

My sister went into a nationwide office-supply chain store today to have a copy made and when she tried to pay with cash she was told that the national chain’s policy was to collect certain personal information about her that she was not willing to share.  It turned out that while the store manager understood my sister’s concerns, the company policy was that either she provides the information or she couldn’t make the copies.  The only reason my sister went there in the first place was because the local printer/copier business, run by family friend Linda Burton (hence the title), was closed for renovations.  My sister never got her copies.

The Burton Effect is simply the effect noted when a small business, unburdened by their own corporate requirements become the go-to product or service provider because the business can tailor their products/ services to the customer; not the other way around.  As a result, that smaller flexible business thrives, and customers do business with organizations that recognize that.

Why would a client in my market willingly put up with a consultant’s rules and behaviors if they do not inure to the client’s benefit?  I’ve asked that very question and I usually receive one of five answers:

  1. They are an approved vendor and we have a corporate contract;
  2. Because (insert manager title here) has a “special relationship” with them;
  3. They have a long history with the project, and I don’t want to lose that;
  4. They’re cheap; or
  5. I really like them.

I’m not naive enough to think that a company can switch consultants at the drop of a hat, but my clients are just that – my clients.  Assuming that it is ethical and legal, I do what my clients tell me to do, the way they tell me to do it – not the other way around.  Here at Environmental Standards, we pretty much empower all of our employees to do the same.

Unless your honest answer to the question posed above is choice number five, I’d encourage you to become independent and make your current consultant a victim of The Burton Effect.  Go ahead, try it.

About the Author
Gerald L. Kirkpatrick, P.G. is a Principal Geoscientist and the Managing Partner of Environmental Standards, Inc.  Mr. Kirkpatrick has more than 30 years of applied environmental geoscience experience in both private industry and environmental consulting. Outside of work, Gerry enjoys fishing and an occasional single malt.  A very poor chess player, he remains dedicated to the game, nonetheless.