In my hometown, I grew up with the store Fred Meyer. The store advertises itself as a unique one-stop shopping experience. Now, I have learned over time that the “one-stop shopping” slogan is applied differently depending on which neighborhood you live in. Currently, I live near the second-worst Fred Meyer in town when it comes to selection. A recent shopping trip where I couldn’t find decent containers for storing pasta got me thinking. Is one-stop shopping even a good thing for consumers?

As a consultant, my clients depend on my expertise. It’s okay to want to be the alpha and omega for your clients, but sometimes that doesn’t mean all the work should go to you. I am going to go out on a limb here and implore you: “Don’t believe in one-stop consulting!”

Would you buy a cake from a doctor? Or enlist a carpenter for your knee surgery? Expertise is worth its weight in gold in any project. A couple of years ago, I needed external help in building a communication strategy for the company I worked for at the time. I contacted multiple communication consultants for bids. Only one of the bids came in where the consultant wasn’t proposing a one-stop consulting extravaganza. Apparently, all of these firms can bake cakes, perform arthroscopic surgery and help build communication strategies. But Consultant X knew how to speak to me. He clearly explained what his expertise was and outlined how he could connect me with survey tool providers, graphic support and other potential communication needs in which he wasn’t a specialist. Not only did I have a consultant for this project, but I felt confident I had a professional whom I could rely on for future needs as well.

So, how does the multi-stop approach to consulting work? By being a consultant with a diverse network of professional and dependable experts, you can act as a full service agency without the overhead and make your clients’ needs come first. And who benefits? I firmly believe that in this scenario, there are only winners. First of all, you connect your clients with service providers who deliver, including yourself. Your clients are satisfied and are richer for the experience. When they need a similar service in the future, they will think of you and want that contact information again. Or if they need a totally different service, they may say Consultant Y always seems to have an expert in their back pocket, let’s ask him/her who they would recommend. Being a successful consultant doesn’t mean that you book all proceeds from an opportunity for your own business. Satisfying clients is what makes us successful and having return clients who keep coming back to peruse our network of expertise is far more rewarding than one-stop consulting.

So, don’t believe the hype! One-stop shopping is the box store approach to business. It works when we are in a hurry, but we often end up settling for less than what we want because it’s all in one place. When you are looking for a consultant, think of the European approach to grocery shopping. You get your meat from a butcher, your bread from a baker, your fruits and vegetables from the produce stands and your cheese from a cheese shop. When I lived in Germany, I would have gladly paid to have a grocery shopping consultant who developed a roadmap for my shopping experience and connected me with the expert bakers, cheesemakers and farmers! Expert referrals are probably the greatest service a consultant can give to his/her clients.

If you are a service provider in the field of communication, contact me about the services you provide.

Or share your multi-stop consulting approach in the comments below.