Why not call a spade a spade?
Why does Robert H. Schwaninger Jr. not call a spade a spade? (“Diversification: A Case for Local Integrators,” MRT, April 2000.) His term “local integrators” is simply a fancy word for “consultant.” As learned as Mr. Schwaninger is, he is speaking from a totally different point of view than those of us he seems to be addressing. It is almost impossible to relate to our situation from his point of view.
Having operated an independent two-way radio dealership for the past 34 years, I fall into the exact category described by Mr. Schwaninger. The problem that he is not seeing stems from the old axiom that “an expert is someone from 50 miles away.” This is the mindset that one cannot possibly know what they are talking about if they are “locals.”
After having operated a dealership, one comes under immediate suspicion that one is biased when doing consulting work, and obtaining work in that line is extremely difficult. Potential clients view someone from “the trenches” as being narrow in viewpoint and as a collaborator with potential bidders on any project.
Although the bias is tough to deal with, another factor precludes really independent consulting work. How often do we seem to present a new project to the public to obtain support and public funding when the project has already been engineered, the vendor has already been picked, and the need for towers, antennas and facilities has already been decided?
By the time the client admits to his budgetary decision makers that there is a need, the consulting work has already been performed by the vendor with specifications written to exclude competition. Why should the client spend dollars for the independent advice of a consultant when the results might point to some other vendor for system implementation?
You don’t ask for advice if you suspect you won’t like the answer.
With all due respect to Mr. Schwaninger’s experience in the industry, he most certainly (in my not-so-humble opinion) cannot relate to the actual conditions most of us deal with when making the change from hands-on to consulting.
— Jim Belanger Hollis, NH
Regulatory consultant’s response:
The reader is correct. I have not operated a two-way shop, and I don not pretend to know all of the problems associated with ticklish combiners, crazy vendors and a host of other daily hurdles to getting the job done. However, I must take issue with the reader’s perception that I don’t understand fixed bidding, RFPs that are wired to a local vendor, political backroom dealing and customer misperception of the abilities of small local entities. I deal with all of these on a regular basis here in Washington as I struggle to operate a profitable, but small, law firm where the competition is hundreds of times my size.
What the reader might focus on is education, positioning and marketing to inform potential customers that one is capable of independent judgment and trust; that the two-way shop owner is capable of looking beyond its own inventory; and further, capable of recommending solutions to problems.
As for kickbacks, sweetheart deals, backroom schmoozing and double dealing? The local operators are not the only victims of these tactics. It’s just that the devil right in front of us always looks more menacing than the other guy’s.
Again, the reader is in the right that I have never had the pleasure of dealing with an iceblock on a tower or a pierced gas tank from an errant installation. But I have extensive experience in marketing knowledge and advice … even when the recipient of my free advice thinks I’m nuts.
— Robert H. Schwaninger Jr.
For Regulatory Consultant Robert H. Schwaninger’s response, log on to www.mrtmag.com, and click on “Letters from readers.”