What does Machiavelli have to do with business consulting?

A Business Consultant observes reality dispassionately and reacts appropriately, without arbitrary preference or bias, to help businesses generate profit. Machiavelli, a Political Consultant, wrote about this with respect to political leaders to help them establish and maintain power. I deploy his thinking in service to businesses.

Unfortunately, his name is understood negatively. I hope to change that in a few sentences.

Machiavelli observed that prosperous States, tyranny, and misery came as a result of philosopher kings, republicans, populists, and dictators. He wasn’t the first to suggest that moral ends can come from immoral means, or immoral ends from moral means. But he most certainly said it best. Because of this, many regard Machiavelli as the inventor of tyranny and the author of a playbook for brutes – as if nothing of the sort existed prior to 1532 AD. Few know that Machiavelli spent several months imprisoned and tortured due to his support for the Florentine republic. I believe actions are the truest expression of the individual. But our generation regards Twitter virtue a more significant measure of man, so I don’t expect my analysis to become the popular view. If Machiavelli’s work is a playbook for anything, it is a playbook to unseat the tyrannical and corrupt, and a sober explanation as to why so many “good” leaders invite decline.

It is better to say that Machiavelli didn’t privilege intent or preference. The result to the State – which is the maintenance of power for the Sovereign and the well-being of the people – was his project.

The result to the business – its profits – which is the maintenance of authority for the executive, the well-being and development of its staff, and the well-being and knowledge of its current and potential customers, is my project.

I work directly with founders, owners, and chief executives to maintain their authority over their business by focusing on what works, not what is preferred.

I collect data using several disciplines, ranging from Six Sigma, Industrial Psychology, and my own version of Baseball’s SABRmetrics, to leverage company performance into opportunities for growth and reduce areas of inefficiency. I test new business models, products, and services using lean methodologies and iterative development. I ensure the financial model is viable under normal and disaster conditions, which allows longer term planning and preparedness for negative impacts. I design and deploy IT systems that are driven by operations, and I prefer simple and inexpensive systems, as businesses have been creating value for thousands of years without Slack premium or HD 14-way video calling. I find out what is truly creating value in the business, and what isn’t. I map out this value and communicate it constantly. I update the value map continuously, as the environment is always changing. And I do this without wasting my time or your money on creating a kaleidoscope of fluff-packed pretty charts.

Why a Business Consultant versus a specialist?

There are many types of specialists out there so I couldn’t account for every possible analysis, but I can provide two clear examples so you have an image in your mind: the digital marketing specialist and the accounting specialist.

Businesses need good marketing and good financial health. There are many ways to market, and many ways to track and improve your financial health.

Sometimes digital marketing is what you need, and sometimes accounting is what you need, and sometimes one of the other thousand things is what you need. A specialist will be sure to make an argument about why both they (individually) and their favorite tool (their specialty) is right for your business and will most certainly get results.

This is bias and preference.

I prefer the Musashi approach. Miyamoto Musashi was a samurai who won 61 duels in the 16th and 17th centuries. This makes him arguably the world’s greatest martial artist and combat strategist in history. He eventually wrote a book detailing his wisdom and approach. Of the many timeless lessons is this: don’t have a favorite weapon. If the longsword is the best 40% of the time, then 60% of the time you are dead if you only know how to use the longsword.

Ethical foundations

The conclusions and approaches above were developed due to my personal values.

Business is the engine that moves the world. Our ethics are possible because of it. More human flourishing is possible because of it. Free markets and a belief that personal responsibility and worthy conduct can bring a positive bearing in any individual’s life is a rare and fortunate moral advancement. It took civilization thousands of years to get to this point. 

Historically, few made it to old age. Today, virtually everyone does. In fact, our health care system is in debt, thanks to the long and relatively healthy lives of the majority of people in every society.

Historically, few received an education. Today, we are on the cusp of universal primary education. And very recently, thanks to YouTube and a few other technologies, education is free.

Historically, few had any savings or insurance against disaster. Today, a mix of pension, insurance, charities, churches, and GoFundMe, results in a system where even the most tragic events have a strong safety net.

Innovators, executives, managers, and profit. These have done so much good.