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One consultant is one too many
It’s the Pitts
By Lee Pitts

It seems like everyone has a consultant these days. Or is one. This is due partly to city folks who want to avoid paying taxes. After selling their multimillion-dollar homes, office buildings and apartments they use the proceeds in a 1031 exchange to buy a ranch. Which, by the way, they have no idea how to run. So they hire consultants.

Gullible George traded a big commercial warehouse in the city for a sprawling ranch and has spent the last few years trying to give back any money he saved in taxes. I saw George at the coffee shop after he’d just come from the auction yard and he looked about as happy as a kid being dragged away from the video arcade. He invited himself to sit down and proceeded to unload all his misery on me.

“George, you look like you’ve got more troubles than the President. What’s wrong?”

“I was out at the auction and noticed that my ranch consultant sold his calves.”

“What did they bring and why should that bother you?” I asked.

“They brought a ton of money and the reason it bothers me is that he told me to retain ownership, feed my cattle and sell them to a packer on a grid.”

“Well now George, the only consultant I have is my wife but any idiot knows that now is not the time to be taking such risks.”

“That’s what my financial consultant said.”

“What would you think George if the cook in this place took a lunch break and went over to Taco Bell to eat?” I asked. “Where did you find this consultant anyway?”

”He came highly recommended by my computer consultant,” said George.

“Geez, how many consultants do you have?”

“Let’s see... there is my ranch consultant, my rangeland consultant, my financial consultant, my estate consultant, my herd health consultant, my...”

“Whoa there cowboy. You have a herd health consultant?”

“Yes, I buy all of my vaccine, wormers and Amway products from him.”

“That sounds like a kickback consultant to me George. It would be like having a veterinarian who is also a taxidermist and owns a meat locker business.”

“But a professor at the university highly recommended his brand of products.”

“George, that’s because that company pours a lot of money into the university.”

“He wouldn’t do that. I’ll have you know he has a B.S. and a PhD.”

“George, my Grandpa used to say that stands for bull#$%^ piled higher and deeper. Some of these guys are double dippin,” I told George. “Like the computer consultant who also sells software and the financial consultant who sells stocks.”

“My financial consultant doesn’t sell stocks; he sells tax avoidance shelters,” bragged George. “His advice has paid off too, with huge write-offs for llamas, wind farms and ostriches. Although, with the ranch now I don’t need any more write-offs.”

“Look George, I respect consultants who are smart enough to tell you how to run your place and yet they’ve never owned a cow. You have to respect someone that intelligent. But there are also former ranchers who now call themselves consultants who, after having lost their place, are more than willing to help you lose yours. Then there are the out-of-work execs who became consultants because no one else would hire them. I’d steer clear of them and also the resume enhancers who say they have worked at the highest levels of big business and government and yet none of their former employers thought highly enough of them to keep them around. George, my advice to you is that you should get rid of some of your consultants.”

“But in offering me advice doesn’t that make you a consultant?” asked George.

“Heaven forbid, I guess it does George.” So I gave him the ticket for my lunch.

This farm news was published in the April 26, 2006 issue of Farm World.

4/26/2006