If the cake is bad, what good is the frosting?

David and I become inspired to write our blog posts in a variety of ways, including by sources that many people would not find particularly inspiring. As an example, this post was inspired by a fortune cookie that was included in a recent delivery from a local Chinese restaurant. Many so called fortunes found inside fortune cookies are pithy sayings that are humorous, at best. However, once in a while, I obtain a fortune cookie with a thought provoking message inside. Such was the case when my fortune said, “If the cake is bad, what good is the frosting?”. I chuckled to myself when I read this, then I read it aloud to David, who immediately remarked that this question summarizes our philosophy about Magnus Research Consultants, the company we have co-owned since 1993. Over the years, we have been criticized for “serving a great steak, but without the sizzle,” meaning that our academic, scientific, and detail oriented approach to our clients’ cases is a turn off for some potential clients, who, instead of truly wanting to understand the nuances of why jurors make decisions the way they do, prefer to receive basic information of a simplistic nature. In fact, we have been criticized by certain clients and potential clients for the following reasons: (1) our report was too thorough; (2) our report contained bar graphs and pie charts; (3) my psychological overview that summarized the research findings was not titled “executive summary”; (4) my vocabulary is too extensive; (5) I do not always share my clients’ perspectives about their case; etc. One of our former employees remarked that some of our attorney clients expect us to “dumb down” our reports of research findings because they do not want to look bad in front of the end clients (such as the insurance adjuster or general counsel) when they don’t understand and/or agree with our interpretation of scientific data gathered on the case. Instead, these attorneys prefer the “sizzle” of some of our competitors’ work because their reports are short, easily comprehensible by anyone with a fourth grade reading level and have lots of pictures printed on high gloss paper. Whenever I receive a negative comment from someone about the high quality report I have prepared that is along the above lines, I remark that Magnus is not for everyone and that, if the client is unhappy because my work is too thorough, overly insightful, etc., then there are many, many jury/trial consultants available who will be more suitable for their future cases. Magnus strives to be the high quality steak, not just the sizzle; we bake an excellent cake, instead of serving bad cake covered in sticky sweet frosting; and, above all else, we do excellent work on behalf of our clients in a world filled with consultants who are merely average.

If the cake is bad, what good is the frosting?  I guess this is similar to the adage about not judging a book by its cover.  The book cover, or the frosting, can cover up what is worn or rotten inside.  Cutting the cake, looking under the hood, or beyond a glossy cover, reveals what is real, what is good, or what is bad/fake.  It is much more important to Melissa and me to use solid ingredients, to use a tried and true recipe and to bake our work cake to ensure it is as delicious, tasty, or rather, informative as it can be.  The frosting – in the actual deliverable – is important.  And, we’ve spent years refining our reports, the report format and notebook,  the method by which it is delivered in hard copy “tangible” form, or as an ereport. Our clients want things faster and with less paper! We are happy to comply with their requests, as long as our ethics and professional integrity remain intact.  I think we’ve come up with a recipe that gets the job done!

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