The Consultant’s Dirty Little Secret

A wise man by the name of Ed Schwarzkopf once said “People view consultants as guys that know fifty different ways to make love but don’t have a girlfriend”. I’m going to use bad language in this video. Specifically the word “Consultant”.

I hate the word consultant. I bet you do too. As a kid, nobody thinks “I’m going to grow up to be a consultant”. Most people think a consultant is “a guy that lost his job”. The sad fact is that in a lot of cases, this is true. Consulting as a profession is a legitimate path for many former executives. And many are brilliant in their subject matter and do quite well bringing value to clients.

The word consultant has a bad connotation because the former far outnumber the latter. This is why – and I’m not kidding here – almost every client I’ve ever engaged told me the story of at least five guys before me that were terrible failures. I’m not saying people set out to be bad consultants – I’m saying that being a subject matter expert and delivering value as a consultant are two different things.

To be successful, you must bring both skill sets to the table.

To be honest, it took me a good number of years to understand this idea of how to provide value in an advisory capacity to companies. This is the missing link between client satisfaction and consulting’s bad reputation.
Here’s my top five ways to deliver tangible value for consultants:

  1. Have some structure
    Be able to define how you help solve problems – I find being able to whiteboard how I work really helps clients see how they will arrive at a solution.
  2. Paper it up
    Make sure you use a letter of agreement and get signatures. Use Scope of Work documents to keep everyone on the same page.
  3. Communicate regularly
    Collaborate with clients as much as possible. Let them in on your process.
  4. Don’t over-promise
    I find that clients prefer honesty over hype.
  5. Focus on solving the problem
    Work fast collecting information and doing analysis. But put the focus on implementation.

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