According to an article on the US website www.raintoday.com, Michael W. McLaughlin, a Principal with MindShare Consulting LLC argued that there are ten things that "top consultants do" which sets them apart from others.
Having read the article with great interest, having seen it mentioned on Twitter, we have adjusted it to reflect our own view having been on both sides of the fence - in purchasing consultancy services and in providing consultancy services (internally within large public and private sector organisations, and as an external consultancy provider). We've also focused on making it a five point list !!
Here's our view:
1. Maintain an Open Mind
Some service providers including consultants can be like car salesman, what they've got to sell is "exactly what you need" or is it ? Our view is that the solution needs to be tailored to meet the client organisation's culture, structure and aims and objectives. The solution can't therefore be an off the shelf model which is well written and presented but may not be relevant to every organisation. Understanding the models, as we do, is a good start for us to create a bespoke solution for each client, or tailor the standard models to suit where appropriate and where that's both the most cost-effective and the best solution in terms of delivering results (benefits, outputs and outcomes) for the organisation.
2. Generate Ideas where they matter most and communicate in plain english
McLaughlin refers to this as 'Thought Leadership'. While we understand what he means, let's try to focus on plain english - what we believe clients require from a consultant is practical, workable and realistic solutions and ideas. The timing of these solutions and ideas can be vital - but more vital, in our view, is the need to engage properly with everyone affected. As such, our approach is one where we deliver through people so that those affected are involved in identifying the problem, generating ideas for solutions, and implementing those solutions to deliver improvements for the organisation. We work hard to support everyone during this process because it bears results - it means that changes can be delivered at a lower cost to the organisation than in merely asking a consultant to do all the work. The main benefit however is that once the consultant has moved on, the organisation understands why they've made the changes and why they chose to take the actions they have - most importantly, the management and employees will have gained the knowledge and skills to make the changes work and sustain the improvements made. Communication in this is vital - we focus on making it relevant and understandable so very little jargon unless people genuinely understand what it means !!
There is "no time like the present" and businesses that succeed do look ahead and take actions to react to opportunities and threats as soon as they can in order to continuously improve and to SURVIVE in an increasingly tough marketplace. As such, we encourage organisations to look for help as soon as they realise they have a problem to solve or an opportunity to seize.
3. Focus on the client's needs, not in generating profit for the consultant
We're a new consultancy provider but the reason we set the company up was to provide a different kind of service - focused on working with clients to deliver change and improvements. As such, we don't just tell clients what they need to do and then bill them !! We'll work with the client to make the changes and realise the improvements needed. We aim to do so in partnership with the client organisation and the people who work there in order that existing staff can be involved in doing the work and reduce the costs of engaging us. We know that some consultants focus on serving the needs of the senior management team and leave the task of speaking to "staff" to the internal managers - that doesn't work in our view. Good consultants are experts in process and people ! It's up to each client organisation, but the best results are nearly always delivered through people rather than systems so it's vital to involve, inform and support them during any project, assignment or change initiative. After all, people deserve respect regardless of their status in the organisation - without showing them such respect, how can anyone expect to lead?
We aim to deliver more than the client expects every time - that doesn't mean however that we'll under-promise and over-deliver, as some companies may !! The key thing for us is to satisfy your requirements fully in line with the brief, as a minimum - we'll then ensure that we exceed your expectations in that brief and/or will identify areas in which we can offer further value to the client as we work with them. By doing so, we hope that the client will bear us in mind next time and that they're happy to provide an assessment of how we've done, or even recommend us to other organisations. That's what will generate income and profit for us and hopefully will continue to do so - hence our focus on honesty and reputation....
The key thing that we've learnt, from our experiences engaging consultants in our previous careers, is that some consultants tell their prospective clients what they want to hear - we maintain that honesty is the best policy as it affects our reputation to not do so. This has been a previous blog post, after all !!
As such, we promise that:
We will explain how, if we can help you AND we will explain why, if we can't help you - if we're not experts in delivering the solutions you need, we'll tell you. If we can, we'll help you find a specialist provider but we won't recommend anyone without knowing what kind of service you can expect - as again, that could affect our reputation. As such, we put service and results well ahead of income and profit for ourselves - by delivering results for the client organisation, they benefit from an improved reputation AND SO DO WE !
5. Be clear about what and why we're doing something
It is vital for both parties - client and service provider to agree on what the objectives of any task is. As such, while it's really tempting to rush ahead, it's worth remembering that when projects fail, it's often because the aims and objectives were not clear at the outset or because there wasn't sufficient control during the project. It is often said, but seldom heard, that "by failing to prepare, you prepare to fail".
The first tasks BEFORE WE START are therefore to prepare and plan, so the client and consultant need to:
Clearly, we do need to have a discussion about money at the outset in order that both parties understand what they're paying for and when i.e. what the fee structure will be, how/when charges will be invoiced and paid, etc.
If you think, what we can offer is just what your organisation needs, give us a call. We offer a free, no obligation, consultation to all potential clients to discuss what you need and whether we can help.