“Independent Consulting Part 2: Why client expectations of consultants are different from those of business employees”
Following on from 1st blog in this series, “Independent Consulting Part 2: Why your business track record will not guarantee your success in Independent Consulting” here are my thoughts on how client expectations of consultants are very different from those of business employees and what are the new ways of working you require to be successful.
What I’ve found both as an employed and Independent Consultant is that my clients are looking for someone to identify quantifiable opportunities for improvement; then to take the team by the hand, leading them through a process that will help achieve defined benefits; and almost certainly deliver results that they just wouldn’t have been able to get themselves.
So, let’s look at some specific differences between a business management role and a consulting role…
If you’re working in a business you will almost certainly be operating within a functional area; so, marketing, sales, supply chain or manufacturing for example. You will be “doing” the work with your team. You might be launching products, managing social media, generating sales leads and converting them, delivering cost savings against defined targets, optimising capacity utilisation on production lines and so on. You may well know what some of the issues, bottlenecks and problem areas are but are not sure how to resolve them or just don’t have the time! You will be driven by your personal objectives and your manager’s demands and will tend not to rock the boat.
However, working on the business as an Independent Consultant, you will be working cross function, cross boundaries, possibly managing a cross functional project team. You will be dealing with stakeholders across the business who could be impacted by change or have an influence over decisions that need to be made. You will be working with the client to draw out those issues, bottle necks and problem areas and identify quantifiable opportunities for improvement. You’ll be setting up initiatives that will deliver additional benefits or more effective ways of working. You’ll be taking the team by the hand, leading them through a process that will help achieve these defined benefits; and almost certainly deliver results that the client just wouldn’t have been able to get themselves. You’ll be embedding new ways of working and transferring skills to the client that will help them on a continual improvement journey.
You will be asking questions the clients don’t ask themselves and provide an independent or objective view that is unaffected by company politics and bias. You’ll be challenging and shaking things up a little and bringing an injection of pace and increased momentum.
In effect you need to transition your behaviours from doing business to transforming business.
In my next blog, “Independent Consulting Part 3: What are the fundamental capabilities required to work effectively as an Independent Consultant?”, I will explore some of the fundamental skills that you as an Independent Consultant need to work as I’ve just described.