Consulting ? Is it in YOUR Career Future?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Re: Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

I do agree with the distinctions between consultant and contractor, but I feel sure most people don't pay a great deal of attention to it because a consultant who assists an organization in implementing a QMS could have done so if hired as a Quality Manager.

I would be doing that, plus 2nd and 3rd party auditing on contract, train in specific subjects, help people set up balanced scorecards and dashboards, and my husband would offer his IT services to include design, installation and even contract maintenance/security.

So I guess we're talking about business services because it's hands-on, but I don't know anyone who simply gives advice. Even here I supply a product from time to time.
There's nothing demeaning about being a contractor. Often the distinction blurs. Just this week, we had a plumbing "situation" at our lodge hall that we wanted to resolve before winter really sets in. We have a number of members who are or have been journeyman plumbers who willingly volunteered to fix the immediate situation, all agreeing on the outline of the basic procedure they would follow. One old boy, though, old enough to be MY father, obviously too decrepit to do any actual work, stood up and outlined a procedure which would cost only about $300 more in materials, but save the equivalent of $1,500 in labor (man hours of donated time) and all the other plumbers were slapping their foreheads, saying, "Of course! Why didn't we think of that?"

My point is any contractor may step up and be a consultant, but it takes a receptive employer to accept the advice. A number of times in my career I have been paid as the "expert from afar" to provide the same advice employees tried to offer to the deaf ears of managers. Sometimes, the whole magilla depends on the perception of the guy paying the check.

Most of the giant consulting firms have divisions or captive companies where they have platoons of employees to perform the "temporary" grunt work suggested by the consultant [account executive] - stuff like digitizing legacy documents to eliminate warehouses full of old records.

When I was much more active as a consultant, I had a pool of experts in fields like machining/cnc programming, statistics, IT, electrical engineering, architecture, landscaping, etc., which I could either bring in as subcontractor "partners" on an assignment or suggest as candidates for direct contracts with my clients as circumstances would present themselves.

How you present your services to your marketplace is dependent on your chosen market - what gets a more receptive buyer - advice? or hands-on service?

Maybe, just maybe, your marketing model might dictate the creation of a "division" which does the hands-on work, much like registrars who erect a "Chinese wall" to separate auditing from consulting.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Leader
Admin
Re: Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

How you present your services to your marketplace is dependent on your chosen market - what gets a more receptive buyer - advice? or hands-on service?

Maybe, just maybe, your marketing model might dictate the creation of a "division" which does the hands-on work, much like registrars who erect a "Chinese wall" to separate auditing from consulting.
I think in these times the market is more open to specialty contracting than someone who just comes in, gives advice then leaves the people to put in place. That's a recipe for failure! If advice was enough they could get it from a book.

I do believe I can set up the Chinese wall. In any case, I can't audit what I implement so the wall is supposed to be there by CB design.

I'm at the point that I'm ready to step over to the field but I do not think I need to rush into the naming because it's not a thing to be done on impulse. For now I will commence my 3rd party auditing and go from there with the products I develop and presentations to local groups.
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Re: Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

I think in these times the market is more open to specialty contracting than someone who just comes in, gives advice then leaves the people to put in place. That's a recipe for failure! If advice was enough they could get it from a book.

I do believe I can set up the Chinese wall. In any case, I can't audit what I implement so the wall is supposed to be there by CB design.

I'm at the point that I'm ready to step over to the field but I do not think I need to rush into the naming because it's not a thing to be done on impulse. For now I will commence my 3rd party auditing and go from there with the products I develop and presentations to local groups.
Good consultants don't just "hit and run." They stick around until they are certain the competence and knowledge is in place to carry out the plan. If they are really good, they make provision in the original contract to come back and evaluate how things have gone in their absence.

Believe it or not, most consultants really care about the well-being of the clients they accept, not just the corporate structure, but the people involved.

It's similar to the difference between giving a lecture and being an instructor. Those of us who have been in college have experienced both kinds of faculty. I've attended lectures given by brilliant people, but they no more cared about what their audience gained than if they'd been standing alone in the bathroom talking to the walls because they liked the acoustics and the sound of their own voice. Sadly, some of even the most financially successful consultants are like that. Instructors worthy of the title, however, take an interest in whether their students actually learn. Sadly, not all instructors are like that, either.
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Re: Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

It's been several years since I started this thread. In the intervening years, not one consultant who makes a living by "consulting" (giving advice versus doing work dictated by an employer) has come forward to dispute the point that consulting is a business. Further, none dispute the idea just because someone is an expert in a field does not necessarily transfer to being a successful consultant in that field.

Below are some late additions to the thread, but, in my own opinion, the most pertinent post remains the first post in the thread ((broken link removed)).

I note someone has asked in another thread whether there is a "website or forum" for consultants. My personal answer is that I've been a relatively successful consultant for a number of years and have similarly successful colleagues around the world and none of us has recommended such a website to any of the others. Does that mean such a website does not exist? Of course not! It merely means that a core group of about 100 consultants with an expanded network of several thousand other consultants and acquaintances, clients, and associated professionals like attorneys and accountants just haven't come across one they feel comfortable in recommending to others.
I have read several thread links on the consulting viz contractor viz advisor etal1 But how did one get started on this carrer path, sound a silly question but might have to be an option soon! perhapse I should consult a consultant for advice on contracting.:lol: But seriously chaps pointers would help.:bigwave:

I know it is quite a couple of years ago since your post, but here goes anyway.

I clearly understand the difference between contracting & consulting..

The very harsh point you are trying to get across that besides all of this knowledge I might have on Quality etc. The make or break of Consulting Business will be based on how strong our Selling skills, Business Management an ultimately our Customer Satisfaction is.

Am I getting this right?
Those are definitely important factors, but not all, as tomvehoski says below.

You need to analyze the market too. The best salesperson in the best managed firm with 100% customer satisfaction selling snowmobiles is not going to succeed in Hawaii. The first thing you should look at is the demand for consulting in your market, and what exactly those customers need.


Yep. Consulting is a business. A start-up needs capital, a workable business plan, and a reasonable time table to reach break-even point. Sadly, even the very best consultants have been hurt badly by the economic downturn now in its third year.

The beauty of consulting is that, for the most part, it is NOT geographically based. Just as some of our road warrior ISO auditors put on thousands and thousands of air miles, so, too, do many consultants. Having an aversion to travel, sometimes for weeks at a time, is a serious impediment for some people contemplating careers as consultants or specialty contractors (the kind of folks who are auditors or who do installations of specialized equipment, rarely staying for more than a few weeks in any one location - depending on scheduling.)

I want to continue to point out that working as a contractor or temping in one location for an extended period (months, even years) is a viable alternate for folks who don't have sufficient capital to fund a start-up or who lack business savvy and connections to find new clients on a regular basis. It is also a great way to pick up experience and knowledge about businesses while someone else pays for your time.

I've also mentioned working for contracting agencies. Most agencies serve an important function in the business world - filling employment gaps short term for organizations. There are a few, however, which gouge both employer and worker. If you are a contractor who obtains work through agencies, you should be aware of how to protect yourself from these few exploiters. If you aren't, start a new thread and we'll take up the topic.
There's nothing demeaning about being a contractor. Often the distinction blurs. Just this week, we had a plumbing "situation" at our lodge hall that we wanted to resolve before winter really sets in. We have a number of members who are or have been journeyman plumbers who willingly volunteered to fix the immediate situation, all agreeing on the outline of the basic procedure they would follow. One old boy, though, old enough to be MY father, obviously too decrepit to do any actual work, stood up and outlined a procedure which would cost only about $300 more in materials, but save the equivalent of $1,500 in labor (man hours of donated time) and all the other plumbers were slapping their foreheads, saying, "Of course! Why didn't we think of that?"

My point is any contractor may step up and be a consultant, but it takes a receptive employer to accept the advice. A number of times in my career I have been paid as the "expert from afar" to provide the same advice employees tried to offer to the deaf ears of managers. Sometimes, the whole magilla depends on the perception of the guy paying the check.

Most of the giant consulting firms have divisions or captive companies where they have platoons of employees to perform the "temporary" grunt work suggested by the consultant [account executive] - stuff like digitizing legacy documents to eliminate warehouses full of old records.

When I was much more active as a consultant, I had a pool of experts in fields like machining/cnc programming, statistics, IT, electrical engineering, architecture, landscaping, etc., which I could either bring in as subcontractor "partners" on an assignment or suggest as candidates for direct contracts with my clients as circumstances would present themselves.

How you present your services to your marketplace is dependent on your chosen market - what gets a more receptive buyer - advice? or hands-on service?

Maybe, just maybe, your marketing model might dictate the creation of a "division" which does the hands-on work, much like registrars who erect a "Chinese wall" to separate auditing from consulting.

Good consultants don't just "hit and run." They stick around until they are certain the competence and knowledge is in place to carry out the plan. If they are really good, they make provision in the original contract to come back and evaluate how things have gone in their absence.

Believe it or not, most consultants really care about the well-being of the clients they accept, not just the corporate structure, but the people involved.

It's similar to the difference between giving a lecture and being an instructor. Those of us who have been in college have experienced both kinds of faculty. I've attended lectures given by brilliant people, but they no more cared about what their audience gained than if they'd been standing alone in the bathroom talking to the walls because they liked the acoustics and the sound of their own voice. Sadly, some of even the most financially successful consultants are like that. Instructors worthy of the title, however, take an interest in whether their students actually learn. Sadly, not all instructors are like that, either.
BOTTOM LINE:
We're still in an economic downturn 4 years after the first post in this thread (written before the downturn officially began) - I've seen a number of consultants throw in the towel because of various factors, all tied to the economy in some major or minor way. That does not mean a motivated, talented consultant is doomed, merely that more emphasis than ever has to be put on running an efficient BUSINESS with a lot of attention paid to identifying and marketing to a viable pool of clients.

I am often saddened by seeing a business (which to my eyes is in a final death spiral) either unwilling or unable to reach out for help because they have used up all their funds, unable to pay a fee to a competent, stable consulting firm which may have been able to suggest workable survival/revival plans. Frequently, these operations have deteriorated beyond the point of no return - a place where even the smartest and brightest consultant can't create a plan of rescue without first finding a big infusion of cash - cash that investors won't supply without throwing out the managers who allowed the organization to go downhill. Believe me, there are few consultants who have mastered a marketing plan which includes disposing of the top managers who hired the consultant.

There are a number of consultants working for "bottom feeders" - the operations that come in and buy out dead or dying companies for pennies on the dollar. Those "after disaster" operations usually are salvage operations, rarely reviving, often merely cannibalizing pieces to combine somewhere else.

The consulting firm which has a formula to reinvent top managers AND bring in new cash will be a great success, plus not have nightmares about putting hundreds of workers on the unemployment line.
 
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