It may have been more about knowing that I was ready for the next opportunity to learn in my life, than an actual life moment that said I needed to become a consultant. More than anything else, I felt confident that I could share some of my experiences and learnings with other businesses and find ways to help them achieve success.
Having never been a consultant before, I found myself wondering – what are clients looking for in consultants?
Exceptional delivery is a baseline expectation for both consultants and clients entering into any consulting relationship, yet many clients who engage third party resources and expertise are looking for much more than the successful completion of specified project deliverables. Often, they are looking for that extra intangible which doesn’t always come through in a statement of work, or in a detailed project plan. The added characteristic all great consultants bring to successful engagements is leadership.
What are businesses paying for when they engage a consulting firm? Subject matter expertise? Extra capacity to complement their existing teams? Specific skills and discipline? Yes, to all of the above. But there is something else those of us coming from the corporate world have to offer clients: real-world, practical leadership experience from the front-lines of business.
So what are my lessons learned in making the change from corporate to consultant?
As a starting point, remember the basics that helped you to be successful in the corporate world. Things like defining the problem, identifying solutions that need to be delivered, developing a detailed project plan, and ensuring you and your team are effective in executing on that plan, are all important. However, to get to the next level of client satisfaction, it’s important to focus on a few additional intangibles:
Establish credibility early in the engagement by quickly understanding the current state and applying your perspective and knowledge to the specific business challenges your client is facing
Engage directly, and often, with your client’s resources and develop a strong rapport with their teams
Take a position…but don’t just define your position, speak your mind - that’s why you’re there and why your client has asked for your assistance
Leverage your experience to provide that thought leadership you bring to the discussion
It’s an interesting transition and at times, challenging. But it can also be rewarding as you find that you are able to provide valuable insight, assistance and leadership to many new companies as you embark on each new consulting opportunity.