5 Consulting Career Secrets

Consulting Career Secrets
Consulting Career Secrets

I’ve witnessed many stories of success and failure in consulting. I’ve found that some people flourish in consulting while others either fail or get stuck in a purgatory-like existence. These people neither succeed nor completely fail. They are simply unhappily stuck in the same position indefinitely.

I’ve found that the ones who succeed are the ones that have figured out the consulting career secrets that propel their career success higher than the average consultant. Here are five of the consulting career secrets that I’ve seen those people follow.
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5 Difficult Client types and How to Deal with Them

Holding up a boulder representing a difficult client
Dealing with difficult clients

Over my 20+ years of consulting, I’ve dealt with many types of clients. Most have been good clients. They were cooperative and wanted to solve problems in a collaborative environment.

Every once in a while, I’ve run into one that isn’t so cooperative. Perhaps they had a personal agenda. Maybe they had personal issues they were dealing with.

Whatever the issue, they succeeded in making my life there a living hell. Over the years, I’ve been able to categorize them into five distinct groups.
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4 Ways the World is Changing In front of Your Eyes

Shopping carts - the world is changing
How the world is changing

Over the 1980s and 1990s, we watched the phenomenon of the Walmart revolution. New stores opened at an amazing clip while people flocked there for their low prices to buy everything from school clothes to groceries to tires.

They were able to charge those low prices through the use of first class supply chain technology, low non-union wages, cheap foreign imports, and many other factors.

Despite the many customers, Walmart had its detractors. People complained about how Walmart squeezed their vendors’ profit margins and how they moved into midsized towns, running thousands of traditional mom and pop stores out of business.
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5 Ways to Get Your Client to Love You

Woman client holding a red heart
How to get your client to love you

Consultants and clients often have a contentious relationship. Clients resent the high hourly fees the consultants charge. They view consultants as a necessary evil. Consultants tire of the constant demands the client places on them, while pressuring them to lower their fees on an almost constant basis.

Consultants don’t understand that it is up to them to provide such high quality service that the client becomes happily dependent upon them. By following these tips, the consultant can get the client to love them almost unconditionally.
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Lessons Learned from a Master Networker

Robb was a master networker
The master networker and me in our college days

One of my best friends died last week. As toddlers, Robb and I played together in the nursery of our church. We were in the same kindergarten class. We were friends through high school, college and throughout our adult lives.

Over the past decade or so, even though our lives got busy with family and career, we would get together every three to four months for dinner. We would have some dinner and a few beers and share our lives with each other for just a couple of hours.

It was usually Robb who initiated those meetings. He’d send me an email or a text and suggest a time and a place. Sometimes, he would bring someone he thought I’d be interested in meeting. He introduced me to a young man that was going to the same college as me. And he once introduced me to someone that wanted to get into consulting.

The Last Dinner

The last time we met for one of those dinners, we talked about our families and careers a little, as usual. We tormented Joe, the waiter a little. We discussed some of our old friends. I talked to him about how I kept up with many of them with social media.

Robb had social media accounts, but he was almost never on them. He told me that he just didn’t get Facebook and Linked in. “What’s the point?” he asked. I tried to explain to him how much fun it was for me to learn what friends – old and new – were up to.

Then three days later, at the age of 51, he died of a heart attack in his sleep.

A Realization in the Eulogy

As I sat in the church, I listened to the minister eulogize my friend. Fortunately, he was also a close friend with Robb and he spoke of their relationship. He explained that Robb would call him every few months to meet for coffee. They would get together and just talk.

It amazed me how similar it was to my experience with Robb. Then, I heard other people speak. They too remarked how they’d meet with Robb occasionally. The minister talked about how Robb was a connector of people. And I realized that my relationship with Robb wasn’t unique at all. He did that with many other people. He regularly maintained his relationships and built new ones by connecting people in his network.

The Lesson Learned

Many of us connect with friends, coworkers and business acquaintances, thinking we’re networking. But most of us are just playing a numbers game. Few of us spend the time to get to know the people in our network. And we probably rarely connect people with others out of the blue, just because they may have something in common.

When we do make contact with those connections, it’s usually when we need something. “Hi Bill, I’m looking for a job. Do you know anyone who is hiring?” Or maybe, “I’m looking to sell to this company and was wondering if you could introduce me to this guy.” I admit that I’ve done that before.

So moving forward, I pledge to take a page out of Robb’s book. I’ll try to develop deeper relationships rather than increase the number. I will focus on quality instead of quantity.

I don’t know if I’ll ever leave a legacy as rich as the one my friend Robb left behind. But when I leave this world, if there are people who remember me as a connector of people, I know that I will honor his legacy.

That’s enough for me.

What have you done to develop your relationships this week?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

6 Reasons You Suck as a Consultant

you suck as a consultant
Do you suck as a consultant?

As we recover from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, unemployment continues to inch downward. Lingering effects remain, however. Many people who were unable to find jobs with traditional employers became consultants. Some were consultants in name only. They had no paying clients, but showed the title to fill the resume gap. Others were successful in finding clients. But were they successful in keeping those clients?

Consulting involves more than just offering your labor and knowledge for a fee. A consultant must focus on the client’s issues and make the client’s success a priority. You may call yourself a consultant. But it is still possible that you suck as a consultant.

Here are six ways that could mean you suck as a consultant.

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How Herding Cats Allows Consultants To Get Things Done

herding cats
Herding cats: Getting things done

I’ve worked with clients who had their own project methodologies. In most cases it was a binder or two somewhere on a bookshelf. It might have even been distributed in binders on everyone’s desk.

Unfortunately, that was often where it ended. It has been my experience that many clients don’t follow methodologies even when they have them. At least it is not followed consistently. One person may follow a few aspects of it and another person may use other features. Meanwhile, the general population of project leads all do things their own way. Their approaches are gathered from a collection of practices and habits from previous jobs.
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6 Ways Consultants Can Impact Organizational Change

Organizational Change
Improving Organizational Change

Ask any random business people what first comes to mind when they think of the word “consultant.” Some will tell you that they steal your watch to tell you the time. You might hear that they train their people on one client in order to charge higher rates at the next client. But some may utter a single word and most people will know what they are talking about: shelfware.

What is shelfware?

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How I Learned that Burning Bridges is A Career Limiting Move

burning bridges
Why you shouldn’t be burning bridges

When I was in high school, I had a job at a restaurant. At one point, being a mature 16-year old, I wanted to quit. I didn’t just want to quit. I wanted to tell the boss off and storm out of the place.

I was talking to my dad about it. He told me that I shouldn’t be burning bridges like that.

“Dad, I’m not going to set anything on fire.” I responded.
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101 Tips for Success in Consulting