Old School Consulting

Old School Consulting
Practicing Old School Consulting

Some of the concepts I promote in my book and blogs could be seen by many as an old school approach to consulting.

Suggestions such as showing up to meetings on time and not using your smart phone during meetings could be seen by some as passé and old-fashioned.

I’ll respectfully disagree. Mainly because I believe those tips are ways to show respect in the business world.

I will admit that I’ve seen consulting evolve over my years as a consultant.

Reminiscing

I recently had dinner with a former boss and long-time mentor from my early years in consulting. We had fun reminiscing about the “old days” of consulting when the morning choice was whether to wear the navy blue suit or the grey suit with the standard white shirt. A good consultant golfed with clients – bowling was too blue collar. Men didn’t wear jewelry and women didn’t wear slacks.

If the firm needed you in New Jersey the next morning, you caught the next flight out of town to get there. If you had already planned to take your son to his college orientation, let me repeat: The firm needs you in New Jersey tomorrow morning!

In those days, the sales process went something like this: The client identified a particular need, let’s say a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software system. They sent out an RFP (Request for Proposal) to a short list of consulting firms. The RFP detailed the problem definition, a description of the client’s technical infrastructure, vendor selection criteria and any other information the client saw fit to provide the vendors.

For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants

In return, the consulting firms began preparing their proposals to present to the potential client. They would usually schedule a meeting, or at least have a phone conversation which would be a Q&A session to fill in the gaps from the RFP.

Each firm would schedule a proposal presentation meeting with the client at which a multi-slide PowerPoint presentation would be presented with glossy printed copies presented to each client participant. The firm would bring as many suited consultants as possible to show their commitment, without outnumbering the client’s meeting participants.

The PowerPoint contained important information, such as the firm’s history, how long they had been in business, how revered the founder is, and how many clients they served. Some of their premier client’s logos would invariably be plastered in one slide in collage format. The firm’s price for their fees was in small print on one of the final slides.

Updating the old school consulting approach

There is a new breed of consultants that began to question this approach. They began to understand that no RFP –or document of any kind – can communicate a company’s true problem as well as a face-to-face conversation.

That face-to-face should be more than a Q&A session that fills in the gaps of the client’s self-diagnosis. It should be a conversation that digs deeper. “You think you need an ERP system? What are the problems you are experiencing that lead you to believe that?”

It should consist of diplomatic second guessing. The tone of the meeting should be: Let’s discuss the root cause of the problem and see what the real business issue is. Then we can work together to determine the real resolution to the problem. It may be an ERP system, or it could be something else.

The goal is to create a collaborative relationship focused on solving the client’s business issues rather than doing whatever the client says and billing them as much as possible.

Old school consulting still lives

There are still some old school consultants out there, and some old school clients who work with them. But as the new guard continues providing value for their consulting services, clients will begin to open their eyes and see the light.

I’ll admit to being a bit old-school in some areas. Counter to overwhelming advice, I don’t focus on keyword counts in my blogs and articles. I write what I want to write about. If that doesn’t optimize my Google-juice, so be it.

See my related post: 4 Things That Make a Consultants Experts

But a good consultant evolves with the times in important areas. Because excellent client service never goes out of fashion.

What old school consulting practices are you still using. Which ones have you updated?

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

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

Related Posts
How I Learned that Burning Bridges is A Career Limiting Move
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 ...
READ MORE
Consultants Give Clients a Kick in the Seat of the Pants
There are many types of consultants. Some consultants strictly give advice.  They may perform a study of the client’s internal processes, review their financials and submit a report detailing the changes ...
READ MORE
How to Manage Client Perception
I was always taught not to worry about what people think.  That’s easier said than done. It doesn’t always work in a customer-facing scenario, particularly in the consulting world.  In a ...
READ MORE
What if Your Plumber Gave You “IT” Customer Service?
Imagine a scenario where you have a pipe that leaks under your kitchen sink.  You may be an expert user of water and all things plumbing, but when it comes ...
READ MORE
Unnecessary Anxiety
During the late 1990s, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan coined the term Irrational Exuberance to denote the absurdity of over-enthusiasm investors had regarding stocks – particularly dot-com stocks – ...
READ MORE
The 3 Ds of Client Subversion and What To Do
As a consultant, I’ve liked every client I’ve ever served.  There are some, however, that I’ve liked more than others. Every once in a while I run across one person at ...
READ MORE
How to Lose Business by Gold Plating
I worked my way through college waiting tables.  At one place I worked, we had a cook who treated employee meals differently than customer meals.  Customers received the standard fair.  ...
READ MORE
Protecting Client Confidentiality
Doctors are required to protect confidential patient medical information by law with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  Lawyers are held to an attorney-client privilege holding them to ...
READ MORE
Consulting Skill: Aligning Interests with the Client
In Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s best-selling book Freakonomics, they propose a scenario in which you are selling your house with an asking price of $300,000 and receive an offer ...
READ MORE
Why Do You Want to Work From Home?
Working from home is a growing trend in the business world.  In an effort to cut back on office space and other overhead costs, many companies have set up their ...
READ MORE
How I Learned that Burning Bridges is A
Consultants Give Clients a Kick in the Seat
How to Manage Client Perception
What if Your Plumber Gave You “IT” Customer
Unnecessary Anxiety
The 3 Ds of Client Subversion and What
How to Lose Business by Gold Plating
Protecting Client Confidentiality
Consulting Skill: Aligning Interests with the Client
Why Do You Want to Work From Home?