Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I've learned about consulting (so far)

I've been a business consultant for a software vendor for just over two years now. Turns out there are some things worth knowing..

Remember people's names. Not just those you deal with directly - that's a given. But also those you come across when you're workshopping or conducting training. It gives them a pleasant surprise to realise you paid enough attention to know who they are.

People will always want to fix the problem. They'll probably already have a solution in their head. Don't let this distract you from defining the problem properly first. Sometimes the thing that's causing the problem won't be fixed by their proposed solution.

Provide good advice, but understand that they might not take it. Be ready to walk away from what you think would be best. If you can't do this, don't be a consultant.

Have fun and work with good people. You don't have to be best friends, but why waste time and energy surrounding yourself with people who don't click?

I'm sure I'll think of more - any additions?


  1. Some don't really apply to you since you're a vendor, but others include:

    It's the people who matter, not the technology

    There is not always a solution. Sometimes, the resources just aren't there to get the job done.

    If you don't care about them, your effectiveness is halved. This is important not just for inspiring you to care, but also for budgets and timelines etc.

    Your website is not there to generate sales. It's there to give someone who has already decided to use you something to show to their boss.

    The majority of vendors are either incompetent or assholes. Don't be either of those and, given time, you can pick and choose your clients.

    90% of the time, you are being paid to bring value to the solution using your knowledge and experience. The other 10%, you are being paid to follow instructions. Don't muck them up.

    Never send an email or make a phone call in anger.

    Never get involved in the politics of your client.

    Always be on time for meetings. Always be prepared. Your task in a meeting is both your role as a consultant, and to ensure that your handler looks like a goddamn genius for deciding to hire you.

  2. Actually here's one more - don't be lazy in your documentation-type deliverables. When I was a customer as opposed to a vendor, it always frustrated me when vendor documentation had sloppy editing.