What does it take to be a great consultant?

I am often asked about how I got into the consulting business, and what steps someone should take if they want to become a consultant.

A great consultant is more than just a professional person with the technical skills required to solve a particular problem. More than just a rainmaker, problem solver or networker.

So what does it take to make a great consultant? While not comprehensive, the following list is a good starting point:

  • Shared values: Common value framework between yourself, your client and your associates (and supported by your partner, family and personal community)
  • Integrity: Managing your business and personal affairs with impeccable integrity ensuring trust and genuine rapport
  • Natural inquisitiveness: Innate desire to understand issues, motivations, obstacles etc.
  • Needs analysis: The ability to ask good quality questions and the ability to prioritise the issues in order of importance, cost/impact, capacity to achieve etc.
  • Love of solving puzzles: In addition to the desire to understand issues, a deep-seated desire to dive into challenging situations, deal with uncertainty, fix and improve things
  • Estimating: The ability to properly scope the size of a problem and the scale of effort required to solve the problem
  • Negotiation and self-belief: I placed these two together as you need to be able to negotiate the appropriate payment for your efforts based on the value you bring, not how much budget the client has or how quickly they want it done
  • Time and project management skills: The ability to make sure things get done on time, on budget and above standard
  • Networking and business building: properly leveraging your network (including online and professional networks such as LinkedIn) to maximise business opportunities

Let me know what you would add to the list.

Contributor:

Michael Field, Managing Director for Michael Field Pty Ltd.

Good Advice Costs More and Less

Following on from my previous post, I was asked to explain why good advice costs more. In my opinion, it does and it doesn’t.

While that might sound like a consultant’s response, let me explain.

Good advice, as in the right advice, is well considered, able to be executed and actually solves the problem. It will probably cost more at the point of receiving it.

That being said, it will almost certainly cost you less in the long run. While not comprehensive, there are two main reasons why:

Good advice is the result of more work and greater experience.

Experienced practitioners of any discipline have years, if not decades, of experience in their area of specialisation. They have probably encountered your particular kind of problem many times and have experienced every variation of possible causes, solutions and results.

They might know everything there is to know about how to tackle the issue, however they still discipline themselves to systematically work through the issue to identify exact causes and work through all of the available options to identify the best solution. They do not ‘jump to solutions’ without thoroughly understanding the problem.

A good analogy is the medical practitioner who will diagnose symptoms and eliminate possible causes through a series of tests and investigations before prescribing medication or advising on surgery.

Good advice solves problem faster, more effectively and often permanently.

The great thing about good advice is that if it is properly acted on, it will solve the problem – permanently. I am often reminded of the John Wooden quote:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

The same applies to business advice, market research or product launches.

Good advice will cost less in the long run as it will be well researched, based on experience and thorough investigation and in most cases will not need to be redone.

Contributor:

Michael Field, Director at Michael Field Pty Ltd.