Consulting is not Telling…10 Guidelines

A long time ago I decided I wanted to be a consultant. It’s a funny feeling when you decide you want to be a consultant, 1 part educator, 1 part psychologist, 1 part researcher and 1 part storyteller.

I always loved the pressure of working with people in need of help or a push. I knew I wanted to work with small business owners. People just like my parents with all the desires and blue sky dreams but likely without all the “tools” to get the job done.

The questions became how do I maximize happiness and profits for people. While satisfying my desire to teach

When you start consulting, it can be a steep learning curve. In my experience, most people are weary of consultants.

My first mentor in consulting told me something that has always stuck. “Don’t just tell, inspire them to learn”

Consulting is many things, but one thing that it surely is not is just”TELLING”. Telling everything you can and leaving..

Some clients have engaged my services thinking I would come in with guns blazing, firing, hiring, and training in some type of blitz pattern of solutions.

I even used to think that if “I had all the answers”, I would be a great consultant. Training the best in my industry from atop my high horse.

Truth is, that consulting like managing, or selling is a mix or art and skill. You need to empower, not dominate your clients.

The planning, mathematics, inspiration, education and research mixed with the dynamism of people makes for a balancing act. Without a set of guidelines, you are likely to regress into chaos very quickly and then you can forget about a respectable outcome or timeline.

Like all great endeavours, I am a long time “mentee” and continue to be mentored along the way. The NEED for a mentor is never more obvious than when you consult. A sounding board and your Yoda mixed into one. Pick wisely.

Here are 10 guidelines to help anyone looking to mentor, consult and train.

  1. Decide on your CORE VALUES before you ever begin. In consulting, these will be your guiding lights when things become challenging. They will help to lead you to finding the right clients and avoiding those that don’t “believe what you believe”.
  2. Always plan, a written plan. Without a daily outline and follow-up, no accountability exists. Without accountability you are wasting each others time and not consulting.
  3. Know the timeline and always be realistic with goals within said timeline. The business world is full of dreamers, dreamers without budgets or realism. As the consultant you have to do your best to keep things in check.
  4. Be the master of your subject. If not a true technical master, then a master organizer and communicator who has the resources to LEAVE BEHIND when you are no longer there daily. A consultant without technical skills is just a business card.
  5. Decide on the projects PACE together and then manage the pace. Consulting has a rhythm, everything has a pace. When you and your client have met (3 times or so) you have the timeline, you have the budget, and they will usually help dictate the pace of the project for you. Once the pace is set to “sprint” or “marathon” for instance, you have to lead the pack and make sure nobody is behind.
  6. Know the time and financial goals before you even start. Better yet, get 12 months of historical data and put everything you do back to the measures of the goals your client has rooted in that data’s progress.
  7. DO THE DUTIES YOU ARE CONSULTING. Not always, but at some point you will need to shut up and prove the words of your mouth. There are many ways to do this, but each time that I have done the job I have always created a more lasting connection with the client’s business.
  8. Know your weakness’. A quick example is one from my primary industry of Food & Beverage. Keen bartenders and “dynamite” managers often take a leap into consulting on new projects. They often over sell themselves and believe that the repetitive technical training success’ they have makes them consultants. They show no weakness and put up a bravado of arrogance that clients do not typically respond to well. Be human, your client is.
  9. A well documented and important lesson in consulting is to always MEASURE, and make things tangible for clients. Even the emotional personality breakthroughs you experience with your clients is measured and held accountable. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”
  10. Give the client time to breathe, and know the power of the pause. This is the idea of “Consulting is not telling”. When you meet, when you mentor or work together, remember that RETENTION is the most important part. Exhausting your client or business will burn you both out. You both need time to retain and learn anything. Don’t discount the power of taking a break, and shutting up:)

These are not the only guidelines that will help, but they help me everyday.

These guidelines are rooted in mistakes and the truth that I am my most challenging client.


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