How to Succeed as a Consultant
Step 1: Become extremely good at something. Anything.
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” – from the book of Proverbs, chapter 22
Step 2: Push beyond the boundaries of what’s known.
Investigate the unknown. Speculate. Theorize. Experiment. Learn from your mistakes. If you can say only what you’ve read in books, you’re a parrot. Polly want a cracker?
Step 3: Speak plainly. Use examples.
Clients don’t want theories, they want pragmatic, tested, what-to-do-now advice. The business of a consultant isn’t merely to have opinions, but to sell them. Tell your client what you know and how you know it. Tell them what you’ve seen.
Step 4: Consult without pay until someone offers to pay.
You’re going to need a day job until folks figure out how good you are. Experience – deep and wide – is essential. If you work really hard and are lucky it'll still be at least 2 years before you begin to gain some traction. Be committed. Don’t worry; just keep getting better. The kings will find you.
Step 5: Avoid Fools.
Lazy people, dishonest people and impatient people will always find a path to catastrophe. Don’t let them take you down it. Some people are going to fail regardless of what you tell them. Learn to spot them early. Don’t take their money.
Step 6: Keep showing up.
A consultant is supposed to be a problem solver. Seek out problems and stare into their eyes. Figure out how to defeat them. Be the soldier who runs toward the sound of the guns.
Step 7: Don’t become an insider.
Only an outsider can be objective. Get too close and you’ll no longer see the big picture, only the details. You lose credibility the moment you begin to look, think and act like an employee.
Step 8: Give credit where it’s due.
Your client will sometimes have a great idea. Affirm it quickly. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you always have to be the one with the plan.
Step 9: Maintain at least 12 clients
Your value as a consultant is that you see more successes and failures than your client. This is why you must consult a lot of different people. If one client ever represents more than 10 percent of your annual income, you no longer have a client, you’ve got a boss.
Step 10: Don’t let your alligator mouth overload your mockingbird butt.
Clients will occasionally insist that you give them unreasonable assurances. “What can you promise will happen if I do as you say?” Or worse, they’ll frame a problem in such a way that it has no solution and demand that you provide one. These are the moments when you’ve got to speak the truth… and be glad you’ve still got all those other clients.
That's all you need to know. Now go do it, and prosper.
Roy H. Williams
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Trivia – The image at the top of today’s Monday Morning Memo is a stained, 9×13 photo of young Frank Sinatra playing baseball on a movie lot. The photo was shot by Frank’s pal, Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy had it taped to the wall in his office for a number of years, then slid it under some glass on his desk until it got ink-stained at the edge. In the end, he sent it home to his parents’ house. It’s just one of the dozens of amazing artifacts you’ll find in the library of the Tower at Wizard Academy. With your help, we hope to build the tower in 2008.