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Rules of Thumb for Consultants


I love being a consultant. I love managing a consulting team. I can't think of something more fun to do. Over the years, I have learned a lot! I try to codify these lessons, so that our team can move farther and faster from all of our experiences.

I will start posting some of my 'rules of thumb' here. These are not scientific. NONE of them are 100% strict or prefect, which is why they aren't just called 'Rules'. There is always a lot of gray area in consulting, and communication and truth will guide you in the gray areas. But until you get the experience, and comfort with clients, these should help you through some situations.

Truth be told, most of these have come from me, or people I know, putting my foot in my mouth.

I am sure these have all been covered on other web sites and blogs. But, since blogs are about conversion, I thought I would put some down here, and see what people have to say.

What is a consultant? Well, that is a very ambiguous term, as much as the title architect is. There are two ways of looking at it.

There is the paperwork way, and the philosophical way. The legal way lays out like this:

0. You work for the same people that pay you. They tell you what do to on a daily/tactical basis. You do it. This makes you a 'native'.

1. You work for different people that pay you. But the people that you work for still tell you what to do on a tactical level each day. This makes you a contractor/staffer.

2. You work for different people that pay you. They give you strategic direction, and let you figure out the best way to do it, based on your training, processes, experience, and luck. This makes you a consultant. You don't necessarily work on site or off site. Your professional relationship with the client is much like a lawyer.

I am sure there are better definition out there, but I guess that is the basic.

The philosophical view grays this a little. You can be a native employee, yet still think and act like a consultant. I think this is key. No matter who you are working for, and how they are paying you, you should always think and act like a professional consultant. You will end up bringing a lot more to the table for your employer. Think of your internal customer as a client, and truly treating them like that can be a very powerful thing. It will lead to more success, and to more value and growth for your company. That's a good thing.

The worst is when a consultant ends up thinking and acting like an internal/native. This leads to stagnation, and negative value for the client. They could have gotten the same grunt work for a lot less money from a real native. And all you did was ruin your own reputation, as well as your company's.

I think 'how' you think, approach problems, and how you provide value is more important in the "Am I a consultant?" equation that merely how you are paid and who you work for.


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