To be successful as a consultant, you must be different; you must be strong; and you must be committed. The consulting field is growing faster than ever, driven by the information revolution, baby boomers moving out of corporate roles, and the struggling economy. Some consultants will join firms like Deloitte as experienced hires, while others will make a go of it on their own. In either case, these three requirements apply.
Be DifferentTo start, you must be able to answer two questions that get at core positioning:
- What do you do?
- How is that different than others doing the same thing?
Deloitte Consulting does this well. As its CEO Jim Moffatt told me, "We live to help our clients solve really complex problems. If it was easy, they'd do it themselves."In particular, Deloitte focuses on solving four types of complex problems:
- Growth and innovation
- Brand positioning
- Operational excellence
Teams with tactical capacity -- the ability to work under changing conditions and translate strategies into actions -- beat individuals every time. Get a partner or ally so you can be better together and avoid the consultant roller coaster.
Deloitte is continually investing to capitalize on its own strengths with Deloitte University playing a big part. At the bottom of the recession, the company decided to build its own training center, and while this was a significant investment during a recession, Deloitte's leaders were committed to pushing it forward as a way to build leadership. Today, according to Moffatt, it has "transformed the way we think about leadership and our culture."
Beyond that, Deloitte puts a strong emphasis on on-the-job training. Moffatt, who believes "the way you succeed is by helping others be successful," drives this message as a core component of Deloitte's culture, interviewing for cultural fit and then reinforcing it at every step of the way of every employee's journey through Deloitte. (For more on assessing cultural fit in interviews, see my previous article "Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions").
Be CommittedConsultants must be committed to customer satisfaction, continuous improvement and business development.
- Customer satisfaction: It's why you exist. If your clients don't get value, you don't have a business.
- Continuous improvement: If you're not getting better, you're getting relatively worse.
- Business development: The number one job of a company is to create a customer. If you don't love selling, really love selling, go do something else.
- Serve clients and drive results to make an impact
- Build the practice, with an ever-increasing emphasis on innovation
- Develop their people
- Contribute to the community
The bottom line: Want to try consulting? Be different, be strong and be committed. Or be something else.This is a good example of step 1 of The New Leader's Playbook: Position Yourself for Success
There are several components of this including positioning yourself for a leadership role, selling before you buy, mapping and avoiding the most common land mines, uncovering hidden risks in the organization, role, and fit, and choosing the right approach for your transition type. (Including an interim role).
The New Leader's Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis' managing director, and co-author of The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 3rd edition 2011) and the freemium iPad app New Leader Smart Tools. Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.