The Top Ten Things You'll Never Hear A Consultant Say

Number 10: "You're right; we're billing way too much for this."

Come on. We're not all that bad. Exceed client expectation and billing rates becomes secondary. End of story.

Number 9: "Bet you I can go a week without saying "synergy" or "value-added".

OK. Maybe I can't. Jargon is our security blanket, a way to feel connected to others who have also left the comforts of a 9-5 job. We use phrases like knowledge transfer, business process or strategic initiative because it feels good. Maybe it even makes us feel important. Now can we get on with this collaborative dialogue?

Number 8: "How about paying us based on the success of the project?"

Now let's not get carried away. On further thought, I'm not sure some clients would like this arrangement. By success of the initiative, do we mean the value we're delivering? So, if we can help save a client two million dollars and take just 5% of those savings, that would be $100,000. When do we start?

Number 7: "This whole strategy is based on a Harvard business case I read."

Expertise used to mean experience. Now you could build the facade of a consulting practice by googling "Consulting Methodologies". Thankfully, most customers know the difference between talking the talk versus walking the walk.

By the way, when searching in Google, use quotation marks to help narrow your search.

The Number 6 thing you'll never hear from a consultant is:

"Actually, the only difference is that we charge more than they do."

Not us. Fixed price projects, defined scope of work; you know exactly what you're getting and what it's going to cost. (A little shameless self-promotion)

You'll definitely never hear Number 5:

"I don't know enough to speak intelligently about that."

So here's the problem. We believe not knowing something means we're not as valuable to our clients. I say it's time we collectively show our true selves, even the less than perfect side. Here's a little exercise. If you're consulting, repeat after me: "I don't know". Again. "I don't know". One more time. "I don't know". Good.

Number 4: "Implementation? I only care about writing long reports."

Why does every consulting gig have to end in a report? Is is really necessary? I say quantify the problem, solve it and move on. We're not being paid for long reports, are we? Read through those hundred page documents you've written or received. If you can't find a clearly described problem and road map to solve it, you've basically got a hefty paper weight.

Number 3: "I can't take the credit. It was Ed in your purchasing department."

It's no secret that consultants have a strong need for attention. I'll admit it. Although it's not our most flattering trait, it's consistent with our desire to save the day.

Think Doug Flutie in the final seconds, throwing the famous touchdown pass for Boston College. That's how we put ourselves to sleep at night. Alright, that's how I put myself to sleep at night.

Number 2: "The problem is, you have too much work for too few people."

The nice thing about bringing us in rather than additional employees is it's so much easier to boot us out the door. For a short period we get to be part of the family. You may even invite us to your parties. And then, bam! projects over, thank you very much, we're out. Yes, we all succumb to the occasional project where we go on "permanent adopted status"? Long term projects do create stability in our uncertain consulting lives, but don't kid yourselves - we're still outside the family. Don't forget that.

And the Number 1 thing you'll never hear a consultant say:

"Everything looks okay to me."

At least once in every consultant's career, the following words should come out of our mouths, "I can't help you." What an honest expression of our commitment to customers. What an exhilarating thrill and ethical stand to turn down work outside our scope of expertise.

By the way, if you do find that courage to turn down a project, congratulations! Now call me and I'll figure out how I can get it done.

Public Speaking Quote

"It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

— Mark Twain