1. Money

The Book Consultants Will Not Buy

By July 29, 2008

Given the tumultuous economy and rocky business environment, the timing of Donald R. Keough's new book is pretty good. The retired Coca-Cola executive just published, "The Ten Commandments for Business Failure." As might be expected, it's a hard look at the mistakes made in business that can ensure failure and what to do to avoid them.

For consultants, this book may be one better borrowed than bought. By the author's admission, in this recent interview with The New York Times, it's probably not a book consultants will find endearing. A chapter discussing Keough's own glaring failure with the "New Coke" project, also contains a hard look at the role consultants play. But here, read the quote:

"Consultants will probably not be great purchasers of this book. There is nothing wrong with outside help. But they have to be there for a specific purpose, for some knowledge that you don’t have. These are usually very smart people, and they are very good at PowerPoint presentations. But you shouldn’t rely on them more than the people in your own company." - Keough

PowerPoint presentations? That's what consultants are good at - really? Certainly, the man is entitled to his opinion, but that one just felt like an unecessary dig. Regardless, I think this is a good opportunity to think about the relationship that you, as a consultant, have with a client and the critical importance of defining the value that you bring to a client in your consulting role. Let's say you have a long-term contract with a particular client, or even a client for whom you do smaller projects on an occassional basis. Outside of the initial proposal that suimmarizes your proposed work, how often do you sit down with the client to discuss the results of the project to-date, or for a simple "feel good" conversation about how things are going? Certainly, in most all projects, there are milestones that must be met or final results that must be achieved to note success.

In this case, I'm talking about having conversations that don't just rely on progress you can check off on paper, but rather progress in the relationship with the client. Does your client trust you? Is he/she able to share both positive and negative feedback about a project? Even if the project is meeting its original goals, does the client still view the project as needed and/or valuable to his company? Asking these questions may seem obvious, but they often get lost or forgotten during the course of a project. And the result is a client, like Keough, who eventually finds it convenient to blame "outsiders" for undue influence that pulled their company off-track. How do you ensure that clients find value in what you do? Leave a comment and let us know.

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