Consultants Are Not Magicians; Clients Must Drive Their Own Bus #smbiz

How to Maximize Benefits Working with Consultants

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Of all the companies I’ve worked with almost none of them are truly serious about growing their business. They all THINK they are. I work diligently to show them what it would take to get serious. It rarely works though. It finally comes down to one thing:

Just WHO is driving the bus (their business)
and who SHOULD be doing it?

Many people hire consultants and expect magical results. They are consistently disappointed because they:

  • Can only get out of the consulting relationship what they’re willing to put into it.
  • Have unrealistic expectations.
  • Hate to read.
  • Make their consultants chase them.

Seriously. I hope those who can really use and get benefit from this message will read it; I suspect it is likely to be more popular with the consultants who are worn out from trying to pull answers and information out of their clients.

Maximizing Consulting Results

Do you want to get the most from working with consultants? Here are some sincere tips that will totally change the dynamics of the consulting relationship:


  • Take an active role – YOU should be driving the bus (your business) – not expecting a consultant you hired to magically do it without your input. The more you want to control what they accomplish and the more restrictions you put on what they’re doing, the more available you must be or nothing gets accomplished.
  • Make an effort to truly understand EXACTLY what the consultant is going to do for you. Most dissatisfaction arises from unrealistic expectations due to the client’s lack of specific knowledge of what they’ve requested be done.
  • Promptly provide requested information and answer email, voicemail, and other communications from your client. The longer it takes you to respond the less your consultant can do for you and the longer it will take!
  • Make the consulting relationship a priority. Schedule time for meetings. Insist on regular updates and communication and READ THEM.


  • Do your best to provide structure to the client relationship – in writing – even if you already know they will not read it. Document what information you need, how often you will update them on the progress, provide the best times and methods for contacting you, and – even though they should do it – you may have to be the one to consistently move the project forward.
  • Communicate well: provide updates, be clear in your questions, understand what your client does and does not yet know. Remember that if they knew what you know they could do it themselves! Don’t expect that; expect them to at least try to understand – “the big picture” – not the detail of how to do it – what you are doing on their behalf.
  • Define the project scope carefully and tightly. Scope creep is the largest challenge for every project. No matter how long we work to determine precisely what the client REALLY wants and explain what is involved – even if hours are spent in discovery and you believe you know PRECISELY what that is – expect to find out otherwise.

Avoiding Scope Creep

Scope creep is the major cause of dissatisfaction in a consulting relationship. The primary reason for it is that to the client what you do is simple and won’t take long – no matter how complicated and time consuming it actually is to accomplish.

Here is a brilliant explanation of Scope Creep:

“…scope creep is not only inevitable; it’s natural. As with other natural forces, when we resist it, it seems evil to us. It thwarts us, but scope creep is no more evil than gravity. Scope creep is the pejorative name we give to the natural process by which clients discover what they really want.

This puts our attempts at “requirements gathering” in a different light. Most project managers try their best to discover what clients want at the beginning of the project. They use meetings, questionnaires, personal interviews – and still, the most common experience for developers delivering a final product is customer dissatisfaction. It may come as a slap in the face – “this is no good” – or it may be couched in gentler terms – “you know what would be nice” – but the same message is being delivered: we aren’t giving clients what they want.”

I recommend consultants and those who hire them read the rest of that article on Scope Creep.

How Content Ranks in the SERPs

A disparity of Internet knowledge is a particular challenge for online consultants. Even if your clients use the Internet, recognize that your client may not understand the difference between PPC, SEO and SEM…or organic versus paid search… or local listings versus organic listings and so on.

Many seem to believe if the most influential person writes content for them or it is published on a major site it will auto-magically go to page one at Google. I’m not sure where they get that idea, but it simply does NOT work like that.

Content ranks because it is compelling enough that other people:

  • Share it on social media.
  • Comment on it.
  • Link to it from existing or preferably new content.

Every page on Forbes, Mashable, the NY Times, Problogger or any other site does NOT appear on page one. Every page does not gain PageRank or a high Page Authority.  Don’t take my word for it – go look and prove it to yourself.

Be Clear About What You Expect

Do your best to ensure clients understand the differences and precisely and exactly what you will be doing for them (in writing!). Then realize that it is VERY likely that they still will not “get it” – especially if they are not very Internet and Marketing saavy.

The bottom line is this: the client MUST be willing to learn at least what is necessary to fully understand what they’re asking consultants to do. They MUST communicate.

Don’t make your consultants ask the same questions over and over
and never get an answer. BE INVOLVED. DRIVE THE BUS.

The BUS is YOUR business – not the consultant’s. YOU are the limiting – or growing – factor. No matter how brilliant, talented, or conscientious your consultants, they simply can NOT do their best for you WITHOUT you!

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Gail Gardner

Small Business Marketing Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.


  1. Amen to that, what an awesome post Gail.
    Over the past decade I have been a web developer and it’s been a rocky road for me! Learning the importance of Contracts and having what I call an SOW in place are probable the single most ìmportant factors when dealig with clients.

    I remember early on agreeing to build a Hip Hop Site for a client who wanted to sell merch and upload YT vids on his site. He decided not to pay me my very resonable fee after 2 weeks work because the YT upload feature at the time was not SIMPLE enough. Since then I have used contracts and insit on a deposit before work.

    I also send my potential clients a questionaire in order to Qualify them before agreeing to meet up as at the end of the day it’s goto be worth both of our time! I am not going to spend 3 weeks building a site for 3 figures and the client will not get what they want.

    However I did recently break my rule and reluctantly took on a new client with very strict landmarks in place! Put simpley I use a communal business lounge to work and meet clients on a regular basis. However this one afternoon I got into a conversation with another user and after this person was literally begging me to rehash her website. Initially I said no but after hounding me for three weeks I agreed with some very scrict caveats in place.

    As you can imagine scope creep was very high on my new clients agenda! Basically I was getting hounded by her to do more and more via email, countless calls, and meetings at the office! My client wanted the ferrari but only wanted to pay for the handle. unfortunatly the relationship broke down and I terminated the contract and offered to pay her deposit back.
    LESSON HERE: Always stick with Qualifying clients and stick to your guns.

    Phew, what a comment. I may write about that story on my blog at some point! Give me HTML, MySQL and PHP anyday as thats really simple, but learning to deal and treat clients over the years can be a complicated and bumpy road!
    I got it down to a fine art now. But I thing the most important point to remember are:

    Treat client with respect at all times. How you like to be treated
    Make sure you both know the end goal
    Be honest and transparent about ability and skills
    Make sure client knows the pricing structure, especially for scope creep
    Have a Statement Of Work (SOW) in place so both you and the client knows whats expected of each party

    I think thats it for now! Thanks for sharing your thoughs on this Gail!
    Tweeting shortly
    – PD
    Phillip Dews would love you to read ..Getting a #VOOM On…… My Second Krystal PostMy Profile

  2. I’ve seen business owners sit on making a decision because they were afraid to move forward with the initial strategy, which is understandable because it’s their livelihood. But the time and effort to redirect the momentum to a different marketing strategy is time consuming and frustrating to both parties. I’ve learned to be clear and up front with expectations of clients and myself.
    Stephen Ramirez would love you to read ..What Makes a Good Business Card?My Profile

    • Hi Stephen,

      It is really challenging for a business owner to know who to believe. Anything we can do to increase their confidence will encourage them to act more quickly. On ecommerce sites this is done by adding reviews, testimonials and badges related to security. Those who offer services should use testimonials.

      This is why personal referrals are what works best. If I know you are capable of what you do and can sell someone on what that is worth they are likely to hire you immediately. If they just come across someone’s site that is far less likely.
      Gail Gardner would love you to read ..Ask Me Questions LIVE NOW ~ Get FREE Advice on Social Media for #SmallBizMy Profile

  3. the roll of Consultant at a company is very important fact for make values with achieving company goals.But Consultants Are Not Magicians.therefor Clint must be a flexible and good listener to Consultants ideas and helps to realize consents to make more benefits.
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  4. Its really an amazing picture that you have shared with us. Actually the picture is saying everything about the topic. Keep it up.
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  5. You are quite right about the statement “Consultants are not Magicians, Since they are also humans who work by giving it to freelancer. I guess we need to learn working on our own.
    Samir would love you to read ..Google and Samsung Signed Pact to Low down The Android PressureMy Profile

  6. this is very nice site and i get very nice tips from this site. now i’m regular reader of this site and also share ideas with my friends. i also run a blog name . thanx for sharing this type of quality content with us .
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  7. Hey nice post, and I like the subject too and I quite agree with you. And I must say it’s an informative post on how to grow your business.
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  8. Hello Gail Gardner,
    I would like to appreciate your posting about the relationship between the client and the consultant. There are many companies that take care of their clients and can work according to their demands and needs and this is the major factor of their popularity in market.

  9. Hey nice post, and I like the subject too and I quite agree with you. And I must say it’s an informative post on how to grow your business.

  10. Hey Cheap Web Design, I am also looking for the same. As an entrepreneur I want to expand the business and make it a brand.

  11. HeyWonderful post I must say, Well whenever we contact any consultants we must give them complete work with proper instructions to get the results better than as expected. Though I believe we must work on our own.Thanks

  12. And don\’t forget that the client really has to do a good evaluation of the consultant, before hiring… a few calls to former clients can really be a time and trouble saver!

  13. Off-cause consultant are not magician if you are not serious with your business the consultant will not be serious as well. The client should show serious commitment that is when he or she (client) could achieve a positive result. Therefore, Gail Gardner this is a very good and timely article because many hire a consultant and if they don’t get the result they desire, they begin to blame the consultant meanwhile a lot is also required on the part of the owner thanks for the reminder.

  14. Defining the project and explaining the scenarios is very important thing for every businesses, it shows your work relevancy, how you are scalable and flexible.

  15. It’s your business…it’s your responsibility.

  16. Great tips here to grow online business.

  17. Hiring consultants do not mean that you don’t have to work for your business anymore. The owner and the consultants are expected to collaborate to achieve the primary goal of the business which is to succeed and grow.
    Noel Addison would love you to read ..Selling Ice Cubes to EskimosMy Profile

    • Hi Noel,

      Yes, that is a very good point. One of the toughest challenges for consultants is getting the business owner to act on what they need to do or even to provide the information we need to help them.
      growmap would love you to read ..Blog Post PromotionMy Profile

  18. We just started out this year developing websites, and our biggest challenge has been staying the course on ideas we know are good. It can take quite a while to reach the #1 spot on your google word phrase, but if you set a goal and make a plan to achieve it – just execute your plan and you will get there.
    Ej would love you to read ..Greenhouse GlazingMy Profile

  19. Set goals, and have a plan with a time-line to achieve those goals. Support the plan with milestones and specific intended steps you need to take to attain the specified goals.

  20. Cheap Website Design Belfast says:

    When it comes to starting a new business, how long would you give it to succeed? I have a lot of clients quit after 2 – 3 months because it’s not working. If you are serious about going alone would you give it more than a year. Do you agree?

    • It takes how long it takes. Most people are totally unrealistic about how much work is involved in becoming successful. 2-3 months is definitely NOT long enough and it can take more than a year to really get traction.

      It has taken me over three years to see very obvious signs of success here and I am not nearly where I’m heading yet. That said, my goals are very broad. The more narrowly targeted your goals the faster you can reach them while the larger your goals the longer it will take.
      growmap would love you to read ..Why Your Geographic Location IS a NicheMy Profile

  21. Cheap Web Design Manchester says:

    Great article about running a business, some informative advice. Thanks

  22. Yes, I really serious about growing my business. I already read your article. I am doing marble tiles business. It is such a nice and useful information for me. I always gave best services to my clients.

  23. Thanks for sharing this information. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog. Cheers.
    .-= Ed@Matthew Proman´s last blog ..I’ve posted 1 new photo to =-.

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