Of all the companies I’ve worked with almost none of them are truly serious about growing their business. They all THINK they are. And 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 are consistently disappointed because:
- They can only get out of the consulting relationship what they’re willing to put into it.
- They have unrealistic expectations.
- They hate to read.
- They 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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
Do your best to ensure they 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!