The Myths And Allure Of Consulting

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I came across a very detailed research article on building a successful consulting practice. You can read the 22-page interesting article here: View/Download the research article.

It had a section on the myths of consulting and another on why people are interested in consulting. I have decided to share those parts in this blog post.

The Myths of Consulting

There are many myths associated with consulting that often motivate people to enter the business when it may not be the right choice. These myths, fully explored in this chapter and briefly detailed here, are presented in a variety of excellent resources in the consulting field (Biech, 1999). 

1. Consultants don’t have to work so hard. In reality, consulting may be one of the most difficult jobs today. It requires a tremendous amount of hard work to be successful and survive. The traditional eight-hour days are replaced with long hours, weekend work, and often no vacation or holidays.

2. Consultants don’t have a boss. While an independent consultant may not have an immediate manager, there’s still a boss in the equation: the client. The client can be more demanding and difficult to please than any direct manager.

3. Consulting is a respected profession. As described earlier, the image of the consultant has been severely tarnished in recent years. Many individuals in the client’s organization view outside consultants as disruptive, unnecessary, and even harmful as they recommend flawed plans or processes. Add accountability concerns, and the issue of excessive costs, and consultants often suffer images depicted in Dilbert. (Adams, 1996)

4. Consultants make large amounts of money. The daily rates for consulting are often less than imagined. Also, this daily rate is just that—the rate for a particular day. Unfortunately, there are not enough billable days for many consultants. When the daily rates are spread over the costs of providing consulting services, many firms don’t have enough income to survive.

5. Consultants are viewed as experts in their area. Expertise is not automatically granted with the label of consultant. The consultant must constantly prove himself/herself to every client – in every situation.

6. Consultants are void of office politics. Sometimes consultants are placed in the middle of office politics as they attempt to accomplish their jobs. Many find themselves using their political skills as much as their technical, organizational, and management skills.

7. It’s easy to expand a consulting business. As the number of clients increase, it would seem logical that the business could easily grow. However, once the number of clients grow beyond what the original consultant/owner can deliver, it is often difficult to expand merely by adding consultants. Clients may not perceive the same level of expertise with other consultants or the additional consultants may not have the same skills.

These and other myths create a flawed perception of consulting, causing many to make the leap into
the consulting business, only to fail along the way. 

Why People are Interested in Consulting

Each year, many professionals (and non-professionals) are attracted to the consulting profession. Some are pursuing a life-long dream of independence, freedom, and financial success. Others are running away from jobs and situations in hopes of finding something better. The attraction is very strong and can usually be summarized in the following scenarios. To a certain extent, these are almost mirror images of the myths of consulting because what attracts someone to consulting is often based on a myth.

1. Independence. Running your own business and managing your own schedule gives you independence not enjoyed in occupations inside conventional organizations.

2. Freedom. The freedom to grow the business (or not), accept clients (or not), and travel (or not) is an important issue. This freedom often does not exist in other traditional jobs in other organizations. A consulting opportunity seems to be an ideal way to escape the constraints of previous jobs.

3. The nature of the work. Consulting is a helpful process that adds value to an organization. The nature of the process, from exploration and investigation to analysis and recommendation is all exciting work. It’s challenging and self fulfilling.

4. Rewards. Consultants help individuals and their organizations. It is rewarding to see the results of a consultant translate into important improvements in an organization. Ideally, the consultant makes a difference—sometimes a significant difference. 

5. Image. In many cases, consultants are well respected, the image of their work is a positive one, and they’re proud to be a consultant.

6. Financial rewards. Consulting appears to be a lucrative process, consulting rates are often very high, and large consulting projects can be extremely profitable for the individual as well as the firm.

7. Leveraging talent. Consulting is an excellent opportunity to leverage the knowledge and expertise of the consultant in the organization. In some cases, knowledge and skills are literally transferred throughout the organization.

8. Opportunity for growth. The profession is growing and the use of consultants is growing. The consulting field has the appearance of opportunity for much growth and the opportunity for individual growth within the profession appears to be great.

9. Escape mechanism. Consulting appears to be the way to escape many of the frustrations inherent in corporate bureaucracy and the stifling effect of large organizations. Consulting is a way to move from the present situation to something much better. To go it alone is the ultimate dream of a lot of people.

These, and others issues, are attracting people to the consulting business each year. Attempting to determine if consulting is a good fit for an individual can be difficult. The list below shows a slightly modified checklist taken from an important guide to consulting (Biech, 1999). It illustrates the key issues that should be considered to determine if consulting is right for you. The number of checks in the figure is not significant; each person must face the reality of each issue. Every box that you are unwilling to check is an indication that you might not be closely matched to this profession. 

  •  I am willing to work sixty to eighty hours a week to achieve success.
  • ‰ I thrive on risk.
  • ‰ I have a thick skin—being called a pest does not bother me.
  • ‰ I am good at understanding and interpreting the big picture.
  • ‰ I pay attention to details.
  • ‰ I am an excellent communicator.
  • ‰ I am a good writer.
  • ‰ I like to sell my work and myself.
  • ‰ I can balance logic with intuition and the big picture with details.
  • ‰ I know my limitations.
  • ‰ I can say ‘no’ easily.
  • ‰ I am compulsively self-disciplined.
  • ‰ I am comfortable speaking with people in all disciplines and at all levels of an organization. 

Read the entire interesting article here.


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