What To Do If You Are Just Starting As A Management Consultant.
If you have a lot of business experience and want to use your skills and knowledge to help other businesses, you might decide that it’s a good idea to become a management consultant. But what exactly does a management consultant do and how does he go about it?
I have been working as a management consultant for about 15 years and I have documented my approach to what I do personally, and how I do it. It takes the mystery out of what some might consider a black art. It also reveals to the prospective client how I work and what his expectations might be, should he decide to engage me for an assignment. I believe in transparency and this fosters understanding and trust relationships that serve both clients and me in equal measure.
For me, the process begins with pre-screening the project sponsor and the business. I need to know as much as I can about the business and how it is managed before the first face-to-face meeting. This ensures that the prospective client’s valuable time and mine, gets used most productively. I use a cloud based business assessment system called GrowthOracle, which enables prospective clients to be guided through an online question set in their own time, and which provides me with the information I need to allow me to decide if I can do my best work with them or not.
This is followed by a 4-step process, which is described in the image below. The questions about the sponsor are really important. If you get an uncomfortable feeling at this early stage, it is usually your intuition telling you that you probably should not choose to work with this potential client. Similarly, if the client does not warm to you, then it is easy in this preliminary stage for him to signal that he is talking to a number of other candidates for the work and you may find that you never hear from him again. Don’t be tempted to force open doors that are obviously firmly shut. Simply move on.
Neil Rackham developed the Spin Sequence, which is described in The Problem Definition above, and it is featured in his book Spin Selling, published by Gower. This introduces you to a really interesting and structured series of question types, which systematically deliver the hot buttons of the project sponsor and what you the consultant, are trying to solve for the business.
If you have the capabilities to solve this problem for the prospective client, and you have created trust between you, then it is likely that you will proceed to the engagement stage, subject only to an agreed fee for your work.
There is often a conundrum to be faced in relation to the fees you will charge for the assignment. Unless you are being unreasonable, the price should appear to be fair to both parties. I usually take the following approach to price.
If you have positioned your solution and proposal properly, it will center around the value you deliver, rather than resting purely on price. I see value in the following way.
The process of defining and executing the project then follows. I usually break it into 6 steps – 3 before you have closed a deal for your services and 3 that come into play once a contract has been signed. These are headline steps that can be broken out into more detailed elements. The image below gives a summary of the steps.
At stage 3 of this process, it is a good idea to prepare a detailed proposal that shows your understanding of the project. Some elements to be included in the proposal will be:
- Project definition and scope
- The specific deliverables & timing of components to be delivered
- Identification of who shall lead the project within the client’s business
- Agreement on roles and responsibilities for all project participants
- A project review and meeting schedule
- Agreed Breakpoints during the project that allow for pausing, cancelling or continuing the project
- Protocols for making changes to the scope of the project as it proceeds
- Specifics around the agreed price and schedule of payments for your work
- Details of other external resources to be brought into the project
If the proposal is agreed with the client, then its core provisions should be translated into a written contract document that governs the legal and practical obligations of both parties. Don’t proceed until all parties to the contract have signed this document. If in doubt, get your lawyer involved in drawing up the contract.
In summary, it is really important that you take a structured approach to client assessment & selection. Rigorous due diligence at this point will save lots of heartache later on. Take care to fully understand what is involved in the project and document your understanding in a written proposal, so that you may reflect it back to the project sponsor. Decide on a fair reward for the value you are delivering and demonstrate this to your prospective client. Formalize your agreement to proceed in a written contract, which needs to be executed prior to commencement.