Real World Consulting.
Many people ask me why I got into consulting. I can’t say I always wanted to be a consultant, nor that I was any good at it when I started 5 years ago. I am still learning how to effectively manage client relationships on a daily basis, and my interactions require that I not get emotional with how investments are made and where attention is put on the products we are building.
When I started consulting it was on a part-time basis. I began by investing myself in the product management and marketing of an enterprise software solution I wholeheartedly believed in, and made the internal commitment to ‘do whatever it takes’ to bring the product to market and get funded despite the blood, sweat and tears we might endure (not to mention limited income and potential setbacks).
I was so gung-ho about building something of my own, I was too stubborn to look in the mirror and make sure I was actually ready to do just that. Going out on my own meant being self-directive, self-reflective, and incredibly mature to see potential setbacks as opportunities rather than road-blocking obstacles. Much to my surprise and disappointment, I wound up back in corporate life until I figured out why consulting is a great fit for me.
There certainly is nothing wrong with corporate life. It afforded me the opportunity to get global brand experience I could not have otherwise. The point is I had to learn some things in order to call myself a consultant.
Here are the reasons why being a consultant makes me better at what I do every day.
Consulting requires that I continually learn and grow.
New verticals require learning about new markets in order to be truly effective.
In the last few years I’ve learned about fuel dispenser technology (crucial when integrating gas pump behavior into digital screens), healthcare (meaningful use can be a monster for patient records and cloud-based systems), and advertising for publishers (it really is all about users and followers).
Consulting pushes me to solve problems.
Market learning is only the first step to building products. As a consultant, it’s my job to help solve problems based on knowledge of the business and product development experience. This doesn’t end. It’s a continual process throughout the engagement, and is what consultants are hired to do.
Consulting keeps my ego in check.
As an in-house director, I had a seat at the table. As a consultant, my opinion is an outsider’s view. While I have been hired to bring best practice experience and may have even solved similar problems in the past, my job is to keep a fresh perspective whether my recommendations are deployed, delayed or denied.
Consulting encourages me to mentor and keep an open mind.
The product development teams consultants work with are not necessarily of their own choosing. Coming from a management background, it can be especially challenging to have very little authority working with virtual team members. Leading by influence is critical, and creating trusted partnerships take time and effort.
Consulting holds me to the highest levels of integrity and transparency.
The job of any consultant is to act as a trusted advisor. If I see a different approach that may achieve a better outcome for a client, my recommendations are expected. Speaking up, even in the face of challenging personalities, is important and necessary.
Consulting makes me a better person.
Many days I am pushed to the limits of my communication skills as a consultant. Why should this be any different when I am off the clock?Professional and personal life blend when you work for yourself and I’ve found it’s better to be the best you can be whether you are at the whiteboard or in the playground.
What have you learned as a consultant that drives your life forward in all directions? What are some challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?