Life seldom offers a redo, but if you try your best, things usually work out alright. Jill Dyché, now a vice president at SAS, spent most of her career in consulting. And if she could start all over again as a consultant, there are a few things she would do differently. In an article for CIO.com, she describes what she would have done differently, so you can benefit with your own consulting:
- Would’ve spent more time interviewing people
- Would’ve used more templates
- Would’ve spoken truth to power
- Would’ve stopped researching technology for its own sake
- Would’ve connected clients with each other
- Would’ve taken more vacation and time being artistic
Hindsight is 20/20
With her self-funded boutique, Dyché could only afford to hire new team members when a job was already in place that warranted the new skills. This was an inefficient process. She realizes now that she should have maintained a stronger network of skilled people and kept them in the loop about the work her business was doing. This would have made hiring a faster and more fluid process.
Another thing she would have changed was to use more templates. In her consulting days, she approached each engagement with an attitude of, “Every business is unique.” But in retrospect—no, businesses truly are pretty similar in many ways, and consultants typically use repeatable processes to generate success. She could have had clients answer a standardized questionnaire and apply a standard timeline afterward, with business-specific fine-tuning to follow later.
Next, on the subject of giving a hard truth, Dyché faltered. Specifically, when executives would ask how their businesses compared to others, she would usually answer along the lines of, “You’re great! Almost there!” But the reality was more like, “You’re pretty behind.” She just wanted to keep enthusiasm for a project going, but she should not have lied about a business’s current viability.
Another stumbling block was how much time Dyché spent studying hyper-specific details of technology in case a client would ask about it. The reality was that most clients never asked about such things, and when such a question did arise, someone else on Dyché’s team probably had a better answer to give. Keeping abreast of one’s industry is important, but there are limits to how much investment must be made.
About connecting clients, Dyché says this:
In retrospect, my clients had so much in common but knew so little about each other. Sure there were conference cocktails and reference calls. But at times we’d be working on nearly identical issues across several different companies, our consultants solving the same problem at a bank, a media company and a retailer, comparing notes and using Yammer to share ideas and approaches. Yet our customers never knew.
Introducing executives struggling with similar issues should have been a no-brainer. It would have let us connect smart people, broker valuable meetings, create new opportunities, and innovate collectively. Maybe I assumed everyone was too busy, or bringing diverse clients together would somehow backfire. But I never really tried it, and likely lost opportunities to grow as a result.
Finally, if she could do it again, Dyché would have taken more time to do things other than consulting. Reading a fiction book is pretty good for the brain too. It does not always have to be articles on how to increase revenue.
You can view the original article here: http://www.cio.com/article/3200026/leadership-management/starting-a-consulting-firm-what-i-d-do-differently-the-second-time-around.html