I've picked up this book: "The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business"
I found myself a bit confused as to what a consultant is at it's core, and this case study helped a lot.
Large corporations are outsourcing talent to "consulting firms" to avoid the expenses associated with providing employee benefits. I have a friend who is in banking who identifies himself as a consultant, though his role and responsibilities are basically that of an employee.
I also asked myself a question... If a guy walks down the block, meets with a business owner and sells him a mobile website, is he a consultant? Contractor? Service Provider? Salesman?
Some consultants actually labor on specific projects where they perform very specific tasks; set up IT, conduct an executive search, etc. Whereas other consultants sell a roadmap, or a game plan and help their clients identify the pieces necessary to make the plan work.
It seems like the definition of what a consultant is, is constantly evolving.
I'd like to get you guy's views on this stuff, but I also want to share with you some of the most commonly highlighted portions of this book.
"First, the consultant must his clients' interests ahead of the firm's interests. If a McKinsey consultant thinks a study is not in the interests of a client - a waste of money, or a misguided investigation - he must tell the client so. Second, he must adhere to the highest standards of truthfulness, integrity, and trustworthiness. Third, he must keep to himself the client's private and proprietary information. Fourth, he must maintain an independent position and tell the client the truth as he sees it. And fifth, he must provide only services that have real value."
Takeaway for me: The book is informative yet vague at the same time. The first principle jumped out at me because it seems as if McKinsey is ranking in billions by simply conducting and selling research...
"They sell what their clients are buying, and where the clients are buying it."
Takeaway for me: Obvious.
"Association with a failing firm was toxic for a consultancy's business. From this point forth, McKinsey & Company strove to stay well behind the scenes. It henceforth refused to reveal its client list and at the same time insisted that their clients show similar discretion."
Takeaway for me: This protects you from a client inevitably short cutting your advice, failing to take your advice, or mis appropriating your advice, then turning around and blaming you for it.
"The consultant would comport himself as a lawyer, with discretion and integrity; he would bring scientific, fact based rigor and precision to the task, like an engineer or accountant. Like a doctor, he would dispense advice to unhealthy companies on how to get better, and to healthy companies on how to stay that way. And, like a priest, he would serve his clients."
Takeway for me: Everyone knows you should dress professionally when the situation warrants. What amazed me about this, is the part that I have in bold. Consultants can essentially get paid well by clients who really don't need them.
"McKinsey insisted that it would work only for the chief executives of firms and not be shunted off to their underlings... This had the added advantage of freeing McKinsey from having to offer specialized technical advice... Narrow expertise is for chumps, we do vision."
Takeaway for me: Selling "vision" gives you more bandwidth. If you have to do all the nitty gritty, you have less of it. When you have more bandwidth you have more room to bring in more clients, thus more money.
"Consultants will carry information in and information out. The client has to decide which of those flows is worth more."
Takeaway for me: Listen to everyone, especially the ones who have something to brag about. Ever prospect and come across a business owner who declines your offer but goes on to tell you how and why he's great? There may be something in his success you can sell to the next guy.