You and your team need to have a global understanding of your firm so the right people are in the right places to best serve the client.
This marks the first column I’ve contributed to The Zweig Letter since taking over as director of consulting. Over the course of these last couple of weeks in my new role, I’ve essentially solved all the challenges facing this area of our business and achieved all of our consulting growth goals. Well, not really. But, I have learned a few things since I removed my focus from leading an M&A team and started thinking about consulting across Zweig Group.
I think that a lot of these initial lessons apply to our readers as consultants in the A/E industry and wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:
- A great consultant is an expert. Experts know the key to credibility is recognizing when they are no longer in their particular “expert” sphere, and when someone else within the organization may be better equipped to help the client. This means everyone in the firm should be able to discuss the firm’s services and specialties outside of their immediate area, and should be familiar enough with the overlap to know when to bring in additional team members.
- Client relationships have to be larger than the individual consultant. We are all busy, but we need to make time to share with our co-workers what we’ve learned about our clients if we want to best help them achieve their goals – and be seen by our client as a trusted partner. As we bring more members of our team into the fold, we also increase the opportunity to come up with a unique solution that we may not have thought about if we had not expanded the circle. We risk eroding the firm’s brand when the relationship is purely held with one person. What if one of the parties leaves (on either side – you or your client)? How do we entrench ourselves deeply within the client organization so that the client thinks that their partner is the firm, not just the principal or PM they work with most often?
- Consistency is a virtue. If the firm has no consistent approach to a project – communication, billing practices, managing the relationship, etc. – we have already limited our ability to successfully serve the client by adding a stress factor of unpredictability. What are some hallmarks of our firm that should apply to every engagement? How do we communicate these expectations to our own team members? Our clients? How do we hold ourselves accountable?
Each of these three lessons comes with significant nuance and a lot of balancing among competing priorities. Especially if you are like me, and tend to err on the “I’ll just do it myself” side of the spectrum – which does not accomplish a single one of the lessons articulated above! As leaders in your firms and as consultants yourselves, I welcome any pointers and additional lessons learned from The Zweig Letter’s readers!
No – really – email me your thoughts!
Jamie Claire Kiser is Zweig Group’s director of consulting. Contact her at email@example.com.