Initiating a Great Consulting Practice (Part One in a Series)
Attitude is Everything
By Carl Pritchard, Pritchard Management Associates
At a dinner party the other night, I met a neighbor for the first time. When I told her what I do for a living, she exploded in reply with “That’s what I would LOVE to do! How do you get into something like that?”
I fear my answers actually disappointed her, as they do a lot of people who ask that question. I caught myself running through a dozen different techniques and strategies to get her consulting practice off the ground. In my zeal to be helpful, I quickly realized that I had inundated her with too much information. In the process, I may have dampened her enthusiasm for switching over to the glorious world of consulting. The challenge in breaking into consulting is not that it’s overly difficult. It’s that consulting is remarkably multi-faceted. Great consulting is not the art of doing a single thing well. It’s a function of having the capacity to take on a wide variety of roles, and do them all with a reasonable degree of efficacy. And while you’re doing that, you have to continue to be amazing at your core competency.
In this series of articles, I provide my thoughts on key steps that you can take to get your independent consulting practice off the ground. The areas we’ll cover include:
Each of those three general areas represents a wide range of different practices. And while no single individual is totally capable in all of them, there is a need to ensure a basic skill set associated with each. In infrastructure, for example, it’s not essential to be a librarian, but it is crucial to have the ability to store and retrieve large volumes of data at will.
No matter which aspect of consulting is under consideration, there is a consistent thread throughout. The truly great consultant has an attitude of passion for the work. It’s not enough just to be good at something. A great consultant believes there is more to know and more to do, and believes opportunities exist within the knowledge and the work itself.
Passion is not an easy commodity to come by. It must be innate. It cannot be contrived. My sister is a classic example. Just this evening, I called her in my hometown. Why? It was the day after the judging at the Mahoning County (OH) Fair. Year after year after year, my sister has brought home blue ribbon after blue ribbon. Sprinkled in there? Quite a few “Best in Show” ribbons. The award? $7. My sister, Ginny, is clearly not in it for the money. She is in it for the passion. The best bread. The best sweet rolls. The best casserole. She genuinely enjoys being the best. At first description, you might think she has an ego problem. She doesn’t. In fact, she doesn’t display her blue ribbons, and many of her peers don’t know about her winning history. She simply relishes her role as a blue-ribbon cook.
Ginny has the appropriate attitude to be the perfect cooking consultant. Why? Because the craft comes first. She would be the perfect consultant because the art of what she does is the most important aspect. Don’t get me wrong. She wants to be recognized for it. She appreciates the accolades, but first and foremost, it’s about the cooking.
For Ginny, if she truly wants to be a cooking consultant at some point, the key will be to leverage her current attitudes about her craft. But at the core of it, her craft remains the most important thing.
If you can make the same claim, the first step down the road to being a great independent consultant is in hand. If you cannot, it’s time to ask yourself what elements of your craft you can become passionate about. And if you can’t come up with a viable answer, the answer may be that you may still need time to truly find your passion.