Set Up to Win
Tips on how the consultant-client alliance can be rewarding
By Annie DeCamp
My schooling as a contingent employee began when I was hired away from a large database company by a vendor after a decade in corporate marketing. My first client was a lead generation firm to which I had outsourced part of our telemarketing organization. I argued for this measure as a means to leverage the core competency and perspective an outside agency could bring, while benchmarking measurements and results for our fledgling in-house telemarketing team. Thus began the pull and tug of employee vs. contingent work experience for me.
Beyond the fact that I originally saw contingent work as a way to solve some life balance requirements, consulting has given me the opportunity to build meaningful connections with clients, even if brieﬂy.
Work with your clients and consultants to ensure success. Here’s how.
Endorse the contingent. Encourage the client to ensure that internal employees who interact with a consultant treat the consultant as a friend, not a foe. Internal employees should understand why the contingents are there and what knowledge and tools they will need to be supported and therefore successful. Garner buy-in and support from internal champions.
Trust the consultant. There’s no greater shortcoming on the client side than lacking trust in the consultant it just hired. Failing to trust the consultant will only undermine his or her ability to maneuver inside the organization and will aﬀect results and the bottom line.
Transition with professionalism. Professionalism is a two-way street and how contingent workers view the client can have long-lasting ramiﬁcations. Have the hiring contract and terms complete before the ﬁrst day of work, clarify the schedule, and clue their workers into cultural nuances and expectations that will launch them successfully.
Proper onboarding. Don’t let the terms “start-up” or “fast paced” veil the need to equip the consultant with a necessary and thoughtful orientation. Letting them fend for themselves is sloppy, and costly in terms of both ROI and performance.
There are steps your consultants can take to ensure success as well.
Overdeliver. Encourage your consultants to try to deliver more than the customer expects (even if quietly) — every day. Also, be sure they prioritize their deliverables by what needs ﬁxing from the outset of the contract term. As a mentor once said to me, “become good at ﬁxing things and people will always call you.”
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t give your client the chance to misinterpret your consultant’s work by lackluster communication. Make sure the consultants clarify their progress, ask questions and share insight consistently.
Stay objective. Consultants should connect with internal employees but stay dispassionate about office issues that don’t involve them. This can muddy the waters and limit their ability to get things done. Let me share a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
Become an inside force. While this might seem counterintuitive to staying objective — there is a way to ﬁnesse this balance. As Jim Kwik says, “If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.” If your consultants set their goals on being a value to the heart of the client, they will have succeeded at working from the inside out.
Get buy-in right away. The consultant should survey your client up front and then outline the project to secure the client’s commitment to it. A survey acts as a way to encourage collaboration, and expands and conﬁrms both parties’ understanding of the project scope. Also, consultants should set a date and time for weekly meetings with their contact throughout the course of the assignment.
Speak the right narrative. What the consultant brings to the table is most valuable if it weaves into the fabric of the company, its objectives, culture and credo. The deliverables need to be meaningful, measurable and relevant. If the consultant isn’t understood, the work might not be either.
Annie DeCamp is a consultant, she can be reached at email@example.com.