Lew Sauder Consulting 101:101 Tips For Success in Consulting - 2nd Edition
How to Get a Competitive Advantage in a Tough Job Market


The 2nd Edition of Consulting 101 featuring:

  • New and revamped consulting tips
  • A new section on Personal Branding
  • More case studies for better understanding and retention

Go to LewSauder.com to see all of Lew's books


Learning the Unwritten Rules of Consulting

When I started out my IT consulting career, I made sure to read and follow the firm’s guidelines.  Not that I’m a prodigious goody-two-shoes rule-follower – I can question authority with the best of them.  I just wanted to make sure I did a good job and conformed to an acceptable degree.  If the firm required me to wear a suit and tie, who was I to fight that?

I didn’t have too much trouble learning the firm’s basic guidelines and following them.  The difficulty that I had – and still do, to some degree - was learning the unwritten rules. Underneath all of the written rules was the question "What is Consulting?".  

The unwritten rules are what answers that question.  These rules are sometimes based on politics, such as “You don’t bother Mary until she has had her first cup of coffee” or “You don’t ask questions during one of Bill’s presentations until he is done.”

If you don’t befriend someone or have a mentor to bring you up to speed, you’re on your own.  It may take months of:

  • Observing others’ behavior
  • Repeated, humiliating, public screw-ups learning how not to behave.

In addition to a company’s unwritten rules, there is usually a set that applies within your given industry.  Within the consulting industry, these are the ones that I learned the hard way:

  • I saw client employees who would surf the net regularly, raise funds for their kids’ sports teams, and perform any number of personal activities on their employer’s dime.  Consultants need to be focused on their assigned tasks.  In most cases their time is billed by the hour and clients want to reap as much value for those billable hours as possible. Personal activities should not be done at the client.
  • I thought the sales function in consulting was reserved for the sales department and higher level senior management.  My entry level position was focused on getting my tasks done in their time allotted.  I was only half right.  My job was indeed to focus on getting my tasks completed, but I was also expected to develop and solidify relationships with the client's employees to further entrench our firm’s brand with the client.  I was also expected to keep my eyes and ears open for new opportunities for add-on projects that our firm could perform for the client.
  • I often followed the client’s lead in their communication process.  Client employees sent emails with grammatical errors, poor subject lines, and unprofessional verbiage.  I would sometimes stoop to that standard too.  I learned that what I typed in an email can be forwarded on to high-ranking executives, providing a poor reflection for the firm if it is not written professionally.

After a few painful years, I began to catch on and the rules for behavior became second nature.  As I progressed in my career, I saw newbies – either green college graduates or experienced hires that had never worked in consulting – who did their jobs well, but didn’t know the unwritten rules regarding how to communicate with clients, manage client expectations or manage their own consulting career.

These observations resulted in more than just a few complaint sessions with fellow seasoned consultants over lunch or drinks after work.  Forgetting my own learning curve, I often wondered how these people could be so clueless.  We all agreed that there should be some type of Consulting 101 orientation to teach new consultants the basic blocking and tackling to supplement their technical and industry knowledge. 

After a few years of the “Somebody ought to…” attitude, I finally decided to do something about it myself.  That’s why I wrote Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting.

I poured over the past mistakes I had made and had observed others make.  It resulted in a long list, I’m embarrassed to say.  I pared it down to what I considered the most important 101 items.  

I've found that I always learn better when I’m given an example.  That’s probably how we learn from our mistakes and from others’ mistakes.  If we have a hard example to link to, it makes it easier to remember.

So for as many of the tips as I could, I created a case study; an example of how a consultant broke the rule and (hopefully) learned from it.  Many of the stories are true with names changed to protect the guilty.  See the excerpts of Consulting 101 for a few examples.

My secret subtitle for this book was “If I knew then what I know now”.  If you are considering becoming a consultant, Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting will provide you with some of the unwritten rules that govern how you manage the client, your career and so many other things in the consulting industry.

Order it today and get started on a successful consulting career.

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