A few days ago I was having a conversation with my wife about consulting. I told her how over this past year I’ve spoken to maybe seven or eight different people who wanted to get into consulting, including a couple who do some of the things I do in trying to make a living. I also said that when I first got into the business how I found it difficult to find people who would talk to me about consulting, even if I didn’t do what they did, because they kept seeing me as competition instead of as a comrade. She said what’s the point of being a consultant if you won’t even talk to people who ask questions no matter what they are.
One of the great things about belonging to an organization like the Professional Consultants Association is that people are willing to talk about many things that can help someone be successful as a consultant. At least I see that now. When I was first a member of the organization there were a couple of people who still wouldn’t talk to me, and one of those people doesn’t talk to me to this day. I would bet that he wouldn’t recognize the behavior in himself, but the reality is that when I first went out on my own I was able to obtain a directory that listed the names of the bunch of consultants and I tried to call all of them. This one guy in particular actually told me that I was competition to him and therefore he did not want to share any information with me. This guy is also a leadership trainer; what kind of leadership is that? Luckily one guy I talked to was a member of this organization and he invited me to come and meet everybody else and I’ve been a member now for about eight years.
To me, the art of consulting is the art of wanting to help others be better. It’s not supposed to be about you, although a part of it has to be you because you have to make a living. There’s nothing saying consultants have to give away the farm; trust me, I’ve been burned on that one couple of times and I’m a lot more hesitant these days.
Still, it never hurts to help someone else be better, even if they’re in the same profession as you, because you never know how things could work out for you later on. That person you decide to give some information to regarding marketing today might be the guy who hires you tomorrow or recommends you for work to someone else. It kind of goes off that old line which says that the people you meet on the way up will be the same people you meet on the way down. Make a positive impression and you never have to worry about falling too far before someone offers a helping hand.
Most people have a bad impression of consultants, and I almost hate to admit this but they’re probably right. So many consultants seem to be in it for themselves instead of for others. I don’t totally have a problem with that, as long as we remember that in the long run it’s not really about us. I keep thinking that’s probably why I have so many blogs, because I have all this information in me that I just want to get out to lots of people. The little bits and pieces I share might seem like I’m giving it all away, and sometimes I think I’m giving it all away, but so many people are benefiting from the things I share that I just can’t stop myself. True, I won’t make money off of a lot of it, but I am gaining a good name for myself. People know that there is always someone there to try to help them in some way. They also know that at a certain point I’m going to ask them for money, and they don’t have a problem with that for the most part either.
In a way, I view consulting like every other type of art. Sometimes you don’t know the real value of it until much later on. If we can afford to wait, we might see great benefits from the assistance we give. And I have also found that there is a lot to learn when you’re giving, and even consultants have to continue learning right?