Other than large consulting companies that often hire consultants right out of college and train them in the ways of that company, most consultants have some seasoning behind them. Many consultants get to a certain point in their careers where they determine that it’s time to go out on their own and make their mark on the world. Sure, sometimes it’s a lot more self serving than that, but the truth is that something pushes us into trying to make money on our own in some fashion.
When we first get into consulting, it seems as though the world is ours, in a fashion. If we’re good, we have people listening to us and gleaning the best we have to offer. We get used to that sort of thing, and often, we’re still open to listening to what others have to say. We’re always in the process of growing along with helping our clients grow, and that’s a good thing.
Sometimes, however, we might get to the point where suddenly we forget what it was like when we first got into the business. There’s a saying we hear often that goes “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know.” For many consultants, that’s a good thing because what some of them forget is that the old ways don’t always work forever. Some things do, such as treating people well.
Other things don’t work as well. In most of our industries, there are new regulations that we’re supposed to keep up with. We learn those new ways and we forget those old ways, and we’re happy about it and our clients are happy about it because old information wouldn’t help them at all. We tend to be flexible in those instances because it impacts our ability to make money.
What about when the ability to make money isn’t as clear cut? What about when new technologies or new ways to advertise or market ourselves are presented? Why is it so easy to poo-pooh something you don’t understand and don’t even want to try, but think about what that might say about you as a consultant. Something we like to try to convince people to do is make changes that they might not be ready for, or to at least consider trying something different. Why would we expect something different from those we’re trying to help and not expect that we might have to make changes in how we do things ourselves?
As consultants, we can’t afford to be too rigid in the things we do. Sure, we need to remember the general principles of everything we do and consult on, because doing things the right way will never go out of style. But we also always need to be open to new ways of doing something, especially once we realize that things aren’t quite going the way they used to in the past. All of us either grow, or we stagnate, fail, and go away.
I recently wrote an article on old school management, where some people who have been managers for a long time have failed to keep up with the changing thoughts and mores of today’s employees, and thus find that their management style doesn’t bring the type of results it did in the past. The same goes for consultants. Do you want to grow, or do you want to be passed and forgotten? It’s up to you.