Advice and Commentary on the World of Professional Consulting


Consultants As Mentors And Mentees

At our last Professional Consultants Association meeting, John Hunt, one of our members, led us through a roundtable discussion on the topic of mentoring. It was an interesting topic and quite a few of our members had the opportunity to share their thoughts on it.

John began the conversation by talking about his personal board of directors. This is his list of 10 people, including his father, who he goes to when he needs either advice or someone to run a few ideas through. It's a great concept because most consultants work on their own and, except for groups like PCA, don't always have people who they can talk to about business issues. Unlike working at a traditional job, there is no water cooler moment. A few members thought this was a pretty good idea.

One of our members talked about being mentored on the art of sales via recommendation by David Sandler, the creator of the Sandler System, and how it's helped his business throughout the years. Another member talked about trouble he had in getting other consultants to talk to him, even though none of them were in the same business he was, and how he now steps into the mentor role for anyone who's new to the concept of working for themselves, offering any advice he can locally for the cost of a lunch or having a phone or video conference conversation for those who don't live in the area.

The intriguing thing about mentoring is how varied it can be depending on the person mentoring, the person accepting, and the type of mentoring that's needed. It can be viewed in this ways:

* Mentoring can be specific to the business a person is in. If someone with experience doesn't mind giving advice on how things should go, without being worried about competition, that can be very beneficial to an open mind.

* Mentoring can be more general, such as the types of things a person newly self employed might need to think about and should be ready to ignore; after all, many new consultants come into the practice needing to learn how to drop a lot of habits they partook of at their last job.

* Mentoring can be culture changing. For instance, if it's a company full of consultants, making the decision to not only diversify but groom women and minorities so they will be taken seriously when promotion time comes around is an important step towards equality and fairness. It deomnstrates an acknowledgment that a diverse company means more ideas from different points of view and the potential for greater company growth.

Mentoring works best when the mentor and mentee also understand when not to cross the line, and how to be specific in needs. Some people chafe at advice on things they feel they already know. Others chafe when they ask a question that's so general that they're not getting what they need.

Finally, consultants sometimes have to think of themselves as mentors when they're working with clients. Often there's training or information that needs to be passed along so the client can succeed when the consultant leaves. If it's a long term contract, there might be a lot of training involved. If a consultant is willing to act more as a mentor than just a teacher, create a bond rather than a separation, it could end up being more beneficial and rewarding on both sides.

What are your thoughts on mentoring or being mentored? Do you have a story about someone you mentored, or someone who gave you some of their time and advice or helped you along the way?

Every once in a while mentees want specific, step by step advice in an effort to copy what the mentor has done. In those instances it's more like a teacher/student relationship, and mentors might be reluctant to spend that kind of time with someone when they have other things to do.

 

Maintaining Neutrality As A Consultant

Being a consultant can be fun; it can also be horrifying hard. Sometimes it's hard because of the work that needs to be done. At other times it's hard because of the people you have to work with and trying to understand their motivation and goals for your presence.

Jesan Sorrells

At our most recent PCA meeting, the presenter was Jesan Sorrells of Human Services Consulting And Training. He's also a PCA member. he talked about multiple topics along the lines of his specialty, which is conflict resolution. However, I zeroed in on one particular topic because it felt like it applied to all of us as consultants the most.

The topic was "maintaining neutrality". He spoke about the importance of trying to maintain it and the difficulty in getting there. In essence there were 4 main points he wanted us to consider:

* negotiating with clients hoping you'll pick their side

* resolving conflicts without taking them home with you

* dealing with clients who want to take over your project

* clients who don't know what they want

The only one of these I've never dealt with was the 2nd one. The others... definite consulting fodder. We're always a fine line between succeeding with a consulting contract and getting bounced because of something we did that the client didn't like or offending the client in some way, and often we never find out which one it was. If we're intuitive we will, and sometimes it takes knowing ourselves, figuring out the client, and determining that the best course of action is to get out of the way by firing the client before they fire you.

Everyone's been in that situation. Have you ever followed through?

The main reason we fear firing clients is because of money. Most consultant's don't have a steady stream of clients to the point where they can afford to get rid of one. It's part of the reason we need to remember that we're professionals and that's why we charge the amount of money we do. We need to be seen as the professionals we are, but we also need to protect our future by making enough to sustain us until the next assignment.

Of  course there were no easy answers. As we participated in a Q&A session, most of the comments were in agreement with the principles and the sharing of real stories from most of us. Unfortunately, sometimes the best answer anyone can get is identifying an issue and taking the time to think about it as it applies to you so you're not caught off guard when the behaviors pop up.

What are your opinions or stories on the four points above?

Should Your Business Advertise?

By John Hunt, General Sales Manager, WOLF 105.1, Movin 100.3/96.5, 95.3/103.9 The Dinosaur And Fox Sports 1490AM

Our team discusses advertising and marketing with local small businesses every day. Many of the businesses know they need to advertise, for many various reasons or to reach certain business goals, but are unsure where to start or what the process looks like. Let’s discuss what the advertising buying process looks like, along with best practices. When you and your business are “better educated consumers” as advertisers, your business is better positioned for the campaign to be a success.

Ready, set, plan…!!

Before contacting any media, review your internal business plan. Look at your quarterly and annual goals and projections. Are you on target for the year? (Congratulations if you are!) Is the advertising campaign going to be designed to increase overall sales, profit and/or traffic? Hire more employees? Improve your image? Encourage customers to visit you and experience your products and services more often? Advertising can accomplish many business goals, but it’s best to focus on one business goal at a time. Begin your plan by defining what your company goals are. Be specific and measurable with the goals so that the effectiveness of the campaign can be measured appropriately.

Know your potential new and recurring customers…

Small businesses have very, VERY limited budgets. Every dollar counts. Make sure your business is targeting those BEST prospects in order to position the campaign and maximize the advertising investment. Remember, a small business doesn’t need to target everyone in the community in order to have a great and effective campaign. (Not sure who your best prospect is? Take a look at the blog post “Who Is Your Best Prospect?” on radioworksincny.com).

Do you have vendors to help support the campaign?

Some vendors have co-operative or brand development dollars to highlight their individual products or services within a small business campaign. We’ve found co-operative dollars for all business categories, including but not limited to: auto repair, tanning salons, insurance and even pet supplies. Let your suppliers know you are looking to create a marketing campaign, and ask if they have a program to help support the campaign if their brands are highlighted. The results sometimes can be quite surprising!

So many choices and options!

Yes, there are many choices between traditional media, digital media, active and passive campaign and other options as well. Keep in mind that the media will work for your business if it is used properly. Since your business will have all of the above information ready, and your business is in the client position, your business is ready to discuss media options with local sales representatives.

Salespeople?!?

Yes, a well-trained salesperson for the media you are working with is essential to the success of your campaign. A well-trained salesperson will look at your business goals and make recommendations based on research to help you decide how their medium will work best for you. After your medium is finalized, and based on your customer information, it’s time to write and design your message.

We have friendly staff and are conveniently located!!

Your message must, and we can’t insist on this enough, MUST be your own. A creative marketing representative for the medium you choose to use will be able to make the best recommendation for your message to position your business for the results you want. Resist the urge to use a formulaic approach. Be less concerned if you like the message, but ask “Does this message represent my business?” Resist clichés, such as the “friendly staff” example above. Insist on approving the script (or proof) prior to producing the commercial; also insist on approving the final ad before broadcast.

Here’s a great resource as well! Many of our customers have found the book “The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising” by Michael Corbett is a great resource for planning local advertising campaigns.

Want to know more?

Let’s discuss your business’ short and long-term goals at no obligation. Visit radioworksincny.com to learn more and connect with us.

Our September Meeting At One Group

On Friday September 11th we had the honor of having our first meeting of the new season at the One Group Center at 706 N. Clinton Avenue in Syracuse. Our presenter was the CEO of the company, Pierre J. Morrisseau, and he talked about the process of pulling together which was basically 11 or more separate companies into one.

Pierre J. Morrisseau speaking to the Professional Consultants AssociationThere were two things that were amazing about the presentation.

One, you start to discover that having companies that do similar thing does not necessarily mean that they have a similar idea of culture. Each of the company felt that they have their own identity, and there were going to work hard to keep that identity even after recognizing that they were part of a larger group. Some of the companies saw themselves as consulting, whereas others saw themselves as service providers.

What Pierre and many of the other leaders in the company had to do was find a way to break down the bonds and get everybody to understand that it was all for one, which is what helped them to come to the name of the organization. That's not always as easy as it sounds.

Common Courtesy

One of the biggest gripes I have about modern business today concerns the issue of common courtesy. It's a major failing of not only businesses but of consultants to get back to someone in a timely fashion, and I feel that it says volumes for each as to whether or not business will be transacted between the two.


Mitch Mitchell

I spent 18 years working in a relatively traditional business, although most people wouldn't consider working in a hospital as traditional. But it was; we received calls from clients just about as often as those who work in other businesses did.

We received the same kinds of advertisements through regular or email that everyone else did. Business is business, even if the vendors, or as we like to call them, corporate partners, were from different fields than many other businesses deal with.

As a hospital director, I was inundated with solicitations on a daily basis. Whereas I will acknowledge that I didn't often respond to the mailings that came, I at least opened every single one of them to give them a glance. I always returned every phone call I received, and I also always responded to every email I received.

I didn't do it for the most part because I wanted to partake of the services; I did it because it was the common courtesy thing to do. I did it because it's how I wanted people to treat my correspondences with them.

I have found, since I started my own business, that I've had to develop an even thicker skin than I did as a director. People can be rude, whether it's to your face or just by ignoring your trying to contact them, even when they may have initiated events. They don't see it as being rude; they see it as a nuisance, something that takes time away from their daily operation.