Many of Bridgepoint’s clients live in a world that’s
24/7 and run global operations. To be a trusted advisor and an effective consultant, there needs to be
synergy in the client-consultant relationship. Disparate business operation modes or objectives do not
foster an optimum relationship. Engaging in upfront
and honest dialogues with your clients will help you
get these answers more quickly.
Another strength of an effective client-consultant
relationship is consistency. As a consultant, it is important to engage with your client regularly. Keeping
these lines of communication open will help you gain
a better understanding of their business, dig deeper
into the underlying issues and develop a greater understanding of their strategy.
As an independent advisor, we often see situations
that may not be evident to someone in our clients’
company. For instance, we may see cases where staff
are underperforming, or where a business strategy
will not achieve its goals. We cannot deliver that
news effectively unless we already have a solid relationship with our client.
We were recently called in to help a leading web
hosting company with a large-scale transformation.
The company was experiencing the inefficiencies of
using disparate systems, while also facing the challenge of growing rapidly. We encountered significant
conflict during that relationship, including differences of opinion on major decisions. We navigated the
situation effectively, because our working dynamic
was based on trust. Not all conflict is bad: There is
positive and negative conflict. If you have a good,
trusting relationship, a certain degree of positive conflict can help both parties be successful.
CULTURE FIT IS CRITICAL
I often get the question, “Who should I hire? Who
is the best consultant?” The truth is there is no one
best consultant. A key attribute of a successful client-consultant relationship is culture fit. The first step is
to understand your clients’ corporate culture. You
must find team members that fit the client culture.
For instance, if your clients’ culture is based on
collaboration and consensus, identify a consult-
ant who fits this style and will integrate easily
into that environment. However, if their culture is
more command and control, select a consultant that
matches that culture.
GOOD CONSULTANTS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
Lastly, a major realization I can share, is that the
give-and-take of a client-consultant dynamic is truly
a choice. As top-notch professionals, we want to work
for organizations where we will be successful and
where we can build long-term trusting relationships.
The importance of partnering well with our clients cannot be understated. If you find a good client, focus on
building a long-term relationship. That will ultimately
result in mutual success for both parties.
Sometimes the best decision a consultant can make
is not to engage. One potential client, a housing authority, believed a project could be completed within
a year. We explored the situation and advised that it
would be unlikely to successfully execute that level
of transformation in that timeline. Due to these factors, we decided not to pursue the engagement further. Later, we discovered that the project duration
extended more than two years, and that the consultants who took the assignment had taken more than a
Ultimately, what a consultant wants from a client
is to gain satisfaction by helping their organization.
In addition, we are looking for good references so
we can continue to perform similarly satisfying work
for clients. These motivating desires are important.
In fact, they are often a guarantee that we will engage
appropriately with our clients.
As I reflect on my career, I can point out distinct
times when a strong client-consultant relationship enabled me to better serve my clients. I can also point to
times when those relationships did so much more. Not
only have they enabled my clients to provide me feedback, they helped me increase my value to them. Treat
those relationships with care and they will bear fruit!
Michael Johnson is a principal at Bridgepoint Consulting,
where he leads the firm’s Technology Consulting Practice,
which helps organizations leverage technology to drive
transformation. Johnson is an IT industry veteran with
over 30 years of experience managing complex integrated
business and technology innovation solutions. He can
be reached at email@example.com.