Your consulting firm’s clients sometimes miss the basics–the simple, foundational rules that would make them successful. Alas, neither you nor I are immune to falling into that same trap. Therefore, let’s revisit the most important, underlying idea that will make the coming year uber-successful for your consulting firm.
Dr. Francis W. Peabody taught the #1 rule of consulting (sort of) to his medical students at Harvard in 1926.
This was back in the days before doctors had antibiotics to combat bacterial illnesses, before hospitals bristled with technology, and before chocolate was known to stave off depression. (Seems barbaric, right?)
Anyway, Dr. Peabody stressed that the aim of medicine isn’t to cure the disease or repair the wound; rather it is to provide the person suffering from the ailment with the best quality of life possible. He revealed the essence of successful healthcare:
“…the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”
Dr. Peabody’s admonition could be translated to consulting firm leaders like us as:
“The secret of delivering value to a client is in valuing the client.”
Yet, many consulting firm leaders approach consulting as if the business is about themselves and their firms. About earning money and building a big practice. I’ve even heard consultants talk about clients with derision or disdain.
That’s upside down thinking.
The #1 rule of a successful consulting firm flips that thinking Right-Side Up:
Successful consulting isn’t about you. It’s about them–your clients
Projects, revenue, testimonials and referrals will flow into your consulting firm when you take a genuine interest in the executives who seek your help.
It’s also easier to win business when your empathetic interest in others speaks louder than your calculating self-interest.
As noted political consultant and tireless pince-nez advocate Theodore Roosevelt observed in the early 1900s, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
What does it actually mean that consulting is about them?
In terms of practical activities, what does Rule #1 look like?
Let’s start by collaboratively considering the idea of caring: what does caring look like, and how do you show clients you value them?
Below are a few thought starters. Please chip in an idea or two.
How to Show Clients You Care
- Take the extra time to listen.
- Ask for the story behind the story, the motive behind the motive, the personal gain behind the professional request.
- Call when you’re not looking for work.
- Give (some) time and advice even when there’s no project on the line.
- Avoid actions that could cause your client harm, including causing them to lose face.
- Turn down a project that’s not in the best interest of the client.
- Bring in/recommend a different consulting firm when you’re not the best resource for a project.
- Give the right answer, even if that costs you future work.
- Think through the impact of your work on the people involved—all the people, not just your decision-maker.
Please add your thoughts too. What does it mean to value your clients?
Text and images are © 2024 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.