The Right People at the Right Place at the Right Time

Like most things, coordination is critical in consulting.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • Great news Cindy!  We’ve landed the Johnson account.  We start Monday and we want to hit the ground running.  We will need three business analysts, a technical architect and a project manager to be at the client site in Dallas Monday at 9:00 am.  They should all be strong in the retail industry and they’re all going to need laptops with our standard software load as well as some custom stuff for this client.  Call me if you have any questions.
  • Jeff, our project is in big trouble.  We just found out that we are three weeks behind and Bob just walked out on our project.  We need another project manager that is strong in healthcare and electronic medical records implementations and two more Java programmers with industry experience.  I need all of these guys yesterday if we want to keep our biggest client.

Large consulting firms often carry a bench, a reserve of people that are unassigned in case they are needed when a proposal in the pipeline hits and they need people right away.  They try to keep the bench as lean as possible to avoid paying consultants for non-billable time.

When emergencies hit such as a contract that wins sooner than expected or a project that is in major crisis, firms need to scramble to get people with the right skills as well as equipment such as computers and mobile phones.  Additionally, they often need it on short notice.

Most clients understand that these activities take time.  And consulting firms need to be careful not to oversell, making clients think they can staff up a large project on short notice.

But when a client makes the decision to go with a firm for a large project, they often need to start charging a budget that is only available during the current fiscal year.  And consulting firms don’t want to start a relationship with delays and excuses.

Recruiting is a critical skill in consulting.  The urgency of finding people…

  • In the right geographic area
  • That are available when you need them
  • At the rate that you can afford
  • With the right technical skills
  • And the right industry experience

…is a herculean task.

Candidates usually interview with other companies.  You may find the perfect candidate only to call and find out that they’ve accepted another offer.

As a consultant, it is important that the firm has all of your skills and availability in their skills database.  They usually check internally first, allowing them to quickly identify internal consultants for a project. Sometimes a consultant has worked on a proposal and is being reserved in case that proposal pulls through.  However, “what’s sold is gold” in consulting, and if another project hits that you have the skills for, you may be pulled onto that one.

It’s also critical for consultants to participate in the recruiting process by networking so that you know people that you might recruit at a later date.  When a new project is in need, they may ask people within the firm if they know people with certain skills.

In consulting, it’s everybody’s responsibility to sell projects, staff projects and deliver projects for the firm’s success.

About the author: Lew Sauder is the author of Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (www.Consulting101Book.com).  He has been a consultant with top-tier and boutique consulting firms for seventeen years.

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