I am a consultant.
So it took me a while to understand what a consultant is. It's weird, in a way, but the book that clicked it all together -- or was the last book I read before it did, and therefore the missing piece of the puzzle -- was the Secrets of Consulting.
It may come naturally to some, and in a sense it did to me, personality-wise. But from a business standpoint, that book clicked it all together. I also enjoyed his personal anecdotes and ridiculous names of the laws :)
Riddle me this. What does first, being, and second, becoming, a consultant mean?
Table of contents:
- Being a consultant
- Becoming a consultant
Being a consultant
This is by no means a complete list. Just version 1.0
Being a leader
To be a really great consultant, you have to lead. But you have to do it in a way that makes the other side think they are the ones in charge.
Being a guide
A good consultant can guide people to solve their own problem whenever possible. This also provides more value -- like teaching a man to fish.
Think about it like this: having problems is like having cavities. I'd rather learn how to also stop getting new cavities after you patched this one up for me. Because they hurt.
I would much rather pay someone 10x more to solve a problem and prevent future cases of it, if it hurts.
Being a great observer
A consultant is a great observer. This in a way is identical to being detail oriented. You're detail oriented enough to notice something that nobody else can spot within the organization.
It may sound obvious, but you have to be confident. People pay a premium for confidence, you might as well have it and charge the difference.
Understanding business value
Understand the business value that you provide. Ultimately, you are there to provide an ROI on your costs, and you can't do that without understanding the offset. This is also known as value-based pricing.
Becoming a consultant
While I am by no means a "complete" consultant, I do feel that I have reached version 1.0 (haha!). I enjoy so many aspects of consulting that I look for ways to use consulting in non-consulting contexts. It was actually this feeling that created the addition to my identity.
I had a recent coaching session that reminded me of the 3 roles, EMT:
I shine at the entrepreneur level, and that's where I love it the most. And my consulting style involves a lot of entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur builds a project one at a time, and raises it like a baby, and creates something that wasn't there before. At Uplift, we've done that both internally and externally. And supported a lifestyle around it for over a dozen engineers.
I am a consultant because I guide a lot of clients to solutions. And now I'm working on increasing the value of each solution and measuring my results. I'm gaining more confidence and interest in serving larger projects. This week I had several conversations with new leads, and it felt different. I had a particular conversation on Tuesday that went "off the rails", as I considered consulting for a different kind of role (or problem if you will).
In a way it's more organizational, and I would like that, with a tech view. This is another piece that tells me I enjoy management as well as entrepreneurship. I enjoy getting to know people and playing the mediator or mentor.
I enjoy being a manager: both a project manager, and an engineering manager. As we're growing our team, I've enjoyed having 1:1s with people, finding projects that help them grow and align with their individual goals, and aligning everyone on the goals and vision of the project.
Even the work I've been doing as a technician, although less and less, has been more guiding, more consultant-like if you will. And I see this in my brother (partner in life partner in biz yo!) as well. For example, I would open a PR that shows how to solve a problem I am uniquely suited to solve, or create an abstraction or add documentation. Basically the things a tech lead does, which is more like leadership and consulting than like management or entrepreneurship.
I also realized that, although I have the opportunity to dive deep and code something, I'd rather empower others to do it. I enjoy sharing my experience, and I learn from every opportunity. I follow up on my work, and improve it over time, sometimes for free because I'm having so much fun (I do miss writing code!), and sometimes people want to pay extra (rare, but that always feels so good! or at least say they would have.
I also like sales more because of consulting. It made me feel like what I'm really trying to do in a sales call is consult on the need I could help with. I guess it's also like a detective: finding out what the problem really is in all of what the client is saying. And I enjoy that, it's detail oriented! Sales also requires understanding the business value, and speaking to it.
Thanks and feedback
Thanks for reading. If you have thoughtful feedback, I'd love to hear it!