Check Yourself Before You Wreck…Others

Consulting is the business of finding balance. Somewhere in the insanity you must find the balance between taking care of the projects you have, managing your team, overseeing your business, and carefully keeping an eye open for the next opportunity and positioning yourself for the win. Since I’ve never been on the client side I don’t know exactly how consultants are viewed, but generally I get the sense that we may be one step above ambulance chasers. Unfortunately, our industry has not done much to improve this image. In fact, watching many of the large corporations and how they do business development I myself am sickened by the consulting world. Calling a client every week or every other week to see what opportunities are coming up and/or is there any new information on that project we discussed recently is not what I see as developing a trust relationship with the client.

My introverted nature creates an aversion to randomly calling clients to ask about work. I want my work to speak for itself. I want clients to choose me because they trust me with the work they need done. My dad is a carpenter. People called him because he had a reputation for being the best at what he did. He had a specific style and the clients for whom he worked appreciated what he provided. There is a part of me that longs for clients to choose to work with me because of what I provide. However, the reality is that I’m in an open and competitive marketplace. Consultants are constantly bombarding the people I want to work with delivering messages about how they “are the best modeling firm”, the “best design firm”, the “best firm for this or that job.” And me in my introverted space am reluctant to sell myself because it feels like self aggrandizing. That’s not who I am.

So if I could sit with my clients and tell them how I feel, what would I say? I started my own consulting firm because I believed that it ultimately would allow me to provide better service to my clients. Yes, it’s a for profit business, but I can tell you it’s a modest profit and I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it for the relationships. I’m in it to do something special. I’m in it because I know the things that we do are valuable to our local communities. From a personal perspective, I enjoy taking the time to produce work that is worthy of my clients’ praise. I truly appreciate a pat on the back now and then and a “job well done.” It’s rare that I hear that type of praise and to be honest, it’s those words that are worth more than gold to me.

Right now I’m in the midst of a potentially large opportunity coming our way. It’s an opportunity that the members of my firm and I have worked hard for. We’ve come to the brink of getting the job that gets us to that “critical mass” level as a consulting firm. Unfortunately, the reality of contracting and potentially the politics of the engineering community may result in this opportunity being directed to another consulting firm that has no history on the project and really no better chance of ultimate success. I’m torn between that self aggrandizing I was talking about earlier and just trusting in the universe, karma, or whatever it is that would deliver some positive mojo for us. It’s interesting being on this side, the “ambulance chaser” side. I know how every win or loss affects the lives of those who work for me, for those who are looking for a job and want to work for me, and on a personal level, my own self-esteem, my ability to provide for my family, and ultimately my desire to grow a company that is a positive force in the engineering consulting community.

In reflecting on the situation I realize how I need to always be thinking about my decisions and how they affect other people. Whether it’s what I say or do or a decision I make, these things have impacts on others and I should always be fully aware of what those impacts may be. As a business owner, I’m a leader who must look to take care of those who work for me as well as taking care of the clients who hire me to get work done. As a father, I’m a support and foundation for my children as they launch into the world to find their own happiness and purpose. As a husband I’m a lifelong friend, protector, lover, and cheerleader for my wife. And finally, as a consultant, I’m a public servant who always looks to the interests of the public first.

Who are you and how do your actions or decisions affect others?