Tony Johnson is 4xi's Chief Experience Officer in Residence, thought leader and groundbreaker in the world of customer experience, strategist, trainer, author, and keynote speaker.
In this article, Tony talks about some of the opportunities in the world of consulting and offers some tips and advice if you're thinking about changing careers to on-demand, fractional expert support. He also offers a useful checklist for anyone considering hiring a consultant - either way useful reading whichever side of the fence you sit.
Whether you call it consulting, coaching, or strategy, the market is wide open for those who want to share their knowledge and help organizations grow.
"That is what brought me to this space after leaving my last role – in addition to wanting to take control of my professional life, the opportunity to scale my knowledge to new and interesting businesses was very enticing."
There currently exists a unique opportunity where there are many who want to take on consulting roles and even more who want to employ consultants. What’s not to love on both sides – it is a relationship based on performance, convenience, and economics. It has become obvious that many large organizations don’t value their people in the way that their bumper stickers claim, so why not be open about it.
Consulting firms can make decisions based on purpose, vision, and beliefs just as much as consultants can pick their favorite firms for projects.
The problem is on the consulting side. There is a visibility problem in the atmosphere because of all the noise on the channels most likely to connect consultants to companies.
The explosion in consulting demand is the natural extension of the gig economy and one that we have been considering here at 4xi.
Let’s talk about what we believe will define success in this space. But one caveat – consulting isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. We will always need full-time employees within companies and as the economy evolves, there will be continued opportunities for more traditional career paths.
1. Remember that customer service matters
That’s right. You will have to provide amazing customer service. As the “customer experience guy” for many years, you probably saw that coming. But everything comes back to the ability to deliver on what you promised and to do so with compassion and enthusiasm. This is an opportunity to set yourself apart, especially if you are growing or new on the scene. Will you take calls on weekends? Do you answer within 24 hours? Are you ready to share value in the universe to attract new customers? Those are reputation builders that can set you apart in the marketplace.
2. Give your clients more than they expected
This is an extension of great client service. Everyone loves a surprise and a little extra effort. So how can ensure your clients walk away knowing that they received tremendous value for your expertise? It doesn’t mean giving away the store, but it does mean sharing a little more of yourself than your competition. That is a trademark here at 4xi – there is always more to the story and another solution around the corner. Think about how one extra tool, one more data point, or one more idea might just make the difference between adequate performance and outstanding delivery.
3. Know what's in demand
There is no reason to sell lemonade in Indiana in December, as my dad told me when I was growing up. No one wants it. That is as true today as it was then, so know your market and know what people want. That means being as diversified as you can while still staying within your lanes. One of the best things about working with smart people is that there is always someone ready to do great work. When you look at the 4xi portfolio, that rings true. If you don’t want training and development, maybe employee experience is for you. Or if a client is interested in Amenities and workplace experience, we have a whole team who specializes in that. I have no idea how remote camps and mining works, but my colleagues Peter Roles and Gary Mackay sure do. So be ready to evolve your offers for what your potential clients may need to stay in demand.
4. Don’t chase the cash, deliver results
Of course, you have to make a living, but doing it just for the money won’t bring the satisfaction or success you want. What I mean here is that the intent to share your knowledge and pass along what you know to help others grow and win is exceptionally rewarding. You will find that if you look to make others successful and share openly, the sales will follow. Clients like to work with consultants who want to make a difference and don’t hold back. This will make you a valuable resource.
5. Relationships drive growth
This is shorthand for don’t look for one-and-done contracts. A friend of mine who runs an aviation business says his best contracts are long-term maintenance agreements. They aren’t the most lucrative, but they build relationships beyond the work and are steady revenue sources. You will hear many talk about how and when to discount for the sake of future work, and that is certainly something to consider. We prefer the long-term approach because it allows us to get to know our clients and understand their vision and goals beyond the next quarter. That kind of work is rewarding because the journey of success often takes more than the space of a single contract.
6. Offer a holistic solution – and don’t be afraid to partner
This is one of the things I like best about working at 4xi. Beyond having colleagues who know stuff that I don’t, we also have an amazing array of partners that we can include in our solutions. That is a note to any consultant getting started – be sure you have resources.
As we help our customers in retail, we can talk about the Mashgin self-checkout system, the My Field Audits customized checklists, or the RSM dispersed maintenance solutions. When working with our facilities clients we can bring in Ambisense air monitoring and the Whiz automated vacuum sweeper. This is the “one-stop-shop” that many are looking for as they are recrafting their business vision.
"When you can offer expertise, coaching, and complementary solutions, it makes you a powerful partner for growth."
7. You will have to sell
Finally, understand that you will have to market and sell your services. That is often the one thing that people forget when they look to transition to coaching and consulting. Not only do you have to be amazing at what you do, but you will have to grow your business through networking and marketing. At 4xi we have taken that approach to new and innovative levels with our TRUE NORTH process, which helps us identify partnerships for exploration. We also bring this service to our customers by helping them distill their value proposition and get their message out into the marketplace.
If you are thinking about moving into a consulting role – or maybe you are in the market for a consultant – think about the seven criteria above before you take the plunge.
Now is the time to think about the future of work and how expertise will be leveraged into the future. It makes for exciting and innovative possibilities.
If you need help on your journey, to learn more, let's talk:
4xi, Inspiring the future, together.
4xi Global Workplace Consulting & Solutions provides a range of services to support Corporations, Service Providers, Innovators, and Accelerators to navigate the world of work. Inspiring the future of work, together.
4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.
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