Consulting Lessons From Emory Students

12/12/2007

Handshake Many of the folks who pop into Diva Marketing are consultants. Some people are traditional consultants who serve many different clients. Other are internal consultants whose job it is to provide support within their own organizations.

Consulting is a profession where head and heart are both critical. In fact, often the person with the best technical skills may not succeed to the extent as the person with the best people skills. The ability to form and sustain collaborative relationships is key.

One of my favorite undertakings has been co-teaching a management consulting class at
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. This is my 4th year as part of this innovative course where undergraduate (juniors and seniors) students are matched with non profit "clients" and assume 95% of managing client relations. This unique program was profiled in Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell's ebook Creating Customer Evangelists  - click on Bloomberg Marketing and highlighted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

It's always a time of fun learning for me. This year I had the pleasure of working with a great class and with one of the most talented consultants in O&M (organization and management)- Prof. Peter Topping. 2007 clients were: AHMENhousing, PeopleTV, Camp Horizon, Cobb Medical Society, Literacy Action, Theatre In The Square, It's A Journey, Atlanta Police Foundation

At our pizza party last class the students told us some of their lessons learned about consulting.

  • There is no set path you have to be ready to change as you go along.
  • I will never forget how important it is to define the scope.
  • You need to know if the client has the ability to implement your recommendations.
  • It would be nice to know if the client will actually do anything with your strategy.
  • Never know how much red tape there will be and what will be simple or easy to get (note in terms of data from the client) or more difficult.
  • I learned I don't want to be a consultant.
  • Understanding the organizational structure and who to go to for information.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • Opinions (about what to do and how to do it) can vary within an organization.
  • Every time we met with the client there was a new piece of information that could have helped us if we had known it sooner.
  • The client's list of stuff he wanted from the project seemed to grow every time we met.
  • Every project is different and you have to adjust to the company (culture).
  • Keep your eyes on the primary goals.

Agree? Disagree? What are your lessons learned from consulting or from working with a consultant?

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Comments

Expand on red tape and know where to go for info comments -- being a consultant requires some psychology...How do I work with others? How do I not come off as threatening? A consultant needs a thick skin!

Posted by: Lauren Vargas on Dec 12, 2007 10:38:39 AM

Toby,

I would like to add what I believe are the three most important lessons in consulting:

1) Know your ideal client.
2) Meet or exceed their wants and needs.
3. Listen, listen and listen some more.

Posted by: Lewis Green on Dec 12, 2007 11:03:24 AM

Completly agree, plus I think it's important to be very patient! I agree with Lewis Listening is very important. I think I read an article from Brian T. Edmondson on this subject.

Posted by: Terry Barker on Dec 13, 2007 9:18:52 AM

Listening is key. Building on listening, I find that it is critical for us consultants to communicate early and often. No one should ever be blindsided by a consultant's recommendations... and on the flipside, no consultant wants to be blindsided by any internal or external issues which may directly impact their process, project, or deliverable.

Posted by: AnnaMaria Turano on Dec 14, 2007 3:54:39 PM

I'm very impressed with how well the internet is suited to teaching. I found out the other day that you can even study for degrees on the internet.

SelectCourses.com has some marketing courses plus you can get a worldwide qualification from it.

Posted by: Bill Bailey on Dec 15, 2007 4:06:35 PM

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