Two months ago, I was invited as a guest speaker for an orientation seminar in a top
B-school in Kolkata. Given the fact that I represent a Consulting organization, the topic was ‘ABCs of Consulting’. The first question which I asked to my audience (a young bunch of boys and girls with lots of dreams) was what is consulting and why consulting. It was a mixed kind of response ranging from glamor to money. People do come to consulting with some perceptions which continuously get drastically changed in course of time.
The example which I usually give to define consulting is from the travel industry. Suppose, I am planning for a holiday in Goa. I go to Travel Agent ‘A’ clearly stating my requirements. This Travel agent does his homework and gives me a schedule for Goa. I seek the advice of another Travel Agent ‘B’ who in turn gives me some options like Goa, Alleppey, Pondicherry with their pros and cons. The Travel agent ‘A’ acts as a Service Provider while Travel agent ‘B’ acts as a consultant.
To put it together, Consulting (which happens to be one of the most coveted streams for B-school grads) involves understanding of the complete picture, exploring options and helping the customer make a decision. It is a high risk -high gain game where each step
needs to be planned carefully as credibility and trust are at stake.
Coming to the traits needed for a consultant, the first and foremost is leadership. A consultant is a role model for the customer and any mistake here can prove costly. Right from dressing to articulation to handholding, the customer looks upon the consultant for guidance. So it becomes imperative that consultants demonstrate leadership in course of their assignments.
Secondly, a consultant is exposed to multiple sectors, some known while some unknown. Ideally customers always want to have people who understand their business but it so happens that we always do not get the exact match. There is the additional advantage of a person from a different sector shedding off his baggage and bringing a fresh perspective. (Remember Steve Jobs and his ability to connect the dots. The title of this article is also inspired by him). So a consultant needs to have the mind set of foraying into unknown territories yet come out with flying colors.
Last but the not the least is the entrepreneurship spirit. You will be lucky if you have a big team supporting you. In most of the cases it is a one man army where a consultant has to run the show right from conceptualization to execution. Gone are the days when consultants used to study, submit a report and leave. Today they have the additional responsibility of implementation. This calls for an appetite for entrepreneurship and risk-taking.
To sum it, a consultant survives on credibility and trust. For this it is necessary that he hones the above mentioned skills in order to make the cut. After all, a consultant is not someone who looks at your watch and tells you the time (pun intended).
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