The Power of Community in Consulting

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People become consultants for many reasons. Consulting offers professionals the opportunity to use their knowledge and expertise to impact a wide variety of organizations. As outsiders, consultants can provide an objective perspective on a situation without getting tied up in the status quo, existing organizational struggles, or corporate politics. They also get to be their own bosses, set their own hours, control their own earning power, and choose which clients and projects they pursue.

But the “on your own” part of consulting can also have a downside. Consultants who are sole practitioners sometimes feel isolated and alone. Those of us who work from home offices often interact with clients mainly through phone and email. We miss the camaraderie of colleagues, the water cooler and break room conversations, the chance to bounce an idea off someone with a different perspective, the opportunity to ask a colleague for help or support.

Consultants need community, just like other professionals do. There are many consulting-focused organizations on both the national and local levels that offer opportunities to connect with colleagues at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For those who aren’t able to get away for these meetings and events as much as they’d like, the good news is that today the community is coming to us.



A Powerful Online Resource

Organizations like Women in Consulting (WIC) have built online communities where consulting professionals of all types come together, ask questions, share tips and techniques, and learn from the experience and expertise of their colleagues — all without ever leaving their computers. For a nominal fee, the WIC Community list offers members the opportunity to ask for input on consulting practices, inquire about how others have solved a problem, or request recommendations for services and suppliers. The list is moderated and highly structured: responses go back to the original poster only, who is expected to compile them and post the list back to the group as a resource. Extraneous chat isn’t allowed, and list members are expected to abide by a simple, common-sense set of rules and guidelines. For example, members aren’t allowed to promote their own services or solicit consulting engagements.

The result: a highly valued resource that includes supplier recommendations, job/project postings, best practices, technical advice, and more. In just one two-week period last year, the list included close to 100 postings on topics such as full-time, contractor, and consulting engagements; professional and service provider requests; recommendations; best practices; tools and productivity advice; and help with technical problems.

A Strong, Integrated Community

Several years ago, technology guru Chad Barr approached Million Dollar Consulting guru Dr. Alan Weiss with the idea of building an online community to attract Weiss’s followers and allow them to better stay connected with him and each other. The result was Alan’s Forums, a unique and special online community attracting the best of global consulting minds.

Open to members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting and Weiss’s Private Roster Mentor Program, as well as to others who pay a small annual fee, Alan’s Forums is an online forum that attracts a broad community of consulting professionals who exchange tips, share best practices, and receive honest, practical input about their consulting challenges from colleagues and from Weiss himself.

Weiss visits the forums several times each day and is quick to respond to topics ranging from entrepreneurship and ethics to marketing and management. A recently added feature, Ask Alan, has become quite popular. In this area, Weiss engages in one-on-one dialogues with participants on consulting-related topics. Other forum members are welcome to “listen in” and learn from the discussion, but Weiss alone responds to the questioner.

A member of the forum, Dr. Leif H. Smith, president of Personal Best Consulting, notes, “This place is a buffet of brain food — I love it!”

Weiss, with Barr’s technical assistance, has also launched www.ContrarianConsulting.com, a content-rich blog that delivers a series of fascinating and valuable articles, podcasts, and videos from Weiss on a variety of consulting-related topics.

The Choice Is Yours

Whether you prefer a closed, bulletin-board format, an email mailing list, or a web resource like ConsultingCrossing, be sure to take advantage of the resources that are available to you. You may be on your own, but you’re not alone. The consulting community is waiting for you. It’s up to you to discover the power this community offers.

About the Author

Linda Popky is the president of L2M Associates, a Redwood City, California-based strategic marketing company that helps organizations dramatically improve their return on investment on marketing programs, processes, and people. The president of Women in Consulting, Linda is a consultant, speaker, and educator, and the author of the recently published Marketing Your Career: Packaging and Promoting Yourself for Success, available from Woodside Business Press. Contact her at linda@L2Massociates.com.

Women in Consulting (WIC) is a San Francisco Bay Area-based collaborative organization of seasoned consulting professionals in more than 30 business specialties. Contact WIC at info@womeninconsulting.org or www.womeninconsulting.org.

For more information on Alan’s Forums, contact www.alansforums.com or www.summitconsulting.com.
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 consultants  L2M Associates  lists  Marketing Your Career  methods  experts  professions  Promoting Yourself for Success  computers  Woodside Business Press


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