Total Commitment: The Winning Strategy

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The attitude of commitment is vital in any endeavor — profession, business, employment, public service, etc. But never more so than in the field of consulting. Indeed, it can safely and unequivocally be stated that commitment to your consultancy is more important - in terms of ultimate success - than your cash reserve, your marketing effort, and even your office itself.

Why is this so? Because a laser-like approach to the building of your practice without diversion or distraction is primal. Because consultants are constantly offered full-time positions by their clients and it is often necessary to wear "blinders" against these offers. Once these alternatives are even remotely considered, your laser beam will be extinguished, you will float in a sea of indecision, and your practice will suffer from adulteration. This occurs in the same way that a marriage suffers from adultery and a business suffers while a principal is negotiating to sell it. Furthermore, the very idea that if your consultancy doesn't pan out you can always try something else, or take a job with so-and-so, dilutes your single-minded effort on behalf of your practice.

Case History #1

A client came to my office to discuss the possibility of becoming a consultant. He is a military retiree, fifty-five years of age, with an impressive amount of expertise in defense electronics. He expressed his problem thus: "Should I take the risk of trying to establish myself as a consultant, or should I accept a full-time position at a goodly salary, which was offered to me last week by a large manufacturer of defense electronics?" My answer was quick and forthright. "Take the job with the manufacturer. You are not cut out to be a consultant. The very fact that it is not anathema to you to be part of a table of organization, after having experienced it for over twenty years in the U.S. Army, indicates that you would be uncomfortable as a freelancer without a steady income, despite your ample pension. You are obviously not a risk-taker. This is not meant as an insult. True consultants are risk-takers, and they would never even consider your alternative. I have never seen a consultant succeed with one eye on a full-time job."

As we proceed, you will find that psychological strategies are not only played by you with your clients. Some you must play with yourself. This is done by forcing yourself into certain frames of mind, tricks of your own psyche if you will. Consultants are a peculiar breed. They have large egos, they are generally not team players, they are prima donnas in their prospective fields, they feel intellectually superior concerning the basic problems of their industries or professions, and they cannot abide positions of subordination to mediocrity. Although it is undoubtedly true that you could successfully hold down any one of a number of full-time positions in your field by dint of your experience, you must never consider them as an alternative. You must consider your consultancy a do-or-die proposition.

Case History #2

An expert named Sally M. became a consultant five years ago, after having been summarily dismissed from a lofty executive position. At that time she vowed she would never work for anyone else again, that she would never again allow anyone to hold total sway over her livelihood, humiliate her, or reject her totally. To ensure these things, she opened a savings account and deposited one-third of all her consulting fees.

She now has enough money for two years of subsistence, even if her practice goes sour with no new clients (highly unlikely). Her goal is to have enough for ten years of subsistence. In this way, she says, no one can tempt her away from her idyllic life-style, no matter how "good" the offer.

Case History #3

Clyde K., an agricultural consultant, was approached by a farm equipment manufacturer to sell the company's wares "on the side" to his clientele for extra income. Clyde accepted.

This consultant lost his objectivity regarding his farmer clients' problems. Those equipment commissions loomed too large in his mind. His expertise became diluted. He lost his credibility with his clients.

Clearly, here was a consultant without sufficient commitment in the first instance. The question of whether he wanted to be a salesman or a consultant should have been resolved long before he became a professional. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, and psychiatrists generally do very well. There are many societal reasons for this. But I believe that the primary reason is that they would never consider for a moment doing anything else. From the day they enter medical school, dental school, or law school, they are committed to their professions forever. This makes them single-minded in their careers as well as in their personal lives. But consultants enter their profession as a result of expertise gained rather than degrees earned. If you had spent five years of your life in a Graduate School of Consulting (there are none, except for the home-study course offered by The Consultant's Institute previously mentioned), with the concomitant huge sums of tuition ($40,000-$50,000), you, too, would never consider any alternative to your profession of consulting. Well, if necessary, make believe you did! Anything to psyche yourself up to the committed attitude that THIS IS IT!
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