I did not start my professional career as a consultant, although I had the opportunity to. Upon receiving my Master's degree in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University, I had an offer to join a top business consulting firm in New York City. There were a number of reasons that I didn't accept the offer, the top one being that while I had done very well in my academic career, achieving a high grade point average and working for six summers as an engineer for a highly regarded construction company and as an I.E. for a printing plate company, I didn't feel that I had the experience and knowledge base to go into a company as a consultant and tell people with 20 or 30 years of experience what they were doing wrong and how they should fix it. What came to mind was how to explain why my recommendations would be received when I had never had to changes and then live with my own decisions and actions. I felt that somewhere down the road this career might be in the offing, but not at that point in my career.
Some 20 years later when I was searching for a new position, my career counselor looked at my experience for the 2 companies I had worked for and said, "You have always been an internal consultant to your companies, you should strongly consider this as your vocation". And so I did and 22 years and some 300 companies later here I am. My function now is to both convince companies that they both need my and my company's consulting services and then to deliver workable solutions to their most troublesome problems. Along the way I have had a number of big successes and some projects that didn't go so well. Those hurt, because I take my work seriously and never want to disappoint a client who has put his or her trust in me to deliver. I relish when objectives are over achieved and have formed many relationships beyond just business with people I have dealt with. Nothing feels better than to get another project because of the success of the last one or to get a referral because Peter and his firm have really helped the company and we know they can help yours as well.
That now brings me to the points of this article, why firms should consider using a consultant, what should you watch for in selecting the right consultant, and what is the consultant's and the client's roles in any engagement.
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