There once was a consultant who lived her whole life without ever taking advantage of any of the people she worked for. In fact, she made sure that every job she did resulted in a win-win situation. One day while walking down the street she was tragically hit by a bus and she died.

Her soul arrived up in heaven where she was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter himself.

"Welcome to Heaven," said St. Peter. "Before you get settled in though it seems we have a problem. You see, strangely enough, we've never once had a consultant make it this far and we're not really sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in." said the consultant.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have higher orders. What we're going to do is let you have a day in Hell and a day in Heaven and then you can choose whichever one you want to spend an eternity in."

"Actually, I think I've made up my mind...I prefer to stay in Heaven" "Sorry, we have rules..." And with that St. Peter put the consultant in an elevator and it went down-down-down to hell.

The doors opened and the consultant found herself stepping out onto the putting green of a beautiful golf course. In the distance was a country club and standing in front of her were all her friends - fellow consultants that she had worked with and they were all dressed in evening gowns and cheering for her. They ran up and kissed her on both cheeks and they talked about old times. They played an excellent round of golf and at night went to the country club where she enjoyed an excellent steak and lobster dinner. She met the Devil who was actually a really nice guy (kinda cute) and she had a great time telling jokes and dancing. The consultant was having such a good time that before she knew it, it was time to leave. Everybody shook her hand and waved goodbye as she got on the elevator.

The elevator went up-up-up and opened back up at the Pearly Gates and found St. Peter waiting for her. "Now it's time to spend a day in heaven."

So the consultant spent the next 24hours lounging around on clouds and playing the harp and singing. She had a great time and before she knew it her 24 hours were up and St. Peter came and got her.

"So, you've spent a day in hell and you've spent a day in heaven. Now you must choose you're eternity." The consultant paused for a second and then replied, "Well, I never thought I'd say this, I mean, Heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in Hell."

So St. Peter escorted her to the elevator and again the consultant went down-down-down back to Hell.

When the doors of the elevator opened she found herself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth. She saw her friends were dressed in rags and were picking up the garbage and putting it in sacks.

The Devil came up to her and put his arm around her. "I don't understand," stammered the consultant, "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a country club and we ate lobster and we danced and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland of garbage and all my friends look miserable."

The Devil looked at her and smiled. "That's because yesterday you were a consultant, but today you're staff."

Critically Important Basic and Fundamental Rules About Clients (NEVER FORGET THESE)

Lessons From A Beauty Expert
I was talking to a close friend of mine the other day. She is in the skin and beauty service and products business. She is very entrepreneurial.  But like most entrepreneurs she is an "expert" - but she is an expert in her business - and only her business, the beauty business. She can make anyone look good, and even feel good. She studies her craft with meticulous precision. When you talk to her, you see she is very, and I mean very, passionate about what she does. She can tell you which products are which, how they work and what works best for the individual and their specific characteristics. She knows which have ingredients that are natural, will have a long positive effect and impact and which ones are to be avoided. She can explain what foods to eat and why, and what effects these foods have not only about the outside beauty, but the inside workings of the human body, and how they ultimately affect how a person looks.

She is by anyones' estimation - a true expert and passionate about it. Because of this, she is very good at what she does.

She is, however, a "technician" of sorts. She is an expert in her craft. She, like most experts in their craft, doesn't know how to do the things that are important to developing her business and getting clients. Specifically, she doesn't think about how to get and keep clients.

We were having a cup of coffee, chatting away, as she was analyzing my face, and feeling comfortable enough to tell me I need to do something with my skin (I think I look lovely frankly). She also mentioned casually something about her clients, quite by accident.

She said, a long-term client came in and went to another professional in her firm. This was because my friend was "booked" - and since the client just walked in - the receptionist just "made the appointment with the other professional anyway" - to accommodate the client. The client really wanted to see my friend, but the reception was trying to efficient (getting the client to another person) rather than effective (getting the client to the person - my friend - whom she trusts). Write down that term. The term again: "efficient rather than effective." This is a critical term in working with clients.

My friend was a little distressed about the receptionist's decision to send her client to someone else in the firm. She was incensed at first. Then she thought that she shouldn't be. She thought it would be okay. And that this - well - was "normal."

I wanted to scream at her. But I thought if I wanted to keep getting free advice about my face (which apparently isn't as pretty as I imagine it to be) - I had better not.  I wanted to tell her - to be incensed. Be pissed off. Explain to the receptionist that this should never happen again - period.

I did the next best thing however. I asked her if I could help her by giving her advice. Note: I asked permission, I didn't just give it. First off, this allows information to come in without the other person feeling offended. Second, it readied her for the information.

I asked her, "How hard is it to get clients?"

She said, "It's very hard. In today's environment, clientele stretch their dollars by coming in once every other week or once a month, rather than once a week or once every other week. And those that were coming in once a month, are now coming in once every two months or not at all. Of course, except for the well-off crowd. They come in anytime they are having a bad day."

"So, it's hard. Just like my business," I said. "Do you mind if I give you some rules about clients? And these rules come from personal experience."

She of course agreed or there wouldn't be any reason to write this story.

10 Rules For Getting and Keeping Clients
I said, "Here are my rules. And never ever forget them." Here they are as I ripped these off the top of my head and I told her. They were so good she actually got out a pen and wrote these on a napkin (it took two napkins as she just jotted down the main points). I give them to you free of charge.

  1. Never, ever, ever, lose a client. Do everything you can to make sure they never go to a friend, a colleague, a competitor or another professional - if, of course, you can do the work yourself. Clients are hard to come by. Don't lose clients. That's the first rule. It's the most important rule. And while it seems so obvious, you'd be surprised how many people don't do the necessary things to keep clients.
  2. Work at getting clients, not customers. The difference between clients and customers are remarkable. Clients come to you because of you and the value you provide them. They are less concerned with price and more concerned with the results or outcomes. They are loyal to you. There is a relationship - stemming from the value you provide them. The relationship does not come from friendship or similarities in background. Clients will pay more for the value, the convenience, and the knowledge you have of your craft and how it is applied to them. "How it is applied to them" means you know them and therefore know how the services and products best meet their characteristics, attributes, and needs. Customers, on the other hand, shop for price. They want: less cost, less cost, less cost. They are not loyal. They will go down the street to someone else in a minute. They don't care about the knowledge you have and how it is applied as much as clients appreciate it and care about it. They do a lot of their own research on the internet, and while they think they are knowledgable, they actually aren't. But their ignorance is so strong that they actually think that they do know as much as you.
  3. Never discount something without a really, really good reason. If you have to explain that to your clients - that you never discount. And if you have a really really good reason to discount, explain why to your clients. Explain the rationale. This way they won't think you are now a cheap, low cost provider of services. There is a great force in the universe, that compels people to shop for the best bargain and get the best price. Once you begin discounting - you are going to get swallowed up by cheap and you will begin to compete with cheaper firms. Eventually, your clients will depart and the customers - may - and I say "May" with all the emphasis I can muster - come flocking or in droves. This may sound good - but I have news for you - it probably isn't. Remember, the one client that comes in once a month or once every two weeks? How many customers do you need to make for that one client? Because you're dealing with the customer coming in once every two or three or six months - you can do the math to determine how many customers you need to fill that void left by just one client. Also, because customers are cheaper, (they shop price remember?), you will have multiply the customers by two (because they are probably spending half of what clients will pay). Further, your advertising or however you get them, has to increase. Your life now begins to becomes a very tiresome treadmill. 
  4. Work on referrals. What are referrals? They are word of mouth campaigns where your clients tell their friends about you and your services. Explain to the clients you have how some client of yours told two friends and they are all very happy. The client may get the idea. They may not. But explain that this is your best way of getting clients - word of mouth. They'll get it - without your having to ask them for a referral. And if they don't - they don't. Don't force it.
  5. Make sure you deliver more than was asked for, and hoped. Can't explain this enough. The value you bring is your ability to exceed their expectations. Get to know the client inside and out. Well that might not be the best way to put it. But understand them so well, that it would take them hours, days, weeks, to have to explain to someone new, what you know about them - specifically to how your services are applied to them.
  6. Maintain contact with your clients - regularly. Start a blog. Start an email update. Don't be a pain in the you-know-where, but send out not good - but great information. Let them see and hear from you - but deliver your name to their inbox, if you can daily. I know one consultant, who sends out at least, and this is no exaggeration, five to ten emails - are you ready? a day. Now he is the nicest guy and pretty smart. He has like a clipping service. I don't read all his emails - I don't even have time to open them, let alone read the subject line. But I see his name. His name is now synonymous with what he does. I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way. When I have a situation or problem or question, he is the first person I go for the answer and help. By the way, he sends articles, not written by himself, out to his client list.
  7. Swim upstream, not downstream. Keep working on your services and craft to deliver more value. If you get lazy, your differentiator dies. Look for work on higher end professional services you can deliver. Always be upgrading. Even if it is little nuances to the services you already deliver - keep on improving.
  8. These are your clients. They are not someone else's. Protect your Rolodex (contact list). Never give away your list. Because you are doing number 6 above - you must have a list.
  9. It's the Experience.  Like Starbucks, we remember not just the coffee, but the entire experience. The free wi-fi, the tables, the smell, the clean bathrooms, the gift cards that look cool, the music that's cool, the music gift cards that look cool, the new coffee flavor of the day, the baristas, (or whatever they call themselves), the green sign (do you know how many people look for that sign when looking for a Starbucks?) and on and on. It's everything about the place.
  10. Be remarkable. Stand out. Be someone different - be cool. Be nice. Be smart. Be whatever - but don't be blah. 
Got it? She got it. I said, take that list and review it every day for the next six months. Let me know if you have a different mindset. 

Are You Being Commoditized?

The bells and sirens should be going off inside your head every single day as a consultant or in fact, any type of professional.

You may actually have this big target on your back. Don't try to turn around and look for it - as you'll look paranoid, or look like you're checking to see if you have dandruff.

But you should feel as if you have this target on you. You are an expensive item to keep around on the warehouse shelves. You are unsold inventory. The only unsold inventory that makes sense to keep around is something that actually contributes to making something for someone to buy. And the higher the price they want to pay for your contribution the better. The higher the price means the more they see you as a valuable asset - and this is all for the better.

However, we - as professionals and consultants - may not recognize the signs of our disintegration of value.

Here are several signs you should watch out for that can be the fortune teller for your fate or demise:

Is it harder to get clients to listen to you? Do they already seem to know the answers to your questions? Have they already mapped out the probable cause of the issue?

Are clients sending you RFPs? Are you finding it harder to get into meet with the key people to help them uncover the problem? And by uncovering the problem, help shape the requirements for the solution? Are you dealing with procurement people more and more?

Are there firms you have never heard of, in your account, vying for the business? Are these smaller, more nimble, less overhead type of firms?

Is the work you typically compete for, being split up, parceled out, sectioned off, into smaller and smaller chunks? Was the work you were doing - one big pie before - and now you are getting slices of the pie?

Are you looking for cheaper and cheaper people for your practice, in order to deliver the work? Are you becoming a little reckless in your hiring approach by looking for people with 80 percent or 70 percent or even 60 percent of the required skills? Are you hiring more temporary labor because you cannot guarantee that the employees will all have positions after this gig?

Do you feel you are underwater most of the time because of the amount of work you are taking on and shouldering because in order to meet the profit targets, you couldn't hire the full team of people you needed? Or the people you hired and brought on are not capable of the work, because you went "cheap" to meet the client's budget and therefore you are doing the work that they were supposed to do?

Do you fantasize about the life you used to have? Or could have had? But you now see your family less and less. Even when working from home - does that feel like a distant hotel room now? Do you now consider staying the weekend at the client site in order to get "caught up?"

Are you now looking at adjacent markets and solutions? And are the adjacent markets - not really adjacent? They're really nothing like what you do?

Are the terms and conditions onerous? Are the timeframes crazy and insane for deliverables and completion? Is the client continously trying to categorize you and your firm as a general provider? Is it harder to distinguish your "value add" and describe it to the client? Is the client yawning, playing cards, or reading profiles and counting the number winks they received on Match.com? Is the client looking at Facebook half the time you are presenting to them?

Finally, are you becoming shorter and shorter with the people you work with? Because you don't have the time to deal with issues and problems? And are you finding that the afternoon jog is now a continuous run of conference calls, from one to another? Are you now looking at the guys and ladies in the Residence Inn lobby as possible competitors for your business? Are you paranoid they are vying for your business - especially because they look "foreign" - and you are now equating "foreign" with "cheap?"

Well - then - good luck to you AND at the same time - welcome to the club.

PS - don't go to football games. Because in the huddles - they are planning your demise.

Woman on Boards - a Survey and Study

Women are more likely to consider the rights of others and to take a cooperative approach to decision-making, according to a recent survey of 600 board directors. This approach translates into better performance for their companies. The study was published in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics.

Here's what was found - in a nutshell:

  1. Male directors prefer to make decisions using rules, regulations and traditional ways of doing business or getting along.
  2. Female directors, in contrast, are less constrained by these parameters and are significantly more inclined to make decisions by taking the interests of multiple stakeholders into account in order to arrive at a fair and moral decision.
  3. Women will also tend to use cooperation, collaboration and consensus building more often – and more effectively – in order to make sound decisions.
  4. Women seem to be predisposed to be more inquisitive and to see more possible solutions. 

"At the board level where directors are compelled to act in the best interest of the corporation while taking the viewpoints of multiple stakeholders into account, this quality makes them more effective corporate directors,” explains McQueen.

The study was conducted by Chris Bart, professor at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, and Gregory McQueen, a McMaster graduate and senior executive associate dean at A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona.

“We’ve known for some time that companies that have more women on their boards have better results,” explains Bart. “Our findings show that having women on the board is no longer just the right thing but also the smart thing to do. Companies with few female directors may actually be shortchanging their investors.”

- See more at: http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/women-make-better-decisions-than-men-international-journal-of-business-governance-and-ethics/gender-differences-human-behavior/#sthash.3fCHBDuv.dpuf

Murphy's Laws on Being a Good Consultant

First off, know that I love laws. Laws are irrefutable. If you have been in this business more than a minute you will agree - that these are laws - and you will agree without question.

Here they are:
Murphy's Law on Project Done-ness:
The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.

Murphy's Law on "Hours In":
If you can't get your work done in the first 24 hours, work nights.

Murphy's Law on Performance and Praise:
A pat on the back is only a few inches from a kick in the pants.

Murphy's Law on Promotability:

Don't be irreplaceable, if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

Murphy's Law on Recognition:
It doesn't matter what you do, it only matters what you say you've done and what you say you're going to do.

Murphy's Law on Recognition and Confidence:

If you say something - say it with absolute certainty, not going into details, nor supporting the statement with facts.

Murphy's Law on Consultant Merit Increases:
After any salary raise, you will have less money at the end of the month than you did before.

Murphy's Law on Consultant Crap Gathering:

The more crap you put up with, the more crap you are going to get.

Murphy's Law on Image Improvement:

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a large binder.

Murphy's Second Law on Image Improvement:

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious, carrying a large binder and are carrying an open laptop. 

Murphy's Law on Information Gathering:

Never ask two questions in an email to a client. The reply will answer the one question you are least interested in, and say nothing about the other.

Murphy's Law on Productivity and Billable Hours:
When the partners and manager talk about improving productivity, they are never talking about themselves.

Murphy's Law on Managing Up:
The partner is always right.

Murphy's Second Law on Managing Up:
Keep your manager's manager off your manager's back.

Murphy's Third Law on Managing Up:
Keep a "Pearl Harbor" file.

Murphy's Law on Not Losing Files:
Everything can be filed under "miscellaneous."

Step Into the Client's Shoes

Step into the client's shoes.

We've always heard this saying in one form or another. Your mom probably told you "Walk a mile in another person's shoes before you pass judgement on them." And you probably heard of the American Indian saying, "Walk a mile in another person's moccasins."

Why is it then, that so many people fail to think from the perspective of the client? Is it that we are so preoccupied with our own troubles and worries, objectives and goals, and needs and wants, that we don't have time to think how things look from the perspective of the client?

Every client is different. And even the same client is different on different days.

Why is this true? Because people have emotions and they think. We are not dealing with inanimate objects. Some days the client is not happy. Other days, the same issue rolls right off their back. But our dilemma is: which days are which.

If you start from the premise, that all clients are busy and all clients want to do a good job, and you truly care about the relationship, then you can better sense how things will appear to the client when you bring something to them or address some matter that is important to them.

You can never be certain which day is which. Which is why (good thing I am not writing about witches, because the whichs and witches would be confusing) we need to assume the role of the client and attempt to interpret how they may perceive something we say or write. We need to be emotionally connected. Or, we need to at least attempt to be connected.

Stepping into some clients shoes may be harder than others. We may not share the same beliefs, same ideology, same background, or favor the same needs and desires.

I probably should say it this way - we DON'T ever share the same beliefs, same ideology, same background, or favor the same needs and desires.

HOWEVER, there is always overlapping areas we do share. We just need to know the other person's feelings - and look for the similarities. And yes, I did say "feelings." Feelings are much more powerful than facts.

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