Recently, one of my students asked me what I do as a consultant. She knows me as an instructor and has been in several of my classes at USM. She is interested in the consulting profession and interested in how I spend my time when I'm not teaching. I didn't want to give her a generic response--a consultant consultants on whatever their area of expertise is. She wanted to know what I do, how I came to be a consultant, and what my firm does, so I told her.
First, a consultant must have the desire to assist others in their profession and in their business. And then that consultant has to be good enough at understanding the client's business in order to actually provide services of value. The consultant has to tell the client things they don't already know or can't figure out on their own. In the world of consulting, the consultant is the expert, the mentor, and the coach.
As an HR business consultant, I told her I have to be able to use my HR expertise by immersing it into the business I'm working with. I have to customize my approach to the organization's culture and help that organization develop its own culture of excellence.
I walked my student through the process my firm goes through when considering the needs of every client: assess, evaluate, and partner. Working with the client, we assess where the business is by conducting our proprietary HR audit. We provide the client with an evaluation--a roadmap of what needs to be done and the steps needed to get there. We focus on compliance first, then our time is spent building that organization's culture of excellence. Many of our clients expect me to tell them what to do and how to do it. By partnering with our client, we develop expectations and deliverables together. In many organizations my firm works with, I am the "go to" person for my on site partner--an HR business partner, coordinator, manager or director--who has boots on the ground and is responsible for the day-to-day HR operations.
We then talked about other types of work I do, such as compliance training. I work with some organizations that contact me annually to deliver their Prevention of Sexual Harassment Training. Other organizations engage me to provide supervisory and management training--a bootcamp my firm has developed to start new supervisors and managers on the right foot. It is so important for supervisors and managers to know what to say, what not to say, and how to say what needs to be said. It is easy to say the wrong thing for the right reasons and my firm takes a risk management approach when we facilitate this training.
She wondered if my firm works with every business that contacts us and I told her no. I let her know that it is not unusual for a business that is in distress to contact my firm and we regularly work with these businesses. We also work with firms that want to fix what is broken and help them build their culture of excellence.
I ended our conversation by letting her know that when you are hiring an employee, you want to hire the right fit for the job. It's the same when deciding to work with a consultant. You want to engage with just the right one.