Home > Articles

Consulting: Prerequisites for Success

  • Print
  • + Share This
Learn what you need in terms of skills, experience, and personal qualities to launch your own successful consulting business in this chapter from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Consulting.
This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Finding out the essentials for success in starting and running a successful consulting business

  • Understanding the breadth and depth of knowledge

  • Looking at your attitudes and values

  • Surveying the personal skills specific to the consulting industry

As you consider a career as an independent consultant, you need to know what elements are essential for success. And, boy, there are a lot of things you need to know, a lot of skills you must have, and a certain outlook you need to cultivate.

Ideally, you will have many of these elements before you hang out your consultant shingle, but it's not necessary to have absolutely everything. You are going to learn as you go. However, the more resources and skills you bring to the table from the start, the more likely you will reduce your number of growing pains, mistakes, and hard economic times.

If you are a practicing consultant, this chapter is also important to you. It's an opportunity to begin a self-assessment to identify any gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes that you may have. And we all have them.

In this chapter I'll cover the basic elements you need for success.

Specialty-Related Skills and Knowledge

Specialty-related skills and knowledge refer to those basic and advanced skills and knowledge that are required in your chosen field, and that are needed by you in order to provide expert advice to clients and to be seen as credible by prospective clients.

I can't tell you exactly which skills and knowledge this entails, because obviously your needs depend on the field in which you want to practice. However, I can tell you that you'd better know your field well and what it requires before you market yourself as a consultant.

Regardless of whether or not you know your field, try to identify four or five consultants who work in your field. Find several consultants who work in your geographic area, but also track down one or two who work outside your area. This provides some balance.

Explain that you are considering starting a consulting business in this particular field and that you would like 15 to 20 minutes of their time to ask them some questions. When they agree, make sure you ask the following two questions:

  • What skills and knowledge have you found most valuable in running a successful consulting business in your field?

  • Before I start a new consultancy, are there any absolutely essential things that I need to know and understand in order to have a good chance of success?

If you are wondering whether potential competitors will be willing to help you, don't worry about it. Even though you may find a few consultants who guard their secrets, those really aren't the ones you want to talk to and learn from. The majority of consultants (provided they have the time) will be glad, even honored, to give advice, and that advice can be golden.

Consulting Confidential

While consultants are generally honest people and will give you the "straight goods" on most questions, there's one area in which you will likely get inaccurate information. Probably every consultant on the planet is going to exaggerate his or her own success. For good reason. If a consultant is known to be struggling, clients hear about it and shy away. So take statements about the great success of small consulting businesses with a grain of salt. The consultants aren't being dishonest so much as protecting their businesses.

Listen carefully. Ask in humbleness.

This picking of consultants' brains allows you to get some other perspectives on your business, something we all need.

When discussing specialty-related skills and knowledge, you must consider two significant questions: How broad should your knowledge be and how deep should it be? The answers will be the topics of the next two sections.

Breadth of Knowledge and Skills

What is breadth of knowledge? Breadth of knowledge refers to the number of different areas in which you have expertise. Let's say you're a financial consultant. You need a wide range of skills and knowledge so you can provide your clients with high-quality advice and service. For example, you might have significant expertise in the following areas:

  • Tax laws
  • Stock market investment strategies
  • Retirement plans and funds
  • Mutual funds

Every time you learn something new, you increase your breadth of knowledge. The broader the range of things you know, the better off you are. Why is that?

Because consultants sell their knowledge, the more you have the more you can offer to your clients. Keep in mind that clients looking for consulting advice want someone who has more knowledge in more areas than they themselves have.

There's another reason why breadth is important. Our world is complex, and giving good advice requires that you look at a number of interrelated factors. Let's look at the tale of two financial consultants.

Our first financial consultant, Fred, knows a great deal about tax laws, mutual funds, and stock market investment strategies. However, he isn't familiar with retirement plans and regulations. Jane, our second financial consultant, has a wider range of expertise. She's got all the areas of expertise that Fred has, and more. Now which consultant do you think is going to be more successful over time? All things being equal, Jane's got the upper hand, because she's able to offer more complete advice—advice that takes into account more options and possibilities.

The bottom line on breadth of knowledge and skills is that you need to know way more than you might think. And you must strive to increase your breadth of knowledge throughout your career as a professional consultant.

Depth of Knowledge and Skills

If breadth of knowledge is about how many relevant skills and how much information you have at your disposal, depth of knowledge is about how well you know each area. You can know a lot of things superficially, but that kind of shallow knowledge isn't what clients are paying you for. You have to have depth to your knowledge.

To use another financial consultant example, imagine a financial consultant who knows just some of the tax laws relevant to financial planning. Would you take advice from that person? Maybe initially, but as soon as you got dinged for a big tax bill, you would be telling that consultant Sayonara. You'd also tell your friends not to hire the person.

Make sense? You don't want to be a consultant who can offer only inferior service because the breadth and the depth of your knowledge falls short of excellent.

As a final point on both depth and breadth of knowledge, consider that you can't ever know exactly how deep and how broad your knowledge and skills must be. However, the market and your clients will often give you important clues:

  • Keep in mind that you have gaps in breadth and depth of knowledge and be aware of situations in which they interfere with providing great consulting services. Identify them and address them.

  • Be a continuous learner. It's essential that you commit to learning constantly. Think of what you learn as your knowledge inventory. The more you have to offer and sell, the more likely you will be to succeed.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020