Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

The Most Important Question to Ask a Consultant Before Saying Yes

True story: one of my favorite moments in consulting, on my own, as a sole practitioner, was the response my future favorite client gave when I apologized for having left the brand-name firm where I’d been a vice president. He answered:

That’s great. I prefer paying you directly. You were always the one doing the work. Why did you want me to pay their overhead, instead of just paying you?

So the most important question to ask, before you agree to a consulting job,  is who is actually going to be doing the work? Who will deliver it, and who will you talk to in the interim? Yes, you’d think that would all be obvious. But the bigger and more successful the consulting company, the less likely that the actual work will be done by the people you talk to. For example, with most of the top 10 consulting firms, the partners sell the jobs (they call them engagements) and the associates – relatively recent hires – do the work.

3 responses to “The Most Important Question to Ask a Consultant Before Saying Yes”

  1. […] posted this related thought on this blog Tuesday, about how clients can get better value from a one-person business with no […]

  2. […] @couchlearner – The Most Important Question to Ask a Consultant Before Saying Yes – by @timberry: So the most important question to ask, before you agree to a consulting […]

  3. […] posted this related thought on this blog Tuesday, about how clients can get better value from a one-person business with no […]

  4. Wonderful post. Really got me thinking about the time this lady from Learning Guides rolled in to demo their product. She was quite knowledgable and a great communicator. Once we’d tried it out, we opted to buy which the same nice lady helped us do. From that point on it was all downhill as she was just the saleswoman and most of the work in terms of integration and training was handled by far less competent people. So I guess the who’s doing the work question was one I didn’t get to learn the easy way i.e. from a really useful post like this!

  5. Karen Swim says:

    Tim, that’s a great story and you are spot on with that question! On the Consulting side of the fence it’s also important to determine who you will be working with and who will be involved in decisions, as the person you establish the relationship with may not be the person with whom you interact.

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