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.

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