Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Advice to new (and some seasoned) consultants

At the start of this year, an old colleague that I have worked with in 4 different companies, decided to try consulting instead of being an employee. I gave him some advice of things that I try to do during my consulting career (and  as an employee). Here is a short list:

Weekly Report

If the boss prefers a weekly face to face, it is likely also a good thing to send a weekly report. For my current gig, I became slack because my key output was documents for review that always included the boss in the distribution list.  The key aspect is to enable the boss to be able to explain what you are doing (justifying your salary to his superiors) by just going to his mailbox.  Bosses that do not micro-management, often are not concern about week-to-week activities; they are concern about appearing to know what is happening. Make it easy for the boss!

Weekly Report Structure

My usual pattern is simple:

  • Declare what you did in the last week
  • Declare what you intended to do in the next week
  • Add any changes of priorities that happened during the week
  • Add any blockage that occurred and either
    • State how you are going to break the blockage,
    • Request how the boss can help to break the blockage.

In cases where there is too much work, and the boss is interested, I have included a section “Below the line”, listing things that should be done, but unlikely to get any cycles. I usually RANK ORDER them, so the boss knows (and can adjust) the priority for what I will do when I get spare time.


Now, we come to the rub – for the next report, you copy your intended and self-report the results. Some people find it hard to admit or document failures – admitting issues builds confidence that your information is reliable.


One advantage of the above is when the boss is forced to trim staff or consultants; it is easy to see what you have done. People usually do not eliminate people they perceive as strong performers, some one that defines goals and make them happen.  During my career, I have won several “CAN DO” awards.


Bottom line: The boss primary concern is usually those over him, and not those under him. Make it easy for him to answer the question “what is Ken doing, what is his role?”


On a side note, my wife does this with a weekly financial report that she sends me. The report shows savings, asset values, cash flow, spending by category etc. She and I are kept on the same financial page and there is no money-stress between us. There is none of the dangerous “oh she is spending money for her fun, I am entitled to do the same” that can destroy a credit rating. If she keeps in the budget, why should I care about where she directs money?

Make the Boss’s request happen…. or get him to modify it

Don’t say no – instead improve it so he cancels it.  Bosses sometimes make interesting requests. Don’t get into either a power play of who knows best, nor appear to refuse to do something promptly.  If you need to delay a request, then make sure you can explain why the delay is needed in simple terms.

Time to get back to the day-job. I may post more later.


Excellent Manual:

The best book that I have come across is

In Hostile Territory : Business Secrets of a Mossad Combatant

You can get it on for about $4.00 (Amazon has new copies at $99.00). The key work is “Business Secrets” – you will learn a lot of good stuff in it.

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