Consultants who are great at what they do have the skills required and the experience to match what their clients need, and they have a whole bunch of other must-have abilities that don’t quite fit on the résumé. The following traits are just some the attributes that turn a “good” consultant into a great, in-demand consultant:
- They get it done. Ultimately clients hire consultants for results—to do the things they can’t do with their current resources. The more ways a consultant can help out, the more valuable a consultant is. The best consultants are always looking for solutions and efficiencies, and they do what’s necessary to finish a project or fix a problem. In some cases this may involve making copies at 7 p.m. to get a report together. There’s no better-than-you attitude here when job-number one is to make the client happy. They do what’s required and follow through to make sure it happens.
- They add value. Consultants who shine consistently go beyond what’s asked of them. They listen carefully to the client and find ways to make the client’s life easier. A client expects a consultant to be an expert and bring in fresh ideas—but the client may not always know the exact right questions to ask. The best consultants have a sense for what each client needs.
- They are leaders. You can be a leader without being the one in charge, and great consultants fit the bill. One way to look at leadership is people who take action instead of waiting to be told what to do. They’re effective observers who have the power of persuasion to make smart recommendations when they make sense.
The consultants who understands what the client wants and then makes it happen are the ones who get asked for by name the next time around (we love when that happens!). If a meeting needs to be called, they call it. If tasks need to be divvied out, they do it. No micromanaging needed. Not only do they step back and see the bigger picture, they figure out what must get done and then gather the resources to do it.
- They stay out of politics. In finance and accounting, in particular, consultants are expected to be discreet. They may hear a lot of chatter as they work alongside employees who could be struggling to get past politically sensitive issues. Things may have become messy and the consultants are expected to bring in some calm. The best consultants don’t get sucked in to power struggles and office gossip. They do their job and maintain a professional demeanor.
- They are chameleons. Consultants who get repeat clients are able to fit into any environment, whether it’s a loosely structured startup or a tightly wound corporate culture. They shed their personal agendas at the door and take in the personalities and makeup of the company before making any recommendations. They become a part of the team and zero in on what makes sense for the client, at that moment.
- They are life-long learners. Clients are looking for people who are on top of the latest requirements and leanings in the field. They want to bring in early adopters who can show them what to do, and they want to know what other companies like them are up to. Consultants can bring them that expertise only if they set aside time to stay on top of trends and innovations. It makes them better at their job—and it makes them more marketable.
- They are confident but not cocky. Great consultants have an easy confidence that lets the client know “I got this,” but it never strays into arrogance. Clients want to believe the consultants they’ve brought in to fix a problem know what to do. But clients don’t need a big ego to get in the way.
Consultants who have these seven habits are a special group (we call ours the dream team). They’re experts in their field who are willing to do anything they can for the client. They have above-and-beyond attitudes. And they are all about follow-through, professionalism and thoughtful, quality work.
Matt Lentzner heads IT at RoseRyan, an award-winning consulting firm of finance and accounting aces in Silicon Valley who expertly guide companies forward in any stage of their business lifecycle. He joined RoseRyan in 2005 and serves on the firm’s management team. RoseRyan tackles short- and long-term assignments for clients, from the startup needing an interim CFO and scalable infrastructure to the large enterprise managing tricky transactions and complex compliance issues.