THE LURE OF CONSULTING

 

One universal commonality found in almost all human beings is the deep rooted need in each one of us to be on our own and do things as we please rather than do things that are based on the requirements and needs of others. This desire manifests in most professionals of and on in the form of a strong wish to establish an organization of one’s own. This is where one’s mind meanders towards the possibility of establishing a consulting organization, since it seems to be needing the least infra-structure amongst all business possibilities and thus the risk of financial losses is thought to be the least. It appears to us that only the cerebral faculty of the entrepreneur and a reasonable communicating ability are good enough to start off.

Having taken the plunge into consulting as a one-man army fifteen years back after spending a decade in two big corporate houses e— Why and How did I get into this? Has been a fairly frequent question that is beamed at me.

My consistent answer to the first question has truthfully been that I realized early in my life and career that I am not cut out to obey orders from anybody and I love my freedom a little too much. I often quote an old Chinese adage in this connection, “It is better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of an ox” (In short, everyone wants to be boss, no matter how small the company).

Regarding the second question also, I consider myself singularly lucky that I got to understand a few crucial basics of entrepreneurship pretty early which has helped me immensely in carrying out my role as the head of a consulting firm. One quote from OSHO that guided me and does guide me constantly is “People love freedom — but nobody wants responsibility. And they come together. They are inseparable.”

Stan Shih Chen-Jung, founding chairman of Acer led the 1997 Asia week Hall of Fame. Acer is the best known Asian personal computer brand. He set up his own business, then called Multitech, in 1976. To set it up, he and his friends scraped together about $ 25,000 and they all put in sixteen hour days, including Shih” wife, Carolyn. She did everything from tracking the company finances to cleaning staircases before visitors arrived. In 1986, the company launched its own trademark, Acer, which rose to rival the world’s biggest PC names. Its success also elevated the public’s view of the “Made in Taiwan” label. Today, 21 years later (in 1997), the conditions have changed but the hours have not. “We’re still working as if we were just starting out. This way I keep my entrepreneurial edge.” Shih says.

Entrepreneurship: The Essential Quality

It is common knowledge that any business essentially owes its origin to the entrepreneurial spirit of a human being, who starts off a business venture on his / her own or jointly with some like-minded people. It is, therefore essential at this stage to have a closer look at the characteristics of a typical entrepreneur.

 

An entrepreneur must have:

  1. Risk taking ability, which means

a)Uncertainty of returns on money invested

b)  Uncertainty of returns on time invested

c)Imbalanced work schedule upsetting personal work schedule

d)  Broken commitments by others on whom one depend, affecting one’s own commitments

e)  Being taken for a ride

  1. Follow the example of being the engine rather than the bogies of a train
  2. Doing his / her SWOT ( Strengths, weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats ) Analysis very carefully
  3. A thorough PEST ( Political, Economic, Social and Technological ) Analysis of the existing and emerging business environment
  4. Having an open mind to different ideas and suggestions
  5. The ability to accept both success and failures as part of the game
  6. A believer in the statement: “Give them a deal they cannot refuse.” — Mario Puzo in The God Father when negotiating and carrying out business deals

 

A Closer Look At Consulting

The essence of the consulting as a business is

The consultant has to build credibility in the mind of the client that s(he) can rely on the consultant in terms of faith and competence

The client should be sure that the consultant will be able to appreciate and systematically analyze the issues and problems that the client has

The client must believe that the consultant can suggest a few workable ideas and that they can jointly evolve a solution in the short term and / or long term, as required within the financial and other constraints of the client

 

Human Resource Consulting

I intend to elaborate on only one field of consulting, namely human resource consulting since there is a constraint on the length of this article. Equally importantly and without any hesitation, I must add that given my competence and experience, I am not in a position to comment on other fields of management consulting with any degree of authority.

The primary issues in human resource consulting are

  1. Human resource management is essentially a qualitative function. It is near impossible to correlate a specific result with a specific effort
  2. A vast majority of managers think that s(he) is a born human resource professional and hence there is no need to “WASTE” money, time and other valuable resources by engaging consultants though the silver lining in the dark is that this view is changing fast, A human resource consultant, therefore must have ocean loads of patience and convincing ability
  3. Human resource consultants must have a very good understanding of overall business than ever before through which s(he) will be able to convince the client as to how the intervention will help in improving business results
  4. Strategically, a human resource consultant must develop an expertise in one or more concepts, which have not yet been extensively used but has given excellent results in its limited usage and is likely to become a major tool of practical utility in the future. The client is then likely to understand the benefit of deriving “the first or early mover advantage”
  5. Human resource consulting does not mean consulting only in the pure and traditional personnel management areas but one should be able to convince the client that in order to bring about any positive changes in the organization, a mindset change in employees is an absolute must, which a human resource consultant is expected to help in achieving in the best possible way.

 

A Few Words Of Caution

There are certain precautions that must be taken in any entrepreneurial venture like

Being sure of one’s finances and leveraging them well

Being a devotee of Murphy’s Law (Whatever can go wrong will go wrong)

Being extra careful in choosing a partner, if one decides to have one

Being extremely cautious about people who talk big, make one take steps in a particular direction and then dump the consultant giving a hundred reasons why in spite of their best intentions, they could not help. One must carefully and diligently check the reliability of people one intends to deal with

 

Conclusion

I have, in my years in the profession seen many good and bad times. The issues that I have tried to bring out have been actually faced and handled by me personally. I have succeeded sometimes and also failed sometimes. I strongly believe that no one can win all the battles in life. So long as we win a few more than we lose, we will come out successful in business as in life.

I sign off with a hope that these home truths that I have experienced will come in handy for those who have the courage to chart out a path of their own in the growing space of consulting. The very best of my wishes are reserved for them.

 
Authored by

Sumit Chaudhuri

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