Anything for a Buck

One of the challenges we face as consultants is the fact that the only thing we have to sell is our time and expertise.  The pressure to bill from the firm and your economic well being creates circumstances which might lead you to do something that is not in the best interests of the client.   A friend of mine calls it anything for a buck.  These situations are not as simple in most cases and what one is trying to do is improve the situation.  That is why it is particularly difficult to give advice to a customer when you represent a supplier of some product.   

So how do I cope with these circumstances?    One thing Harvey, my business partner, would ask me, "What is in the best interest of the client?"  He then would help me work through the situation.   One of the things I found was that if I considered the long term and not just the immediate circumstances the actions became clearer. 

I was helping a client find a new computer system so that they could upgrade their systems to use an integrated database.  They really wanted to upgrade with the same supplier.  We were of the opinion that another supplier would be better for our client but really were not being asked to select a supplier just help them look at alternatives.  We decided to take our concerns to the head of the organization.  However we told the client that even it they did not take our advice we would continue to support him on this project.  We really believed that whatever selection the client made, they needed our help making the conversion.   So the client decided for non-technical reasons to stay with their supplier recognizing the risks.  We continued to help them with the conversion which was more difficult because of the choice but still successful.

These circumstances are not simple but really important to work out what is in the best interest of the client.  Even if we lost the client, I would have thought that we did what was in the best interest of the client.  I think in that case I did not do "anything for a buck."

At Project X, we always attempt to act in the best interest of the client.  We believe that in the long term will pay off for us.  We talk about it between ourselves and make sure we are not compromising that principle.  We are in the business for the long haul, not the quick buck.   

  1. Stephen Reply

    I found having worked for publicly traded firms, they are often driven by the quarterly and monthly numbers.
    This is business and I know that we all live in the real world, but it changes the pressure as to where the effort lies.
    So a publicly traded company is ripe for changing behaviour to meet a target regardless as to whether it is the right time or answer. This changes the game. If the client understands the possibility of that behaviour then they know they can use it to their benefit.
    In the software business, the best time to close a deal and buy some software is on the last day of a quarter or year. I had a client once in California and he booked the last week of December to close all his big purchases for the next year with Oracle. He got some awesome deals.
    The challenge in professional services is that it can often be harder for the the right thing to be as apparant.
    Good post Jim.

  2. Jim Reply

    Most consulting firms measure a consultant’s contribution by his billings. Thus billing is a key performance measure for most consulting firms. To keep your eye on the long term benefit of acting in the best interest is really key.
    In my experience the key to successful consulting is building long term relationships. In my experience the best way to build a long term relationship is to act in the best interest of the client and give them ten percent more than they expect.
    Good billings will follow from that strategy.

  3. Annette Hayward Reply

    Good advice, but I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say, “The pressure to bill from the firm and your economic well being creates circumstances which might lead you to do something that is not in the best interests of the client.” What is the “pressure to bill from the firm”? “You” is the consultant, I assume.

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