Tuesday, June 7, 2016
A new definition for consultant
At a client site this week I was asked, “Who are you?” This was in the context of who is your company and what do you do? I am always prepared for this question. I have my 3 min “elevator pitch” that I give to people I meet at conferences (sometimes even in elevators), and potential new clients. It covers the important points and gives them a generic vision of who we are and what we do.
The response I got back was, “So, you're a small consulting company.” That was not what I was trying to get across. This response nagged at me and on my flight home I had the time to think about it more deeply. My company has recently gone through a growth spurt and if that is all this client got out of what I said, what might the message that our new hires be getting? Although in a technical sense it is true, we are a small consulting company, it does not portray the passion that lives behind that mundane description.
We are first and foremost a services company. To me, that means we help our clients succeed when they don’t have the in house skills they need to succeed.
Yes, our clients are coming to us for technical expertise and knowledge. Yes we provide that as a service. However, technology, whether it be tables, a script, a database, or report, is part of a critical path that leads to success for people. We are foremost a services company. We provide needed expert service, first and foremost, not just “services”.
When my two partners and I first got together to discuss a partnership, it was based on mutual respect for each other in each of our respective areas of expertise. We coalesced because we are each unique and can bring unique and high demand skills to the table. Did we ever say "lets do a start up" or "Let's start an IT company"? NO! Those concepts, never mind the words, were never spoken or even thought about. Those words have never been brought to the table in any discussion we have had since formalizing our vision.
What we did discuss, and still discuss at every meeting, is “service”. We started our company as a discussion between highly respected professionals about how can we provide much needed services to clients. We continue to emphasize this attitude within our company in all our meetings and all our planning.
This shared corporate culture that brought the three of us together is being extended throughout our organization. I mentioned that we have recently gone through a growth spurt. That means that we had to find people that could extend our service beyond what we could personally do. Who do we hire to represent us and provide this service? We did not hire a “resource”, a “developer”, or some other title. We invited “people” to join our tribe. People who, like us, have unique expertise in their field. People, with a profound natural ability to provide exceptional service.
We looked for something often not seen and more often than not, not even recognized. We looked for and found individuals that stood out in a crowd of professionals as people who know what it takes and go that extra mile, to be exceptional in client service.
What does it mean to be exceptional in client service?
Providing exceptional service means we do not use technical terms simply just to make ourselves sound smart. We are not so insecure that we need to silo our information. We educate and train our customers so they have lasting knowledge that allows them to do their jobs. Their job is to provide service to their clients. We provide our clients with expertise, knowledge and training so that they in turn can service their clients better. Think of it as:
"Pay it Forward."
Providing exceptional service means that we listen to our clients needs and help guide them to the solution that is best for them. Sometimes that means less work for us. Sometimes that means less interesting work for us. Sometimes that means we have to put our client’s needs ahead or ours. It always means that we are striving to ensure that, even if we never get more business from a client, they are very happy with the service we did provide.
This is how we as partners pay it forward to our client. It is our corporate culture. It permeates this “small consulting company” that we built. This attitude can be found in everything we do, including how we treat our tribe.
I have mentioned some of the attributes of those we chose for our tribe, but what I haven’t yet mentioned is “potential”. When starting this venture my partners and I had many discussions over dinner, drinks and skype. (More skype than dinner and drinks unfortunately.) Invariably, everything we talked about would come back to potential. So what do we see in our tribe? What service do we offer our tribe?
We offer potential to grow a career. We offer the potential to be in on the ground floor of a unique service company (note: I did not say “consulting” company). And we offer the potential to help grow something bigger than themselves, thus multiplying their positive impact on the world. We provide an opportunity to do things that our tribe can be truly proud of.
We strive for excellence in the services we provide. Not the excellence that is awarded in school to children for simple participation, but the opportunity to truly make a difference. To excel in paying it forward, and at the same time excel in a career.
It is a truism that, in real life (“IRL” for those with teens), you don't get a ribbon for participation. In providing services, we don’t want to be seen as just “participating”. We want to make a positive difference. As a team lead in a growing company, I know I cannot be in on every meeting. I cannot be available to make every decision that needs to be made. However, I know I can count on my tribe to make the right decisions.
In our corporate culture, the little things really matter. Especially when dealing with people. Here I am not talking about the financial services companies we contract with. I am talking about our clients, our real clients: the people we work with on projects, the managers, the executives who have put their trust in us. To the company we contract with, we bring important technical services. How we provide these services is vitally important to the people in those companies.
Someone once said to me it is just _____ (fill in the blank).
Just one....... Card......... The last letter a mother received from a child that died.
Just one..... Dollar ........ The last dollar that family has to spend this month.
Just a..... name .......... Nelson Mandela
Whatever that "little thing" is to you, it is often something important to someone else. To truly service our customer, it is never just a little thing. The little things can be the difference between “thank you” and “WOW! Thank you!”
So are we a just a “small consulting company”? No! We never have been and never will be. It has been a long story to answer this question, but NO we are much more than that. We are so much more than that.
So who are we? We are a provider of vital services that will be part of your solution, never part of the problem. We are a company that you be glad you hired to help overcome whatever technical obstacle that was keeping you from providing the best possible service to your clients.
What do we do? For the financial services companies we contract with, we provide exceptional results. For the people we work with, we provide services that will allow them to provide exceptional services to their clients - the end customers who are not just numbers in a financial statement. Our clients receive professional services from us that help them pay it forward. We provide highly skilled computer services to people who need them. We never forget that it is people that are receiving these services, not computers.
We are a pay it forward service provider, and so much more.