I wrote this “Code of Honor” out of pure frustration one day after letting all of my former associates go. (See last week’s post on “Hiring Associates.”) I really wanted to be clear on how I did business, and I wanted my associates to honor that, thus the name.  I based my business values on my past experience as a manager who at one time hired consultants, as well as how I wanted us to work together in serving clients.  This is now the heart of my business approach and I expect us to adhere to it when working as a consulting team.

1.    Each client must be made to feel like he/she is our only client.

  • This means that references to other clients are minimized and used sparingly to make points; it is not “show and tell.”
  • This also means than we prepare well for each engagement and keep up-to-date information about what we’ve done with each client so that we don’t repeat ourselves.

2.  We follow through on commitments to clients and each other.

  • This means that we honor ourselves and our work by providing adequate lead time when we commit to deadlines, engagements, or follow-up activities; and…
  • If we cannot meet our commitments, we provide adequate notice to the project manager and either negotiate a new deadline/agreement or find an appropriate solution ourselves to meet client needs. The problem is not dumped on the project manager or client’s lap.

3.       A major commitment is the cost of our services.

  •  This means that our bid is our price and our commitment. Once the contract is negotiated, we “throw away” the time sheet and do what is necessary to serve and satisfy the client.
  •  We only go back to the client to negotiate additional payment if the client is asking for more function than was originally contracted. Otherwise, if we’ve underestimated the work, that’s our problem and it becomes an opportunity to learn more about our own work process before the next contract.

4.   We give each other as associates as much priority and respect as we give our clients.

  •  This means that we allocate and schedule time for each other to meet during business hours and we do not cancel on each other due to another “client engagement.” It is important that we develop our relationship and strategy together to serve the customer well.

5.  What we discuss with each other about the client we share with the client.

  •  We do not say one thing to each other and act differently in front of the client. We agree to share our concerns and relate our experiences with the client as a mirror to them. We also accept concerns and feedback from the client as a mirror for us.

6.   We build skills not dependency.

  • This means that we are here to work ourselves out of business with this client. If we are effective, the client should feel confident in her/his ability to deal with future issues rather than call on us.
  •  It is our underlying belief that we will get more referrals and future business through this approach rather than trying to “hang on” to current contracts.
  •  If we do agree to take additional contracts, they are time-bounded and force us and the client to take on new roles that continue to reduce our participation.

This “Code of Honor” is now something that I review early on with potential associates because I want to know if they will be able to adhere to it. Interestingly, some can’t!  I also use it to guide my own behavior when working with clients and it is the basis for how I write proposals.

What is important to you in how you work? Are you clear about that with your own associates or colleagues? If not, try drafting your own code of honor when you are frustrated, and see what you come up with!

Cathy Perme is the co-owner of Perme & Peterson Associates, LLC.

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Catherine Perme

Fizz! How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant author Cathy Perme also wrote Confucius in My Cubicle: Practical Wisdom for the Leader in All of Us, released by Wisdom Editions.