One of the tell-tale signs of a new consultant is that they will say they are good at almost everything. Anything you need, they can do it! No project is too big or too small, no challenge is beyond their experience. That’s often called “survival” in the early days of being a consultant – and being hungry is one approach to building a business.
Perhaps I starved longer than I needed to, because I never did that. In fact, consultants who profess to be good at everything are immediately suspicious to me. That’s because I subscribe to a self-coined “Coke” Philosophy of Consulting, as I am a die-hard fan of “Coke Zero.” With apologies to the Coca-Cola Company for what is no-doubt too simple an analogy, here it is.
There are three ingredients to making a coke – syrup, water, and fizz. You can make a flat coke with just the syrup and water but it is disappointing. It takes “fizz” to make it good. Same with consultants – anyone can make a flat coke by learning and applying a skill. But it is one’s passion for that topic and innate talents that will make it “pop” and be good!
For example, I know how to conduct process improvement projects and thoroughly enjoy facilitating complex group dynamics and decision-making. I also know how to research and create elaborate process maps, but I find it boring – I don’t enjoy the detail attention it takes to do it well and I am sure a client can sense that lack of energy. Flat coke! Better to find someone who LOVES process mapping and gets a kick out of the myriad details at play, and partner with them on this. That way I can do the “fun” parts (to me) and they can do the “fun” parts (to them.) Fizzy coke!
The best consultants I know are very clear on where they are good, and where they are flat. I don’t see it as weakness to admit that. I see it as self-awareness, which is key to being successful both in consulting and in life. If a consultant cannot admit to me what they are not very good at, I will not work with them, because at some point that lack of awareness will cause problems.
The best part of knowing your own “fizz?” It forms the basis of your personal brand, and the root of your company brand.