“The Year of the Consultant”

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My time is split between political/public clients and corporate/private. One of my private sector companies is a family-owned business, operating in multiple states.

Last fall, they had identified several areas of growth and opportunity across the business model. At a January planning meeting, talk turned to the year ahead and the new initiatives. “This really is the Year of the Consultant, for us,” the COO observed. “We’ve got you, of course, but we have three other new people on the roster for 2014 as well.” He pointed out that it was taking some getting used to, because no two consultants are alike. “You each bill a little differently, you report a little differently, you present a little differently.”

Ain’t it the truth. Consultants are like fingerprints. And it seems even more so on the public side. After a while you learn all the names… who is out of DC vs. Austin (which is all its own style) or Dallas. Who loves polling, who loves mail, who bills what and how much of their stuff is repurposed across simultaneous races. Who uses which vendors religiously. Every one of us has our own preferences and peccadilloes. And we’re all convinced that our way is the best.

But at the end of the day, none of it is really necessarily better than any other approach. What it boils down to is, simply, how well the consultant meshes with the shot caller. How well do you communicate and interact… do you trust each other? If you’re the candidate, your name is literally on the line. You have to work with someone you believe in, and who believes in you; the rest of it is merely details.

As of this writing in September, two of the other four vendors have already been fired by my “Year of the Consultant” client. Apparently they weren’t delivering as promised.

Now, for my client’s sake, I hope they are happy with the third… but I fully expect to be the last one standing. I have spent a long time getting to know the brand, and investing in their happiness by producing high-quality work. Consultants may be unique as fingerprints but they also come a dime a dozen. Only the ones who deliver on their promises get to stay at the table.

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