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May 23, 2006

Honor among….er, consultants

Many of our clients are surprised when they discover that I have close working relationships and friendships with other consultants. They seem astonished to discover that we don’t all despise each other.

That got me thinking about the unwritten rules that make consultant-to-consultant relationships work.

  1. Give credit where credit is due. Obvious, yes. As consultants, we make our living on reputation. Being named as an authority by another consultant helps my reputation and vice versa. (I can think of at least one instance in this blog where I posted a link and forgot to credit the person who sent me to it. Don’t do that.) Be especially careful with ideas and concepts.
  2. Competitors, yes, but also peers. We may, on occasion bid on a project against some of our consultant friends. Sometimes we win and sometimes they win. But more importantly, other consultants are really our only peers. I have contacts and friends across our industry but the only ones who really understand my day-to-day business life are those who are also self-employed.
  3. Competitors but also collaborators. We occasionally subcontract work to peer consultants and have worked as subcontractors to our peers. This only works with people you trust.
  4. Don’t embarrass others. Many of us frequent the same mailing lists and occasionally, someone will post information that’s not completely accurate (or flat-out wrong). A polite note off-list to the originator is really much kinder than a scathing on-list dissection. Give the author a chance to “revise and extend” his or her remarks. (If it’s good enough for Congress…never mind.) A corollary to this: If you see a public discussion/argument between two consultants, it’s a fair bet that they probably don’t much like each other.

Are there other rules that I’ve left out? I know a fair number of other consultants read this blog, so speak up! I know you aren’t shy in any other venue…