If you’re a consultant then you’ll probably get this scenario. You know how the competition can be fierce for high school or college students trying to be at the top of their class? You want top billing so you have to remain confident, never show fear and never look weak or ask for any help whatsoever. Sound familiar? You must be oozing confidence….
In consulting, there really isn’t much difference if you happen to have company – meaning other consultants — at the organization you’re working for. Here’s my personal example.
I was called into a startup to help with several implementations that either had gone south or were headed that way fast. After some presentations to the ticked off customers and an injection of project management best practices, as well as assuming the “interim” role of development manager over the staff working on the implementations, we reversed the trend and turned the implementations into success stories.
However, a couple of months later a project manager was brought in as a consultant to oversee several new projects. Even though I had achieved great success and was highly valued by the CEO, I still felt that strange feeling that there was a competition and some degree of threat. Why bring in someone else to run these other projects? In the long term, that’s too many consultants for an organization of this one’s size. So what would it mean for me? Would the other consultant win out? I knew I had much more experience, but I was also being paid considerably more. That meant I could eventually be dumped based on budgeting issues alone.
Ultimately we started working in parallel and all went smoothly, but it took us a couple of months to get to that point. Based on my experiences, the best way to ensure a cohesive working relationship with another consultant, and ensure your own viability with the client at the same time, involves these points.
Know the Competition
Get to know the other person. Be friendly and try to worker together and share ideas. That’s better than battling. Having a strained relationship may just end up making everyone look bad. At least if you make nice and work cohesively everyone will be productive, and most likely the successful working relationship will translate into success that will make everyone look good to the client.
Always be professional. No back stabbing, no bad words. Keep doing what got you to where you are now. If you were already in the organization when the other consultant was hired, then the organization already knows your value and you’ll probably have less to prove than you think. If you remain focused on what you’ve been hired to do, then you’ll likely remain that invaluable component of the organization and be offered return engagements, even if you are the higher priced option. That’s how it turned out for me.
Keep the CEO in Your Pocket
Backstabbing is bad, but schmoozing is completely acceptable. As long as you remain the right hand consultant to the CEO, and he or she understands your value, then your long-term relationship with this client is virtually assured. The CEO will always remember what you accomplished over the price it cost, and you’ll be the first consultant that comes to mind the next time they need help. Never underestimate the ego of the CEO. Trust me: They’ll want “their” consultant, not the cheapest one. Stay in touch… Stay close.