Make your mark in consultancy

A woman discusses a project during a meeting. In consultancy, payment is linked to particular deliverables, as per the contract signed. PHOTO / COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Consultancy is more relational than a science. Therefore, a lot of effort must be put to develop a trusted network of clients and colleagues.
  • That could focus on those one worked with and for in the past but also those they studied with, those from the same church or home area.

Consultancy is the art of transacting in knowledge as a commodity. However, unlike back then, where without intention, people found themselves doing consultancy, today, people must intentionally working towards the success of their consultancy.

To start with, one must ensure they have competence in a particular field. Otherwise, Godfrey Bwanika of GB Consulting, says there is no need to go for consultancy because then there is nothing they are taking to the market.

Develop networks

Consultancy is more relational than a science. Therefore, a lot of effort must be put to develop a trusted network of clients and colleagues. That could focus on those one worked with and for in the past but also those they studied with, those from the same church or home area.

“Any time people want to give consultancy work, they give it to those they know in terms of capacity and trust. However, when we are looking for consultancy, not many are sure if we have the capacity to deliver. Therefore, cultivating that trust is very critical in succeeding,” Bwanika shares.

Personal attributes

Consultancy is a job of referencing. Therefore, the first job will come from people you have worked with and who you have supported in the past. They who will vouch for you before a client. “In consultancy, it pays to be ethical because the way you behave greatly impacts how you will succeed in this consultancy field. Additionally, the way you do your first job determines if there will be a second one, for consultancy is a repeated assignment,” John Walugembe, the executive director of Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises (FSME), shares.

The quality of work is looked at in the writing style, the graphics used, the way the report is packaged, as well as the content.

Have other means of survival

If one does not have any other means of earning an income, then consultancy is not worth trying. “There is no certainity that you will have business throughout the year. How then will you survive when there is no work? Without options, you will appear too desperate or hungry and under-price your services because you need the work. That could also push away clients because your low asking price may paint a picture of inadequacy thus one who has no value to add to them,” Walugembe says.

Payment

In consultancy, payment is linked to particular deliverables, as per the contract signed and given in percentages as the work is executed. Therefore, unlike in employment where one will get a salary at the end of each month regardless of what is accomplished, in consultancy, failed or delayed deliverables affect pay.

“While some clients are lenient thus give you some more time, others will stick with the contract and consider delay as breach of contract thus terminate it,” Mr Walugembe shares.

Timelines

If one desires to jump ship from employment, they must change their mind-set to understand that this is an arena of strict timelines and deliverables. Oftentimes, consultants do not sleep, burning the midnight candle to deliver a report on time.

“It is critical to pay attention to the time because when someone says 12p.m GMT+4, then you send your report at 12p.m your time, you have missed the mark. Always synchronise your time zone with that of your client. Otherwise, you will set a track record that will not favour you,” Mr Walugembe says.

Niche: Consultancy is always evolving so are people’s needs. At the start of this millennium, there was the Y2K bug where computers confused dates. That prompted the government to start up the Y2K secretariat in the Ministry of Finance. However, now, their expertise is obsolete. Therefore, get a niche based on the market trends. “Currently, the issue is fuel prices, so become an expert on fuel prices in your field, say construction because these prices are affecting the whole economy. Simply put, you can be expert in a particular niche in your field. You can do that through experience – linking this new trend to your previous experience. You can also do so through education, say doing an online course to fine-tune what you already know because pay is aligned to the value you are adding to people,” he shares.

Transition

For persons that desire to join the consultancy world, they need some level of orientation. For instance, some people have never looked at a Terms of Reference document (ToR) yet it is this that details what a client needs.

“As a consultant, learn how to interpret this, prepare a proposal that speaks to this ToR, and put together a team that is competitive to help you achieve what is stated in the ToR. As such, educate yourself on how to manage these assignments.”

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