Be the Benefit, not the Butler

How can I move away from ‘being the butler’ to ‘being the benefit’ to my client?

When you’re a business consultant who works on retainer without any long-term project goals, there is a tendency for the relationship to become more responsive and less proactive. Instead of always ‘seeking to add value’, it can trend towards ‘waiting to add value’. The latter is like a butler who stands beside your client, dutifully waiting for their client to request a website update or to fix their computer systems.

Contrast this with a business consultant who is more agile, who works in sprints, who has clear objectives laid out on a project plan. The progress they are making is track-able, and like a lean waterfall, is continually making iterations on an ever-improving product. Which do you think adds more value to the client? The always available butler or the constantly improving business consultant?

Which of these is more like an employee and which of these is more like a business owner? While a business owner would love for their employee to always be improving the reality is that they may be perversely incentivized to do as little as possible in order to maintain the status quo and ‘not rock the boat’ or ‘work themselves out of a job’ whereas a business consultant should always be striving to add value or reduce cost for the client.

You Are Who You Think You Are

How are you spending your time as a business consultant? A large part of that is dictated by how you view yourself, your role in the organizations you serve, and what value you provide. The negotiator who is most willing to walk away will most often win the negotiation. The employee or business consultant most worried about losing their job or contract is always the one who gets let go first. This isn’t playing ‘hard to get’, per se, but is more like playing ‘hard to lose’.

The primary difference is the mindset.

As a business consultant, it’s easy to think of yourself as being better than others, but doing the work is hard. Business owners expect to pay you a bigger check for a less-risky or less-timely result that they would get from hiring, training, or using an employee to do the same set of work for the same outcome. They are paying for results, not for your time and as a business consultant, you should price accordingly.

Business consultants are people – people who are known to either undervalue their services or mistakenly charge for time instead of value. This is generally a result of the people we hang around and the type of upbringing we’ve had. Most educational systems are setup to create employees who will show up to work each day and do what they are told. Business consultants who do this are more akin to a butler or an employee than to a trusted advisor.

Permission to Speak

Who am I and what right do I have to say these things? What proof do I have? I can only write of my own experiences and what I am learning. I have been blessed to have been raised in a safe environment, been educated in a standard way, and surrounded by people who encourage me. I have only relatively recently entered into a new world of business owners and other ‘doers’ of the world and this has made all of the difference.

James Altucher recently released a new book called Choose Yourself which is premised around the idea that you shouldn’t wait for other people to give you permission or to choose you for their team. You should instead choose yourself first. To use dating as an analogy, let’s say you’re asking someone out. Instead of saying, “Will you go out with me to the park?” you say, “I’m going to the park. Why don’t you come with me?”

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World

“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” is a quote often attributed to Gandhi, but what he actually said was, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.” This reminds me of another quote, a poem by an unknown monk around 1100 A.D., which one of my clients keeps up on his desk, right in front of his keyboard. Here it is in full below. I’ve hyperlinked how it’s affected me:

When I was a young man,
I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world,
so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation,
I began to focus on my town.

I couldn’t change the town and as an older man,
I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man,
I realize the only thing I can change is myself,
and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself,
I could have made an impact on my family.

My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation and
I could indeed have changed the world.