The Pros and Cons of On-Site Consulting
Blog Barista: Dana Graham | Mar 13, 2019 | Project Management | Brew time: 5 min
Most consulting practices have their staff work at the client’s site, which allows for close interaction and improved services among consultants. But that means, as a consultant, you don’t always have the same routine or a standard “home base.” When KL&A consultants get together, a common question is “where are you sitting these days?” since we all move around quite a bit and do not all work for the same client.
For those who are interested in becoming a consultant, it’s important to realize that it significantly differs from a regular office job. I was able to speak with several of KL&A’s consultants about all the pros and cons of on-site consulting. I learned, through many conversations, that the consulting world is fluid and ever-changing. It is always interesting, but sometimes challenging. As with most jobs, there are things we love and things we would love to change in the consulting side of business. Hindsight is 20/20, so here’s what you need to know about being a consultant.
Behind the Scenes View
As an on-site consultant, you really get to know your customer and their processes. You’ll work with them on a daily basis and see them perform their job, and often follow their procedures in your own work. You also get a very good understanding of their challenges. This will allow for the development of trust and the opportunity to offer suggestions for improvement.
When working on-site, you are exposed to a much broader spectrum of the client’s business. For example, you may have the opportunity to learn more about grants and funding. Many of us have learned new skills when placed on different assignments. You’ll likely gain experience in new industries and areas which can help keep you engaged and informed.
One of the many benefits of working on-site is having direct access to the client. You won’t have to wait for emails, or phone calls. This level of access and direct communication often decreases misunderstandings and errors which can ultimately increase project success and efficiency. You can also identify and propose other opportunities for improvement that the client may not recognize.
Stronger Client Relationships
Clients will trust you more as you build a stronger relationship. They often see you less as a vendor and more as a member of their team because you are with them daily instead of only interacting during meetings or calls. This relationship will help you to better hone your interpersonal skills which is necessary for consultants to thrive.
You’ll feel a sense of empowerment. Most of us like the feeling of empowerment because we’re out “doing” rather than being in a home office. Office life can be great, but as a consultant there is a strong sense of satisfaction when you’re out in the field because you’re engaging with the clients more and being a part of their process.
Many of the consultants at KL&A feel trusted by our leadership. We’re not subject to a lot of oversight which feels nice to have some freedom. It also feels amazing to be relied upon to do our jobs well and do it how we think is best. The autonomy you’ll have as a consultant should fuel you to perform well. You’ll find yourself willing to go the extra mile in order to maintain that trust.
Despite the benefits of working on-site, you can sometimes feel disconnected from your fellow consultants and coworkers which is fairly normal. KL&A consultants are not exempt from this feeling. When others aren’t familiar with your project or vendor, it’s hard to quickly explain your job and situation which makes it difficult for coworkers to give meaningful advice when you seek it. But frequent and open communication between you, other consultants, and your company, whether it’s through email or in-person, can help.
As consultants, we often see barriers arise on-site. Some of those barriers relate to having little or no control over client resources which can be challenging. No one likes feeling like they’re being an iron fist manager, but from time to time, you’ll want things done your way and have control. When the resources don’t work for you and you have no control over them can be frustrating. Your preferred process and management style might (and possibly will) differ from the client, but you can minimize frustration with compromise and clear communication.
It can be difficult to share the “pain” of your project when others are not familiar with your work. As a result, some consultants internalize those irritations, which can eventually lead to tension between the consultant and the client. When you work at a client’s site, there isn’t a lot of room for venting or candor and you should always be on your “A-Game.” That means your frustrations can be a little harder to deal with sometimes. Reach out to your leadership, manager or your fellow consultants to openly discuss your frustrations because they will be able to empathize best.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
As an on-site consultant, sometimes you’ll miss out on the company culture that has developed in the home office. For example, KL&A is an awesome place to work. But often, we don’t get to share the fun of ping-pong matches or the perks like free fruit and fancy coffee because we aren’t there most days. It can sometimes feel like you are on an island and the rest of your company is on the mainland. Make more of an effort to participate in company events and visit your home office in order to establish a stronger connection.
The bottom line is that on-site consulting is not for everyone. It requires a lot of independence, patience and communication. You really have to be a self-starter. You must also be a chameleon of sorts, since you might move around a lot and work on new projects with new clients. But, if you’re that kind of person who loves to take on new challenges, meet new people and customers, and possess a strong skill of responsibility then on-site consulting could be a perfect fit for you! As a consultant, you will get to learn new things, build relationships, and be a rockstar representative of your company!
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