Since I am a professional in the Purchasing and Supply Chain area, I have always worked in large structured multinationals, with established processes and procedures, aiming not only at good professional performance, but also at good Human Resources practices, whose objectives are the development, respect and harmony within the company itself.
My professional trajectory ended up taking me to the world of consulting, where I had the opportunity to learn things that structured companies could not teach me. Here I want to share some of these lessons learned, valid both for hiring consultants and for a possible career change.
1.Consultants don't want your job: Consultants have a very specific profile. They are generally professionals who are used to working independently and who do not need micro-management. They are very dependable and are used to working remotely and travel for long periods. These professionals typically appreciate the flexibility that consulting work offers. Most consultants are paid in an hourly base, that is, if the consultant prefers to work late at night, for example, as long as he fulfills the “X” number of hours agreed in his contract, it’s his choice. For these and other reasons, many consultants are not interested in working again as a full time professionals in companies. In a way, the structure offered ends up paralyzing the consultant. Often, when the company's Board of Directors hires a consultancy to assist in a particular project or to carry out a transformation process in the company, it is common for professionals who work in the company to be afraid of being replaced. If you are a good professional, you will certainly be valued, after all, you have something important that the consultant does not: History and knowledge of internal paths and contacts to get the information you need. Relax and try to build a good relationship with the consultant. This way, everyone wins, because no, he most likely doesn't even think about taking your job.
2. Consultants don't have conventional hours: If you, like me, with young children and value your nights and weekends, maybe Consulting isn't for you. The consultant does not work in the conventional hours, “from 8 am to 5 pm”. As a consultant, you will receive emails and calls on a Friday at 9pm from someone asking you “what is the status of project X?”. The point is that we don't know exactly what our clients' professional routines are. The person asking you about the status of the project on Friday night may be working on the plane during a business trip, may be working in the time zone halfway around the world, or may simply prefer to work at that time. As the saying goes, “The customer is always right”, so as a good consultant, it is a good practice that you meet your customer's needs. However, I'm not agreeing. On the contrary, when I hire a consultancy, I find it extremely inelegant not to respect schedules, however, unfortunately this is an important rule of the Consultancy game.
3. You will buy ingredients but will not see the baked cake: If you are a professional who needs to see the finished work, then consulting will certainly not be for you. There are 2 main reasons to hire a consultancy: The lack of resources to carry out the work (process or project) internally or the lack of knowledge to do so. In both situations, the consultant's job is to “pave the way”, through training, through the creation of processes, or in the case of purchases, to identify opportunities for cost reduction or supply chain optimization for example. It happens that often, the consultant identifies opportunities, but after training and transferring their knowledge to the client, the execution of these opportunities is the client's responsibility. For example: Let's say the consultant was hired to optimize and streamline the supplier base. After a few months of work, RFXs, visits and meetings, the consultant presents the results to the client and it is up to the client to execute this opportunity, bring the new supplier into the company, register in the system, initiate purchase, as well as finalizing the partnership with the former suppliers. So, if you are the type of professional who likes to follow your projects from start to finish, maybe Consulting is not for you, because in this case, you might never see the vendor you found in action with your client.
4. There are still many people who lead by fear: One of the most beautiful opportunities in consulting work is the access to different companies and organizational cultures. You will have the opportunity to work for several companies at the same time and thus be part of the routine of these companies. I was shocked to find out how many companies are still “stuck” in the 1980s. I had the opportunity to work with leaders whose turnover (calculation that relates the number of employees who left the company with the number of employees hired) was 10 % PER MONTH since they took over the leadership of the team. And the reason is simple: Toxic work environment - a subject of extreme importance, which deserves a solo article. I had the opportunity to have clients calling on my cell phone, desperate because they would lose their jobs if a certain activity was not completed by a certain time, even knowing that there was no reason, need or sufficient data for that. With these leaders, I was reminded of patriarchy and dictatorship. The leaders were not open to dialogue. And as a result, talents left the company, causing it to lose its intellectual capital. Again perhaps one of the beauties or nightmares of consulting, we often don't get a chance to choose our clients.
5. Not all consultants are good: And finally, be careful! Not every consultant is good. Some consultants become consultants by choice and others by lack of choice. It is extremely important that you carefully evaluate the background, curriculum and credentials, not only of the company you are hiring, but also of the professionals who will work on your project. During my time in consulting I saw many professionals being chosen for being the best cost and not necessarily the best profile. I also saw excellent professionals being offended by receiving offers that were extremely below their level. As a result, the pressure for results and the disqualified team ended up collapsing one of the projects I had the opportunity to follow. Again, as a rule, Consultancies, like any other supplier, need to be very well evaluated regarding their performance, preferably before signing a contract.
Whatever your professional future may be, consultant or not, the recommendation is simple: Be the best professional you can. Take care of the smallest activities, learn to work smarter - instead of just working harder. In this way, you will certainly be successful, wether being a full time employee or being a consultant. Good luck!