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The Executive’s Guide to Consultants: How to Find, Hire and Get Great Results from Outside Experts Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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"A valuable tool fopr consultants looking to bolster a client list and develop better relationships." In the Black 20130201 "[A] careful, thoughtful, thorough approach to every aspect of the consulting project, alerting you to issues that you might be overlooked but can cause problems." Globe & Mail 20130101
About the Author
David A. Fields is the founder and managing director of The Ascendant Consortium, a unique organization specializing in maximizing the ROI from consulting engagements. He writes a monthly column for IndustryWeek, and his commentary has appeared in USA Today, CNN Money, Investor's Business Daily, Advertising Age, BusinessWeek, SmartMoney, and other publications.
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With that said, The Executive's Guide to Consultants, provides a fresh external viewpoint on how to make sure you are truly adding value for clients while minimizing execution risk and as a result getting the fees you deserve...and most importantly minimizing the friction inevitable in doing so.
Now, it's the rare consultant-written book that doesn't get some criticism as being self-serving in trying to benefit his own consulting practice, but that would miss this book's essential benefit altogether. The author's approach creates a win for both sides by advocating a fair and transparent approach to sharing in the value created by any engagement. He starts with a clear picture of the value created (what he calls "Why bother?") and then factors in an apportionment of the value between each of the different projects involved (including those the consultant isn't involved in); the relative contribution of both the client and the consultant, and the risk involved. He then suggests a financial pie split (my terminology)that provides clients with a better return than they could get elsewhere while still appropriately rewarding the consultant's contribution. He also shares some useful implementation practices that can be built in early to minimize execution risk.
The book would have been even better if it had included a set of downloadable templates (context document, proposal formats, checklists, etc.) to help the reader integrate them into their own practices more easily, but that's a nit.
In summary, the Executive's Guide to Consultants brings value to both clients and consultants by showing how aligning their mutual interest for fast and flawless execution in a way that traditional "butts in seats" pricing never could. I'd highly recommend it for any consultant that wants to move beyond just selling hours.
In major sections of his book he covers how to choose the right projects, finding the most appropriate consultants, how to structure fees and contracts, and how to successfully implement. All of the material is equally valid for executives who hire consultants and consultants who are trying to improve their client relationships. I like his first chapter a lot, which asks why you think a project or program needs to get funded and implemented in the first place. Both companies and consultants would do well to ask this question again and again, and to stay away from low-value, low-priority initiatives which will have no major impact. Fields' writing is clear and breezy, which sets it apart from the stiff, halting prose of many business books.
I've researched and written four books on professional-client relationships, most recently Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, and I really do feel this book is the best guide I've yet seen on how to enhance the executive-consultant partnership. Highly recommended.