So you finally landed a consultant gig, with a big company that can actually pay the bills. A lot is expected of you. You sold them on a bill of goods that could only possibly be delivered under the perfect circumstance.
The issue is that you are in hostile territory. Everyone is there to make you look bad. If you are an SEO consultant, you have web developers questioning your every move. They are just waiting for a slip up. If you are a pay per click (PPC) consultant, you have an in-house team, agency or the "media" guy doing just enough research to make you look bad as quickly as they can.
No one wants you there; you are the enemy. They don't want your ideas or opinions. Most importantly, they don't want the extra work that is going to be involved with you coming in to help the business. So what does a consultant do?
I have seen too many consultants come in too aggressive from day one. Throwing things out of the window, ripping up projects from the ground up. What you need to remember is that, most likely, you are telling someone that their baby is ugly. That all of the work they have done is worthless. While you might think you are God’s gift to the company, nine out of 10 of your ideas will be roadblocked, and you will look incompetent if you do not have the in-house staff on board with your idea.
I have made this mistake more times than I choose to remember, but there are ways that you can avoid falling into this trap. Here are six good tips to keep in mind when entering a new company, in priority order.
1. Make everyone look good to their boss - The first thing you do when going into a business is to compliment them. Find something. "Great Website." "I love the form placement." "Wow, you have really come a long way with this project, and I can't wait to work with you on really enhancing it." Find anything you can. Make sure you figure out all parties involved, and be sure that each person gets some type of compliment. Everyone loves to hear a compliment, especially in front of the boss.
2. Build rapport - Find ways to build rapport right off the bat with everyone in there. I understand that this is not a popularity contest, but it is important that you make a connection with each person in the room. Do it before you start ruffling feathers!
3. Don't find all of the flaws at once - Don't just come in and start throwing stuff out of the door. Not only will you piss a lot of people off, but going too quick and throwing all the ideas out at once not only shortens the time they are going to need you, but too many ideas will make it overwhelming. This often prevents people from doing anything at all. Take it easy, and go slow until things start getting accomplished.
4. Work with the team, not with the person that hired you - The most important thing to know is that the guy who hired you needs to be happy, but you also need to make the team that makes things happen in an organization happy. Not only will they get the things done that you were put in their organization to do, but they are the ones that are having drinks with the boss. You need to make sure they are saying good things about you.
5. Beers - Speaking of beers and rapport. Having drinks (coffee, beer, wine, whatever) is the number one way you can build a relationship with someone. Figure out a way to get some social time in with the people working with you, and you will soon realize they will be on your side. No one wants to make a "friend" look bad, right?
6. Don't Railroad - Don't ever go into an organization and start railroading your ideas onto people. Remember, you are the outsider, and being too aggressive is a quick way to gain a lot of enemies. Unless you are being paid to shake things up, this is going to be a quick way to lose a contract.
Follow these rules and I guarantee you that your next consulting gig will be a longer, more financially rewarding and successful engagement.