Things I Carry

In the spirit of the LinkedIn series, Things I Carry, I have created my list of the things that I carry. I am a frequent traveler and have well over 1 million miles of air, car, train, and bus travel over the past 10 years, and I’ve learned to travel as lean as possible.  These are the things I carry:

  • Family
  • Assistant
  • ThinkPad
  • Voice recorder
  • Ebook Reader

Family

I will wax sentimental here and tell you that I carry my family in my heart, and this is the most important thing that I carry. I could not do what I do as effectively as I could without the unwavering support and love from my wife and children.  Because of this support, I am more balanced, driven, focused, and grounded than I ever was as a free agent. This is sincere, honest, and true.

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The Best Month Ever

March 2013 - The Best Month Ever

March had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. How could it not have been the best month ever?

For the independent consultant, marketing does not come naturally for us, unless perhaps you are a marketing consultant.  This is because we are technicians by nature, using the definition of technician as described in The E-Myth Revisited, the brilliant book by Michael Gerber.  Our websites and blogs are one of the most visible ways in which we can market ourselves and showcase our knowledge.  Running a website and blog is one thing; getting traffic to our sites is another.

When we relaunched this site in August 2012, we began experimenting with different methods to increase traffic to this site. March…it was the best month ever.  Really! Why was March the best month ever? Three things: Continue reading

Build Customer Loyalty by Adopting their Vision, Mission, and Culture

Wine and Olive Tapas

You can wine them and dine them, but it is going to cost you.

For the small consulting firm and independent consultants, building strong customer loyalty can make or break your business. Weak customer loyalty, at the very least, will make the struggle to keep your sales pipeline full a lot more difficult.  Strong customer loyalty will provide dividends for years to come.  Some of the common approaches to loyalty building are:

  • Wine and dine (or lunch and brunch) your clients
  • Provide outstanding service
  • Be professional

Spoiling your clients with good meals and drinks is fun for all involved, but I do not recommend this as a general rule. There are too many ways for this to go wrong: company policy violations (improper gifts), setting a precedent for future dealings, liability concerns, and the risk of being the next big thing on YouTube.  Reserve this for post-go live celebrations, if you must.  Providing outstanding service is an obvious choice and professionalism speaks for itself, though the monetary value of either is difficult to quantify.

I have found one method that is not as obvious, but is absolutely effective and profitable: adopt your client’s vision, mission, and culture.  There are three steps to doing it right, which I term the RDI MethodReconnaissance, Disguise, and Integration.

 

Step 1: Reconnaissance: 

Find out everything you can about the company.  This is fairly easy for most organizations, although you might have to do a little more work for closely held private companies.

Company website:

  • Find their mission and/or vision statements;
  • Read everything you can find about them.  You can infer a bit about an organization’s purpose just by reading about them;
  • Take a look at the job postings, in particular the area in which you will be working;
  • Pay attention to pictures, see what people are wearing, and determine what appears to be important to the organization.

The Internet:

  • Start with Wikipedia.  This may seem odd, but you can find out a lot about a organization’s culture by their history.
  • Search for news articles from reliable news sources.
  • Look for company events, especially pictures.
  • Check their stock price history, if they are publicly traded, and do an EDGAR search.
  • Find community events or local causes where they take part and support.
People:
  • Ask your peers if they have worked for or know someone who has worked for the organization.
  • If you are going to a client through a recruiter, gather as much information as you can from them.
  • Ask your client contact about the dress code, culture, and environment.  This is obvious, but often overlooked.

Step 2: Disguise

This sounds a lot more clandestine than it really is, but you are essentially adopting a different persona when working with your client.  The main things on which to focus:

  • Dress code
  • Body language
  • Speech

You need to dress like your client does.  Ask them simply: “What is your dress code?”  Don’t have time or cannot get an answer?  Pack several changes of clothing if you must.  Don’t wear Armani suits when working for a heavy construction firm, even if you’re dealing with the back office.  Don’t wear a polo shirt and jeans if you are working with a multi-national bank.

Your body language and speech should communicate that you are on par and equal terms with them. Even if you went to Cambridge or Harvard, do not speak above your client, else you risk alienating them. Speak to them using their terminology and their manner of speech.

Step 3: Integration

The Integration step is the most difficult, because it requires you to ‘drink the Kool-Aid’ and embrace your client’s culture and vision for the future.  This is tricky because it requires you to:

  • Create a good first impression (“first impressions are lasting impressions”);
  • Adopt their philosophy of doing business when dealing with them, without going native;
  • Learn about any internal drama’s and power plays that exist in all organizations, but do not be drawn into them;
  • Be empathetic to their problems;
  • Communicate with the client often that you understand their vision and that you are there to help them achieve their goals;
  • Make your interactions with staff memorable;
  • Leave your ego in your suitcase;
  • Learn the names of everyone with whom you work, even the entry-level staff.  These are people who will be the managers and directors of the future, who will bring you back for repeat projects later.
  • Deliver excellence in service and deliverables.

This is both a mental exercise and an act of diplomacy. If you are not sure what to do, start by listening more and talking less.  Process what you see and hear, make notes if you must, and use that information to foster the lasting relationships necessary.  I have seen many highly qualified consultants shown the door because they fail to grasp the concepts of adopting a client’s culture even a little.

The integration step raises some philosophical questions about adopting a culture that might be in conflict with your personal beliefs. A consultant that strongly supports Amnesty International may find themselves internally conflict by adopting the culture of their client, a defense contractor. That is a topic for another article.

Loyalty in the client-consultant relationship is a two-way street. Your clients will become loyal to you, as you become loyal to them.  98% of our work at Matrice Consulting over the past two years has come from repeat customers, and it has been constant, steady work.  The bonds you create with your client representatives will pay huge dividends further down the road, sometimes many years later.

I close this article with two true stories of this concept in practice: the wrong way and the right way.

The Wrong Way

Once upon a time, there was a large retailer known for its frugality and lean operations.  They needed some consulting resources to implement a new ERP module, so they hired a couple of consultants for the job.  These consultants came to this company dressed in their best Hugo Boss and Armani suits, where they found everyone in the office dressed in jeans and polo shirts.  The consultants met with the company’s staff to begin gathering requirements, but treated the staff like they were below them.  After about two weeks, they were asked to leave and never come back.

The Right Way

Once upon a time, there was a small consulting firm that took a contract to implement a new ERP module with a large public-sector client.  The consultant they sent learned everything he could about the organization.  He adopted their dress code, listened to their problems and challenges, and adopted their mission as his mission, and their vision as his vision.  He communicated his dedication to that vision and he delivered on that promise.  After completing his work with this client, the client contracted with the consulting firm to do more work…again, and again, and again, and again.

Free E-book: Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow RichI am pleased to offer the classic book, Think and Grow Rich, by Napolean Hill, as a free download. Thanks to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), this book is in the public domain and can be freely copied and distributed throughout the United States and most of the free world.

I may, at some point in the future, write a detailed review of this book. For now, let me just state that this book is as influential a book as you will find anywhere. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The fact that it is free does not mean it does not have value. If the concepts within are applied in full, you will find this to be the most valuable book you ever read.

My personal history with the book stretches back to the 1970’s and into my childhood. It was a book on my maternal grandfather’s shelf, and at the time remember thinking that it was an absurd title for a book. I must have looked at the title hundreds of times, as even then I was an avid reader, and maybe I picked it up. Considering that my grandfather was anything but a success and died poor, it seemed ridiculous to me that one could think themselves into wealth. Had I picked that book up then, I wonder how my life might have been different, if at all.  After decades of resistance, I finally picked it up and started reading it this past fall. I realize that I should have read it a long time ago, but I have been known to be stubborn about such and other things.

You can download the book here:

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This book is the original 1937 edition. My source document was from the Internet Archive edition, though we have corrected some of the issues with that document, including formatting, layout and OCR inaccuracies.  We formatted this specifically for e-readers.

Coming Soon: Think and Grow Rich Audiobook

{{ Update: you can now get the audio book here: Think and Grow Rich Audio Book }}

Read, Think and Grow RichI have been reading my way through a number of classic motivational books and have recently read the grand-daddy of them all, Think and Grow Rich, by Napolean Hill. I recall seeing this particular book on my maternal grandfather’s bookshelf when I was young. I never gave it much thought because the title didn’t appeal to me, but I decided to read it a few months ago. I really wish I had read it 30 years ago.

I have decided to record Think and Grow Rich as an audiobook, using the original text, and provide it as a free download. I have several reasons for this:

  • Firstly, I believe this book is hugely important for those who read and apply the principles that Napolean Hill suggests.
  • Secondly, I believe this should be free, as in free speech and free beer. There are audiobook versions available with updated content, but they come at a cost. I believe that this should free and available to everyone who can access the Internet. The only way to do it is to read from the original text, which is in the public domain.
  • Finally, I want to get some experience in desktop recording and audio post-processing, for various podcasts that I am planning.

I will probably begin recording next week and hope to have this published by the end of the year. I will offer it here, as a free download. I will likely publish this on the Internet Archive and LibriVox as well, which will make it available to the largest audience possible. If you would like to be notified when it is available for download, go to our contact page and send us a note with your email address and I’ll be sure to send an email when it is available.


For those who are interested, here is my recording kit:

Hardware:

Software:

  • PromptCast – Open Source teleprompter
  • Audacity – Open Source audio recording, editing, and processing

Why a netbook? I am using a netbook primarily because it is portable, lightweight, handles audio recording perfectly, and I have one available for use. I plan to record while I travel, so I want a kit that I can carry in a small bag and take anywhere, without encumbering my daily laptop with the chore of recording.  The small profile of the netbook makes it easy to setup anywhere.  The microphone weighs more than the netbook! 😀

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** Update **

Due to some difficulties in recording while traveling, specifically ambient noise, as well as a couple of seasonal colds, it is taking me a bit longer to record this. I am looking at having this completed by January 21st, 2013, Martin Luther King day.