Home > Poslovno svetovanje > Področja dela > Operativno prestrukturiranje > Alan Weiss: The Consulting Bible

Origins and evolution

The role of a consultant is to improve the client’s condition.

The first management consulting firm was A.D.Little, founded in 1886 by a professor from MIT. Another potential candidate for consulting approach was Frederick Winslow Taylor, guru of time-and-motion studies. But Taylorism was based on a great lie – Taylor fudged his numbers. Independent management consulting was boosted by Depression-era government regulation.

In recent years the traditional audit and accounting firms moved into more generalized management consulting. This mentality has resulted in time-based billing, which for author is unwise, unethical and unforgivable. Management consulting profession is now reaching around 500 billion USD.

Need for the buyer comes in three flavors:

  • Preexisting needs.
  • Need you create – all clients know what they want, few know what they need.
  • Need you anticipate.

A consultant is a brain, a subcontractor is another pair of hands. Number of consultants is around 200.000 in US and twice as much globally.

When you look at the dimension of consulting, you can look at how much expertise you bring, how much useful processes and how much trust. Trust is the honest-to-God belief that you’re acting in the other person’s best interest.

A market plan will move you forward. A business plan will kill you, because you’ll hit it. You don’t want to increase revenue by 20 percent, you want to maximize revenue, maximize new client acquisition and expand your web presence.

TIAABB – there is always a bigger boat.

The best way to achieve success by any measure in the consulting profession is to be a generalist, not a specialist.

Consultants are cost-effective responses to transformational needs.

The concept of communities will flourish.


Always use an attorney and tax advisor who are profoundly well versed in small, professional services firms.

Regarding administrative support here are six suggestions and resolutions:

  • Tuck your ego away.
  • Learn to do simply tasks efficiently.
  • Learn to type and I don’t mean with your thumbs.
  • Delegate and outsource.
  • Shift work to the client.
  • Hire people by the hour situationally.

Consulting demands time, especially to grow a thriving practice.

Never confuse a solo practice with a boutique firm or attempt a hybrid. You’ll be burdened with the disadvantage of both and few of the benefits of either.

Boutique firm owner is working on:

  • Branding that promotes the company.
  • An exit strategy to sell the company at some finite point and to leave.
  • Retention of licensing and royalty rights to increase the firm’s value.
  • The owner’s salary would be considered as profit in the business at time of sale.

Unless highly paid people bring in new business, they are not worth the money. Delivery people are a dime a dozen. There are tens of thousands of delivery people who solely implement, teach and execute because they can’t market and can’t be a rainmaker.

Wealth is discretionary time. I can always make another dollar, but I can’t make another minute.

Consulting model is about shared values, relationship, conceptual agreement, accepted proposal, implementation, results and then back to relationships.


How to market your services while reducing your time and labor:

  • Do not deal with non-buyers: People in HR or learning and development are rarely buyers. Never engage in a relationship with someone who can say »no« but can’t say »yes«.
  • Streamline your delivery model: Never accept a consulting alternative from the client.
  • Use the client resources: there’s an advantage in transferring skills to the client.
  • Outsource and delegate
  • Subcontract

The methodology and implementation are merely the engine room. The more buyers are drawn to you because of your brand and reputation, the less time you need to invest in finding them and educating them about your value.

The true buyer is an individual whom author named the economic buyer. Feasibility buyers are on the other hand people who may evaluate an approach in terms of culture or methodology, or need, but who cannot make the decision to buy. Never be satisfied by or stop at gatekeepers. An economic buyer can, metaphorically, sign a check. You don’t deal with purchasing, procurement or accounts payable and you don’t adhere to their rater arbitrary and unilateral payment practices.

Questions to determine economic buyer:

  • Who owns the budget?
  • Who can approve a project?
  • Who controls the resources?
  • Who initiated the request?
  • Who will claim responsibility for results?
  • Do you need to seek anyone else’s approval?
  • If we were to shake hands, can we start tomorrow?

Conceptual agreement has three aspects: objectives, measures of success (metrics) and value.

Objectives are always business outcomes, never deliverables or inputs. They describe a component of an improved client conditions. Behind every corporate objective is a personal objective.

Metrics are indicators or measures of progress and/or competition. One question could always be – how will you know we’ve accomplished your intent.

Value is the most overlooked aspect of conceptual agreement.

Principles of leverage:

  • Always provide a choice of “yeses”.
  • Never bundle, always unbundle.
  • Ensure that your full array of capabilities is manifest and understood.

Consulting as a business – how to market your value rapidly and profitably

Attract customers with reputation and expertise. Gain business through referral. Gain business through repeated business with your customers.

Some of the ideas how to market yourself: networking, position papers, teaching, print interviews, referrals, third-party endorsements, trade association leadership, word-of-month, web site, speaking, position papers.

Trust pyramid goes from:

  • Trust based on referral
  • Trust based on expertise
  • Trust based on affiliation needs
  • Trust based on intellectual respect
  • Trust based on an emotional connection

Steps to getting a yes:

  • First contact
  • Establishing a relationship
  • Overcoming objections
  • Gaining conceptual agreement
  • Providing a proposal with options
  • Yes

Social media amplify your message. Blog three times a week. Work for 30 minutes a day on social media.

Think of the fourth sale first. A client is never an “event”, but part of a relationship that endures as long as you provide value and volition.

A client represents a long-term, high-revenue potential if you can provide long-term, evolutionary value in the form of varied services and products, which you continually introduce.

Use 100 percent of the 30 percent of technology most relevant to you. That will ensure that you control it and it doesn’t control you.

Presence – be authority and expert

Three requirements of strong brand are:

  • You identify a market need.
  • You have a competency.
  • You are passionate about.

If you are a sole practitioner, the brand has to be about you. If you intend to build a company to sell someday, the brand has to be about the company. You should initially create brands around your value proposition.

You start with brand creation (establishing, positioning and analyzing impact), brand building (WOM, promotion, materials), brand equity (name, value, equity, leverage).

Your largest potential market is in providing new products and services to existing clients. The second-best market is in your existing products and services to new clients.

The only time an alliance makes sense is when there is money on the table. Guidance for effective alliances:

  • Focus on clear, short-term piece of business.
  • Look for 1+1=60.
  • Look for skills and competences that others don’t have.
  • Don’t mistake your need for affiliation with a need for alliance.
  • Check out potential partner.
  • Don’t make it legal.

If second party is paid only for delivery, then it is subcontracting.

If you don’t actively seek referral business while working with a client, you are not convinced that you provide value and others deserve to have access to it. There are three types of referrals: client, nonclient and indirect referrals.

Retainers are for “access to your smarts”, they are not for proactive involvement. You can take on quite a few retainers clients concurrently. Retainers’ arrangements can be very long-lived. Be careful with retainer business and don’t allow that it gets expanded into proactive work. There are two equally insidious extremes: scope creep, in which you allow the client to add more and more tasks to your project, and scope seep, where you keep adding more and more tasks to your project.

When adding retainer business define: how many people are involved, determine the scope and duration of your involvement. And doing it be very responsive, demonstrate a sense of priority, make every interaction valuable.


Thought leaders tend to create intellectual capital that they translate into intellectual property that can be purchased and accessed and implemented by others. The process of turning concepts and intangible ideas into pragmatic and tangible approaches is known as instantiation.

Became cited and quoted. Remember outreach is for instigation and gravity is for investigation.

Everyone can write. But not everyone has something to say. Don’t write everything you know, write what the reader needs to know.

Value-based fees are the practice of charging for your contribution to the value the client derives from the project.

Logic makes people think, emotions make them act.

When you start to capitalize on your fame, you will have four options: subcontracting, franchising, licensing or doing it itself.

Franchising can be lucrative, but don’t go for percentage of business, since you will need to do audit of franchiser’s book.

You build on strength. When you are strong and growing is when you should take prudent risk. Innovate and initiate new offering.

Reinvention is important. Anticipate need. The shift in the workplace and society will always continue. Some triggers of reinvention:

  • Unexpected success
  • Unexpected failures
  • New technologies
  • High growth
  • Demographic shifts
  • New knowledge
  • Perception change

You may be a member of a community peers, but you should be the leader of a community of clients, prospects, recommenders, publishers, media people and so on.

Consulting methodology

You don’t do things to a client. You help to improve the client’s condition.

The proposal process begins with you doing everything possible to assure yourself of success. You need to create a proposal that’s accepted every time. You must learn to ask questions intended to determine the economic buyer. To establish true with a true buyer:

  • Provide value
  • Never assume the client is damaged. Never think you can solve in 12 minutes what the prospect has struggled with for 12 months.
  • Drop instances into your conversation, without disclosing confidential information.
  • Take your time.

Demonstrate you are a Peer of the Buyer.

You need at least one measuring device for every objective; try to have three value statements for every objective; and try to monetize at least half of those value statements. These are the keys to high value/high fee proposals.

A proposal is a summation (of conceptual agreement), not an exploration (of a relationship) or a negotiation (of fees and terms).

Structure of proposal:

  • Situational appraisal – it can reflect either a problem to be solved or an opportunity to be gained
  • Objectives
  • Measures of success
  • Value – value that will accrue from meeting the objectives
  • Methodology and options – list of choices of yeses
  • Timing
  • Joint accountabilities (ours, yours, we jointly agree)
  • Terms and conditions
  • Acceptance – proposal could serve as contracts

Never suggest phases. If you discussing fee and not value, you’ve lost control of the discussion. Negotiate terms but never fees. Always ask what’s in the buyer self-interest, not just you own, if you want true commitment.

Implementation – simplicity over complexity

Francis Friar William of Ockham postulated that of several possible solutions of a problem, the simplest is usually the most effective. When confronted with varying hypotheses, choose the one with the least assumptions.

Just as our presence is not a factor in fee-setting or value, complexity is not a factor, either. No one in the organization believes what they read or hear. They believe what they see. Implementation is a partnership. If the client and especially the buyer are not pulling their own weight, you will sink with them.

Undocumented promises are deadly. When you start adding up all those undocumented promises and the labor and work that they consumed, the project margins were being squeezed out of existence. The proposal is organic document, driving and regulating the engagement.

Here are some conditions that prompt scope seep:

  • The perfection-over-success trap
  • The tidy-up detours
  • The mine-is-bigger-than-your pitfall
  • The “oops” belly flop
  • The ego catch-wire

Tell people what they need to know, not everything that you know.


The entire point of our profession is to improve the client’s condition. Make sure the client recognizes and endorses the improvement.

Equation for success is (tangible outcomes * duration) + (intangible outcomes * emotional impact) + peripheral benefits + variables positively affected/fixed investment.

There are three parts to every sale: the original project, referral business and expansion business.

Referrals are a win-win-win dynamic, enabling your client and you to help still more people. That’s the focus you must have and it’s the key to the combination of the vault.

If you walk away from a happy client without any referrals, then you’ve left money on the table that you will never recover.

Mature practices should have about 80 percent repeat business and 20 percent new business. Repeat business is with the same client, but not necessary the same buyer.

Transference becomes possible when you take your existing project to a new buyer.

You do your best with every client, but your best has to constantly get better.

Implementing Consulting Methodologies – interpersonal methodologies

Coaching is something that all consultants have always done. Any consultants on retainer are a coach perforce.


  • Establish behavioral objectives
  • Create metrics for success
  • Establish the value of meeting the objectives


  • Observation and shadowing
  • Initiation of 360-degree assessment
  • Rehearsal and role playing
  • Observation and feedback

Facilitation should involve debate, disagreement and even argument. Everyone will be heard, without interrupting, but no speeches. Observed evidence and facts are required. Next step, accountabilities. Summarize agreements and next steps.

Conflict over the best interests of the organization is common, healthy and desirable. Never try to eliminate it. Resolve it so that positive results ensue. There are two types of conflict:

  • Objectives – people are in legitimate disagreement over the destination, the output, the goal or the results.
  • Alternatives – people are in legitimate disagreement over the route to the destination.

Here are six steps to deal with conflict over objectives:

  • Establish who owns the decision and will be the final decision maker.
  • Gather the key stakeholders and contributors.
  • Try to gain agreement on the »musts« that are to be met.
  • Seek compromise where possible.
  • Work with people individually.
  • Allow the decision owner to make the final decision.

The absolute key in negotiating is to identify “musts” and differentiate them from “wants” and never to confuse the two. Musts are critical to the success of decision or mission. They are measurable by all parties. They are realistic.

You train animals, you educate people. There are three components to most jobs:

  • The physical ability
  • Skills: knowledge and experience
  • Behavior

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. People must be evaluated against the future skills and behavior required.

Effective education:

  • Ensure that you have an issue
  • Determine what the outcomes should be
  • Create the briefest program possible
  • Evaluate the results

The path to education should be: business requirements, performance requirements, educational requirements, curriculum, specific interventions (measurements and delivery systems).

Teams and groups

What is the greatest single influence on organizational performance? Leadership. Leaders should be consistent.

Time is a critical issue that is usually apparent, but now always supported. Meetings are the least efficient vehicle for the exchange of information.

Succession planning is one of the most vital elements of any organization’s growth and prosperity, and one of the most misunderstand and poorly implemented elements.

Career development should mean that following it taking place:

  • Everyone is receiving training.
  • Those with potential are being developed for future jobs.
  • People have the option to select programs for personal enrichment
  • The highest-potential people have development tracks that are in sync with their places in the succession planning process.
  • The development is synergistic with the performance evaluations and succession planning need.

98 percent of job description are about tasks and inputs.

Most organizations have very few true teams. What they have in abundance are committees. Committee are people who work together but still may succeed or fail independently of their colleagues. In team they work and succeed or fail as a unit.

Organization development

Virtually no one in senior management or executive ranks was trained to be a strategist.

Strategy is the creation of a future picture of the enterprise, from which you work backwards to determine viable routes to that destination. Planning is the extrapolation from the present to predict future goals. Hence, “strategic planning” is an oxymoron.

Most strategies do not fail in formulation, which is always ideal and theoretical. They fail in implementation, which is in the trenches and demands accountability.

Conditions for change:

  • Focus on the macro, not the micro.
  • Emphasize long-term thinking.
  • Use a telescope, not a microscope.
  • Innovate; don’t fix.
  • Change the culture along with the processes and procedures.
  • Maintain your priorities.
  • Avoid fads.
  • Assign a champion.
  • Focus on output, not input.
  • Don’t be silly.

Culture comprises that set of beliefs that governs behavior. We all have beliefs, which creates attitudes, which are manifest in behaviors.

Six elements of effective methods to deal with a crisis:

  • Transparency in communications.
  • The leader exemplifies the behavior.
  • Crisis management rests on a foundation of daily beliefs.
  • Find cause, not blame.
  • Reduce effects first and fast.
  • Tell people when it’s (really) over.

Innovation is applied creativity. Problem solving is the restoration of former levels of performance. Innovation is the raising of the bar, proactively, to the new levels of performance.

Ethics of the Business

Ethics are about doing well by doing right. Do the core values of the place match operating values of the place? The operating beliefs (what actually guide people’s daily actions).

Lousy prospects make horrid clients. Some reasons to refuse business:

  • It is not consistent with your values.
  • The labor is too severe.
  • You don’t believe in the product or service of the client.
  • The work is primarily not your strength.

And if you already took it, get out if the client stops paying, it attempts to enlarge the project or the buyer does not live up to the stated accountabilities.

Exit strategies

It’s never too early to begin planning for high equity, but it can be too late.

  • Maintain strong lists and databases
  • Retain strong long-term relationship with the key vendor.
  • Create and protect intellectual property.
  • As you get older, consider increasing your salary and benefits.
  • Gather and constantly refresh testimonials.
  • Maintain visibility in media.
  • Update your look.

If you sell your company, the IP becomes a potential asset and part of equity. If you don’t sell your company, it remains an asset that may be sold or licensed.

Life balance is about a healthy distribution of talents utilized at work and at play.

When you look for investors, you can take several routes:

  • An equivalent operation that is seeking to expand.
  • Allow an employee buyout.
  • Find people in other countries.
  • Look for hungry start-up people.
  • Consider your family.
  • Target a much larger firm.
  • Break it up.

Payback and reinvestment

Technology is enabling remote, global consulting and producing an exponential growth market.

When we offer maximum diversity in the eyes of mature clients (like broad-based advisory support) we enter into comprehensive relationship.

If our diversity is high but the client maturity is low, a retainer relationship covering any number of issues may be the best role.

When the client maturity is high but your own expertise remains narrow, you’ll tend to be the expert resource.

Finally, when your diversity is low and the client maturity is low, you’ll simply be a commodity.

The future:

  • The number of independent consultants will grow.
  • Organizational needs will grow for consultants.
  • Attempts at regulation, certification and sanction will ebb and flow, but essentially fail.
  • Technology will enable global reach for everyone.
  • Informal networks of consultants will form to gather strength from numbers and diverse resources.
  • Hour and daily billing will be gone expect for low-level practitioners.
  • The wholesale and retail markets will grow and decline independently based on economic factors.
  • Communities of interaction among peers, in both wholesale and retail venues, will grow and replace traditional trade and professional associations.

Consulting in Crisis Times

Volatility is:

  • Unpredictable in timing, but predictable in impact.
  • The post-volatile conditions become the norm for varying amounts of time.
  • No matter what your client’s market share, it’s insufficient to create immunity to volatility.
  • People are amenable to hear about solutions, directions and predictions in volatile times. It is a better time to be heard and to serve as a trusted advisor than ever.

Leave a Reply