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#150: Managing "Pickup" Consulting Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 09, 2009
I know clients increasingly want the right team of experts and don't want to pay for people just because they work at the same company as the star consultant. However, isn’t it problematic to assemble and manage a team of people you don't know?

That's the point of having a robust network of talented and ethical consultants. Yes, assembling and managing a team of independent experts is an acquired skill and takes some hard work. It is much like playing pickup sports, where many individuals, who have neither played together nor faced the other team before, create a team that has to perform. Each individual is a talented and successful individual in their own right, usually capable of running the team themselves. In pickup games, however, adaptation, flexibility and humility are required to weave together a team that often can beat a team that has played together a long time (the 1980 US Olympic hockey team playing the USSR comes to mind).

I am not minimizing the risks of managing such a team and recognize that it takes some extra work that a larger company may not have to do. However, there are benefits for both the consulting team members as well as for the client. For the consultants, each member must clarify and defend their cherished positions, methodologies and assumptions, in contrast with that situation if they were working with the same people they always do. This really keeps you on your toes and rapidly advances your expertise. For the client, the self-assembled team brings robust, innovative and validated thinking to a problem that a larger firm, usually having developed a branded standard methodology and using in-house research for which they usually consider a strength, cannot provide. These are the kind of comments clients who are trending toward use of boutique and independent consultants make when talking about their need for nimble, creative and cutting edge thinking.

Tip: Your ability to attract and serve these kinds of clients and win sizable engagements that used to automatically go to larger firms all comes down to your network. You need to know well and spend time with consultants from a range of disciplines and get to know how they work, what they know and their ethics. Certification is one good marker of a candidate for your future teams, but spending time in professional associations, doing pro bono work, and just talking over an issue you or they have will give you a sense of whether they are the right person you want on your "pickup" team.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  innovation  networks  practice management  proposals  sales  teaming  trends  virtual teams 

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