I see data all the time of how people mistrust lawyers and accountants, our fellow professional service providers. What is the public image of management consultants?
The question is a bit tricky since, although consultants, lawyers, and accountants are all professional service providers, consultants deal very little with the public at large. Public surveys of professions mostly deal with "retail" services such as nurses, bankers, lawyers, car salespeople, etc. Consultants, however, generally deal with businesses, even if some of those businesses are quite small. Therefore, surveys are rare that include consultants unless the respondents are business people.
In prior Daily Tips, we have reported that consultants generally are viewed skeptically by business people (generally not the people hiring or using consultants) but not by their direct clients. However, how the public sees professionals does depend on perceptions of ethical behaviors taken in doing their work. Used car salespeople and lobbyists are mistrusted by the public because they are seen as doing anything for money. Nurses are seen as having high ethics because they are seen as putting the patient's interest first.Tip:
Perceptions of ethics matter, not just in your perceived value to the client but in whether you get selected for assisting them at all. As a consultant, do you make it clear that you are charging for every hour worked, or do you regularly suggest additional work (within reason) that you will provide at no cost because it is in the client's interest? Do you go out of your way to be respectful to not just the client but to his or her staff, vendors, and other consultants? Look at how the public sees various professions and think about how these professions interact with the public that creates that impression. Look at a recent Gallup poll
of public perception of professional ethics. And look at how using the IMC USA Code of Ethics
could help enhance your client's perception of your ethics.© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA