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Management Consulting, Circa 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011   (0 Comments)
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-- Or, Kreskin Does Consulting

By D. Kevin Berchelmann

Age-check: Remember the "Amazing Kreskin"? A self-described mentalist, he had his own television show in the '70s, and frequently appeared on Johnny Carson.

The thing I remember most (ok, really the ONLY thing I remember about the guy) was that he would have the audience put something in an envelope, then he would hold that envelope to his forehead, somehow allowing osmosis and other cosmic energy to permeate his brain.

Then... viola! He would guess the contents of the envelope!

The point of mentioning The Amazing Kreskin is... I ain't him. No envelopes-to-the-forehead here. I'm just a consultant, like you, trying to figure out what in blue blazes is going on in this crazy world. And like you, I'm just going to guess.

WHAT, you say?? GUESS?? "We don't 'guess,' Mr. Kreskin-impersonator." We benchmark, we conduct research; we analyze trends...

Yeah, ok, whatever. After we do all of that stuff... we guess. They may be educated guesses, well-thought guesses, even data-researched guesses. But folks, let's face it: we guess. I'm using my years of experience (like you), coupled with my judgment of current events (like yours), and then an analysis of perceived trends (like you do). Then, I'll offer you my best guesses for 2011.

Most research and reports point to growth in Management Consulting for 2011, and I agree. But not for all. Some will grow a little, some a lot, and some – alas – will experience continued revenue challenges.

So, without further ado, here are half-dozen guesses, beliefs, and predictions from The Amazing Kevin (sorry, just had to do that)!

<holding the envelope to my forehead...>:

1. Value, not deliverables, will become the watchword. It's not about time-on-station, or classes delivered, or programs and projects managed and/or implemented. It's becoming very specifically about the value delivered. What value do you bring my company? What value do you bring my department or function? For that matter, what value do you bring me? Pay attention here, this is big.

2. Pricing will continue to be pressured, but not downward as other Kreskin-wannabes are extolling. No, pricing will be pressured on value. Be prepared for clients to try and commoditize much of what we do; they're looking for what we leave behind, not what we do while we're there. Less value, less fee, regardless of the consultant's effort. That we take too long to do too little will become our financial albatross, not the client's.

3. Deals will continue to take longer to close. Not because of indecisiveness, nor because of available dollars or budgets. Potential clients know what they want (or at least know what they don't want), and profits are coming in at 5-year highs, so that's not it. No, the lengthy sales cycles are driven by potential clients' insistence on finding out if you can really do for them what you say you can. Remember, it's the value now, not just the process or deliverable.

4. Payables will become an issue again (for those who remember 8-10 years ago). Clients are cash-hoggers now, even while making profits heretofore unseen. They’ll want to negotiate at least twice; once at contract or agreement execution, then again at payment-due time. They'll want to delay payments to consultants, as many see much of our work as "extra" or adjunct to their core business. Act accordingly.

5. Social media is both a boon and bane to our existence. We need to be "out there" to be credible, but the more we opine on things, the greater the opportunity to step on the toes of some potential revenue source. You know what I think? Don't give it a second thought. Tell it like you see it, take a stand, and let the chips fall. The folks who read it and like it will appreciate you; the others, well, you're preventing a potential "fired" client further down the road.

6. Organization will become key. We'll find ourselves dealing with more influencers and pseudo-buyers, but we'll still need to focus on the prize. Those extra bodies and voices will require some bandwidth; don't coddle them, necessarily, but don't unilaterally blow 'em up, either. The issue, of course, becomes time management, priorities, and productivity.

That's it – my six predictions, beliefs, and yes, guesses for 2011. Will they all come true? Heck, I don't know. Agree with them, disagree with them, modify them at your pleasure. Just make sure you use some indicator of the future to decide your path for 2011; otherwise, you become reactive to circumstances, and that seldom works to a consultant's advantage.

D. Kevin Berchelmann is President of Triangle Performance, LLC. He provides results in areas such as management strategy, and organizational development, including compensation, succession planning, and leadership development. Clients include Archer-Daniels Midland, Sprint, and more. His firm was recently awarded #9 on Houston's Fast 100, fastest growing companies in Houston. You can reach Kevin at, @TriangleKB on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.