The first consulting company I joined had a phrase they used when undertaking work for a client. When you submitted your report for checking, prior to sending to the client, you’d be asked, “Did you go the extra mile?” Or worse, when you’d sweated over producing something on time and, you felt, to a high standard, you’d get the comment, “Hmm, it’s okay, but I don’t think you really went the extra mile.” This honestly was a very depressing comment to hear.
Of course, what they meant was that we should exceed the clients’ expectations; we should wow them to such an extent that they thought our company was the best thing since sliced bread and that they would be desperate to engage us again.
In fact, the projects were so tightly priced and our hourly fee rates (yes, those odious things) were so high, it was very difficult to do projects on time without working nights and weekends. And going the extra mile was almost impossible in many cases. Not surprisingly, the company never made any money and suffered hugely over the long haul.
When I look back on it twenty years later, I see that we lowly consultants were forced into doing way too much for what we charged. We did good work and gave good value and really didn’t need to “go the extra mile.” But this is with the benefit of hindsight. I remember struggling hugely at the time with what I needed to do to be good enough.
When you write a proposal or agree to a schedule of work with a client, as mentioned before, a lot of it is open-ended. So how far do you go? How deep do you dig? Well, if you know the background of the project, why your client needs the work done, and what he will need the results for, most of the time you know what you need to do. If you were in his shoes, what would you need?
Also, if you’re keeping in regular communication with the client throughout the course of the project, part of that is letting him know in increasing detail what you’ll be producing. So when you come up with the final report (or whatever it is), it won’t come as a surprise to your client. And if he has some major problems with it, you have a paper trail on the basis of which you can start discussions. In my experience, most of the time a couple of minor tweaks is all that’s needed.
Over time, you develop a feel for the standard that’s expected by clients and also the level and depth of work that’s realistic for the fees you’re being paid. It’s strange, but after a while you don’t even have to think about it or be concerned over it. All you need is a year or two under your belt.
Finally, if your work is subpar in your client’s eyes, believe me, you’ll know pretty quickly. But really make an effort not to let it get to that stage. The key is to keep communicating throughout the course of the project. If you’ve just started out as a consultant, communication is even more critical. Don’t be afraid to discuss the issue with your client if you’re struggling to identify how deep you need to go. It’s in his best interest for you to do a good job, and this is supposed to be a collaborative partnership.
As a highly experienced consultant and author of “Consulting Made Easy”, Adrian assists consultants, or would be consultants, to achieve success on their terms in their own consulting businesses. Adrian helps consultants increase their fee rates, find more clients, have more free time and have more fun.
Contact Adrian at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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