Why Consulting Isn’t Rocket Science

I’ve known a couple of actual rocket scientists, and they were nice people, but they were  no better than I at trying to open plastic-sealed tools, operate the cable remote, or understand why Snookie is even vaguely interesting.

Fortunately for all of us, consulting is not rocket science. Here’s why:

• The obvious solutions and improvements are usually the right ones. (Occam’s Razor).

• You often have to merely cut to the chase: “He can’t be helped, coached, or re-skilled, and he stole from you: Fire him!”

• Most of what you tell the buyer he or she already knows, consciously or subconsciously, and merely requires some authoritative validation.

• The vast preponderance of people want to improve and create better conditions and support constructive change.

• If you deal with decision makers and not low level people, you will have ample authority to act.

• Most people take gratification from work well done which utilizes their talents, which is easy enough to arrange.

• There is virtually no barrier to entry in the consulting profession, nor likely to be one any time soon, meaning smart people can readily set up shop and acquire clients, rapidly outstripping those who also gained easy entry but who have no talent.

• You can improvise as you go.

• You have a laboratory in front of you (the client’s operation) in which you can prove and disprove things, and from which you can build an inventory of models and approaches.

• You don’t have to worry about inventory or returns because your dealing with advice and knowledge.

• Very few organizations have the residual, captive talent that can provide the same frames of reference, perspective, and skill sets that external consultants can provide.

• If you’re not dumb enough to base your fees on time units, you can establish huge margins.

• Our fees pale in comparison to most expenses in Fortune 1000 companies, where it can cost $200,000 to cover ruined postage, or mist the plants, or remove spilled food.

• If you’re a generalist, you can diversify and insulate yourself from economic and perceptual changes in given industries.

• Technology inevitably allows us to do more with less and lower labor intensity.

• It’s a rare exception for anyone to care what your gender, background, age, ethnicity, or schooling are.

• You are certainly not going where no man has gone before.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.


8 thoughts on “Why Consulting Isn’t Rocket Science

  1. Sometimes it IS rocket science. Just finished up a couple of projects fixing problems with some satellites (I’m an engineering consultant.) But I often end up dealing with people problems too. Sometimes those are even more interesting and challenging than the technical problems.

    Always enjoy your insights, Alan. Thanks!

    • Funny bit! Seems to me we’ve had an inordinate amount of crashes in rocket science. If planes crashed that often, we’d all be on the train!

    • I was just asked that in a speech this week. Generalize as much as you can to maximize your range of buyers and to protect yourself from any one segment taking a dive. But most of all do it in order to grow, personally and professionally. Some of the most boring people you’ll ever meet are specialists in small areas who keep learning more and more about less and less and simply can’t converse on anything else.

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