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We are often asked by family members, friends, or in random social settings about what is it exactly that we do. There are job titles that are quite self-explanatory such as university professor, architect or engineer. However, being a “Consultant” is more complex to define due to the changing nature of our work as it entails working on different scopes of work across industries, sectors and geographies. In one of their articles about what Consultants do, the Economist refers to Consultants as “power point rangers”, whereas other references speak about Consultants as “trusted advisors”[1].

What I personally love about being a Consultant is the focus on solving a problem. Yet before engaging in problem-solving, I have learnt to take time to know and actively listen to my client. Once I understand the issue at hand, I embark on a problem-solving journey while engaging the client, all the way. What distinguishes a Consultant in my opinion is her approach to problem-solving. For the sake of simplification, the business need is considered a problem (e.g. high turnover rate, decreasing market share). Clients may reach out to Consultants for other wants such as acquisitions, market entries, integration of disabled in the workforce, embarking in a digital transformation, and so forth. Throughout my experience with Deloitte, I have noticed that Consultants are properly trained and are able to rely on the firm’s support and resources. In fact, a key success factor in addition to having the right tools and methods, and the access to information, is to be guided by seasoned professionals. Those professionals leverage their past experiences and capitalize on the lessons learned throughout years on the job.

The Consulting approach consists primarily of identifying what the problem is. The two main lessons I have extracted from my experience on Consulting with Deloitte are the following:

Somewhere, someone must have done it before – It is important not to reinvent the wheel but rather get inspired from past learnings and adapt and apply to specific client needs; especially when one is part of a large organization and has access to an international network that can be leveraged instantly.

Do not jump to conclusions – It is of paramount importance to carefully listen to the client, conduct a comprehensive and diligent assessment, and frame and analyze the issue, before engaging in solving the problem at hand.

Afterwards, the Consulting approach focuses on using the right tools or methods to analysis. It may seem for some a way to over-complicate the issue. However, it is at the heart of Consulting to de-compose the problem to be able to solve it in a sustainable fashion. I personally make sure not to miss the details as often the issue itself is the solution disguised. Yet, I always keep the big picture in mind e.g. what are the drivers behind the client’s wants? What are competitors doing in that regard?

Once the issue is identified and framed, I gather data and interpret results. One of Deloitte’s differentiators is the right blend in the content and in the presentation. In fact, presenting a solution is as important as the solution itself. Yet, what I believe is the key success factor for Consultants consists of the balanced management of clients and Consulting teams. What I do neither consists of managing a project, nor an account[2]. Instead, relationship management focuses on maintaining the right mix of addressing client challenges and identifying further selling opportunities.

In a nutshell, the essentials of managing relationships with clients consist of identifying clients, acquiring them, and retaining them. Yet, the main differentiator consists of creating a pull demand[3]. In fact, as a Consultant, I have learnt to focus on eminence[4]; in other words, to build a reputation which will generate projects. I make sure to build relationships that will expose myself and my team to issues clients are facing. As for the management of teams, talent acquisition and talent management are of paramount importance. Additionally, the Deloitte experience has taught me that Consultants can succeed in projects thanks to two other differentiators which are:

Effective communication with both team members and client stakeholders. Teams are consistently aware of project work-streams and updates through various formal and informal communication channels. Additionally, I have been properly trained on both what to say and how to say it, as both have a long-lasting effect on clients.

Organizational culture which is critical to success. It determines the extent to which we, Consultants, can rely on each other (and in what instances), and what reward model is adopted and how it is adapted to Consultants.

All in all, what distinguishes Consulting from other professions is the steep learning curve that doesn’t seem to plateau. As a Consultant, I have embarked on a learning journey that exposes me to different challenges and solutions. As a result, it equips both myself and my clients with robust yet agile ways of thinking to manage ongoing professional challenges.

[1] “The trusted advisor”, January 2002, by David Miaser, Robert Galford and Charles Green.
[2] The equivalent could be an engagement or assignment for instance in the Consulting terminology.
[3] When new opportunities come from successfully delivered projects and from a good reputation rather than from the actual act of selling or developing the business.
[4] Eminence consists of achieving a position of great distinction. It is primarily based on shaping reputation, building and enhancing relationships.

By Joana Abou Jaoude, Senior Manager, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East

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