Consultants: A Necessary Evil?

I’ve read several books on how to negotiate in business. They all pretty much say the thing. Of course, the grand-daddy of all of these is “What Color is Your Parachute?” I read this way back when I was negotiating for my first job. Usually negotiating isn’t high on your priorities when you’re first entering the job market. At that time, you’re just happy to be getting some phone calls – I know I was. However, I didn’t enter the job market at just any old-time. I entered during that mythic period called “the bubble.” Anyone that made it through and is still doing today what they did then, can count themselves as extremely lucky – or just really brilliant. I think I fall into the former category.

I remember going to my very first training class on IBM WebSphere for the AS/400. Yes, that’s right, the AS/400. Boy, was I out-of-place. I was getting recruited during class. It reminded me of being a freshman during rush week. It was bizarre. Even though my skills and experience were extremely limited I was made to feel that because I could build a website … I could also walk on water. This is the job market that GenXers entered – the land of plenty.

Because consulting was raging during this time, I figured that consulting was the place I should be. It offered more money and benefits for doing exactly what I was already doing in industry. What more could I ask for? This is the part that makes consulting a career only for brave (or foolish – depending on how you look at it). I’ve heard some clients joke that the only thing worse than room full or lawyers is spending time with a single consultant. We don’t exactly have the best reputation in the world. Then why do clients keep coming back for more? Though we all collectively dislike lawyers, (sometimes just on principle) who is the first person we call when we’re in trouble? You guessed it, a lawyer. The reason is for all of the ignoble qualities and gouging hourly fees, they get the job done and know how to get it done fast.

Much like lawyers, consultants are a necessary evil in the world. Obviously, you wish your own employees could do the job that consultants do … but if they could then you wouldn’t need consultants.

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