To be successful as a consultant, you must be different; you must be strong; and you must be committed. The consulting field is growing faster than ever, driven by the information revolution, baby boomers moving out of corporate roles, and the struggling economy. Some consultants will join firms like Deloitte as experienced hires, while others will make a go of it on their own. In either case, these three requirements apply.

Be Different

To start, you must be able to answer two questions that get at core positioning:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How is that different than others doing the same thing?

Get this right before you do anything else, or you’ll be competing for consulting work on price. Focus on an unmet need or new way of meeting needs.

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Deloitte Consulting does this well. As its CEO Jim Moffatt told me, “We live to help our clients solve really complex problems. If it was easy, they’d do it themselves.”

In particular, Deloitte focuses on solving four types of complex problems:

  1. Growth and innovation
  2. Brand positioning
  3. Talent/leadership
  4. Operational excellence

A big part of what makes Deloitte different is its culture, which Moffatt describes as “low ego, collaborative.” While Deloitte consultants must be independent and objective, they also “learn how to interact with a variety of styles and experience levels… and sometimes have to tell clients things they don’t want to hear.” (Click here to read my previous article on why corporate culture is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage).


Be Strong

Teams with tactical capacity – the ability to work under changing conditions and translate strategies into actions –  beat individuals every time. Get a partner or ally so you can be better together and avoid the consultant roller coaster.

Deloitte is continually investing to capitalize on its own strengths with Deloitte University playing a big part. At the bottom of the recession, the company decided to build its own training center, and while this was a significant investment during a recession, Deloitte’s leaders were committed to pushing it forward as a way to build leadership. Today, according to Moffatt, it has “transformed the way we think about leadership and our culture.”

Beyond that, Deloitte puts a strong emphasis on on-the-job training. Moffatt, who believes “the way you succeed is by helping others be successful,” drives this message as a core component of Deloitte’s culture, interviewing for cultural fit and then reinforcing it at every step of the way of every employee’s journey through Deloitte. (For more on assessing cultural fit in interviews, see my previous article “Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions”).


Be Committed

Consultants must be committed to customer satisfaction, continuous improvement and business development.

  • Customer satisfaction: It’s why you exist. If your clients don’t get value, you don’t have a business.
  • Continuous improvement: If you’re not getting better, you’re getting relatively worse.
  • Business development: The number one job of a company is to create a customer. If you don’t love selling, really love selling, go do something else.

As noted above, Deloitte and Moffatt live this mantra. They are looking at a new compensation system for the organization that will tie pay to its overall strategy, rewarding their people based on how well they:

  • Serve clients and drive results to make an impact
  • Build the practice, with an ever-increasing emphasis on innovation
  • Develop their people
  • Contribute to the community

For Moffatt, it’s all about impact over time. He said, “The world is changing so fast that you need to take a longer view.” This is why Moffatt invests as much time as he does making sure people understand the strategy and can implement it, leading to “aspiration, inspiration and perspiration.”

The bottom line: Want to try consulting? Be different, be strong and be committed. Or be something else.