“I first told the story of a consulting firm that differentiated itself by its hair colour around 2004. It was after a speaking gig in Chicago…
Consultants I spoke to didn’t get the idea that many of the ways they were trying to distinguish themselves from their competitors were not related to what the client valued from them.
So although things like customer service, and processes are relevant to a potential client, that’s not what clients want to buy and pay for from the consultant. What they are buying is advice. What the client values the most is great advice. And the best way to predict which firm will give you the best advice is to evaluate who has the best expertise in the functional area and industry sector the client is in.
Everything else does however play a role in supporting claims of expertise. For example an expert usually has unique and customized processes for doing the work, as well as people with specific skill sets, but the secret is that those things – processes and people – are evidence of the firms expertise and not of and to themselves the thing that makes the firm valuable to the client.
It’s a subtle but important difference. It’s the reason I say that clients matter but competitors are just a distraction. Like pink hair.
So after years of telling this story as an absurd example of how differentiation might seem important but is actually quite a dangerous pursuit, I decided it was time to write the book.
If you look at the hard drive on my laptop you will find that there are files and dated January 1 titled Book File 2007, Book File 2008, Book File 2009, etc. etc.
The new years resolution that never came to life.
I couldn’t find the voice for the book. I was trying to write a business textbook and it wasn’t working.
Then one day a client called and asked if I could stand in for an ill employee of theirs that was doing an international B2B business “match-making” event in our city (thanks Marshall!). I stepped in and as part of that gig got a ticket to hear Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles speak about customer service.
Ken and Sheldon co-wrote books like Gung Ho and Raving Fans – national best-sellers that have sold millions of copies. And they were written as stories. They were great story-tellers.
I love to tell stories.
It got me thinking about The Goal by Eli Goldratt, a book every new MBA student was given by Jerry Gray the former Dean of The Faculty of Management at The University of Manitoba. That was and still is a great story. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received about The Consultant with Pink Hair was when one of my colleagues said “it’s like The Goal but for professional services firms.”
So just after Christmas in January of 2012 I found out that my parents cottage 2 hours north of the city would be vacant for a weekend and I jumped at the chance to spend the weekend trying to write the book version of the story I had been telling for almost a decade.
I told my wife I was leaving Friday afternoon and would be back late Sunday. And if I didn’t have a book written when I returned I would give up on the pursuit forever.
Either way I would be done.
It was 30 below all weekend with blowing snow covering the highway and obscuring the view of the lake. When I arrived on Friday I chopped as much wood as would fit in the wood box, made a fire in the Cummer wood stove, welcomed Ron Bacardi to the party, fired up my laptop and starting writing.
I got home late on Sunday with 20,000 words and the belief that I had the book 99% finished.
20,000 More words and 5 months later I was actually done. Two months later I had a Rockbench ISBN and Amazon page, 512 promo copies in my basement and a book launch scheduled for October 16.
These days I’m working on the next book. But for now let me share with you some of the early design concepts that I had for the cover of this one. All of them trying to convey the idea of consultant conformity or similarity or anonymity…
[Fortunately Andrew Boardman and Daniel Lamb at Manoverboard Design along with Ian McCausland (photographer) and Dee Helash (layout artist) saved me from my own designs and put together the cover you see on the book today.]
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"This should be required reading for consultants AND their clients - especially the part about RFPs." - Blair Enns, Win Without Pitching
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