Being a consultant can sometimes be really, really lonely. And this is true even on the busiest days.
As I write this I am sitting in my office, at home. A small fridge is tempting me, but I can stay glued to my chair for hours, unless I have meetings outside. I got back to work today. Obviously, a busy day. I had one early meeting out of the office, many phone calls to return, email messages and social networks I need to keep alive. All this while I need to complete another proposal and finalize another project. Had to create a small power point. Update an excel sheet….
Just before 14:00 my 10 year old got back from school. This was an opportunity to see another human face and also have lunch. I don’t always use this opportunity. Sometimes the 16:00 deadline, when I need to go pick up my youngest from the nursery school, is too intimidating and I use every last minute I have in my study. Sometimes, I continue even after I get the kid home, when he is only too happy to play peacefully in his room.
It’s not an easy thing, to be a sole consultant. It has some advantages, like: No traffic to the office. No office politics. I run my own timetable – and can be flexible when necessary. I don’t have to take every project landing on my table. I can say “no”.
But there are faults too, like: there is no “work day” or “work hours” or “office time”. The office is at home so there is no escape and no real method to disconnect for hours. Without colleagues, partners or help – availability is a requirement. And without a boss that defines deadlines or demands or a company framework – I need to create the structure by myself and the motivation. I feel especially lonely when I need someone to brainstorm with.
So I thought of various options for strategic alliances. My services can complement those of graphic studios who offer visual branding, various web services companies who offer anything from site development to SEO and web marketing. I can join hands with advertising companies or PR firms as well as other consultants.
But then I found out that Israel isn’t a place for real collaboration. It seems every man fends for himself. Some do not want to encourage cooperation because they fear their alliance may turn out to be a competitor. Some find it a difficult sale: It’s hard enough to convince a client of your own value, why should I bother with someone else’s value? The fact that the joint value may actually be a lot higher is often ignored.
I still think that alliance is the way to go. This is one of the reasons for my vigorous networking. I need someone to talk to, to brainstorm with, and to throw my ideas at. I need someone who will keep me alert and laughing and provide that social and professional camaraderie that will maintain my sanity as a consultant.
There is also one other need. I discovered that I really don’t like the sale process. The whole bonding-presenting-proposal-closing circle is not it for me. However I am in love with the project process. I love every minute of analysis, decrypting the correct strategy, finding the name, the answer, the solution, creating a new business directions. I love it!
Clearly, to succeed, my consulting business would need to align with a professional who can complement my skills. Be the sales mensch, while I get into the details, and still be a partner enough to brainstorm with. But where can I find such a partner and how can I know if this can really make a fine partnership?