4 things a consultant should always have with them

This month marks my 30th year as a consultant.  In that time I have consumed my share of articles and lectures on how to be a better project manager, facilitate client meetings more efficiently, and even how to take a client to lunch. While those skills are important, there are some fundamentals I frequently share with clients and colleagues alike.  

Top 4 Things a Consultant Should Always Have With Them:
  • Notebook & Pen – You never know when you will need to document a discussion, capture a client’s urgent request, or spontaneously have a thought or ideas for how to improve a proposal or presentation. Early in my career I learned that trying to remember everything is a fools errand, and that there is no faster way to damage a friend, colleague or client relationship than forgetting to follow up on a request or commitment. Over the years the tools and processes I use to capture, review and act on my notes has changed, but I always have a small notebook handy so the idea is never lost. 
  • Engaging answer to the question, “What do you do?” – Be prepared to respond with a sincere, engaging statement about who you are and what you do.  Every time you meet someone you are presented with an opportunity to establish a new connection. It is up to you to make that opportunity count. Develop an introduction that succinctly tells something about yourself, with an emphasis on how you provide value to your client.  “Hello, my name is Oliver Siodmak and as a Director in Deloitte Digital, I help our clients globally transform the way they market, engage and service their customers on the web.  I have helped companies around the world generate significant additional revenue and increased customer satisfaction through a well planned digital platform.” This is not something you develop just once.  Periodically review it so you keep your response fresh.  Test new phases and find out what best engages your listener and motivates them to want to learn more. No matter what role you have within our firm, you are an ambassador of Delotte. How the market views our firm starts with you and how you present yourself. 
  • Clean business cards – While the world has gone digital there are times where exchanging business cards is the fastest way to share your contact information with someone.  They should be clean and crisp so they make a good first impression.  My cards now include my LinkedIn profile so the person can learn more about me through my online profile.
  • Smartphone  – Laptops are so last decade. I am always on the move and it is not always practical for me take out my Mac to complete some quick tasks.  My iPhone 6+ contains a stable of apps, which allow me work productively on the go.  Being successful means making the most of the time you have available.  Don’t wait 6 hours to send off a follow up note to a colleague – take a minute before the next meeting starts to summarize a discussion and outline next steps.  Keep your tasks organized and look for opportunities to clear another task off your to-do list.  My smartphone is not just about email and texting.  I have also used it to deliver a Deloitte Digital overview sitting next to a prospective client on a plane.   I have connected it to a projector to delivered an entire proposal. I’m even writing this article on my phone as I fly back to NYC from a client meeting. While it has not yet fully replaced my laptop, it does allow me to be productive in places where a laptop is not practical. They key is to leverage tools that improve your productivity and demonstrate your responsiveness to your client and your colleagues.
Do you have foundational tools you use in your everyday work life?  Please reach out and share them with me at “osiodmak at gmail.com”

Update on June 23, 2015: “How to Use a Simple Pocket Notebook to Improve Your Life” published by Lifehacker on June 22nd reaffirms my 1st recommendation!!  It is a great article that I highly recommend reading.