A management consultant, according to one definition, is a man who knows 101 ways to make love but doesn't know any women. That's incorrect, of course, because a lot of consultants are women. According to Working Mother magazine, 37 percent of consulting giant Accenture's 30,000 employees are female. (Working Mother doesn't say whether they know any men.)
But this is far from the only myth that dogs the consulting game, according to Alan Weiss, a management consultant and author for whom the word "prolific" might have been coined. His latest, "The Consulting Bible" (Wiley, 2011) is the 43rd book by the Rhode Islander. Weiss's tenure in consulting has exposed him to many myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about the business. He picks these five as the most important for new and would-be consultants to get over:
Myth 1) The consulting business is about consulting. "It's not. It's about marketing," Weiss maintains. "No matter what your methodology is, it does you no good unless you're in front of a buyer who can give you a check. Unless you learn how to bring people to your door, you're going to starve."
Myth 2) Most consultants' biggest problem is that they're undercapitalized. "The problem isn't a lack of capital," according to Weiss. "It's lack of a sense of self-worth, so you can look at a buyer in an expensive corner office and tell them what they need."
Myth 3) A solo consultant must take a back seat to the giant firms of the industry. "Nimble independents are having a field day if they know how to market themselves," Weiss says. "And since they don't have the expense baggage, they keep what they make. Trying to become a partner in a major firm is insane when you can make more money on your own."
Myth 4) You'll be happier as your own boss. "The fact that you're out there on your own doesn't make you a better boss," Weiss warns. "Many consultants feel that if they're not busy 12 hours a day they're not doing enough. So their very horrible and unfair bosses force them to keep busy."
Myth 5) The more money you make consulting, the richer you get. "The reality is that wealth is discretionary time and the ability to do what you want, when you want," Weiss says. "There are too many consultants running around trying to earn money and actually reducing their wealth."
Going forward, Weiss sees another myth that is about to get unseated, namely, that technology is the great savior that consultants can count on to make them more effective. "The reality is that technology is plateauing," he says. "This is a high-touch business and it's high touch that's going to carry the day. Consultants who rely on technology to keep in touch are going to be at a disadvantage to those who keep in touch in person."
Mark Henricks is an Austin, Texas, freelance journalist whose reporting on business, technology and other topics has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and other leading publications. Learn more about him at The Article Authority. Follow him on Twitter @bizmyths.
Image courtesy of Flickr user DRB62, CC2.0