Monday, September 17, 2012

11 tips for new consultants to hit the ground running

Today’s post is on practical tips to being successful as a new consultant. A former manager once said to me, “do well in your first project, and you can write your own ticket for the next few years.”
To that end, here’s a tactical list for getting off to a fast start on a new project. Follow the 11 steps below and you’ll be a management maven in no time:

1. Set up Google Alerts for your client and its competitors
This is an absolute must. Google Alerts feed you the latest online information (collected primarily from news sites and blogs) related to keywords that you specify.
Setup these alerts for your client and its top 3 competitors.

This will help you stay current on client and industry developments, which will come in handy through the project. Many people are too pre-occupied to do this regularly, and it’s a quick win for new consultants to add value.

2. Know basic financial data for your client
I can’t tell you the number of times basic questions like “What’s Client X’s total annual revenue?” have come up in internal discussions.
You want to be the one that can provide an accurate answer, as opposed to “Oh, I think it’s something like $10-20 billion…let me check.”
Some key numbers include:
-Market cap
-Overall revenue
-Gross profit
-Margins (profit and operating)

Memorizing them doesn’t take long. It will come in handy. 

3. Familiarize yourself with the client CEO and senior management
There are many stories of newbie consultants having a casual conversation with an employee in the company cafeteria, only to realize a week later that it was an Executive VP. Don’t let this happen to you.
You can find most executive profiles on the client website. Read them thoroughly and become familiar with the faces. Not only will it prevent foul-ups like the above, it will also help you understand and manage client relationships.

4. Familiarize yourself with the competitors
This shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Simply have a grasp on the following:
-Who are the top 5-10 competitors
-Relative sizes (eg, number of employees, overall revenues)
-Key products/services (especially what differentiates each competitor from the client)
-General grasp of their strengths and weaknesses

Good ways to get a quick handle on this include:
-Internal firm research reports (if available)
-Analyst reports (eg, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, etc)
-Yahoo! Finance

Periodically review this information to make sure you’re fresh. While it’s important to know this info, it’s even more important that you don’t confuse one competitor with another.