Expectations! How often do we find ourselves at odds with our client’s expectations of our knowledge, or capabilities? If you’ve been in the industry long enough to form your own practice, you are comfortable with your level of expertise and can offer some very valuable service and value to your clients. But as is the case in most instances, the client will expect much more of you than the services you have agreed to perform. After all, you are the expert, and expert has an all-inclusive nuance to it, that both opens doors and gets us into trouble at the same time.
I am a PeopleSoft consultant with a long accounting background, but my expertise is within a limited number of all the modules that are possibly involved in any particular implementation. Do I know how PeopleSoft works? Absolutely, in fact, in many cases, my experience will help me move into unfamiliar territory and figure out the software implications long in advance of client needs. We all should be looking to be comfortable with our area of expertise to be able to answer questions on the fringe of our knowledge.
Clients don’t see us in quite the same light. We are the guides who take them into uncharted territory. Each client gives us virtually unlimited confidence that we will lead them to a better future. Sure, we’ve been interviewed, expressed our limitations, reassured them of our qualifications, provided them with recommendations from our biggest successes, references from our closest colleagues, and given our confidence in handling the task at hand. But once the work begins, even controlling scope along the way, our ‘expert’ status will lead each of us to the edges of our knowledge.
Consulting is a career that involves non-stop learning and the need to push ourselves to the edge regularly. We must constantly be honest about our limitations and monitor the expectations of the client. Perception is key!