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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #51: December, 2007

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC

If you are faced with a buyer who is rude, or doesn't authorize payments on time, or doesn't live up to his or her accountabilities:

  1. Never take it personally nor make it personal. Use observed behavior. "At the meeting this morning, Harry, you said that this project might just be another boondoggle to try to get some laughs. But I heard three people say later that if that's what you think, it will probably be true. How do we fix this and make sure it doesn't happen again?"
  2. Never throw good money and time after bad. I can't tell you how many consultants were lured into bankruptcy by, "We're good for it, just finish the project because of the time sensitivity." The option to immediately stop working, especially in time sensitive conditions, is your strongest card.
  3. You have no ethical obligation to continue work if you are not paid, are treated poorly, are lied to, or are put at risk. Don't let a misplaced conscience be your guide. Use common sense.
  4. Stop it immediately. If you are being embarrassed or abused in front of others, stop the other party by saying, "Why are you being so unprofessional and rude? What you are saying is false and beneath you. If you want to talk privately, let's do so, otherwise change the topic now."
  5. Document everything you can, even in personal notes, and save even remotely relevant email in a client file. It's tremendously helpful to recall notes that indicated an agreement or change (and it's legal in court, if needed).
  6. Remember that lousy prospects make horrible clients. If you're treated poorly during the sales process, don't congratulate yourself for overcoming the resistance and making the sale. You may have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Behaviors don't fundamentally change. If you don't like what you see and hear, move on. There are infinite prospects out there.
  7. Remind your buyer-never an underling or someone in accounts payable-that the payment terms are contractual and don't mean that an invoice is processed on the date stipulated but that payment is due in your hands on the date stipulated.
  8. Clarify in your proposal what you will request for expense reimbursement (e.g., business class airfare, Marriott-level hotel) and what you will not (duplicating, postage). Find out early whether these present problems for reimbursement.
  9. Tell your buyer that the project is about partnering, and it won't work if either partner doesn't live up to the obligation. Inform the buyer immediately when an accountability is being ignored and don't attempt to compensate for it yourself.
  10. If you have to, fire a client. That's the advantage of being independent. If you feel beholden to every client, then you just have rotating employers. Use your judgment if you feel any fees are due to be returned on a pro rata basis. Don't perpetuate your misery. Tell the buyer it isn't working for specific reasons, attempts to change haven't worked, and you can no longer continue in good conscious. Then take a breath of the fresh air.
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