If you are a consultant,
or if you ever use a consultant, this book is for you. That's a wide scope, because
nowadays, nearly everyone is some kind of a consultant. There are hardware consultants
and software consultants, social workers and psychiatrists, management consultants
and worker consultants, energy consultants and information consultants, safety
consultants and accident consultants, beauty consultants and septic tank consultants,
consulting physicians and consulting attorneys, wedding consultants, decorators,
genetic consultants, family therapists, economic consultants, bankruptcy consultants,
retirement consultants, funeral consultants, and psychic consultants.
those are only the professionals. You're using a consultant when you ask your
neighbor what he uses to remove crabgrass from his lawn. You're being a consultant
when your daughter asks you what college she ought to attend. In the United States,
at least, you don't have to have a license to advise someone on what car to buy,
or to help them find the quickest route to Arkadelphia.
With such diversity,
what do all these consultants have in common? What would make them all want to
read this book? My definition of consulting is the art of influencing people
at their request. People want some sort of changeor fear some sort of
changeso they seek consulting, in one form or another.
influence other people without a request. A judge can sentence you to thirty years
of hard labor. Your teacher can assign you thirty pages of hard reading. Your
boss can give you thirty days of hard traveling. Your priest can apportion you
thirty Hail Marys. Judges and teachers and bosses and priests can act as
consultants. But they're not consultants in these cases, because these forms of
influence are enforced by some authority system, not necessarily by the willing
participation of the person influenced.
Other influencers have no authority,
but are not consultants because they lack the request. Car dealers and other salespeople
come to mind in this category. Again, they may act as consultants, but
they're not consultants when they're trying to sell you something you didn't ask
Being called a consultant doesn't make you a consultant, either.
Many people are called consultants as a way of glorifying their dull jobs. Some
"software consultants," for instance, are retained strictly as supplementary
programming labor. The last thing their "clients" want is to be influenced.
All they want is grunt work turning out computer code, but by calling their temporary
workers "consultants," they can get them for a few dollars less than
if they called them something more mundane.
Conversely, you may be a consultant
even if you don't have the label. Anyone with a staff job is acting as a consultant
to the line management. When they hired you, they were requesting your influence
(why else would someone hire a staff person?). After you've been on the payroll
for a while, however, they may forget that you were hired to help. Sometimes,
even you forget, so your task is a bit different from that of the outsider
called in to work on a specific problem.
This is not a book about how to
become a consultant. That part is easy. Most likely, you already are a
consultant, because you become a consultant whenever you accept someone's request
for influence. It's after you accept the request that you start needing
help. When I became a full-time consultant, I soon discovered that few people
request influence when their world is behaving rationally. As a result, consultants
tend to see more than their fair share of irrationality. You may have noticed,
for instance, how frequently someone who asks you for advice will then attack
you angrily because of the requested advice. Such irrationality drives consultants
crazy, but if they can cope with it, it can also drive them rich.
were times, though, when I couldn't cope with it, so I turned to writing books
to restore my sanity. Anyone who is irrational enough to buy one of my books may
be requesting influence, but at least I don't have to give the advice face-to-face.
That's why my books are cheaper than my consulting fees.
Most of the time,
though, I enjoyed the direct interaction with my clients, if I could stand the
irrationality. If I wanted to stay in the business, it seemed to me I had two
1. Remain rational, and go crazy.
2. Become irrational, and
be called crazy.
For many years, I oscillated between these poles of misery,
until I hit upon a third approach:
3. Become rational about irrationality.
book relates some of my discoveries about the rationality of seemingly irrational
behavior that surrounds requests for influence. These are the secrets of consulting.
The title suggests that this is a book for consultants, but the book is actually
for anyone who is confused by our irrational world and would like to do something
about it. That's an almost limitless audience.
Even if you're so confused
that nobody calls upon you for consulting, perhaps you need a consultant yourself.
You might just save the cost of a consultant by reading this book. Or get more
mileage out of the fees you pay your consultants.
But if you're not
confused, you definitely don't need this book. You need a psychiatrist. Anyone
who's not confused in today's world has to be out of touch with reality.
will reading the book do for you? Many people have read the manuscript, and some
of them claim to have been influenced in positive ways. One consultant says she
applied one of the laws, called The Orange Juice Test, and obtained a fat contract
that she would probably have otherwise lost. Another said he negotiated a larger
fee by applying The Principle of Least Regret. A third lost a fat contract by
applying the same Principle, but he didn't mind very much, which is why it's called
The Principle of Least Regret. One manager told me that as soon as he finished
reading the manuscript, he fired a consultant who had been costing him three thousand
dollars a month. He didn't say whether the consultant had any regrets.
all of the influence has been directly financial. Several readers say that they
enjoy their consulting more, now that they understand a bit more about what's
going on. One staff product director told me he applied his new knowledge of buffalo
and dogs to get a higher percentage of his recommendations implemented by his
marketing manager. Another staffer could give no specific examples except to say
that her boss complimented her for "thinking better."
consultant told me a long-winded story about how he used to spend a lot of time
worrying about the fact that he didn't have a Ph.D. (I think he was getting his
revenge for some of my long-winded stories in the book.) He had taken several
years out of his life to go back to school for his doctorate, only to discover
that his clients weren't interested in degrees. "Reading the book was like
going for my Ph.D. I didn't really need to read it, but if I hadn't read it, I
would have thought I needed to read it." As you'll learn in the very first
chapter, that's the best result any consultant can hope to achieve.