HR Consulting: Taking the Plunge
Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates LLC
So you want to be a Human Resource consultant. And why not? You’ve paid
your dues in corporate life. You’ve risen to the top of your
profession. It’s time for a new challenge.
So why not HR consulting? It’s glamorous. It affords you the
opportunity to demonstrate your vast skills. It provides you the chance
to do stimulating work in different industries. You’ll finally be
listened to, you’ll be wanted, and you’ll be able to use your expertise
in new and exciting ways.
HR consulting is a great career for the right individual—but the wrong
profession for many. If you like predictability, the amenities of
corporate life, a steady flow of people to your office, and a regular
paycheck with benefits—then keep your day job. But if you’re
comfortable with ambiguity, you thrive on change and uncertainty, and
juggling multiple projects is what gets you out of bed every morning,
then consulting may be for you.
HR consulting is a business and as such, it must be run as one. You
need an idea that will sell; you need finances to grow and sustain it;
you need insurance to protect it; and you need confidence, creativity,
perseverance and a dose of chutzpa to lead it. Consulting is not for
the shy or the faint of heart—after all, as I was advised by a wise,
experienced consultant: “You wake up every morning unemployed.”
Starting and building a consulting business is hard work. It is not
what you do in between looking for a job; it is not something you do on
the side. HR consulting is a real business whose focus should always be
to improve the condition of your client. And it can be an exciting and
lucrative way to make a living.
So how do you become a successful consultant? Beyond printing your
business cards, developing a brochure and a web site, and setting up an
office in that spare room, here are ten musts for ensuring success.
1. Develop proven expertise: Prospective
clients want to work with the best. They seek advice and consultation.
Before venturing in, make sure you’re at the top of your game. Unproven
entities or someone touting worn out solutions will be deafened by the
silence from their phone.
2. Be different: If you look like everyone else; sound
like everyone else; and offer the same bag of tricks, why would anyone
choose you? Create a unique brand. Vanilla is nice but everyone loves
3. You’re in the marketing business: You can be the best
consultant since Drucker, but if no one has heard of you, you’ll
starve. You’ve got to market yourself constantly and this is where many
HR consultants fail. Get comfortable putting yourself out there on a
daily basis or think about another profession.
4. Write and speak often: Writing and speaking are the
best ways to demonstrate expertise, develop repute, establish your
brand, and get in front of perspective clients.
5. Bring value to the equation: If you’re not bringing
anything to the table that the client does not already have, then why
do they need you? Clients want your expertise, knowledge and counsel.
6. Understand the differences between wants and needs:
Clients want a lot of things, but a good consultant sorts through it
all and provides them what they need. For example, they may want an
employee satisfaction survey, but they really need to reduce turnover.
They may want a new performance appraisal form, but they actually need
to properly evaluate, develop, and coach their people. Good consultants
listen to their clients, expose them to different ideas, guide them
through the process, and provide them with solutions that add value to
7. Develop solid, long-term relationships: Developing a
relationship with a client is more than getting a quick sale. It is
getting to really know the person, understanding what makes her tick,
and identifying his pressures and challenges. Good consultants develop
trusts and confidences. They forge bonds—partnerships.
8. Know who can write a check: The trap in which most
consultants get caught is selling to someone who can’t write the check.
They quickly respond to any inquiry, meet the “prospect”, write a
proposal, and wait. Eventually they find out that they weren’t even
talking to a decision maker but merely a go-between. Remember, if
you’re not talking to someone who can write a check, you’re merely
9. Offer results, not activities: Clients buy results,
not reports or forms. You are hired to improve the client’s condition.
Consultants often describe their involvement by the activities they’ll
perform rather than the results they’ll achieve. Focus on results and
outcomes, not tasks and activities.
10. Invest in yourself. Your knowledge, expertise, and
experiences are what you have to offer. Develop them and find a trusted
coach who can offer you perspective, insight, and a dose of reality and
an occasional kick in the backside to get you going. You’ll often need
HR Consulting is a rewarding career choice. But like the frigid Maine
waters, taking the plunge is not for the timid. Develop your plan,
engage a trusted advisor, and dive in head first. Once you get
swimming, you’ll love it.
Dacri is a human resource consultant, featured speaker at regional and
national conferences, and author of the book “Uncomplicating
Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar.”
Since 1995 his firm, Dacri & Associates has helped
organizations improve individual and organizational performance. Rick
connects with people in a positive and challenging way to offer
practical solutions. He can be reached at 207-967-0837, or via email at