How Not to Work With Your Consultant

On a flipchart in my office I keep a list of current clients and next steps with them,; outstanding proposals; workshops; projects; things to do.  It’s a great visual of what I have going on and what I need to do, but that’s not really the reason I started it. Early on in my consulting career, I noticed an odd phenomenon—an organization would hire me, we’d get started—and then they (usually the ED or Development Director) would disappear into the ether.

Not forever, mind you—but long enough that I could lose sight of the fact that I had that particular client.

I’m pretty persistent, so it would take a long time of me calling, emailing, calling again before I would just get busy with other clients and other things.  But it almost always seemed that no matter how many or how few clients I have, one or two loses all sense of urgency once the contract is signed.

What is really irritating is when—after weeks or sometimes months of not responding—suddenly the project is hot (for them) again, and they expect that I will drop it all and get right back on their project.

This is known as how not to work with your consultant.

I do understand.  You’re busy.  You do have a need—that’s why you hired a consultant in the first place. But you don’t have the time to do the things you have to do to make get value from what you hired your consultant for.  Truth is, hiring a consultant, does not give you more time—it generally gives you more work.

That’s true, of course, when you hire new staff.  Especially when, after months or years of trying to convince your boss or your board that, yes really, you do need a new position to free you up to do your job, you get that new position.  And once that new staff member is on board, your life isn’t easier.  In fact, if you were to take the time to train this person, it would take too long.  So your new hire sits with her finger in her ear while you continue to do it all—complaining how busy you are.

This is known as how not to manage your staff.

Interestingly, when I have clients who are too busy to work with me or with their staff I find that they are the very clients who need the most help.  They are the ones in dire financial difficulties; the ones who are missing deadlines every which way.  Interesting, but not surprising.

“Genius,” Thomas Edison famously said, “is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Success tends to follow the same formula.

Whether it is working with a consultant, staff—new or old, tackling a project, or (YES!) raising funds, consistency is the key that will assure accomplishment.  You know this.  We all know this—and yet, so often, we start and stop, lose sight of our goal or of the very activities that will help us reach that goal—and wonder why good things are eluding us.

I wrote in my newsletter this month how, with 3 largish, furry dogs living in my house, I have to vacuum every day.  Every single day.  It’s not something I like doing—it is, however, something that must be done.  Letting it slip one day—my wood floors look like they are covered with a very strange black rug.  Doing what you need to do whether it be every day or once a week is the only way you will get to where you and your organization want to go.

It’s also the only way you will keep your consultant happy.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to stay on track and increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.  While there, do sign up for that free monthly newsletter.