Everyone who works in consulting knows that the client pays the bills. Without our clients, we aren’t in business. But have you ever thought that without consultants, we aren’t in business either?
It is a delicate balancing act between our outside clients (who pay the bills) and our inside clients (those who deliver the services). “The client is always right” is a truism to a point. Our goal is to serve our clients’ needs. But if a client request is unethical or immoral, we don’t do it. If a client requests a change to a system which we think is not in their best interest, it is up to us to advise the client against such a change. If the client still wants the change due to an inside political driver (for instance), we do the change but document the heck out of the fact that we don’t think it is the right decision and what are the resulting ramifications.
But what happens when a client asks us to work in conditions which aren’t good for our consultants? For instance, long hours without a break. Travel without a break. Do we do it anyways and forget about the consultants? If we don’t have consultants, we don’t have clients, and vice versa. Some consultants can work extra hours and it isn’t an issue. But for others with outside commitments, it can be a huge issue. If we only give assignments to consultants who can work the hours, we are being discriminatory. So, what’s the answer? A reward system that benefits those who can work under these conditions and a flexible assignment system that gives the opportunity to say ‘no’ for all.
Bottom line – honoring consultants and maintaining a working environment that is good for consultants needs to be part of the culture and needs to be taken into account in all client decisions.