Business Respect; Why Independent Consultants Don’t Get It
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Mar 21, 2012
Someone asked me recently why I’ve been on a rant lately in regards to independent consulting and small businesses. He wondered if it merged well with what the blog has been about for the past 7 years, which is talking about leadership, diversity, customer service, motivation, health care, et al.
My response was that it all fits because it’s all about business. I have given a lot of advice and some commentary over the years on all the things above. What I’ve noticed however is that there’s two perceptions. One is that large companies can do it better, no matter what it is. The other is that consultants in general aren’t good for any business, without any consideration that there are independent consultants and there are large companies that call some of their employees consultants, and there’s a major difference.
Actually, there’s a third perception, one that I’m addressing today, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s say that you’re a leader at your company and you need a service of some sort done. Do you always know who to go to? Probably not. If you have the authority you might go online to do a search, or you might call up someone you know to ask them who they might recommend.
Whether a leader goes with a large company with an established name because it’s a name people have heard of, or does some diligence to see if there’s someone closer and smaller with the skills to get the job done, it’s a leadership decision. It can be a diversity decision if they exclude someone based on what they look like or their background. It could be a customer service decision if that person happens to be someone who could potentially use your services as well as you using theirs because, trust me, word gets out when it’s discovered that you won’t hire local people for projects yet are expecting the local populace to use them.
So yes, it all ties in together. I say that as I didn’t even get an opportunity to bid on a local contract for services that I’m the only one in the area who provides those services. I say that as not even having an opportunity to lend a helping hand to another organization I had reached out to because I provide certain services.
Pretty much like this story I’m about to tell you that happened some years ago at a local SHRM meeting, a reason why I’m no longer a member of this group.
There was a special meeting that I was invited to, being a member at the time. The conversation was what types of services businesses felt they needed more information on and how they could get the information. Being an independent consultant, I went there knowing that this was a topic I could discuss well, as I’d also been in the real working world for many years.
The first two topics were something I know a lot about; leadership training and how to work on negotiating for insurance for employees. These were in two separate groups, and in each group, when no one else was saying anything, I started to try to offer some ideas, but was shut down by the moderator. Both times the moderator said they wanted to hear from people who were employed at companies right now.
What the hey? I was invited to come, I was a member of the organization, and they shut me down? Especially when, as it turned out, I was the only one in the room with the knowledge, the only one who could actually help?
Then came lunch, and I got some lunch and ended up sitting at a table with this guy I didn’t know. He told me who he was and asked me who I was and what I did. I told him my name and said I was an independent consultant. He then said “You know, it’s people like you that ruin this organization. I understand that we need people like you to help run this thing because the rest of us are doing real work, but it’s too bad because your agenda is much different than ours.”
I guess you can tell I wasn’t all that happy a guy for the rest of the day. And it actually only lasted one more meeting for me before I left in the middle of it, disgusted, and knowing I was never going to another meeting, and was never renewing my membership, which is pretty steep. At that last meeting the topic was diversity, and they were discussing how they didn’t know anyone in the area that provided diversity training; sigh…
I kept my mouth shut, and it was at that point that I decided I was leaving. I knew if I said anything that it wouldn’t have been as nice as I normally speak. I was irked, insulted, depressed, and I’m sure I was feeling some other things as well.
This is a problem with some leaders, even minor ones. They get this impressions in their minds and there’s nothing you can do to change them. And when they feel they have the right to talk to you as if you owe them something, that’s when it’s time to leave. I tell employees this type of thing all the time; when the people you work for show that they don’t respect the work you do or you personally, it’s time to look for something else. No one ever has to put up with disrespect.
Not even independent consultants. We won’t always get the job, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve respect for what we know and what we do.