It turns out I’m a consultant. Soon after I wrote about a recent surge in requests for my writing skills, I start getting requests for something I enjoy even more, consulting. It is good to be in demand. Writing may be more visible; but consulting is deeper, more fulfilling, can be a lot of fun, and yet is a difficult practice to grow because I’m serious about discretion. Luckily, I received a quote and the promise of a longer testimonial that I can share. My clients have proved to me why good consultants, not just me, are worth their price.
“felt like you were some ancient sage genius reading my pulse”
What do you say to a compliment like that? Take your pick of your preference from “Thank you”, or “You’re welcome”, “Happy to help”, or the far more common bit of babbling as my brain, heart, and mouth collide.
Testimonials are great (ask anyone who cares about the people they work with), but they don’t tell enough of the story. I “should” have an elevator pitch for what I do, and I do, but it’s evolving. In general, I help people find ways to get their projects done or meet their personal goals. The reality is that I enjoy working with people who are in unconventional situations: inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, and people who live creatively. Standardized advice doesn’t apply. Flexibility is necessary. One description doesn’t fit all. That gives me breadth, but is terrible when it comes to marketing, business cards, and keeping people’s eyes from rolling after they ask me what I do.
I listen. Why not? People are impressive. Unconventional people are also thoughtful people. They’ve picked paths on purpose, have the best idea of why they’re following it, and are familiar with running into archaic attitudes and anachronistic procedures. They talk and tell me fascinating stories and struggles. I listen, and I try to find their blind spots, their strengths, and places where they have uncommon advantages. Of course that’s a fascinating endeavor. My problem is that I haven’t found a way to summarize those experiences into a sellable package. As one astrologer friend put it, astrologers need other astrologers because they’re too close to their own chart to read it right.
I’ll pass along another testimonial, but I’ll paraphrase it because of that discretion I mentioned earlier. My advice helped someone “get more done in a year than they’d gotten done in a decade”. If time is the most valuable resource, then I provided a lot of value for relatively little cost.
Whether it is personal finance, dealing with relationship issues, or managing a career, it is too easy to be too close to the issue. We all have ruts, well-exercised habits that got us to where we are, but that can keep us from getting to where we want to be. A fresh perspective can turn a difficult problem into a simpler, and sometimes fun, solution with a unexpected insight.
Recently, someone asked me for advice about money. I am not a certified financial planner or advisor and wouldn’t tell someone what to do with their money; but I can relay personal experiences and lessons. We started with something I enjoy doing, walking and talking. (Mark Lucero has formalized his version with Pathways Counseling. Smart, Mark.) They were trying to decide what to do with their investments. They had enough to build on, but not enough to generate much income. A mile went by as we talked about cds, annuities, bonds, stocks, index funds, etc. None of it generated any enthusiasm. Finance can be emotionless, but add some enthusiasm and it can shift from being a chore to something to look forward to. As we sat after the walk I asked about their business. How much did they normally make? What would make them more money, a 10% return on their portfolio, or a 10% increase in their business? Eyes lit up. I didn’t have to say much more. They realized that an extra thousand dollars directed to their business had the potential to generate far more income than leaving it as an investment. I’d provided two simple insights: 1) rather than invest in someone else’s business they could invest in their own, and 2) managing money is not an all-or-nothing choice. Almost all of the funds were going to a trusted, professional, certified financial planner; but using a bit for personal business was okay too. Look at it as either a small relief valve, or a resourceful use of resources; but what had looked like a dismal chore had become that source of enthusiasm I mentioned.
I’ve been fortunate to have several clients have similar experiences.
I’ve been fortunate to have several consultants provide the same for me. One relieved an immense amount of stress with the simple sincere phrase, “I’m sorry to see you in such emotional pain”; rather than replay old advice or encouragements. He acknowledged where I was, and then we moved on. Another pointed out something I’d said repeatedly. I thought of it as a casual aside. They pointed out that it was obviously on my mind. I took a leave from Boeing and returned a while later with a Masters in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering that got me a series of dream jobs in research and development. The advice I’m hearing from several of my consulting friends is that I’m not charging enough. Maybe I should listen to them.
There is a joy to consulting from both sides. It doesn’t have to be suit and tie and dull office stuff. Finding ways around hurdles, uncovering latent resources, sometimes simply finding someone who will listen and try to understand can turn a situation from dull to bright.
This blog is about personal finance, the effective use of our precious resources of time and money. Spending a little to save, or even create, much more is frugal. The cost may be upfront, and the benefits may seem intangible, but when they are tangible one of the greatest results is a smile or two.
I’m happy to help.