Premise: The key to success is selecting clients based on vision, not business volume.
Lawyers will completely disagree with this premise and so may many consultants. The premise rests entirely on what type of consultant you are. Still, consider the following scenarios:
Consultant A lacks focus and vision and has three clients that have no common denominator. For the sake of clarity, let us assume that one client is a bank and that the project revolves around internal cost analysis, another a pharmacy chain that seeks to improve its customer experience, and the third a five-star restaurant facing a PR crisis due to a customer experiencing an allergic reaction to slatur (Icelandic dish made from the innards of sheep and similar to haggis) that has been trending on Twitter for two weeks with no end in sight.The consultant’s ability to leverage them against one another is very limited.
Consultant B has focus but lacks vision. He or she has the same three clients but this time, they all share a common denominator: customer insights. The bank wants to increase market share and business volume using the most recent emerging and disruptive technologies and methods available, and so does the pharmacy and the restaurant. As the same technologies and methods can be used (with minor variations), the consultant can practically deliver his or her services using the assembly line approach. This may, however, restrict the consultant’s playing field and prevent him or her from engaging in very large projects that call for a broader scope.
Consultant C has both focus and vision and shares the same three clients. As he or she has selected them based on how well they fit his or her own vision, the playing field can be very large. This is the realm of management consulting and international strategy. This consultant does not accept the three as primary clients; instead, he or she has accepted an international institution as a client to formulate a strategy to which the three secondary clients play a part. An example of this would be an institution that seeks to increase infrastructure growth in an emerging region through direct investment in key sectors. By placing investments so that they have the desired effect, an opportunity presents itself for the three secondary clients to become first to market in that region. Once the region begins to grow, the demand for banking services increases and residual income levels warrant the entry of the pharmacy chain to that market. It also presents an opportunity for the restaurant to open up another venue. These projects are much larger than Consultants A and B can tackle. They are also unattainable if the consultant lacks vision and allows him or herself to be sidetracked by projects that do not fit that vision.
Vision is associated with having a goal – objective or target – that the individual strongly believes in. Merriam-Webster defines vision (in this context) as “a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination” which is exactly what it is. The challenge of operating using vision as a primary weapon is that it is intangible and therefore has to be supported by a strong, logical framework. Steve Jobs had a vision that we would carry the internet around with us and now we do. Nokia did not share that vision and has been acquired by Microsoft as a result:
“Two years after hitching its fate to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software, the Finnish phone maker that once dominated the global market collapsed into the arms of the U.S. software giant, its mobile business ravaged by nimbler rivals Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.” Reuters
Vision relies completely on the ability to sell it. It is a future often very different from the world as it is today. Consider this:
“[Steve Jobs] had cajoled AT&T into spending millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to create a new feature, so-called visual voicemail, and to reinvent the time-consuming in-store sign-up process.” Wired Magazine
That is an example of how vision is extended outward to encompass secondary entities that are targeted as key players to bring the vision about. Understanding consumer behavior and economic interaction is fundamental is providing a solid backbone to any form of vision, for vision needs capital in order for it to manifest; else it will perish as our dreams do once we awaken.
Without vision, consultants struggle to make ends meet since they cannot leverage their clients nor secure projects much larger than themselves. They also fail to attract the right people to work with, for they do not look for individuals that share their vision – and can deliver parts of it – but those can perform mundane and often uninteresting tasks (such as typing, proof-reading or data gathering). A consultant with a clear and convincing vision will not only seek to realize it; he or she will strive to surround him or herself with the right people and select the right clients to bring that vision into fulfillment.