Why I Stopped Consulting in the Public Sector

Author : Nicole Dunn
Published: June 19, 2012

After over 10 years in my comfortable government job, I quit to become a consultant. The reaction from most people was a high pitched frantic "WHY?" that shot out of people's mouths.

Shock and Sympathy Pains...

Colleagues in the public sector couldn't understand why I was taking a risk. Other consultants I knew were having phantom sympathy "start-up pain", and they wanted to know why I would move from being an in-house consultant to one that had to "chase" clients. I had a few visions of people in suits playing tag, and that was it. I was serious.

Thought Leadership...

I think it started out when we had hired an external consultant to help us with some procurement work. We wanted advice and a little bit of math work that we didn't have the resources to do - and we were paying them handsomely for it.

The first thing we asked them was to do some calculations. The first thing that came back was something like: "We took the number of clients and multiplied it by your rate and then multiplied it by the number of days." Where's the thought leadership guys? I could have done that with my eyes closed.

Drawing for business...

Later that week we had a stakeholder meeting and our tech guys and our consultants couldn't understand the future business process. Instead of our fine consultants leaping to the whiteboard to facilitate drawing it out, it was me. Boxes, arrows, diamonds and ovals were all over that whiteboard.

I was furious and stomped into my boss' (now business partner's office) and said: "If they are getting thousands of dollars to do multiplication, I quit, and I'm becoming a consultant".

I may have planted a seed...

I wished a consultant could be fresh and creative. I wished a consultant could be confident and out-going enough to get up and draw their thoughts.

I knew that I was going to be different, so here are my Top 3 Differentiators for Consultants:

1) Be an expert.

A great consultant should be able to do the math. Make them show you they can DO MORE THAN MULTIPLY A FEW NUMBERS!

2) Keep it simple.

Not everything needs a Gantt Chart or SIPOC. Sometimes you just need to Define It! Map It! Prove It!

3) Be creative. Be forward thinking.

It doesn't always have to be a power point presentation. Work your audience. If you need to draw it (on a whiteboard or with 1000 sticky notes) - do it!

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