As a consultant, you’ll be in contact with many executives and companies during the course of your career in the consulting industry, or as you build your business.
How you conduct yourself, and what you do to earn your reputation can be as important to your success or failure as the work you deliver, so considering the ethics of the consultant industry can be very important when you are starting out.
The Gift Conundrum
When you’re working as a consultant, chances are there will be clients who will be loyal, and easy to work with, and you may be tempted to give them a gift to thank them for that loyalty or co-operation.
That little gift could mean a lot of trouble though, so it’s best to be extra careful when choosing this method of thanks. Gifts can often be misconstrued as bribery, either by the recipient, or their colleagues, or, if they get wind of it, your competitors.
A muffin basket, bouquet of flowers or pen may not get you in trouble, but the larger, more expensive gifts often will. In fact, it’s become such a problem within the consulting industry that I’ve even seen request for proposal documents that outline guidelines for gift giving!
If you really want to play it safe, stick to a small gift with thank you note or an email!
During the course of a long term project, when working with a consultant closely, it’s common for executives and consultants to get quite friendly; however, that friendship can jeopardize your chances of future contracts, so advance with caution!
There are two scenarios that could occur if you become too friendly with a client. Firstly, your professional relationship may be harmed, as your client may find it difficult to provide negative feedback, or otherwise comment on the project at hand. This may lead to your failure to deliver as required, and subsequently to a loss of future business.
In the second scenario, you may develop a friendship, which may lead to real or perceived favoritism. That means that even if your proposal is chosen over competitors in the future, they may cry foul – hard to deny if you spend every Saturday morning together on the golf course, or take fishing trips together!
Then again, your client’s organization may also frown on this kind of friendship with service providers, which may impact negatively on them. Rather keep relationships with clients who hire you as a consultant professional. It’s safer all round.
When companies hire consultants, they do so first and foremost to fill a specific need that has arisen in their business.
And while it may be tempting, when you are hired by a large corporation, to spend some looking for a set of new consultants jobs elsewhere in the organization, if that interferes with your delivery on the core project you were hired for you’re asking for trouble.
Let your consulting services speak for themselves, build your reputation in the consulting industry and avoid spending time soliciting business from other executives in the company, or do so when you’re off the clock!