Two business-people on a bench. One asks the other: How do you know your consultant is still alive? Oh, that’s easy, she replies. I get an invoice every month.
Whatever value we bring to our clients, the truth is that consultants work mostly in absentia. Unlike salaried and wage-earning staff, we almost never show up. And unlike commissioned sales reps, we get paid anyway.
Even utility companies offer better evidence of their work product from day to day. Just flip a switch, and the lights come on.
So the retainer model is unique. And given the undeniable value of showing up, there must be compelling reasons why clients shell out good money to people they rarely see.
Fortunately, the reasons are many; and here are just a few. As retained advisers and service providers, it’s our job to evidence these values every month (preferably before our invoice arrives).
FOCUS: Even the most efficient office fights chaos. Machines fail; customers complain; opportunity knocks, and the company responds. Tasks given in the morning are traded off, delayed or derailed by noon. Sometimes the only place to finish a job is away from the office. For projects that have to stay on track, absence is the consultant’s advantage.
PERSPECTIVE: Who has the 30,000 foot view when all eyes are fifteen inches from a screen? The strategic value of a distant vantage is well-established. The consultant, while both independent and engaged, gains a view to her client’s business none within the company can match.
NETWORKING: A business trades on its relationships. Few survive long without building reliable networks to supply materials, workforce, new markets and new ideas. And among businesses, none are more reliant upon or rich in network contacts than are consultancies. With the perspective to spot problems ahead, a consultant’s network can supply solutions in advance.
So keep your consultant on the line, by all means, but don’t forget to let him go.