• Janice K. Lee

Here's Your Most Important Consulting Lesson

The biggest takeaway from my first Consulting Job.



Introduction

This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to work as a Digital Media Marketing Consultant for a local cafe. They were one of my favorite coffee shops in the area and close to home so I thought it would be an enriching experience to work with them and get my foot in the consulting door. This was my first time consulting for business (alone) so I was super nervous in the beginning, but I was reassured since I had a clear idea and agenda of what I would be doing and how my work would bring value to their business.


In short, as their Consultant, I analyzed the current scope of their website, social media, communication platforms, and worked directly with the owners to implement my suggested solutions and systems to cultivate their brand image, community engagement, and presence. Over 12-weeks from May to August, we designed and executed multiple activities and projects. The job encapsulated a healthy mix of creative freedom and marketing strategies, making it one of the best parts of my summer! I'd love to discuss the entire consulting process and experience, but that's for another article.


The Bottom Line


Regardless of what field you're consulting in, if there's one thing you should remember from my article, it's this: don't make assumptions- ASK QUESTIONS & COMMUNICATE.

  • While communication was very open and consistent for the most part, there were a few times I made assumptions about why they did something unexpected or unplanned- and instead of asking about it, I made assumptions justifying their decisions and didn't question it further. Those few assumptions led to mistakes and inefficient systems in project executions.

  • When you make assumptions, it hurts both parties and you (as the consultant) end up repeating tasks over and over again. And turns out, its a common problem in consulting. The tricky part about consulting is that it's difficult to bring up questions about why your clients aren't doing what you suggested, either because you don't want to accidentally offend them, or hear that they don't like your suggested idea. It's easy to mentally justify what your clients are doing and just accept that that's how they roll.

  • But that's a BIG mistake. Because you never know if that's truly their intention or whether it's because of something else. Either way, you need to ask them directly asap to mitigate any confusion.

Here's an Example

  • One of our first social media projects involved creating a consistent Instagram theme. Each column would be a specific type of post so after posting a product shot on Instagram, the next product shot would be after two posts (so the two product shots would be right on top of one another creating a vertical column theme).

  • The owners were the ones posting on Instagram (to their request) and I noticed they initially weren't following the agreed upon column themes. At first, I thought it was because we had other things going on, like giveaway posts and other outliers that would naturally disrupt the theme for a while.

  • But as it turned out, they just didn't know how to create a column theme! I had assumed they knew how to do it but were intentionally not doing it. What I should have done instead was ask them if they needed clarification on how to post the column themes and provide a visual guide to help them.

  • If I had done that earlier, we wouldn't have needed to archive certain pictures that we later realized didn't follow the theme order.

It's possible to have great communication and still make faulty assumptions (like I did). At the end of the day, if your gut is not feeling sure about something, ask about it. I guarantee that you and your client will both learn something and benefit from that conversation. It may be difficult and almost feel confrontational at first, but I promise it's better to address confusions than let them fester. It will get better and you'll feel your confidence grow each time (especially as a starter).


Still got questions? Feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me. I'm more than happy to help answer your burning questions. Happy consulting!


Thanks for a great time, Team Brio!

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About the Author

Janice Lee is a Sophomore studying Marketing, Accounting, and Entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School. When she's not looking at business plans, she's most likely on her Oculus Go, experimenting to brew the best iced coffee, or writing about it.

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