jfk69
Posts: 1197
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What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:01 pm

OK....So I always read about and hear about people who are consultants. They make their living going from company to company "consulting".....You travel a lot and seem to get paid lots of money.......What the Hell do you guys do????

Why does a company need a consultant? How did one get hired as a consultant? Who do you work for? Why do you get paid so much? why don't you work for a single company doing the exact same thing? What schooling does one need???????????


Answeres people, Answers!
 
Boeing4ever
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:06 pm



 airplane B4e-Forever New Frontiers airplane 
 
ZakHH
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:10 pm

Easy: you go to a company, tell them to lay off 25-50% of their staff, then tell them "see how I helped reducing the costs", and then invoice them 10% of the annual saved costs as a commission, before they will realize that they are not operable without their staff... Big grin

Seriously, consulting can make sense. Inside a company, you tend to grow blind towards certain problems. An analysis from an experienced outsider can be helpful in certain situations.

Consulting can mean different things. Helping with new tasks your company has no experience with yet. Moderating internal conflicts, like when 2 departments start battling each other, or a project is stuck and everybody is blaming the other. Introducing workflow improvements. Aiding in a financial crisis. Etc. pp.

In general, I'd say that most consultants are highly overrated (and overpaid), but there is situations where consulting makes sense, and there are also some consultants who know their shit.
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bristolflyer
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:13 pm

I had a friend who worked for Ernst & Young and I went for an interview there. Consutants consult on a broad range of topics, as an example I was interviewing for a manufacturring role. They typically advise businesses how to become more efficient and implement best working practices in whatever field it is they are lacking. This is often done after a major change in management.

You don't really go to specific consulting school, you just become proficient at your chosen subject then apply that in your job as a consultant.

Consultants are often paid very well with nice bonusses, but there can be a lot of pressure to meet deadlines. Quite often the consultants are not exactly welcome when trying to advise em
Fortune favours the brave
 
CaptOveur
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:14 pm

Quoting JFK69 (Thread starter):
What the Hell do you guys do

If you can figure out what a consultant does please tell all of us.

As far as I have seen they take companies that are functional and profitable. They move everyone's seats around for no reason. Maybe eliminate some people, maybe add some people. They also re-name all the departments so you need a terminology dictionary just to figure out who to ask a question of. Usually in the midst of all this earnings fall- and not just because the consulting company is sucking down millions out of the deal.
Things were better when it was two guys in a dorm room.
 
WrenchBender
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:14 pm

Quoting JFK69 (Thread starter):
What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

He's the guy that comes in to YOUR company, borrows YOUR watch, to tell YOU, what time it is. And gets paid huge amounts of money for the privilege.
Currently there is a Six Sigma/Lean team visiting, working on a move at the company where I'm located. Man, I am so happy I only get to watch  rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl   rotfl 

WrenchBender
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mt99
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:15 pm

They provide better ways to get those pesky TPS reports out on time.
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CaptOveur
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:18 pm

Quoting WrenchBender (Reply 5):
Currently there is a Six Sigma/Lean team visiting, working on a move at the company where I'm located.

Sucks to be you.. Its going to be expensive, you are going to kill more trees for no apparent reason, and there will be no discernable improvement in your final product.
Things were better when it was two guys in a dorm room.
 
Banco
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:21 pm

Quoting WrenchBender (Reply 5):
He's the guy that comes in to YOUR company, borrows YOUR watch, to tell YOU, what time it is. And gets paid huge amounts of money for the privilege.

Quite so. And the people who pay the penalty for the management being so bleeding incompetent that they have to bring in outside help are the staff who get made redundant as a result.

First rule of thumb should be to fire the management so inept that they need to be told by someone else how to run the business, and get people in who know what they're doing.
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
 
WrenchBender
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:22 pm

Quoting CaptOveur (Reply 7):
Sucks to be you.. Its going to be expensive, you are going to kill more trees for no apparent reason, and there will be no discernable improvement in your final product.

I'm the Military Liaison to the company, so I get to watch and laugh. I'm only worried about packing up my files/office when the time comes for the move. How the new place is going to be layed out may prove to be interesting though.
Sometimes it's good to be on the outside looking in.

WrenchBender
Silly Pilot, Tricks are for kids.......
 
stlgph
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:09 pm

Quoting ZakHH (Reply 2):
In general, I'd say that most consultants are highly overrated (and overpaid), but there is situations where consulting makes sense, and there are also some consultants who know their shit.

SAP Consultants -- $140 an hour-ish.
QS9000/ISO 9000 Consultants -- $1200 a day.
if assumptions could fly, airliners.net would be the world's busiest airport
 
IFEMaster
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:26 pm

Quoting Mt99 (Reply 6):
They provide better ways to get those pesky TPS reports out on time.

"Samir Naga...Naga...Nagonnaworkhereanymore..."
Delivering Anecdotes of Dubious Relevance Since 1978
 
MDorBust
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:34 pm

Well... I come into your buisness, pester you, peek in all your stuff, ask way too many questions, follow your employees around, ocassionally "borrow" one of your field service vehicles, and give a seminar or three. Then, in a year when your buisness calls me to say your problem hasn't been solved I point out all the things in my giant binder sized report I gave you that you still aren't doing.

Oh, and I cash your check too.
"I KICKED BURNING TERRORIST SO HARD IN BALLS THAT I TORE A TENDON" - Alex McIlveen
 
CastleIsland
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:38 pm

With all due respect, you all seem to be painting consultants with a very broad brush.

I am an environmental consultant. I provide scientific expertise to EPA regarding potential health effects of chemicals in drinking water, occurrence of chemicals in drinking water, analytical methods for detecting chemicals in drinking water, behavior of chemicals in the environment, particularly regarding their persistence and mobility, and tie all this into a policy/regulatory framework.

I am by no means overpaid, and have never told anyone to lay someone off.

Before you haul out those broad brushes, you might want to consider the broader meaning of the word "consultant."
"People don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent." - Dylan
 
Banco
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:42 pm

Quoting CastleIsland (Reply 13):
Before you haul out those broad brushes, you might want to consider the broader meaning of the word "consultant."

Not really. I'm known as a consultant for some of the stuff I do, as well, but I think we all know what we mean in the context provided here. I don't actually have the slightest problem with Management Consultants doing what they do to earn a living; good luck to them. I do have a problem with companies employing them because they are either inept or too cowardly to do what they need to themselves.
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
 
2H4
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:34 pm

Quoting Banco (Reply 14):
I do have a problem with companies employing them because they are either inept or too cowardly to do what they need to themselves.

What is your opinion of companies who are A) unwilling to admit they are entering new, perhaps unfamiliar territory, B) unwilling to admit they have weaknesses, and C) unwilling to seek out guidance and training to address these challenges?

To me, such companies closely resemble the airline captain of the 1950s and 1960s....they know all, they can do no wrong, they don't need any help.

More modern (and forward-thinking) companies, by contrast, are more willing to examine themselves. They're more willing to honestly assess their challenges and limitations. Seeking knowledgeable, professional outside perspective is not necessarily indicative of an unwillingness to work, or ineptitude. In fact, doing so is usually a good indicator that the company is actively seeking out and addressing their weaknesses.

Hiring consultants certainly isn't a be-all, end-all solution to a company's challenges.....but I don't think it's accurate to suggest that doing so is usually just a way to avoid work or pass the buck.

2H4

Intentionally Left Blank
 
jfk69
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:54 pm

Quoting CastleIsland (Reply 13):
With all due respect, you all seem to be painting consultants with a very broad brush.

I am an environmental consultant. I provide scientific expertise to EPA regarding potential health effects of chemicals in drinking water, occurrence of chemicals in drinking water, analytical methods for detecting chemicals in drinking water, behavior of chemicals in the environment, particularly regarding their persistence and mobility, and tie all this into a policy/regulatory framework.

I am by no means overpaid, and have never told anyone to lay someone off.

Before you haul out those broad brushes, you might want to consider the broader meaning of the word "consultant."

Ok, but how did you get started...do you work for yourself or are you employed by a larger company who sent you to the EPA?? How did the EPA find out about you and why you are not hired full time for them?
 
CastleIsland
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:34 pm

Quoting JFK69 (Reply 16):
Ok, but how did you get started...do you work for yourself or are you employed by a larger company who sent you to the EPA??

I work for a company of about 150 employees who has had contracts with EPA for some 24 years.

Quoting JFK69 (Reply 16):
How did the EPA find out about you and why you are not hired full time for them?

We were awarded contracts in the past, did good work, and thus have been awarded more and more contracts.

The simple answer to the second question here is smaller government. Rather than do all of their technical work in-house, they are granted a contract budget to hire outside experts to assist them in their efforts. That way there are fewer government employees with government-sponsored heath care and government pensions. Instead, they hire internally and sub-contract work to companies such as the one I work for, and my company covers my benefits as a private company.
"People don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent." - Dylan
 
ScarletHarlot
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:43 pm

I used to be a retirement consultant. My group wrote pension calculation systems for large companies. We partnered with the internal pension groups at our clients to develop a calc system for their pension plans, taking into consideration their administrative practice, processes, etc.

We had a very special expertise that no one company really needed to have internally. Why does a company need actuaries who are also programmers? They generally don't. Instead, they hired us to do the work, which we did for many clients. In this way we learned from each of our clients and applied our best practices to all of them. We brought an outside point of view to our clients and looked for ways to improve or automate their processes.

I now work for one of my old clients and I have two vendors / consultants I work with constantly. We outsourced our pension administration to the company that bought my old employer. They can administer our pensions for less money than it would cost us to do it internally due to economies of scale. We have another vendor whose specialty is cleaning pension data. No one company needs such people internally - the model works best to have such highly specialized people out in their own company, available to hire as needed.
But that was when I ruled the world
 
CastleIsland
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:28 pm

Quoting ScarletHarlot (Reply 18):
the model works best to have such highly specialized people out in their own company, available to hire as needed

 checkmark 

Good point, Scarlet!

I should add to my post above, that Scarlet's point applies to my field as well. When EPA subcontracts a company to perform a scope of work, they may not need that area of expertise for an extended period of time. Instead of hiring people internally, they contract consultant services for the period of performance that suits their needs. Similarly, if they have a long-term project, they may offer a limited-time contract, and of they are not happy with the contractor/consultant, at the end of the period of performance they can send the work out for re-bid and hire another company.

It would make no sense for EPA (just as an example with which I am familiar) to hire all these experts internally just to have to let them go after the specialized work has been completed. You know, government jobs are not subject to hire and fire the same way jobs in the private sector are.

This is not to say that EPA does not have a great deal of personnel with experience in very specialized areas either. It's just that there are a great many others of us spread around the country who can provide these services for less money and more flexibility (i.e., duration of project).
"People don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent." - Dylan
 
airxliban
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:01 pm

Consultant is a very broad term - I am actually a consultant with a top 5 management consulting firm in the McKinsey space. I've been doing it for 1 year, and if I were to describe what "consulting" is from our perpsective I'd say that we provide solutions to business-related problems to which the answer is not immediately obvious.

i.e. A client is a US pencil manufacturer that wants to expand into Mexico. Should they enter the Mexican pencil market? If so, how? Should they export, set up a wholly owned foreign enterprise, set up a joint venture, or otherwise? How much can they make?

i.e. A client is an insurance company that has seen a 5% decrease in profitability year on year. What happened and what can they do to increase profitability?

i.e. A client wants to make a strategic acquisition. What should they look for in a target and how much should they be willing to pay?

We can give perspectives on these as well as other sorts of issues, and typically set up a case team of 3-6 people for a few months and work alongside the client to achieve the deliverable of the project.

Hope that helps.
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.
 
beefer
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 3:12 pm

My wife works on a Project in which several consultants are involved.

The main consultant who works the most gets paid $117 per hour. Basically works a full 40 hour week so his monthly compensation is usually around $16,000 to $20,000.

He also gets paid ALL expenses on top of the hourly rate. He lives about 200 miles from the project location so he drives home every weekend. Not only does he get the normal mileage compensation, but he also gets paid his hourly rate for the time he is driving. The project has a house for him to live in when he is at the site. He gets reimbursed for food puchased, but also turns in receipts for things like laundry, etc. He even turns in receipts for 75 cents because he stopped at a gas station and bought a can of Coke.

The consultant gets paid more than the head of the project gets paid.

Their are other consultants on the project which get closer to $200 per hour but they don't work nearly as much.

Lots of Law Firms involved in the project as well. Some charging close to $600 per hour.
 
Banco
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 3:51 pm

Quoting 2H4 (Reply 15):
What is your opinion of companies who are A) unwilling to admit they are entering new, perhaps unfamiliar territory, B) unwilling to admit they have weaknesses, and C) unwilling to seek out guidance and training to address these challenges?

It would be an unusual way to approach such a challenge, to simply appoint some consultants. Many times in what I do I enter new and unfamiliar territory, but before going into it I do thinks like research, and then look to employ people who can do the job. I don't go running to consultants because it's not a cost effective or long term solution.
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
 
2H4
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 4:33 pm

Quoting Banco (Reply 22):
Many times in what I do I enter new and unfamiliar territory, but before going into it I do thinks like research, and then look to employ people who can do the job. I don't go running to consultants because it's not a cost effective or long term solution.

Please understand, I'm not suggesting that you're doing the wrong thing, nor am I suggesting that everyone should go running to consultants anytime they enter uncharted territory or find themselves struggling with something.

I'm simply arguing that blind resistance to the very notion of hiring consultants is becoming increasingly indicative of being behind the times.

I think that labeling companies who hire consultants as "either inept or too cowardly to do what they need to themselves" is a sign that the whole picture isn't being taken into account. Sure, those kinds of companies do exist, but assigning that characteristic to every company seeking help from consultants is quite shortsighted.

Kudos to you, though, for rolling up your sleeves and tackling challenges yourself.  Smile

2H4

Intentionally Left Blank
 
Banco
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 4:52 pm

Quoting 2H4 (Reply 23):
I'm simply arguing that blind resistance to the very notion of hiring consultants is becoming increasingly indicative of being behind the times.

First of all, it's not blind resistance, it's an appraisal based on what they can offer. And the answer is, not much for the money they charge compared to alternatives. Secondly, it's a circular and self-justifying argument to say that not liking consultants is by definition indicative of being behind the times. To be honest with you, anyone that tried that argument with me would automatically be ruled out of consideration anyway for being far too up themselves for their own good. I come across that kind of stuff a lot actually, the kind of team-building bullshit that says a refusal to participate is automatic evidence of a closed mind. I tell them I'm not a team player anyway, and if they want to run around a field doing stupid things, that's up to them, but I'm going to the pub.  Wink

Now, I'm not saying they don't have a place, and I did say further up that all best wishes to them for doing what they do. But equally, the kind of smug-management-consultant-speak that so often appears is reason to throw many of them off the highest building that can be found.

I'm quite sure not all are like that, and that some are very good indeed. I just haven't yet found one. Feel free to convince me of your merits, I'm quite prepared to listen - I'm open-minded you see....  Wink
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
 
joness0154
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 5:02 pm

I'm trying to get a job out of school (I graduate in December) with an aviation consulting firm. They do airport planning, financial planning, environmental/noise, etc. If I can land the job it should be pretty neat.
I don't have an attitude problem. You have a perception problem
 
Tom in NO
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 5:45 pm

One of the better consultant jokes I've heard goes like this:

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of the dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Broni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the shepherd, "If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?"

The shepherd looked at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looked at his peacefully-grazing flock and calmly answered, "Sure."

The yuppie parked his car, whipped out his IBM Thinkpad and connected it to a cell phone, then he surfed to a NASA page on the internet where he called up a GPS satellite navigation system, scanned the area, and then opened up a database and an Excel spreadsheet with complex formulas. He sent an email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, received a response. Finally, he prints out a 130 page report on his miniaturized printer then turns to the shepherd and says, "You have exactly 1586 sheep."

"That is correct; take one of the sheep." said the shepherd. He watches the young man select one of the animals and bundle it into his car.

Then the shepherd says, "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my animal?"

"OK, why not," answered the young man.

"Clearly, you are a consultant," said the shepherd.

"That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required," answers the shepherd.

"You turned up here although nobody called you. You want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you don't know crap about my business. Now give me back my dog."
----------
Tom at MSY
"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina
 
2H4
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 6:36 pm

Quoting Banco (Reply 24):
I come across that kind of stuff a lot actually, the kind of team-building bullshit that says a refusal to participate is automatic evidence of a closed mind.

Refusal to participate is not evidence of a closed mind.....refusal to consider participating is.  yes 

Quoting Banco (Reply 24):
Secondly, it's a circular and self-justifying argument to say that not liking consultants is by definition indicative of being behind the times.

Again, not liking consultants is one thing.....but the definition and capabilities of consultants are constantly changing. For example, ten years ago, city planning/real estate/development consultants had little to no access to GPS mapping technology and data. Today, they have incredible technology and all kinds of historical and trend data.

Failure to explore and examine the emerging capabilities of available resources is, in my opinion, a strong indication of being behind the times.

Quoting Banco (Reply 24):
First of all, it's not blind resistance, it's an appraisal based on what they can offer.

But generalizing the capabilities of all consultants and applying the same determination to all of them is ignoring the reality that their capabilities are as widespread and different as can be.

Quoting Banco (Reply 24):
And the answer is, not much for the money they charge compared to alternatives.

How can the value of consultants and the effectiveness of alternatives in any way be generalized like that?

2H4

Intentionally Left Blank
 
57AZ
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Fri Oct 19, 2007 8:14 pm

In the field that I work in, they provide engineering advice and expertise to government agencies that often do not have the required knowledge or expertise in house. This area is transit planning-specifically planning, construction and operation of modern streetcar and light rail systems. The consultant knows what the applicable standards are, what suppliers and contractors are knowledgible in the various tasks or functions required for projects and can guide the customer through each step of the process of constructing new facilities or rebuilding existing ones. They save the customer from wasting time or money unnecessecarily, if the proper consultant is selected and listened to.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
AKLDELNonstop
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Sat Oct 20, 2007 8:58 am

Quoting Airxliban (Reply 20):

Spoken like a true consultant Big grin
 
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moo
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Sat Oct 20, 2007 10:48 am

What do we do?

Simple - we bring experience, skills and expertise to your company when you do not need those things longterm or when those things are not related to your line of business.

There are some shysters out there, there always are in any area, but on the whole a good consultant will save you either time, money or both.

Quoting Banco (Reply 22):
I don't go running to consultants because it's not a cost effective or long term solution.

Consulting is not supposed to be a long term solution, its supposed to satisfy either your immediate needs, or needs that won't be around in the long term.

You don't employ a consultant to do your line-of-business work (unless you are very very desperate) - you employ consultants to do stuff that your company has no business doing itself and is a short term requirement.

For example, database architects do a roaring trade in consulting - they are only really required during a very brief period during an IT project, and then they go away after designing your database schema and related stuff. You don't hire someone to do that permanently because then they will be being highly paid to sit around on their asses for 99% of their time at your company.

You hire a consultant to do it. They have the expertise and, much more importantly, the EXPERIENCE of doing this many many times over, both of which make it more cost effective in the long run. Its better to let someone else discover the problems than stumble on them yourself.

If you start having a reoccurring need for the consultants skills, your business needs have changed and you need to reexamine your LoB appropriately - thats when you begin to think about hiring someone long term.
 
melpax
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Sat Oct 20, 2007 11:10 am

Quoting JFK69 (Thread starter):

Rape & Pillage??
Essendon - Whatever it takes......
 
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modernArt
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RE: What Exactly Does A Consultant Do?

Sat Oct 20, 2007 12:24 pm

Many of my drinking buddies are ex- Andersen Consulting (Acenture today) types. They lived the good life traveling the world on someone else's dime for most of the 90s.

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