Update: See this post – To Bill, Or Not To Bill (by the hour): That is the Question. And in case there are any further questions, see my review for the book on Amazon.
Whatever you do, don’t buy The Consulting Bible by Alan Weiss. I’m not kidding. You are probably not going to like it. In fact, you might even find it offensive.
The new book by Mr. Million Dollar Consultant, Alan Weiss, is called The Consulting Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Expand a Seven-Figure Consulting Practice. The title sounds promising. What consulting firm wouldn’t want to know how to expand a seven-figure practice? What corporate refugee wouldn’t want to rocket to consulting superstar success just by reading a book?
Here is why you’re probably not going to want to read this book: Weiss single-handedly debunks nearly every sacred cow that so many “consultants” hold dear.
Example 1: The Role of a Consultant
According to Wikipedia, a “consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area…”
Here is Weiss’ comment on page 3 of the new book:
The role of a consultant is to improve the client’s condition.
Notice the difference? It is easy to miss. The general consensus regarding what a consultant does is to provide advice. That isn’t qualified in any way, such as to provide good advice. Nope, it just says advice. Alan Weiss gets right to the heart of it: improving the client’s condition. Is the client better off after using you?
Example 2: IT Consultants
Weiss indicates that a good number of people in the U.S. that identify themselves as consultants, are Information Technology (IT) consultants. What do most IT consultants do?
Most IT resources are simply doing – writing code, fixing bugs, testing new relationships. They are not bringing their own intellectual capital or serving as partners and advisors to the chief information officer or chief technology officer (who should be their buyers).
According to the author, most so-called IT consultants are in fact, “just paid help without the benefits.” Which leads into another topic many people will find offensive…
Example 3: Consultants vs. Contractors
Using the aforementioned definition of a consultant as one who improves the client’s condition, how does Weiss define all those other people that refer to themselves as consultants? As contractors or subcontractors.
A contractor is, in fact, a temporary employee, and is almost always paid by the time unit, usually hourly… They bring no unique intellectual capital in most cases, nor is that what the buyer is paying for.
In other words, “we’re not paying you to think.” Most people I know that serve as construction consultants fall into this realm. They are hired to perform a specific task, at the discretion of the client, and usually based on an hourly rate. They are not practicing the type of interventions/engagements that Weiss has written so many books on. In most situations, the client isn’t asking for a consultant to provide a solution to a problem. They are looking for someone to perform an activity, regardless of whether it is the right solution. If the predetermined solution isn’t effective, does it mean the consultant failed, or the client failed, or both?
Example 4: Damning the Blessed Billable Hour
If anything above hasn’t gotten your blood boiling, perhaps the following will. Why should you just avoid this book altogether? Alan Weiss hates billable hours.
There you go. Nearly every consulting firm I know of lives and dies by billable units of time. Without billing by some arbitrary unit of time, how does Mr. Weiss propose that consultants receive compensation?
You will never be successful in this business charging by a time unit. And that is because it is unfair to the client and inequitable for you.
Fees are based on value.
Why are billable hours “unfair to the client?” The person billing by the hour gets paid more, the longer they take. What motivation is there to improve processes, increase efficiency, save the client time, if you’re charging by the hour? The irony here is that many consultants are hired precisely to improve processes, increase efficiency and save time – yet to do so in their own business would reduce billable hours.
Fees based on value mean that your income as a consultant isn’t tied to the number of hours you work, or by the rates you charge per unit of time. The more value you provide, through improving your clients’ situations, the more you command for your fees. This means you can take vacations and spend time the way you choose, rather than viewing non-working time as lost revenue, as so many consultants and small business owners do.
So how does one charge fees based on value, instead of based on units of time? Read the book. But as I’ve warned, you are probably not going to like this book. It may not be for you.
I’ve just begun to scratch the surface here and I’m not nearly as eloquent as Weiss. Oh, there’s another thing you should know before deciding to purchase this book: the “secret” to growing a seven-figure consulting practice doesn’t involve hiring more (or any) employees.
If you do want to purchase the book, here is a link to Amazon where you can get either the paperback version or the Kindle version (which I purchased):