26 November 2009

The secrets of consulting

Filed under: books, consulting — David Wood @ 12:38 pm

One thing I’m likely to want to do in the weeks and months ahead is to earn some income via consulting (perhaps on an interim basis).  I’ve therefore updated my own (still rudimentary) “business” website, http://deltawisdom.com, to mention that I can “provide high-value facilitation, consultancy, and presentations”.

Responding to this, my good friend and long-term Symbian colleague, John Pagonis of Pragmaticomm, sent me a short piece of advice:

may I suggest you study the “Secrets of Consulting” by G. M. Weinberg again if you haven’t done this already

I took John’s advice and have just finished reading the book – full title is “The secrets of consulting: a guide to giving and getting advice successfully“.

It contains a lot of interesting and useful ideas for an aspiring consultant, expressed with good humour, and memorably summed up in pithily-stated laws.

Here are just a few examples:

You can make buffalo go anywhere just so long as they want to go there

Trust takes years to win, moments to lose

The trick of earning trust is to avoid all tricks

Nobody but you cares about the reason you let them down

Spend at least one fourth of your time doing nothing

Pricing has many functions, only one of which is the exchange of money

In spite of what your client says, there’s always a problem

No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem

Clients always know how to solve their problems, and always tell the solution in the first five minutes

Consultants should not care who gets the credit… When an effective consultant is present, the client solves problems

(This is just a small fraction of the laws stated – and explained – in the book.)

I think I already had the same views as what the author was explaining, so I didn’t get any blinding “aha” insight from it.  However, the laws are very handy reminders.  Indeed, Weinberg states a law about that too:

What you don’t know may not hurt you, but what you don’t remember always does

For me, the chapters “Marketing yourself” and “Putting a price on your head” were probably the most useful 🙂


  1. For all consultants capable and interested in too many things I find the “Law of raspberry jam” the best advice.

    “The more you spread it, the thinner it gets”.

    It is so true

    Comment by John Pagonis — 26 November 2009 @ 2:45 pm

    • Hi John,

      “The more you spread it, the thinner it gets”

      Spot on!

      I’ve been a big fan of focus for a looong time. The ability to focus effectively and productively is a big differentiator between sucess and failure. As I wrote in my piece “Going far, together” back in May:

      …there’s a greater risk of too much interest than too little interest. It reminds me of the early days of Symbian Ltd, ten years ago. In those days, too, we had numerous sales enquiries and technical requests. I found myself being pulled simultaneously in many different directions. I penned a heartfelt email to my colleagues at the time: “Fritter or focus?” In that email, I asked: Should we continue to spread ourselves thinly (“fritter”) across a large number of possible development or marketing projects? Or should we instead become more focused, on a smaller number of activities?

      Thankfully, in these early Symbian Ltd days, focus won – and (as people say) “the rest is history”.

      Having said that, it is (of course) very important on a regular basis to take time away from the current focus, in a retrospective (or some might say “sabbatical”), to review what the right focus should be.

      // dw2

      Comment by David Wood — 29 November 2009 @ 8:36 pm

  2. Hi David,

    The advice I would give on a practical level is to invest a little in your web presence – the web page. Try to find one used by someone with comparable experience and clout and use it as an example. Be a little more specific about those services. It is no harm to be explicit about being one of the most knowledgeable and best connected people in the mobile space; and in addition to document there the pressing problems in the industry that you can help with. You might then use another section to explain or illustrate how that unique experience is valuable to any sector that has to undergo rapid change; or to managers who need to comprehend the future. Sorry if these seem overly practical but I think the message is you need to be a carpenter to build a good shop window.


    Comment by Haydn — 29 November 2009 @ 3:55 pm

    • Hi Haydn,

      Thanks for the suggestions! “Practical” is good 🙂

      As you recommend, I’ll invest some more time later this week on my website, creating a new page in which I give specific practical examples of the kinds of value that I aspire to provide via the different areas of consultancy that I list.

      // dw2

      Comment by David Wood — 29 November 2009 @ 8:41 pm

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