Staying Fresh in Consulting; Every Product Has a Sell-By Date.

by Joe

Age discrimination may be illegal but age is still a reality. Most consultant’s primary product is THEM.  What is the expiration date on THEM?

In sports we all agree “father time is undefeated”…. We may be an outlier such as Peyton Manning but even Peyton will someday transition to another realm of work. 

Suggestions:

Stay in good health and stay fit. Don’t need to look and act like your thirty which usually makes us look even older. But be in reasonably good shape for your age. Primarily to bring energy to the table. 

Stay relevant in whatever field you are in. Unlike the medical, CPA and legal realm independent consultants seldom are required to take courses and test in them. So, we must be driven from within to not only stay current but rise above the norm in our fields of expertise. 

Example. In China people don’t want to know what we saw and experienced in China or where we were or how often we visited  but when were we there last and how broadly have we gained exposure. What levels of exposure and how deeply we are experienced. No place in the world changes more rapidly than China! 

Clients ask discreetly about our age. 

“How sustainable is your work?”

“What are your transition plans?” 

Instead of feeling like you’ve been carded at the bar, you should take these questions as complements. It means your customers value YOUR contributions and they want you to continue to make them while you still have energy and all your marbles.  

Be honest. No one is forever. Also, as the competent professional that you are, you should be able to look forward to a time when you don’t need to work. Rather, strive to provide the best possible work at the best rate you can earn for as long as you are still providing good value to your clients.

My response is basically “I could retire and be fine. My wife might even be happy, but I enjoy working. Have worked since I was 16 and it is a habit I’m not eager to break. As long as I can be effective and relevant I have no plans to quit.”  

What contingency plans can we offer should something unexpected arise?  We should know and be able to articulate what these are: Poor health, health of a spouse requiring our attention, a sudden change in the political environment where we work, etc.  

Word 4 Asia encourages our clients to think in terms of three year initiatives and we promise that we can fulfill these with or without my personal presence. We have a team which can sustain any project(s) for that duration of time in place. 

Furthermore almost all our contracts are one year in duration. This provides a time for evaluation and off ramps if necessary. 

We cannot deny mortality. We should also be conversant with the norms for Boomer retirement.  Most all say they wish to work forever or at least until full retirement age, which is 67.  However, only a small percentage actually do. We should know why this is the case and make sure we’re honest with ourselves and upfront with our clients. Let’s keep living in the real world. 

Consultants who advise others must demonstrate wisdom in their own work and lives. That single factor may be our best sales presentation.

Need a little more inspiration, check out this wonderful Ted talk by boomer, Tom Hering, “How I Became an Entrepreneur at 66”. At 64, Tom was shown the door by his employer who felt he’d ‘aged out’. Two years later, he was the founder of a successful company, his passion project that turns industrial waste into packaging.

http://boomermale.com/2018/10/22/how-i-became-an-entrepreneur-at-66/
Click the link to view Tom Hering’s Ted talk.

What are your thoughts on remaining vital in your career, even as time continues to march forward? I’d enjoy the conversation. And, as always, if your organization’s plans include. expansion in China, perhaps you should contact us. Our large network, and more than twenty years of practical experience might be just the advantage you need to succeed! I can be reached at Gene@word4asia.com.

The Three Principles We Manage By

by Joe

Word 4 Asia has been been serving clients in our unique niche for over twenty years.  During that time, we’ve worked with many clients to help them achieve difficult goals.  Looking back, I can see a common thread of things that I believe have contributed towards successful projects.  While, every organization is different, there are a number of principles that we’ve ‘top of mind’.  Doing so has allowed us to succeed.  This month’s blog is about those principles.

Principle Number One: Serve From Our Strengths

We’re only as good as the combined set of our company’s and our team’s experience.  From time to time, we’ve been asked to partner with certain organizations on topics that were outside our ‘wheel house’.  We’ve passed on most of those opportunities.   We know that when our prospects come to us for help, its because our reputation is very good and they’ve received strong referrals.   We know that new clients are often hiring our reputation because to them it’s a promise of what they can experience.  We will never sell what we cannot deliver. 

When we commit to a project, it’s because we know we have the right experience for it.  To us, this means

We understand the environment our customers want to succeed in.  There are so many differences between working in mainland China and the world that most of our clients inhabit in the western world.  We have been to China hundreds of times.  We know the people, how things get done, what to look out for and how to get things done more easily.  We can’t say the same for other regions of Asia, so we don’t work in those other regions.

Our word is our bond.  If Word 4 Asia make a promise, it’s going to happen.  We also do everything in our power to accomplish those promises within the scope of the time period and the project budget.  One of my pet peeves is a vendor who over-commits and under-delivers.  My entire team knows this and they’re trained and cautioned about making that mistake.

Trust is everything in our business.  Many of our customers have relied on our expertise for years.  Trust is one of the most important reasons why they continue to come back to us.

Principle Number Two: Willingness to Partner

We stand behind our work.  Completely.  We’ve got such skin in the game that we promise to return our client’s fees if we were unable to complete anything that was in-scope. 

By aligning our fee with our clients’ outcomes, we believe we’re communicating several very important messages.  One, that we believe in their work and their organization.   Two, that we are committed to their success for the long-term, not just during the period under our contract.  We’re saying that we’re willing to assume the same level of risk they are, because we believe in our own work, and in the work our clients perform as well.

One sub-point under willingness to partner relates to the way Word 4 Asia responds to our client’s “Requests for Price/ Proposal”.  Some consulting firms are so focused on limiting their exposure that they even submit boiler plate replies to the RFPs they receive.  You’d never find that with us.  When we quote an engagement or project, we take the time to consider every facet of the project.  Besides being accurate, this also helps us stay true to the points discussed under ‘trust’ and ‘integrity’.

Principle Number Three: Fees

Many organizations are now listing ‘fees’ as the second highest priority, after experience, when it comes to choosing between potential consultants.  This hasn’t always been the case but it does show how important the Purchasing department has become in consultant selection.   For some consultants, this might seem threatening.  However, to our way of thinking, its just business as usual.  As true partners to our clients, we’ve always considered stewarding their resources a very important part of our role while serving them.   Our proposals are heavy on details so the fairness of our quotes is readily apparent.  We’re proud of that.

Perhaps your organization is looking for a trusted partner to help you achieve your goals in mainland China.  Word 4 Asia is an experienced and trusted partner to many organizations in the USA.  Perhaps we have the right combination of background, personnel and skills you need.  The best way to find out is to contact us at gene@word4asia.com or you can phone Dr. Gene Wood at 714) 769-9114.   We’ll be ready for your call!

Is It Time to Hire a Consultant? Setting the Table for Success.

by Joe

So,  you think maybe it’s time to bring in a consultant.  Do you know how to match the right consultant with the needs of your organization?    How you address this has a huge impact on the future of the relationship.  Having served many clients over the last fifteen years, we think we’ve learned quite a bit about what fosters productive client-consultant relationships and what doesn’t.

The Roles Consultants Play

One place to start is having a clear notion of what you actually want your consultant to do for you.  Consultants can occupy a fairly broad array of roles. 

As the client, you may be searching for a consultant to help you answer key questions about the business.  A market research consultant, for instance, is retained to study questions about how consumers react to ad messages, new product concepts and other marketing variables.  A good consultant will think beyond the bounds of the project as the client frames it and will ask questions about how the information will ultimately be used.  This additional perspective may result in the problem statement being reworked and the scope either broadened or narrowed.  Beware of the consultant who does not think beyond the RFP.

On another occasion, you may want a consultant’s help in solving an important problem.  For instance, finding a new raw material source, re-thinking a production process, or something else.  As in the first example, the best consultants will take the time to consider if the pinpointed problem is really the right one to address.  Questions Word 4 Asia often asks our clients include

  • ‘What solutions have worked in the past?’
  • ‘Which related aspects of the client’s work are not going well?’
  • ‘How will the solution be applied?’

It’s also important to know the prospective consultant’s record for correct diagnoses.   Ask for case-studies where correctly identifying the root cause of a problem led to effective solutions.

What recommendation delivery method is right for your organization? 

The follow up question to this is ‘What is the prospective consultant’s experience and success in delivering recommendations in the way(s) that best suit your team?’  Is your management team prone to change or is change something which is feared and/ or poorly executed?   A consultant’s ability to influence receptivity of their recommendations will also have a huge impact on the ultimate value of the project to the organization.

Do we have a proper learning environment?

The project your consultant is engaged in will not be the last time your organization needs to work through a challenging opportunity.  Can you find a consultancy that can help you improve your internal bench strength for future problem solving?  This single facet could possibly be even more valuable than the solution to the immediate need!

The Traits Great Consultants Possess

Not all consulting firms will be able to provide solutions to this list of considerations.  However, there are certain traits you can look for which will  help ensure at least some of them. 

Reliability:  It’s an old-fashioned notion, but we believe that doing what you promise and promising only what you’ll do are important in any profession.

Attention to Detail:  The old saying is true; ‘If a person cannot be trusted in the small things, how can they be trusted with the big ones?’  In consulting this olds true from the way an opportunity is approached to the quality of the finished written report.

Resourcefulness:  Find a consultant that is flexible and capable in a variety of situations.  You are hiring a consultant because you don’t have the internal band-width to address the question(s) internally.  Resources are already limited.  The consulting firm you hire must be able to produce outstanding results working on their own.

An inquisitive mind that sees beyond the obvious:  Its sometimes happened in our experience that the challenges we have addressed for our clients were not the ones they originally considered.  By seeing past the client’s own bias and perspectives we were able to ask different questions that ultimately led to the right conclusions and allowed us to generate better results.

For fifteen years, Word 4 Asia has been helping our clients to address a variety of challenging opportunities.  In fact, it seems that our environment has only become more interesting and challenging with the passing of time.  We’re proud of the contributions we make toward our clients objectives. Have you got a need we can help you address?  We’d love to talk.  You can reach Word 4 Asia by emailing Dr. Gene Wood at gene@word4asia.com

Want Success? Listen Up!

by Joe

Regardless of your industry, your business success eventually boils down to one simple fact. It’s all about how effectively you communicate. Excellence in this area is required to lead your team. Without listening, we cannot satisfy your customers needs.
It’s been my experience that the biggest challenge many leaders have in this area is that they are unable to get out of their own way. That’s too bad, because the secret is staring them straight in the face. All that’s required is a mirror and a little light to create a clear reflection.

THE ANSWER IS STARING YOU IN THE FACE

Look in that mirror! What do you see? If you’re like most people, when you quickly inventory your own face you should count two eyes, two ears and just one mouth – more importantly just a single tongue. You think maybe there’s a lesson there? Of course there is (yes, I’m now guilty of asking you a “leading question”.) Not to shoot a dead horse, but the point is this: the best communicators are going to spend twice as much time observing and twice as much time listening as they will spend time talking.

GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY

A wise man once said that when we are speaking, we are taking time to rehearse things we already know. But when we listen, we create opportunities to learn important things that we don’t know yet!

At this point, some people might benefit from being reminded that hearing and listening are not the same thing. Listening is an active discipline. While one can hear without processing, the same is not true in reverse and it makes all the difference in the world.

FOUR BUILDING BLOCKS

There are four important building blocks to active listening. These include:
Paraphrasing:  Summarizing what the speaker has said in your own words. Doing this opens the opportunity to see if you’ve fully understood the speaker’s ideas.
Empathizing:  Empathy goes beyond intellectual interpretation of the message. It means that you’ve properly understood how the speaker actually feels about what is being discussed. Often, there are non-verbal cues (body language, tone of voice, volume, etc.) that provide this information. Your ability to properly respond requires that you have the EQ (emotional quotient or emotional maturity) to interpret the message. People with aspergers disease will struggle here. Unless you are in this group, there’s really no excuse for missing these signals. Appropriate responses require patience and an open mind. (Judge not, lest ye be judged!)
Questionning:  This step is probably going to be necessary in order for the paraphrasing, addressed earlier, to accurately reflect the speaker’s original intentions. Focus on asking open-ended questions that draw out more details and reveal as much as possible about the speaker’s intentions.
Balanced Response:  There are going to be times when you, as the listener, are not going to agree with the speaker. Agreement is not essential but a respectful, constructive, thoughtful reply always is. A balanced reply is one that emphasizes the points you and the speaker have in common, or the points that you agreed with or admired, while also creating space to share your own personal thoughts on the subject and where you and the speaker might differ. It’s been my experience that the best solutions to many business challenges reflect the combined input of several people or even an entire team.

Motivate Your Team By Showing You Listen and Value their Input

When your customers and your team identify you as truly ‘tuned in’ to what they share with you, your ability to lead and motivate will increase in exciting ways that might surprise you. Nothing shuts employee participation down faster than a grandstanding supervisor.  Show your team that you respect, desire and actually need their input and watch job ownership take flight.  Suddenly, demotivated team members feel valued.  When these things happen, the quality of their work improves, volunteerism rises, productivity is off the charts!  

Revolutionize an Industry By Listening to Your Customers

It works the same way outside your company doors, too.  Successful brands listen closely to their consumers and provide solutions that better meet market needs and satisfy market wants.  Provide a better mousetrap than your competition and be rewarded in the marketplace.   Small brands can still beat entrenched giants.  If you need proof, go visit Detroit some time.

Take the time to hear what your team and your customers have to say and understand what they need to feel supported. Stretch your own EQ and feel the emotions behind what your customers share with you and how your employees feel about their jobs. I believe you’ll be glad you made the effort to participate at a deeper level in the communication process. After all, hearing is not listening but listening is the pathway toward long term success.

 

 

Word 4 Asia has been working with teams in North American and Asia for over twenty years. We think we’ve learned a bit about communication in all these years. If your organization has interests in Asia on its horizon, we’d like to share what we’ve learned with you. You can reach us at gene@word4asia.com any time. We’ll be listening!

 

Staying Fresh in Consulting

Age discrimination may be illegal but age is still a reality. Most consultant’s primary product is THEM. What is the expiration date on THEM? In sports we all agree “father time is…

 

Read More

 

The Three Principles We Manage By

Word 4 Asia has been been serving clients in our unique niche for over twenty years. During that time, we’ve worked with many clients to help them achieve difficult …

 

Read More

 

Is it Time to Hire a Consultant?

So, you think maybe it’s time to bring in a consultant. Do you know how to match the right consultant with … …

 

Read More



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