Guiding Principles for the Independent Consultant

By: Wayne Balardo

As we move well into the 21st century,  employment for life is no longer a reality. For many people, becoming an independent consultant seems like an attractive alternative that provides hope and challenges. In writing Genetics of Independent Consulting ( or, I realized that there were several guiding principles for success that, while not unique to the Independent Consultant, are subtly different than that of an employee.

The Guiding Principles model, with the ultimate goal of client success, recognizes the need for a disciplined approach that builds on a foundation of strength.

Personal Foundation
Family support and confidence in you are critical to your success as an independent consultant. As you move forward, there may be times that you get so caught up in an engagement and you may inadvertently ignore your family—this is normal. Recognize your behaviour and let them know you still care.

Your Personal Operating Model
You will need a framework that will help you focus on what is essential and believe in yourself. There are numerous pundits, such as Claude Bristol and Anthony Robins, that provide frameworks. I also outline a model on Personal Operating Model in my book.

Business Foundation
Relationships are the lifeblood of consulting. There is a virtuous circle between relationships and opportunities with each feeding the other. Relationships are also vital to the success of any engagement. Continually building your networks is an excellent investment. Remember the wise words of Margot Asquith: “Keep friends in every port – lose no one”

Although the SOW and Status Report are two of the most critical frameworks, you will need more than them to be successful.  Remember to keep engagement deliverables and build your knowledge base. This material will help you focus on engagement content rather than form.

Hygiene Factors
We Are Guests
“We are guests in the client’s house and need to behave accordingly.” Most clients will recognize your actions in this regard. Your behaviour may well become a competitive advantage.

Keeping Current
Clients deserve and expect nothing but your very best. They rightfully assume you are well-versed in the subject matter. Staying current is your responsibility. Being involved in professional organizations and maintaining your professional credentials are a significant part of the solution.

Team Sport
Consulting is a team sport. To be successful, you need the support of the client, sponsor, client staff, including end-users, vendors, suppliers, and yes, your competitors. While nurturing support from all parties is essential, sponsor support is critical. Excellent consulting is a poor substitute for weak sponsorship. 

SOW and Status Report
As the song by Dinah Shore goes: Love and marriage, love and marriage. Go together like a horse and carriage;

One could say the same thing about the SOW (Statement of Work) and the Status Report. Effective use of these tools can help eliminate ambiguity and stress for both the client and the independent consultant. The SOW lays out expectations and the Status Report helps with navigation. Disciplined use of these tools is essential.

The Goal
Client Success
You want to do your best to make them successful while not seeking glory. At times, your good work can directly advance their careers.


About the Author:

Wayne Balardo, Certified Management Consultant
Author and Consulting Advisor