Consulting and Parenting

Have you ever thought about becoming a consultant?  Maybe you want to hire a consultant and aren’t sure you understand how one approaches the job?  Well, if you’re a parent (some of you), have a friend who is a parent (most of you), or were ever a kid yourself (all of you), then you already know more about being a consultant than you might think.

A couple years ago, I became a consultant and parent about the same time, and I’ve noticed some very interesting similarities.

Do you work here?

Every consultant knows that feeling, the one that comes with the different colored badge, or that look from a client’s senior manager wondering whose team you work on as he/she tries to place your face.  It wouldn’t be so awkward if you hadn’t been introduced four times in the last six months and made a presentation in person just three weeks ago.

Consultants often face a greater challenge than the average employee in being recognized as a member of the team.  With the right opportunity, a strong consultant can be just as valuable, and valued, as a full-time employee.  The key is demonstrating genuine interest in the client’s well-being and taking actions that are in the client’s best interest.  Maybe the badge color isn’t the same, but with a good consultant, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

My kids are young, but I see them communicating with each other via mumbles and giggles trying to determine if I’m part of their team.  They see me around pretty frequently, but they don’t seem sure they need me or if they could do the job better themselves.  Sure, go ahead and see if you can cut a blueberry into eighths so no one chokes!

What have you done for me lately?

As an employee, you often have the opportunity to bask in the glow of success.  Or, if things don’t turn out as planned, you rely on your longstanding track record to cover a minor slipup.  Not quite so in consulting, where one poorly crafted analysis can put you on the fast track to supporting a new client.  Even when delivering results, the pressure remains high to find the next big idea.  Thriving under this kind of pressure sets a great consultant apart from the rest.

Just the same, parents can’t enjoy a gratifying moment long either.  Pancakes.  Sausage.  Eggs.  Fruit.  Sure, that’s a good breakfast you made, but lunch is just 3 hours away.  And those pancakes weren’t as fluffy as last weekend.  How come they can’t always be that fluffy?

What exactly is in your rate card?

If you’re looking to hire a consultant, remember you’re paying for more than just the consultant’s hourly wage.  And if you’re looking to become a consultant, you might think your rate means retirement at 40.  It’s not quite that simple.  Starting in consulting opened my eyes to all that goes into preparing and justifying an hourly rate.  There’s company overhead, insurance, taxes, and if you’re lucky, a few days of paid vacation where someone else keeps your project moving forward.  So next time you hear about the rate your company is paying a consultant, remember the “rule of thirds” – 1/3 is applied to real wages; 1/3 to expenses; 1/3 to administrative costs.

As for parenting, did the math to prove parenting is a highly skilled, grossly underpaid profession.  Whether a working parent or stay-at-home one, the hours stink and so do the diapers.  It’s not fair to expect young children to understand all that parents do for them, but it would be nice to catch a couple innings of the ballgame between episodes of Daniel Tiger.  The new rule of thirds is – 1/3 as much sleep; 1/3 as much free time; 1/3 as much input.

In the end, there’s only one commonality between consulting and parenting that matters…listen to your partner!

Any other similarities between consulting and parenting you have experienced firsthand or heard from others?


Zach is the proud father of 2 and can be reached at [email protected].  He’ll reply to you right after he gets the kids to bed.

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