by: John Caddell
I am working on two consulting possibilities at the moment. #1 is right in my sweet spot, basically leveraging the work I've done the past fifteen years. #2 is more of a stretch, and would ask me to work in a few areas where I have peripheral knowledge or no experience at all.
I have a pretty good shot at one of these. The other I have no chance to land at all. Which is which?
If you guessed that I have no chance at opportunity #1, you're right. Why? The people associated with opportunity #1 don't know me at all. They found me (and other possibilities) at a recent trade show. When we talked on the phone, they wanted several references for identical projects. Given that I'm pretty new to the consulting game, the references were similar but not identical. Other folks can provide the precise references they want. Fifteen years in the business wasn't worth much.
The folks at opportunity #2 I've known for a few years. With my last company we competed for business with this group, and lost. But we built a good relationship, and have kept in touch since. Now they have a need, and want me to help them. They're confident I'll learn the things I haven't done before (and I am too, though I expect to make a few mistakes along the way). What's most important for them is the confidence they have in me (and vice versa) given our relationship.
This is instructive. Personal knowledge and confidence in your supplier's abilities are more important than individual CV line items. And if you don't know someone, risk aversion causes you (with good reason) to limit your search to suppliers that can prove they've done exactly what you need.
When I was younger I might have stewed over the injustice of this all. Today, I respect the folks in opportunity #1. I would do exactly what they are doing if I were in the same position. The lesson is to work hard at developing more relationships like #2. That's where the true opportunities are.