Meeting as Business Partners (On the Client Relationship)

I have found it very satisfying lately to meet my clients not as their consultant, but as their collaborator.

Often, as a consultant, it is my job to open and hold a space for the client: The clients use it to speak about their problems, issues, situations, and I listen with patience and offer my perspective or advice. Consultants learn a lot about their clients. Often, the clients don’t learn much about their consultants. (Except that we are smart, and we are good listeners. Well.)

Consultants usually don’t share much about their lives as consultants, their own business development or their personal situation. And why would we?

When a space opened up in a client meeting early last month – we had finished the agenda one hour earlier than planned and found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands suddenly – I took the opportunity to share from the heart what was going on with my company, Structure & Process, at this moment:

I shared about our ongoing work with other clients and my difficulties to manage growth: to set up projects with the right timing, and to build capacity on our team while maintaining quality as we grow.

I realised as I was speaking that this was more than just an empathy-session for the consultant (why, thanks :)): it was actually helpful contextual information for my client. Understanding how I think, and understanding where our business is going, can help them use me and my team’s capacities better.

I would like to establish this in our standard procedures when working with clients: have regular conversations outside of the current work context, to share contextual information on how the businesses are doing . This should surface

  • current unused capacity
  • further topics the we could engage in
  • more efficient ways of working together.

I would encourage consultants, especially those with small teams, to share more about their own business with their clients. I would encourage clients of consultants to ask more questions about how the consultants are doing business-wise, and what else they are doing besides the current client work. There is great potential when meeting as partners.

thrive – intransitive verb \ˈthrīv\
: to grow or develop successfully : to flourish or succeed

What are work relationships in which you thrive? How do you make them, build them, maintain them, keep them? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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