Friday, 27 March 2015

Keep what you’ve got, by giving it all away

I remember working at an electronics manufacturer many years ago. The managing director there was an interesting guy, interesting in that his attitude was a little bit back in the 1970s.

One conversation I had with him was about training. My argument was that we should implement a simple training course, more a skills check, for the staff on the line. The idea being that we could ensure a consistency of approach and spot any training needs. After all, getting staff into the business, a new start up at that time, then trained on the products, was a big investment. It was surely wise to ensure everyone was around the same skill level for the core skills.

His response was straight out of the How Not to Manage handbook. Yep, “If we train them, they could leave.” As the retort goes, “… and if we don’t train them and they stay?”
This attitude has no place in the modern professional environment. It’s a small minded and fearful attitude. One that reeks of ‘lack’ instead of ‘abundance’. It’s an attitude that if applied to other matters, will help kill off any team, business and even personal life. When consulting or working for an employer in the software testing field, this attitude will be your death knell.

Small Minded Consultants
I recently encountered a similar attitude to this again, in my current testing consultancy role.

The scenario here was a conversation with another consultant. I proposed that we should collaborate on some White Papers, proposing service offerings our client could deliver. Showing them how to structure the services, tools needed, likely costs, blockers and enablers. All you’d expect in something that was essentially a business proposal.

The response from the consultant, 15+ years on since the encounter at the electronics company, was like hearing an echo. This time the complaint was that if we show them what they could do in such detail, they wouldn’t need us, they would go off and do it themselves.

Why this is wrong, wrong
This is an attitude of fear, of small mindedness and a reflection that this person’s consultative mindset is way off.

First off, I absolutely believe you cannot keep secret everything you know, in an attempt to keep it rarified, believing it will keep you employable. In doing so you, if it’s something new for your client, you will fail to ignite interest in what you can do, fail to place yourself amongst those that are known to know about whatever it is you’re hiding. That means you can’t engage them and have them pay you for the work.

If you have a business, would you hide your products and services or describe them as fully as possible to engage potential clients? Why is it any different when you’re an IT contractor, especially if you’re working for a testing consultancy? It’s not. You need to help your client understand their options and what you can deliver. Then engage them in that and bill them.
By being open and giving away what you know, you have the potential to get more back.

What, not How.
There is a caveat here though, a little nuance in the approach that any wise consultant will understand.

When schooling your client in whatever it is you believe they may be interested in and that you could deliver – you need to tell them WHAT it is, WHAT the benefits are, etc. You don’t want to tell them HOW. That Know How combined with prior experience is why you’re needed. This is the part of the game that’s understood. Every company shares WHAT it has on offer, the exact How To is why we need them afterwards.

Don’t worry about this approach. When you present something your client is interested in, explaining your prior successes and how you can help guarantee their success – of course the first person they will look to hire to do this thing, is you. Any smart business owner will at any rate. If they’re not smart, then you’re on a route to nothing presenting ideas and opportunities anyway!

Keep an attitude of abundance, not scarcity. And share what you know, tell of the benefits and your experience, give your client options to explore; then wait for it to come back around to you.


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