Educational Consulting

Real People Doing Real Things

Ms. Fanny Korman

Fanny Korman | Photo by: FZK Performance Solutions | Interview by: Haritos Kavallos, Sheila Kavousi, Anton Kassimov

Fanny at a Glance

Fanny often associates and collaborates with other consultants on projects with varying scopes; at the same time, she also takes on sub-contractual work from other firms who are in need of her services. As she put it: “I’m basically a freelancer. I have my own company but don’t have any employees but I do associate with other people who do similar things or have complimentary skills.” Fanny goes on to explain how she only began working as a consultant coming into her mid-forties. As a product of having started her current career path later in her life, she never had the intention of growing her company beyond what it is today. When it comes to services, Fanny confidently mentioned how she “offer[s] pretty much the gamut of what we would call HPT, Human performance Technology” with skills ranging from: assessing performance gaps, instructional design and facilitation, and leadership/soft skills training.

Getting the Ball Rolling

As is the case with anyone who is starting their new career fresh out of school, acquiring clients and getting the ball rolling is not always an easy process. Fanny states that for her, “a lot of networking, [and] being at the right place at the right time” has worked out very well for her, more so compared to promotion via her website or social media even. Finding clients is really “a mixture of hard work and luck”, as such, it is important to take all calls and consider all possible clients that come your way. After all, every opportunity is least worth exploring.

Your #1 Weapon

“Questions!”. By starting to ask questions, you start to realize where the performance gaps really lie which allows for a proper needs assessment. Of course, the client is involved throughout the process which often ends up leading to a re-framed solution that was determined collaboratively.

Midway Planning & Challenges

A lot of the planning that consultants undertake is actually quite in line with project management and so it becomes important to understand the balance between: Quality, Cost, and Time – a point Fanny reiterated several times. Furthermore, it is not enough to simply plan one path for the project, mostly because things change, and unforeseen circumstances could cause a shift in the project. As such, Fanny brings up the fact that it is always important to have a contingency plan to fall back on. Pre-emptive planning is also important and Fanny makes mention that “you have to be very strict with clients about what the scope of the project is”. By including a clearly defined scope within the contract, the possibility of of having to act on contingencies is decreased and will generally make for a much smoother project.

Performance Models

With respect to performance gaps, Fanny had this to share: “I’m looking to identify what the business needs are at every level and then I want to know what they want to accomplish and where are they know.” To achieve the former, like many consultants, Fanny typically employs Gilbert’s: Six Box Model as it is helpful in determining what is causing the problem and assists in coming up with a solution that matches the clients needs while helping them to achieve higher performance.

Follow Up

“Following up is a way to get them to be your client again and a way of tying it up” – In other words, it helps to create partnerships that stretch beyond that single contract and shows the client that you care. Fanny suggests that it’s also good practice to build the ‘follow up’ as a clause within the contract so that you are sure to be compensated for this phase of your work. How the follow up takes place can be negotiated in different ways and can happen at any point after the final deliverables have been submitted. In some cases, there might even be multiple follow ups, especially if a client wants to touch base after the project has had a chance to be put to it’s intended use.

Encouraging Feedback From Clients

When it comes to feedback, Fanny is more so interested in hearing about how she can improve professionally as opposed to personally: “I want to know what I did well, where I can improve”. Fanny also goes on to state that if as a consultant you do a really good job, then you are likely going to get personal feedback in addition to the professional feedback. Receiving feedback is one thing, however, what you do with it is something else. Whereas some individuals might keep a written log where they can actively review the feedback they’ve received over time, others might take a more passive approach by simply keeping a mental note on what the feedback was and reflect on it immediately after it has been received. Fanny concludes by stating that feedback is usually a good opportunity to assess and improve yourself but at the same time, some feedback – depending on the source – should be taken with a grain of salt.

Doing Your Own Thing

“Oh my god, if I was working for a company I’d have a cheque every week, and I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a client but then I turn around and think no, that won’t work with me.” For Fanny, becoming a consultant allowed her to not only work flexible hours – which she states is not always the case – but it also gave her the opportunity to experience new challenges and opportunities which she believes would be harder to find in a typical nine to five desk job. When asked about when would it be the right time for someone to transition from their day job to starting their own consulting firm, Fanny made it clear that she was not the best person to ask since for her, the her transition was from school directly into her own company. That said, starting up a consulting company is similar to starting up almost any other type of business so naturally, the more knowledge you can acquire about starting and running a business, the better shape you will be in to take on the challenges that come with the venture. More specifically, find out what you need to invest, contact an accountant if you can’t handle the bookkeeping yourself, gain access to equipment you need to push for a competitive advantage, find out what tax responsibilities exist, and seek coaching where required.

Final Delivery

When it comes to the project closing phase and the final deliverables have been submitted, there is always the risk that what you deliver is not entirely aligned with what the client actually wanted. However, Fanny expresses that such a situation can be avoided if you as a consultant make sure to document every detail into the contract in which the client will have to sign before the project actually dives into the design, development, implementation, and evaluation process. If ever there is any sort of discrepancy, the contract will serve as a way to ensure that the project is being fulfilled as agreed and promised to the client. It further serves the purpose of ensuring that the client does not attempt to push work onto you that is visibly outside the agreed project scope.

Fanny mentioned the importance of Project Management and how a Performance Consultant needs to be well versed in project management related responsibilities because in fact, a consultant goes through similar processes: creating a charter/contract, plan of action, design/development, implementation and finally, evaluation. If ADDIE is followed, the evaluation step ends up serving at least two purposes: (1) summative assessment during project closing where follow up is included as part of the process; (2) it gives the client the opportunity to observe the evaluation and provide feedback to the consultant based off of the projects outcome. Regardless of whether or not we consider ADDIE however, following up with clients is an important aspect of many fields. For instance, when it comes to the personal selling process (be it selling a product or selling yourself), following up is considered important because it reassures the client of the sellers interest and as Fanny put it: “it shows the client that you care” (Kotler, 2011).
Biech (2008) suggests that it is important to gain consulting experience before starting up your own firm; experience that can be acquired through several ways: as an employee, as a subcontractor, etc. Although Fanny transitioned into starting her own firm directly out of school, she did work closely with several more experienced associates who no doubt assisted in building her professional capacity. Biech (2008) goes on to suggest that it is important to have a sort of transition plan that will allow you to comfortably move from your current day job to building your own company and in fact, one aspect Biech focuses on is the financial changes that will become necessary in your personal life in order to accommodate for the start-up costs. During the interview, Fanny did refer to the fact that she was lucky enough to have financial support from certain people around her and that her household budget needed to be adapted accordingly.
Robinson & Robinson (2008) defines a contract as being: “…the articulation of mutually shared expectations [between client and consultant] regarding the deliverables (the what) and the process (the how)”. This definition is very much why Fanny puts such emphasis on putting together a strict contract early on. By covering all angles in writing, both the client and the consultant are protected against ending up with final deliverables that are not in line with what was expected by all parties involved. Protection aside however, a contract also ensures that client and consultant have an equal understanding of what needs to be accomplished (Robinson & Robinson, 2008).

The Take Away?

+Stay on people’s radar.

+Deliver what you say you are going to deliver.

+Following up is absolutely critical as it helps to build lasting partnerships.

+If you are going to start your own firm, arm yourself with knowledge of how to run a business.

References

Biech, E. (2008). The consultant’s quick start guide : an action plan for your first year in business. San Francisco, Calif.; Chichester: Jossey-Bass ; John Wiley [distributor].

Kotler, P. (2011). Principles of Marketing | Canadian Edition (eight.). Pearson Canada.

Robinson, D. G., & Robinson, J. C. (2008). Performance consulting a practical guide for HR and learning professionals. San Francisco; Alexandria, Va.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers ; Society for Human Resource Management.

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