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This much I know...

After 25 years in consulting, Freeman Mark Hoble thought he would set out a few hints and tips that he has picked up over the years...

 So, with a nod to Sunday colour supplements everywhere - This Much I Know...

·         Why do clients hire management consultants?

o   The old maxim still holds true that we are needed to provide technical assistance; a spare pair of hands; or, external validation of what the client has already decided to do.

·         What is the first thing you say to clients when you meet them?

o   “Sorry I’m late”

·         What advice would you give to a young consultant at his first meeting with a Chairman or CEO?

o   The only words you should utter are “Coffee, milk, no sugar”.

·         What did you learn in your first year as a consultant?

o   How to use:

§  Colons;

§  Semi-colons;

§  Commas; and,

§  Full-stops.

o   Be careful with Spellcheck

§  In the 1990s we had a standard signing-off phrase at the end of our often very long and carefully crafted advice letters which was:” [insert client name], I trust the above has been helpful.”

§  One client named Chris complained when Spellcheck added the letter “t” to the end of his name, which rather invalidated our advice.

o   Be very careful with office equipment

§  A colleague once split his trousers getting out of a taxi on arrival at an important pitch presentation.  Being a creative consultant he borrowed a stapler from the CEO’s secretary, made the necessary repairs in the Gents and went into the Board room for the meeting.

§  Unfortunately, mid-presentation, he over-stretched when going to the flipchart and sprayed the front row with staples. 

§  No, he wasn’t appointed.

o   Learn from reception areas

§  You can learn a lot about a company in the ten minutes between signing the Visitors’ book and being collected from reception.

§  Shabby décor and unfriendly people or decent coffee and nicely folded newspapers?

·         What is the worst comment you’ve had from a client?

o   As I entered a packed Board room to make my presentation the Chairman said in a very loud stage whisper “Oh no;  it’s him again”

·         And the best?

o   “Thank-you”

·         What makes a good consulting business?

o   The secret to doing good work and making money is to delegate to junior consultants.  The chances are that they are better than you at the analysis anyway.

·         What makes a good client?

o   Many things but a Litmus test I have is settling the invoice immediately, just as I do with my local garage, newsagent, cleaner etc.

o   Good clients understand that there is a direct link between timely payment and good service.  Sadly most clients think paying late is OK.  It’s not; it’s rude.

·         What makes a good consultant?

o   Low ego; high listening skills; focus on delivery

·         Who would play you in a film of your professional life?

o   The Pub Landlord

·         Who would you most like to kiss?

o   The admissions officer at London Business School in 1990.

·         Who do you wish you had listened  to more?

o   In early 2007 I went to a lecture by Jon Moulton who explained very clearly with simple Mathematics what Credit Default Swaps were and why we were heading for financial Armageddon.  I thought he was mad.

·         What tips do you have for managing stress?

o   Apples and Blackberries are not the only fruit, so programme your device to turn itself off every evening and at weekends.

o   If you have to take your device on holiday leave it in the car so that you have to make an effort to use it.  Better still leave it at home if you can.

o   Get a separate, private mobile phone.

·         Consulting is often seen as an unstable career.  How do you deal with the instability?

o   One of the good things about consulting is that we are in charge of our own destinies if we do good work.  However, there is always the chance that someone may “Move My Cheese” so I have my financial lifeboat ready at all times.

o   Networks can also help but are probably over-rated

o   LinkedIn is not the answer

·         How much is enough?

o   A lot less than most executives are paid nowadays

·         What’s the point of Procurement?

o   I’ve no idea.

·         You must have eaten many a business dinner.   Any lessons in etiquette?

o   Beware the poached eggs starter.  At one posh Savoy dinner I managed to douse my trousers in egg yolk having attacked the starter with too much gusto.  I then spent a nervous ten minutes in the Gentlemen’s cloakroom “sans pantalons” before my trousers were returned to me fully laundered and pressed.  I returned for the main course with no one the wiser. 

·         Who are your ideal business dinner guests?

o   John Hunt, Jon Moulton, Neil Woodford, Christine Lagarde.

·         Tell us an old, corny joke

o   How do you know you’ve met a management consultant?

o   He’ll borrow your watch to tell you the time; then send you an invoice.

·         Tell us something unusual about yourself

o   I don’t wear a watch, but I’m never late.








                 Freeman Mark Hoble