What is a consultant?  A search on the Internet produced two interesting definitions.

The first one I found had two parts

"1. A person specializing in producing hot air and invoices.

2. A person who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is, then produces the aforementioned invoice."

The second one also had two parts, is a bit simplistic, but much more to my liking:

"1. One who gives expert or professional advice.

2. One who consults another."

I wonder what a good definition would be for an accounting/consulting firm. Maybe it is a CPA firm that has decided it can no longer be profitable by just being labeled as a provider of tax and accounting/auditing services. Or, maybe it is a CPA firm that hires a number of consultants.

I don't think so. The definition that I like is a firm of varied professionals that isn't afraid to take the advice it gives before experimenting on clients.   The firm is willing to dramatically change the way it looks at the world and the way it does things, always fine-tuning the way it operates, and is constantly searching for the Best Practices. It then applies that philosophy to those who are willing to pay for consultative services that it offers 

Let me give you an example. I am doing a story on mentoring within firms for the January issue of Practical Accountant. One of the interviews that I conducted was with a consultant who worked for the consulting arm of an accounting firm. The reason that I interviewed her was because she had substantial experience creating mentoring programs for businesses and she was the individual that created the accounting firm's mentoring program. 

She described in detail the intricacies of the firm's program as well as the reasons for them. She also explained how management buy-in was leveraged to quickly implement the program and pointed to concrete benefits that were expected to be obtained as a result of the program's operation.

To be successful at consulting, you must convince the potential users that you can provide value and than provide that promised value. As many unemployed individuals have found out, calling yourself a consultant is easy, but that doesn't really make you one. Unless you can and are willing to walk the walk, it isn't likely that you will be a true believer in its value.

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