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Consultant fees for "getting up to speed"

By limeginger ·
Hi, I hope this is an appropriate posting. This is my first time. I am an independent consultant, working in the areas of IT and organizational management. I have about 7 years of experience as a consultant, and an additional 7 years within a government agency and nonprofit organizations--in both management and IT. My current client focus is nonprofit organizations. I met with a new client today, a CEO of an organization. The project involves either customizing his current or getting him a more appropriate contacts management. *However*, the client today also mentioned he needs help integrating one of his complex projects with Covey software. And decided that should be my priority. I have not worked with this software, though am familiar with the Covey time-management philosophy and "system." I took a look at the Covey software, and it's not complicated. The majority of work I'll do for/with the client is scoping out the project (which is currently completely disorganized), nailing down specific tasks, benchmarks, timelines, outcomes, staffing, delegation, etc. However--I will need to get up to speed on the Covey software once the project requirements are fleshed out. The client, who has not worked with many consultants, suggested that maybe I get up to speed on the Covey software on my own time, since I may use this experience in the future with other clients (highly unlikely). I'm inclined to see the getting up to speed with the software as akin to getting up to speed with the operations of the organization, helping him scope out his project, and defining requirements. What do you-all think? Should playing with the software--with his needs in mind--be charged? at the same rate as usual? at a lower rate? Also, I suggested we might seek out an expert in the COvey software, but he is skeptical that would be a good use of time. Thanks so much for any feedback!!

but suggested that maybe I

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by dafe2 In reply to Thanks (and clarification ...

Can't believe I did that, usually I force myself to do the 'person' thing.:-).

Actually, I did note your experience and your alternative offers to your client. Most of my comment(s) where directed at 'relkinjb' as his approach to this situation (IMO) was wrong. My 'padding' comment was in reference to another post.

Consultants should NEVER be expected to work for nothing. As I said, many people will 'test' you but all of them expect to be invoiced.

Many times I've been in similar situations as yourself. If the relashionship was good & my 'skill' for a particular task was lacking, we would allways work something out. Once again, provided the relashionship was good & I could complete the job for them.

Absolutely, sometimes you have to walk away. But IMO no GOOD client should expect a consultant to work for free.

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I concede your point...

by amcol In reply to Dudette: a point.

I have in the past more than once engaged consultants (and hired employees, for that matter...more on that later) who did not have the skill set required but did have a history with me. There's more to getting a job done than technical skill, and as the original poster pointed out in her last response she at least possesses the necessary business and process background.

She also pointed out that she candidly discussed her skill limitations with her prospective client. This is the correct, honorable, and ethical thing to do. The client can make an informed decision, and agreement can be reached on whether or not the consultant's learning curve should/will be subsidized.

That's the point at which you and I part company. I wouldn't provide such a subsidy under any set of circumstances, and I'm pretty sure I can figure out when a consultant hasn't been entirely forthcoming about what they do and do not know.

I don't expect my consultants to work for free. I believe in win-win...if you're doing a job for me, I should get a high quality product and you should get fair compensation. We both should feel satisfied when the job is done. Your compensation, however, may not be monetary...while I of course agree you as a consultant should be paid fairly for your work, you can also feel compensated by having added a skill to your repertoire or by having gained a valuable reference to assist in getting future opportunities with other clients.

When hiring a permanent employee I'm frankly more concerned about how that individual will fit the group and interpersonal dynamic than whether he/she has the exact technical skills needed for the work. Three reasons:

1. Assuming one has the proper background and motivation, you can teach anyone anything they need to know.

2. Hiring people who already know everything there is to know about getting the job done generally gets you bored, unproductive people with no upward mobility.

3. It's the height of management folly to hire a technically competent jerk who can perform independently but very effectively ruin a carefully constructed team dynamic, which is bad on so many levels.

BTW, I apologize in advance but I can't resist tweaking your nose just a little. You took yourself to task for referring to the original poster with a masculine pronoun, then you did the same to me in your prior response. How do you know I'm male?

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rev 2, I was Interrupted............

by dafe2 In reply to I concede your point...

Your comments make perfect sense of course.

And we part company on the same topic ....... I can't eat repertoire or a reference. Also, I sense we've (both) been doing this for 'awhile' too.

Your (words) remind me of a well respected 'friend' from one of my favorite accounts, hence my inadvertent reference to your gender. I suspect negotiating with you would be just as much of a 'challenge'.

Regardless which gender you speak from... you speak my (native) 'professional' tongue.
Very well said & I'll consider my nose tweaked.


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a case that would contradict your view:

by Jaqui In reply to No, no, no

Mainframe Entertainment.

a digital animation house ( reboot, beasties, transformers among others )
they use a custom written application for thier office, if they were retaining a consultant they have zero possibility of finding one with experience with thier system.
would it be reasonable to refuse to pay for the consultant's time to learn thier custom app?

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That is a completely different situation

by jdclyde In reply to a case that would contrad ...

When you are having someone come in to put in a new app, you are paying them to do it because they are the "expert" on that.

Coming in to work on existing custom apps is completely different as they have no way of being an expert on that package and you would know that up front.

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I agree with jdclyde...

by amcol In reply to That is a completely diff ...

...but jacqui does pose an interesting question.

If a legacy app needs work of any kind, I'd first try to engage the professionals who did the original work. Assuming the app was developed by a consulting firm I'd go back to them. However, there are occasions where those consultants are no longer available, or more to the point situations where an app was developed by employees no longer with the company.

In that case I'd hire consultants who are experts in the underlying technology. These people by definition would have no knowledge of the app, therefore it would be reasonable to pay an incremental for their learning curve. As jdclyde correctly points out, this would be known up front.

I view this as a similar situation as that presented by the original poster, who did the ethical and honorable thing by being up front about her own knowledge gap. As long as the playing field is level all participants can have a good game.

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Cost analysis

by jdclyde In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

Decide how much time you would have to invest to get this software down.

Determine how much you will get for the rest of the contract.

Add in your training time and divide the total amount you will get from the contract. This is your true per hour and if it isn't enough then you have to say so. If the job is a good paying job that will lead to future work then that is also something to keep in mind.

Either way, I would have them pay for what you would need to train yourself, with the understanding of KEEPING the materials.

Good Luck.

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Your Client Wants Double Gain

by bsroufek In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

In my experience, clients stand the greatest benefit from your gaining a firm grip **not only on known, as well as not so well known products, which they use (!!!) AND HOW THEY USE THEM in their organization. This knowledge, which is indigenous and therefore outside the reach of any consultant by definition, is what you need to deliver his/her greatest benefit.

The Client knows this, I hope.

I think you're in for a ride; but I could be wrong--wouldn't be the first time.

Brian Sroufek

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Epilog: Consultant Getting up to Speed w/Software

by limeginger In reply to Your Client Wants Double ...

Hi there! I just wanted to let everyone who posted know what happened with this project. After several meetings with the client, I opted to bow out. As I'd mentioned in my posts, I had suspected that communication might be an issue--things like nailing down the scope of the project(s) and determining priorities.

As much as I respected the client (who I've known socially for about 10 years), his style is very nonlinear and he had a lot of trouble focusing on priorities--and he frankly didn't want to. That's a style that may work for him in many circumstances, but it doesn't jive with hiring a consultant and spending multiple sessions of exploratory free-flowing brainstorming (which I couldn't charge for).

I put time into scoping out the project, writing it up, and providing a range of options. The scope of work delighted him--not because it allowed him to focus and select a way to go--but because it would spark wholly new and different ideas and possibilities that were unrelated to what we'd discussed previously.

A case in point: the Covey software turned out to be a flash-in-the-pan idea. I found a local consultant who was familiar with the Covey software (as a potential partner), but by the end of our discussion, the client was bored with it, and wanted to check out some other magical software that would help him be beter organized.

As any IT consultant knows, the technology or tool isn't going to completely solve a client's underlying issues. In this case, the inability to focus or prioritize was the root cause of many of the problems I was brought in to "solve." Many times I'm able to help a client with those other issues indirectly if I can first find an appropriate tool for them--but this was a case of continuously moving target, and I couldn't donate any more time on it.

Thanks again for all your great input! I am now working as a consultant for a major hardware/software company, and it's going great!!

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