Top 10 Tips for New Consultants

Put aside the Nuances of Corporate World

Transitioning from the corporate way of doing things to the realities of the consulting world can be a challenge. It isn’t an overnight transition where you just hang out your consulting shingle and you are good to go.

The corporate world is:

  • One of structure, organizational charts, policy and procedures
  • Defined role, reporting and responsibilities
  • Specific objectives and goals –often driven by publicly-traded funds
  • Compensation and advancement are tied to measurable outcomes
  • Significant resources are available down the hall
  • You can delegate some or all of specific tasks

How Hospitality Consulting is Different

Some of the obvious differences are:

  • Creating your own business structure, including business registration and permits
  • Project work that has a defined start and end vs. the job that you took home
  • Managing your own calendar and booking your own travel
  • No direct reports either up or down and no one to delegate to
  • Being a one-person shop – an independent contractor
  • You manage the project from start to finish

Top 10 Tips for New Consultants

Without any in-house history or baggage, an independent consultant must bring a fresh outlook, ask the hard questions, and has little emotion tied up in the past.  Working across sectors provides exposure to best practices, workplace models and measures of success. However, the nuances of the consulting world may not be as obvious.

  1. Forget about your past job in the corporate world.  Prospective clients don’t want to hear that. (If it was so great, why did you leave?)
  2. Create a marketing plan. Consider word of mouth, social media, LinkedIn, paid advertising, join a consulting network. Do your research. Stay informed and identify potential prospects. Pass on interesting/relevant/useful highlights to your prospects and network. Are there non-profits that you could donate your services to for tax considerations?
  3. Determine the fee for your services. By the hour or day? A retainer for a project? What variables should I consider when quoting a job? What are the upsides and downsides of different approaches?
  4. Legal Considerations:
    1) Create a legal entity with consideration for financial structure and tax implications. Get professional advice.
    2) Create a standardized MSA (Master Services Agreement) and SOW (Scope of Work). Have a lawyer review.
    3) Business Insurance: General and/or Personal Liability and/or Errors & Omissions.
  5. Sometimes you need to solve the client’s perceived problem first and earn the client’s trust before launching into “have you thought about”?  Listen more than talk. You are a salesperson first and an expert second.
  6. A certain amount of pro bono work is sometimes required on the front end to secure the business and the trick is to know when and how much to offer without solving the client’s problem and not getting paid. (ie, first meeting or discussion max 2 hours)
  7. A thick skin is an asset. If you convert 10-20% of your opportunities to confirmed business, you are doing very well. That means that 80-90% of the time you need to deal with rejection. Consulting isn’t for the faint of heart. You need to have enough of a financial reserve to take you through at least 1-2 years before the fees start to flow.
  8. Write, write, write – LinkedIn, blogs, respond to blogs, industry newsletters, etc… Write to educate, not to sell.
  9. There is no one to hold you accountable if you aren’t putting in the effort. For success, you need to be highly self-motivated. Find an accountability partner.
  10. Network, network, network.  Don’t keep talking to the people you know. Identify consultants in non-competitive niches, who would otherwise decline work. Partner with those whose services complement yours.

These are the basics and of course, there are many more examples that we won’t go into at this time. The point is to realize that the consulting world differs dramatically from the corporate world you just left and adjustments will be essential. Give your approach to each consulting opportunity some thought, each will be different in its own way, reach out to your consulting peers for advice and try not to learn lessons the hard way.

About the Panel

Chuck Kelley

Chuck is a Partner with Cayuga Hospitality Consultants, a network of independent consultants specializing in hospitality/lodging. He spent 32 years with Marriott International, beginning as an Assistant Restaurant Manager and worked his way up to Executive Vice President responsible for Marriott’s Caribbean/Latin America Region. Along the way he held positions as Director of Restaurants, Director of Marketing, Regional Director of Sales and Marketing, General Manager and Country Manager Australia. A graduate of the University of Hawaii, with a BS in Travel and Tourism Management. He is a prior member of the Baptist Health South International Advisory Board and previously served as Chairman of the Caribbean Hotel and Airline Forum for the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. He served with distinction in the US Army in Vietnam having earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor in combat.


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