Guest post by Jeremy Floyd

Something magical happens when I set foot in a house that I want to buy.

I begin fantasizing about the opportunities to turn it from a house into my perfect home: “I’ll take out this wall … paint this wall blue … add a stainless range hood…” I’ll lay awake in bed, meticulously furnishing the home with our belongings and compilng a giant list of all the home can be.

But something odd happens after I take possession of the home. Seth Godin might call it the resistance.  I will just call it the excuses: “Well, I don’t really need to remove that wall. In fact, if we do tear that wall out we’ll stir up so much dust that it we will destroy our furniture.” Then eventually, just as curiously as the thoughts appeared in my mind, the thought of moving the wall completely disappears. Poof!

Now, obviously, I am no Holmes on Homes, and this post has to eventually talk about business right? Well, as a consultant, I find the same phenomena occurs nearly every day.

You meet with the client. During the discovery meeting, your mind races with all the outside observations with the company. You lay in bed awake at night with brilliant innovation, and the next day you return to tell the client all the wonderful changes they can make to “move the needle.” Then what happens?

“Well, we can’t exactly implement that CRM system because we tried it a few years ago and it didn’t work.”

“That’s a great idea, but we aren’t convinced that social media really has ROI.”

“That’s just too radical for our culture.”

The excuses flow like a mountain stream. Here is Floyd’s rule: For every brilliant idea there is an even greater and opposite excuse that is 10x more powerful.

It is built into most companies DNA: RESIST CHANGE.  Consultants are hired to improve results while changing as few things as possible. So, the challenge is to either (1) conform to the wishes of the client, (2) demand change — but accept mediocrity and get a fat check, or (3) demand change, do something extraordinary, and possibly get fired.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to stick to their guns and make things happen, here’s a check list of dynamics to walk you through the process …

  1. Make the List Create a list of no more than 10 changes that will make a significant improvement in the company. Do not let any known obstacles filter your list.  If you see a problem, write it down regardless of how difficult it is to fix.
  2. Paint the Picture What does the promised land look like? How will you know when you get there? What will the results be?
  3. Build Trust As a consultant, you are not going to walk in the door and lay the 10 item list on the CEO’s desk, send an invoice, and take a 2 week breather in Tahiti. You must establish that you have good judgment and your suggestions are trustworthy. You must demonstrate that the company will benefit from taking your suggestions. This is established in small bites, so keep the list in your pocket and sell the winnable successes.
  4. Identify the Resistance Believe it or not, employees within the client company generally don’t like consultants. They may clearly want you to fail or they may just not be batting for your success. The job of the consultant is part politician. You have to know the political landscape and devise a plan to persuade the detractors, but ultimately the key stakeholders must know the detractors and their arguments.
  5. Strategery Where and when do you have your best ideas? I find that some of my best ideas come to me while listening to an audiobook cutting the grass, so I arm myself with a pocket-sized notebook and a pen while I’m manicuring the lawn. (I’m so efficient, I know.) Usually, at some point while slaving away on the riding mower, the big idea occurs to me. You decide where that place is and go there with a pen and paper, keyboard and word processor, or stylus and tablet and answer the question: “How do we get from where we are currently to the place in step 2?” Confusing the “how” and the “what” of the plan plague even some of the most seasoned consultants — they usually dress them up with pretty words like “strategy” and “tactics,” but it’s really pretty simple. “How” is the one big idea that takes you from the present state to the “promised land” The “what” are the steps to get from here to there.
  6. Lay out the Plan After you know “how” to get from here to there, “what” are the steps to get from here to there?  The plan to the client must include the “strategy” and “tactics” to get from here to there.
  7. Execute like your life depended on it. Here’s what separates the first from second place — the dirty little secret of consultancy — too many consultants develop the strategy but don’t execute. This is perhaps the step that separates the doers from the dreamers. Execution is what it’s all about. Execution is the delivery of the dream.  It’s the gold medal.
  8. Review the List Now, go back to that list of dreams.  Work on the next item.  That list is going to make you a super star. That list separates the good from the great.  Help clients implement the items they never thought they could. It’s natural that everyone forgets the minutiae of the “first visit.” The truly spectacular consultants go back to the “honeymoon phase” and remember the “wouldn’t it be great if…” promises that they proposed to their clients.

So, where are you? Are you a bronze finalist who brought the great ideas and walked away? Are you the silver medalist who brought good ideas and executed some of them? Or, are you the gold medalist who went back to the original list, and persisted?

Jeremy Floyd writes about leadership, business and marketing on his blog, Between Me and You. He is a partner at Bluegill, a marketing firm in Knoxville, TN, where he develops marketing strategies for businesses throughout the US.

If you need any reminder to never give up on you vision, do you remember this clip from the 2006 Olympics when the “gold medalist” felt secure in the win and gave away the victory?

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