Experts are saying that there is a need for over 50,000 Healthcare IT experts that do not exist today. This is really good news for those of us who are Healthcare IT experts already. Opportunities should abound.
Is all this opportunity inspiring you to want to leave the employ of your hospital or vendor and join the world of consulting? I think that’s great. I know many people that have successfully made the jump to consulting. I also know several who have not been successful in consulting and decided to go back to their old job. It is not that they were not intelligent or that they did not possess the content knowledge that clients were looking for. In most cases, the expectations of the unsuccessful jumper did not match the realities of consulting. So as a career healthcare consultant, I would like to help you by setting your expectations appropriately.
Travel is Fun
Some people who do not travel regularly are under the impression that business travel can be fun and exciting. Well, maybe when I was 23 or 24 it was fun. But after flying over 3 million miles on 5 or 6 airlines, it is not so much fun. Now travel means being away from my wife and 3-year-old son and although I still love serving clients (who rarely are in my own town), I really do not like not being able to put my son to bed and then spending quality time with my wife for a couple hours before we go to sleep each night. So, travel is not fun especially if you have a family, but it is required because it is very rare that you will be assigned to a project in your own town. In 20 years of consulting, I have had 2 projects in my own town totaling about 18 months. Travel is a required part of the job and it is expected that you will simply suck it up and not complain about it.
Consulting is No Different Than What I do Today
You may be thinking that consultants don’t do anything different than you do today, except that they get on airplanes to do it. This is a popular misconception. It is true that the technical knowledge and skills that you possess will be utilized fully as you make the transition to consultant, but there are other competencies that you may or may not possess that you will need to be a successful consultant. The best way for me to describe it is to describe the performance management system that we had at First Consulting Group (FCG) which has since been acquired by CSC – we called it PCADS (Performance Compensation and Development System). PCADS defined the six competencies required for a consultant at FCG. Everybody knew what the competencies were and everybody set their yearly objectives and had their performance measured based on their level of performance for each competency. The follow table lists each competency and provides a brief description of each competency straight from the PCADS documentation (credit all the great people at FCG that make PCADS a valuable tool).
|Competency||Summary of Competency|
|Foundation Skills||Foundation skills are essential, basic business and communication skills. They are required for career growth in all positions. Specific foundation skill examples include writing, speaking, presentation, listening, interpersonal, analysis, problem solving, and facilitation and negotiation.|
|Knowledge and Skills||The Knowledge and Skills silo represents the specific technical, industry or subject matter expertise required by a particular group or function within the Firm.|
|Project and Program Management||Project and Program Management, Group A, addresses the skills necessary to manage a client program or project and includes developing and managing project associates, managing tasks, budgets to project margin, scope, and client satisfaction etc. This silo will be used primarily by our external client delivery associates.|
|Practice & Relationship Development||Practice and Relationship Development skills are required to sustain long-term client relationships and–focuses on direct selling skills with specific examples including development of business in terms of work sold and quality of client assignment, development of long-term client relationships, sustained client satisfaction, and development of future service offerings.|
|Firm Leadership||Skills required for defining and setting the direction for a group, department, practice unit or business unit would be measured in the Firm Leadership silo. This silo also includes skills such as vision building, strategic planning, business acumen and managing big impact change.|
|Decision-Making||The Decision-Making silo addresses the skills necessary to make critical Firm decisions as well as to demonstrate experience providing accurate and useful feedback within Firm processes. Both the quality and scope of the feedback and decisions will be measured.|
The first three competencies are the basic blocking and tackling for a consultant. Don’t underestimate the importance of them, especially Foundation Skills. As you transition into consulting, it will be very important that you demonstrate at least a minimal level of competence in each area very quickly. If you have trouble writing, speaking, or developing complicated presentations you might want to create a plan to master these skills before you seek a consulting role.
The last three competencies become more important as you progress into management and as you may move up even higher to be an executive of your Firm. You will see that as you do progress into management, you must develop the ability to develop strong relationships with your clients that result in generating revenue for your firm (you will most likely have sales targets). You must also develop the ability to lead a consulting practice. Send me a note if you are at this stage of your career and interested in consulting and I will help you think through a plan for a successful transition.
So now you know much more about what will be expected of you as a consultant. Don’t worry that you may not have all the competencies described. Your new consulting company will probably give you time to develop them, but keep in mind that because your company will not be able to charge as much for you, your compensation will probably be lower than those that can already demonstrate these competencies, at least until you are able to come up to speed.
A talk about compensation
Many people I know believe that they should get a large jump in compensation just for signing up to be a consultant. But you will soon learn that what you believe does not matter as much as the economics of the consulting business. The main objective of a consulting business is to make money. This may not surprise you. But what probably will surprise you is that consulting companies generally are much more communicative about the profitability of the company, your project and you than you would ever imagine. This is especially true for those of you that work for a hospital or another provider organization where it is nearly impossible to determine your personal profitability and it is rarely or never discussed. It is really easy to measure your individual profitability in the consulting business. Here is the formula:
Your Revenue = The Average Hourly Rate you were billed to clients x The Total Hours you billed to clients
Your Costs = Your Salary + Bonus + Benefits
Your Personal Profitability = Your Revenue – Your Costs
And Your Personal Profit Margin = Your Costs / Your Revenue
With formulas this easy, consulting companies can easily determine what an appropriate compensation package for you will be. Each company I have worked for sets and regularly measures margin and makes adjustments at least yearly. The good news is that if your salary is $125,000 a year and you prove you can be engaged all year at $200/hour you will likely be in for a great pay increase. Yes, there is bad news. If your salary is $125,000 and you are only billable half time at $100/hour, you will either be in for a large pay decrease or you soon will be unemployed. I can’t emphasize this enough, most consulting businesses are in the “money making” business first and foremost and you must meet your individual profitability goals for the company to meet its collective profitability goals or you won’t work there for long.
Let’s get started
After considering this background on consulting there may be some of you that decide that consulting isn’t for you. I hope that I may have saved you some angst. Others of you may still be on the fence. If so, send me a note. Maybe a brief conversation can get you off the fence. Or maybe we can work together on a career development plan to help you meet your objective of either being a consultant or advancing where you are.
I really hope that there are many of you that have made it this far and are only more energized about becoming a consultant! That’s awesome! Let’s get started. Send me a note and let’s get serious about making it happen.