Consulting and Attitude

Due to a water leak in the apartment I currently live in, I’ve had six different carpenters/contractors in my apartment in the last few days, all working on what is now a huge hole in the kitchen floor. (The short story about the hole in the floor is that the water line to the refrigerator had a leak, and that over time, the leak caused major damage to the floor of this second-story apartment.)

What has really amazed me about the different contractors is their attitudes. Whenever I think about any form of service, I always think about consulting, because consulting is a service. So as I describe the following behavior, I want you to think about whether you’d hire this person as a consultant.

The contractors

Contractor #1: Very loud, swears often, and has his shirt unbuttoned to expose his chest. Talks about all sorts of personal things, including his buddy who is on a prison-release program, and has to wear an ankle bracelet so he can be tracked.

Contractor #2: A man apparently in his 50s or early 60s. When I ask him about the new concrete that has been poured, he complains about it, saying he doesn’t know why they do it this way, and how he thinks it’s dumb. He reeks of cigarette smoke, and quits complaining as soon as his boss walks in.

Contractor #3: A younger man, he serves as an apprentice to the others. He doesn’t say much, but does whatever anyone asks him to. He’s also far and away cleaner than the first two contractors, and was also polite to me.

The boss: An older man, the first time I meet him he introduces himself, makes sure he moves carefully in the apartment, apparently trying not keep the carpet clean. He describes to me what has probably happened here, and what they’re going to have to do to fix it. Once they get into the work he continues to update me on what’s happening.

The building maintenance man: A nice man, but based on comments from the neighbors, he comes with a reputation as a slow worker. He also told me that the work would be done in two days, and we’re currently starting Day 4 of the repairs.

Having read those descriptions, I think you can imagine whether or not you’d hire any of these people the next time you need to have some work done. And you can probably visualize people like this that you have met in your work environments.

Lessons learned

Based on the descriptions of these people (and the part of the story where we’re on Day 4 of a Two Day job), I feel like I’ve been reminded of the following lessons. As you’ll see, I think they all relate to consulting.

When making an estimate, don’t tell someone what you think they want to hear; tell them the truth, and even over-estimate, leaving time for things that can go wrong. People make other plans based on your estimates, and they will also resent you if you don’t come through on time.
Don’t complain about the work your company is doing. Can you imagine buying something from someone while they tell you how bad their product or service is? If you have a disagreement within the ranks, keep it internal, or move on.
Be polite. You’re a guest in someone else’s house (or business).
When working on someone else’s property, and certainly within earshot of people who are paying you, keep your conversation clean.
Attitude
There’s much more to be said, but I’ll sum it up in a way that relates to both consulting and life: In the long run, all you have in life is your attitude. And in regards to attitude, I’ve witnessed the following things over and over in my consulting career:

Prospects will hire you over someone else based on your attitude.
Customers will stick with you when things go wrong if you have a great attitude.
Customers will do repeat business with you — and recommend you to their friends — if you have a great attitude.
This isn’t to say that your work isn’t important — it is — but all other things being equal, the person with the great attitude is going to be the winner. Attitude is so important to me that when I first started consulting, I wrote these words on a scrap of paper, and put that paper in my wallet: “Be the most positive and enthusiastic person you meet today.”

I’ve won millions of dollars worth of service contracts almost based entirely on my attitude. I learned this consulting secret first from an old book named “How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling” (authored by Frank Bettger, and given to me by my grandfather), and I’m glad to share it with you here.

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