Why You Should Never Be A Consultant

No, this is not a column meant to stifle future competition for Prohaska Consulting….It’s just that since opening our practice last fall and writing a couple columns, thanks to some generous space here in The Makegood, I’ve had many good folks, some I knew and some I didn’t, approach me about getting into it themselves.

So I thought a simple guide would help for knowing whether you should do this, for a few months or long-term. If you answer yes to any of these questions, consider this not for you, and I’d love to help you find a new full-time staff position at someone else’s company, and/or help improve your current situation at your company now.

Do you like to work out of the same office with the same people every day?

I remember when I got my new office at AOL, and someone from the building staff came in nicely offering to hang anything on the walls. I asked him to put up a giant whiteboard and that was it. My philosophy has always been if you are in sales or business development, you never should spend a lot of time and money fixing up your office, since you shouldn’t be spending too much time in there anyway. Today, I usually work out of five different offices during any given week, four in one day last week, depending on the “office hours” I keep at clients’ places, plus great shared spaces at Regus, Wix Lounge, and General Assembly. These provide really good energy, and I go to each depending on where my other client meetings take me that day. All I really need is a chair, electric power, and light (a flat surface to help get close to 90/90/90 ergonomic guidelines and a nearby bathroom are bonuses). Do I miss the consistent comradery from bonding with the same people? Yes, except with those that have incredibly negative energy that we’ve all had to work with every day before. Plus, being independent allows me to spend more time with different people every week.

Do you like office politics?

I actually know people that love it and thrive on it. I’d rather work with people that focus on results and being good people in general. I remember when my wife went freelance from her magazine editing job years back when we were about to bring our daughter into the world. She worked in somewhat of a “Devil Wears Prada” environment, so being able to have everyone complain to her about this person or that decision, but then leaving it at work, was great to see for her and us. It’s a lot easier to focus on getting the job done for your client when you are not concerned with who said what to whom about you, or who said what in the meeting that upset someone because she…ok, need to stop – having too many bad flashbacks…

Do you need to have a “regular” paycheck and a “secure” job?

Yes, things are fortunately going pretty well right now, in a relatively short time, but most of my clients or I could decide to give two weeks notice and drop each other at any time, so it certainly helps keep you humble and focused on performing with the right people and companies. But having a full-time job at any company should keep you humble and focused anyway, especially in this industry when companies can pivot at a moment’s notice and suddenly drop 20% of the team, not always based on your great individual contribution. Or your company can get acquired and you see on LinkedIn that there is someone from the acquiring company with the exact same title as you. Friends have asked how long I expect to run my consulting practice. I usually reply “Not sure. As long as I can. How long do you expect to be in your job?” except of course I leave out that last part.

Do you need to take credit and are you really not a fan of helping people?

You need to care about making a difference while taking minimal to zero credit. It is not about you. It is about making your clients successful. If you are a sales executive with a big book of business geared just to exceed goal, make a ton of money/cash out big through an IPO/acquisition, while not caring about internal damage caused from your deals or long-term performance of what you sell, please don’t go into consulting. Stay in an organization that has the infrastructure to support you with a strong manager and amazing Account Management team.

Hope that helps. Let me know how I can help if you are serious about doing this, let us know below what you think about what I wrote, and I’ll see you online whenever and here next month.

  • Bill Stephen

    Nice column Matt and totally on point…thanks…bill

  • Vish Oza

    Good column Matt.
    Do you feel that the ad tech industry has focused so much on pure tech solutions, that it actually has not taken a step back and thought about what’s important to improve the business – basically there is a dearth of pure business management consulting kind of expertise within the industry?

    • Matt Prohaska

      Thanks, Vish.

      Not sure about a dearth of pure biz mgt consulting expertise specifically hurting things in ad tech. Perhaps related though, I have had three separate conversations this week with folks on the buy side of real-time bidding media lamenting how many of their sales reps from the supply side (Exchanges/SSPs/Networks/Publishers) are not answering basic questions about problem solving or creating real points of differentiation. So nothing new about how sales leadership in some ad tech orgs could benefit a little by investing time in teaching some sales and customer service fundamentals, or bringing in some different talent to balance the art and science, human and machine engagement with their customers. Fortunately, it seems to be getting a little better every quarter, as this aspect of the digital media business matures.

      • Matt Prohaska

        FWIW and maybe more related to where outside consulting can help in some cases, there are quite a few brilliant technical minds in this space running companies with little actual managerial experience at all or with people outside of product and development. Understanding and executing on how to get the most from a team, through various stages of a company’s fast growth and incredibly dynamic competitive landscape, are key skills.

  • Matt Straz

    Great column, Matt. Some of this is also true of doing a very early stage software startup — bouncing around different office locations, the lack of income and security, etc.

  • Samantha Davis

    I enjoyed this article! It has me considering the constant move and servanthood of a consultant.
    I look forward to meeting you tomorrow at the SUccess in the City Event.

    –Samantha Davis
    Syracuse University ’12

  • Whmscll

    I stumbled into consulting when I was laid off and found I really like it. However, my income has plummeted; I’m making about 1/3 of my previous salary. I am meeting expenses but not saving anything. I have some savings but not a lot; I feel financially at risk. I feel dread at the thought of going back to a full-time job, but the money and benefits would be very nice. Should I suck it up and go back full-time for financial security? Or keep doing what I like? I have 20+ years of experience in my field and am in my early ’50s. Married (husband also self-employed and financially precarious); no kids. Anybody’s thoughts would be welcome.

  • bigbadads

    Nice column