Consulting is an interesting profession in several respects; however, one of the best aspects of partnerships is that serious ones reach an elevated honesty level. Of course, reaching that level is a major task because the development of trust is a slow process. It is a “Catch-22” situation because for a consultant to deliver professional work, they need to know all the information; however, company leaders and owners take great risks at the beginning of the relationship if they share everything. That is why one needs to find the balance between PR and asking for help.
The most difficult task in the case of any kind of consulting is managing that trust reaches a certain level so that work can start in a meaningful way. This criterion has significantly changed in the past decades. Regardless of the consultancy type, the party asking for consultancy had reservations regarding the consultant even twenty years ago; and they shared information with the other party accordingly. Whether it was the field of IT, finance, or business development — and I could keep listing the established consultancy fields — everybody kept certain information to themselves at the beginning of the cooperation, assuming that if the consultant were so smart, they would find out about them anyway. And if they did not, they were not capable of finding solutions either. Some consultants were happy about the orders, so they got down to business; however, halfway through the project, they had to reckon with the fact that they were working with an incomplete image, and they could do nothing about it. They failed in the eyes of the customer, who was “pleased” that not even the great consultant could do anything about the situation. This attitude cannot be condemned because who would trust a stranger? Who would share their precious secrets with them? Who would admit that as a company leader or owner, they cannot handle the current situation? What is more, their employees cannot come up with a solution. It is often perceived as a failure if an external consultant needs to be involved. Of course, some fields fall under the exemptions, where the sensitive topic causes initial mistrust. Regardless of the perspective, it was a deep-seated fact in business culture that one should test the consultant before starting the cooperation. There is no problem with that; however, as customers, we need to be aware that in the test phase w,e will only receive test results. So, we need to calibrate our expectations to a proper level. The problem is, however, that expectations are high, so consultancy is doomed to fail from the very beginning. No wonder that the consultants that prevail are those who have personality factors that can engender basic trust.
The art of building trust
There are tangible elements and subjective factors of building trust. Unfortunately, both fields are necessary for launching a successful consulting firm. Many people build upon experience, references, and past work, and believe that lack of trust can be solved by mentioning some of their references. Unfortunately, they do not know that references are only dealt with when something is absolutely not right with trust. From our private lives, we are aware that some people can easily earn others’ trust, while others have to fight hard for a small amount of trust. However, few people realise that just because somebody is usually trusted in their private life, it is not necessarily so in business. Many people fail because of relying on the “others usually trust me” feeling. In business, trust in a private individual is important; however, only enough to make people start to think about business trust. It might open the door, but the person has not passed through the doorway yet. Business trust requires more. Many people believe that trust can be manipulated, and that is partly true. An initial level of trust can be developed with the help of manipulation and influence. Nevertheless, signing a contract and keeping a partner cannot solely be built upon these methods. Many have tried, and some of them have even established significant business trust in this way. However, at one point or another, they reached a sticking point. They came to a conclusion: one simply needs to have the “X factor”.