By: Junfang Liu
People may have certain preconceptions about a consultant: when a company plans to lay off people but does not dare tell its employees directly, they hire a consultant to be the messenger. This might be a cartoon image of consultant. In the real world, a consultant is a thought catalyst who fosters and facilitates new ideas, helping a company think out of the box and look beyond daily operations that occupy the management and employees every day.
Lou Gerstner is a great example of how a consultant, or former consultant professional, may save a company and even lead it to success. Lou Gerstner had been working as a consultant for a long time before he joined AMEX (American Express), a credit card company that was lagging behind the industry’s leaders, Visa and Master. With his extensive consultant experience, Lou started to look for new users and new uses of cards. Lou promoted AMEX cards for cooperation travel services and advised the company to customize the cards to facilitate business expense tracking for corporate HR departments. Lou also started the “annual membership” concept, creating services and benefits for high-end users with the concept of gold, platinum, private club membership, etc. Through paying different levels of annual fee, the card holders could enjoy exclusive services and benefits. Because of Gerstner’s help, AMEX membership grew substantially, from eight million to 30 million.
Good consultants are hungry for new ideas and possess the urge to share new data and ideas as well as the determination to reach a consensus and innovate. It is all about collecting data, analyzing problems, finding solutions, fostering collaboration, helping people step out of their typical mindset, and building new solution. A consultant may help find new areas of development, markets, and customer niches. Being a consultant is both exciting and rewarding; you will find joy in seeing your new ideas accepted and implemented by others.