The Consultant and the Association Exec Should Be Friends

Eons ago (actual time: four years), I wrote two  blog posts on the topic of consulting and RFPs. They’re still among my most popular posts ever.

I got thinking about this topic again recently for a few reasons:

  • I just got my shiny new ASAE Buyers’ Guide, which includes an article on the RFP process.
  • There’s been some chatter lately on some of the Collaborate communities about the RFP process.
  • I just submitted a proposal in response to an RFP that asked for my “project management methodology,” aka, my approach to managing the consultant/client relationship (which I thought was a damn fine question).

As the title of this post states, the consultant and the association executive should be friends (bonus points if you get the Oklahoma! reference). One side has expertise to offer, the other side needs that expertise periodically (but not continuously, which is why you’re hiring a consultant rather than another staff person), what’s the problem?

The problem, often, is that we fail to follow the golden rule. Rather than treating each other as we ourselves would want to be treated, we behave badly.

Consultants can be overly aggressive and too “sales-y.” We are sometimes guilty of hounding execs, acting boorish, discounting organizational culture, and being far too convinced of our own brilliance.

Association execs have been known to issue “spray & pray” RFPs to everyone under the sun, a huge waste of time and energy on both sides. They waffle. They refuse to talk to consultants and withhold information. Some of them have been known to steal consultants’ intellectual property, or give (higher priced) Consultant A’s (perhaps overly detailed) proposal to (lower priced) Consultant B to implement.

People! We have to work together here!

And that’s that point: the consulting relationship is just that – a relationship. A partnership. The proposal process is like getting dating. Signing the contract is like getting married. And you both want your marriage to work, right?

Consultants provide a lot of the intellectual capital in association management, some of it for free, some of it for pay. Association execs are our clients, and our partners in creating change. And both sides are vital members of the community we all love. Because, as Jamie Notter is fond of reminding us, it’s all about love.

Or to quote myself, from that ancient RFP blog post:

What’s the common theme? Relationship. We’re about to enter into a relationship. You don’t start a dating relationship by refusing to talk to the other party, withholding information, and putting them through a lot of silly, unnecessary tests (and if you do, odds are you’re single), and you don’t want to start a consulting relationship that way, either.



Resume Tips for New Professionals

And good reminders for not-so-new professionals.

I’ve recently been reviewing resumes (a LOT of resumes) for a summer internship NACHRI is looking to fill, and I have some advice to offer as a result:

The MOST important thing? On the first pass, I’m looking for a reason to knock you out. Don’t give me an easy one.

In addition:

  • Proofread.
  • If the ad calls for specific experience, make sure your resume talks about that specific experience.
  • Don’t provide too much information. If you’re still in college, you don’t merit a 3 page resume. Really, you don’t.
  • But don’t provide too little, either. I got one resume that was gorgeous to look at – pretty font for the name, lots of white space, beautiful lay out. It included – I’m not kidding – 4 really minimal pieces of information. That’s not enough to help me figure out whether or not you’re worth talking to.
  • Pay attention to the job requirements – if you have to have a specific degree or certification, don’t apply if you don’t have it.
  • I know it’s easier for YOU to just call your resume “Resume.doc” or even “NACHRI.doc.” That’s not easier for me. Call it “MyName-NACHRI-Resume.doc.” See? Easy for both of us!
  • Don’t list “Internet browsing” under your skills, tech or otherwise. Telling me you know how to surf the web is not going to dispose me to interview you. Five year olds know how to surf the web.
  • “Your job is perfect for ME ME ME!” Uh, no. It’s about how are YOU going to help NACHRI, not how NACHRI is going to help YOU.
  • Don’t use a “creative” (aka “illegible”) type font. It doesn’t show me what a special, unique flower you are. It shows me that you don’t care if I can read your resume or not.
  • Did I mention proofread? And not just for things like misspelled words. Don’t write an objective that includes “looking for a job at XX” when you’re sending the resume to “YY.”

What about you? What advice can you share to help new job seekers?


Resolutions, Fresh Starts, and Lasting Changes

A few days ago, Amber Naslund took on the topic of resolutions. Her take was pretty interesting: resolutions made at New Year’s actually contain the seeds of their own failure. She makes the point that nobody checks up on you at the end of the year to see how you did, and that a much better attitude to take would be:

I can do this, today and every day, if I want it badly enough.

And I get her point – it’s why I use New Year’s for fun resolutions (under consideration this year: circus camp, learning how to “cab whistle,” and learning how to ululate) and, if I want to change or be better, I just do it when the idea occurs to me.

But there’s a reason the week between Christmas and New Year’s is commonly known as clean out your desk/email inbox week: fresh starts are nice. Sure New Year’s is kind of an arbitrary time (why not, for instance, the first day of spring?), but it’s a commonly agreed upon arbitrary time, and that’s why it works for people.

So how do you help yourself stick to your resolutions? Well, you could take my route and only resolve something fun. I started doing it probably about 10 years ago, and I’ve kept every single New Year’s resolution I’ve made since.

But the answer’s right in front of us: accountability. If you want to make a more serious resolution, find someone who’s willing to hold you accountable for the results, and see the change you wanted to create become a permanent part of your life.

And whichever direction you choose to go – fun resolutions, serious resolutions, or no resolutions at all – have a very happy New Year!