By Jacky Tai
If you are one of those people who want to be a brand consultant because you think it is easy and glamorous, then you should probably look for another job because you probably will not last six months in the consulting line if you think like that.
When people ask me what it is that I enjoy about my work, I always tell them it's the outcome that I really love - when I see clients grow 250% in two years in the middle of a global financial crisis; when I see clients being able to double their selling price; when I see clients being acquired for 17 times price-earnings ratio when the industry average is only three; when I see clients' IPO being 30 times oversubscribed when the norm for their industry is 20. These are the gratifying aspects of the job but the process is a difficult one. You see the "glamorous" outcomes but what it takes to get there is anything but.
In the rest of this article, I will share with you what it takes to survive in the brand consulting industry and you have to be able to survive before you can succeed.
There are a lot of attributes that a good consultant should have but attitude is by far the most important. If you have a lousy attitude, you will not get far. If you don't have a positive attitude towards work; towards reprimands; towards your clients, colleagues and bosses; you will not get far. Just because you have an MBA from a top school and a few years of experience will not make you a good consultant.
If you a good attitude, you will be given more opportunities and if you don't, you will be managed out. Whether a person has good or bad attitude is very easy to see after a while. I was talking to CEOs of a few very successful global brands a couple of months ago and all of them told me the same thing, "We rarely fire people because they are incompetent. If they are incompetent, they won't even get the job. When we fire people, it's always because of a poor attitude." There you go.
Brand consulting is a knowledge industry. You have nothing to sell except your knowledge and if you don't have enough knowledge, nobody does. So, you have to continue to improve on your knowledge.
There are basically two kinds of knowledge you’d need - domain knowledge and industry knowledge. Domain knowledge refers to your understanding of brand strategies such as the 13 differentiation strategies and the various management models that are widely used. You need in-depth knowledge, not just window dressing or people will see right through you. Your clients didn't get to where they are by being stupid, regardless of their educational background. Industry knowledge means knowledge of your client's industry. You can't serve your clients well if you don't understand their industry. If you operate on the basis that you don't have enough knowledge, then you should continue to seek knowledge and that will make you a more solid consultant.
Professor William Cohen, author of How To Make It Big In Consulting, said that a consultant is an entire company rolled up into one person. That means you need to know everything about everything if you want to make it to the top.
Tina Turner once sang, "What's love got to do with it?". In terms of brand consulting - everything. You got to love what you do because this job demands a lot from you. It is not your run-of-the-mill 9-to-6 job. You need to be living, breathing and dreaming brand strategy all the time if you want to be good at it. Some of the best strategies that I came up with were developed while I was brushing my teeth in the morning and thinking about strategy. I won't tell you which one because I don't want my clients to think they paid for a "bathroom consultant".
Brand consulting, as my business partner and group CEO always tells people, is not a job – it’s a kind of lifestyle. If you love it, then it will love you back and reward you with a long and successful career. If you don't, then it will burn you out in six months. There are various reasons to love this job, but for me, it's the outcome that I really enjoy. When you see clients succeed because of your work, it's a feeling that money cannot buy but of course, if you do your work well, the financial rewards will come as well.
Think very carefully before you jump. 70% of you reading this article are not cut out for brand consulting and will quit in six months; 20% will last two years; 8% will last three years; 2% will go all the way. Still fancy your odds?
Jacky Tai is a Principal Consultant of StrategiCom (www.strategicom.com) – a brand strategy specialist that focuses on helping B2B companies differentiate themselves properly to gain an unfair competitive advantage in their key markets. Jacky has authored 4 highly-acclaimed branding books titled Transforming Your Business Into A Brand (2007), Killer Differentiators (2008) and Get A Name! (2009) and B2B (2011). Jacky can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.