Good Client, Bad Client: How to Treat Your BCM Consultant and Why It Matters

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In over twenty years in the business, I’ve seen it all in terms of how our clients treat us at MHA as consultants, partners, and people. Most clients are great, but a few have made our lives miserable and have never quite learned how to treat a BCM consultant.

In today’s post, we’ll look at what differentiates good business continuity management (BCM) clients from bad—and explain how it benefits your company to have a healthy BCM consultant relationship.

Some clients are a joy to work with, and some are a pain in the you-know-what. What makes a client one or the other? I’ll get into the details of how to treat your BCM consultant in a moment.

WHY KNOWING HOW TO TREAT YOUR BCM CONSULTANT MATTERS

First, however, I want to explain why it matters what kind of client you are.

It matters for three reasons.

The first reason:  The consultant is a human being and deserves, as all people do, to be treated with dignity and respect—showing respect for their time, knowledge, experience, and all the rest. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The second reason:  If you treat the consultant poorly they might stop working for you. I’ve “fired” clients who made our lives miserable. Life’s too short, and the mental health of my team too important, for us to continue with clients that don’t share our commitment to positive collaboration.

The third reason:  The single biggest hallmark of bad clients is that their actions divert the consultant’s time and energy away from concentrating on the substantive problems of the engagement.

Imagine that you’re trying to thread a needle and someone is standing next to you, jumping up and down, making the floor shake while yelling at you and blocking your light. Under these conditions, it is very hard to thread a needle.

This is what it’s like when you’re a BCM consultant trying to diagnose and improve the BCM program of a client that is interfering, unprepared, and adversarial.

The reason you should try to be a good client for your BCM consultant is that it greatly benefits you and your company to have a good BCM consultant relationship.

When you establish how to treat your BCM consultant, it frees the consultant up to devote one hundred percent of their energies to helping you improve your program and protect your company.

THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE BCM CLIENT

I’m not saying that the client is obligated to hire any particular firm. I’m not saying that the client should not exercise due diligence in choosing a consultant. I’m not saying that the client has no role in setting the goals of the engagement; in fact setting the goals is one of their most important tasks.

I guess the big negative is what you might call the passive-aggressive client. This is the kind of client that hires you—and then interferes with you, mistrusts you, nitpicks you, and so on.

Here’s what it comes down to:  either hire the person and let them do what you hired them to do. Or don’t hire them. It’s that simple.

But hiring them and then giving them hell is just silly. If you don’t like their work, hire somebody else.

Sorry for the rant. But believe me, it’s for and your company’s own good. Once you hire somebody, and you define the budget and goals for your engagement with them, your smartest move is to trust them and let them use their expertise. You’ll get a lot more out of them because all of the attention that they devote to you will be focused on what matters: strengthening your company’s BCM program.

TRAITS OF A BAD BCM CLIENT

What are the characteristics of a bad client? Here are 10 traits and behaviors on the part of clients that will make top-flight BCM consultants have second thoughts about working with them:

  1. The client hires you because they think you’re capable and diligent, and as soon as you start working for them they decide you don’t know what you’re talking about.
  2. They nitpick you to death no matter what you produce in terms of work product.
  3. Your client complains about every bill even when you are on a budget and on time.
  4. They become an adversary instead of an ally.
  5. The client team can never agree among themselves what is good or right.
  6. A client asks you to devise solutions and strategies and when you do they change them without being able to give a reason for the change.
  7. They think you should work for free.
  8. A client wastes your time (and theirs) by engaging you in unnecessary meetings and phone calls.
  9. They can’t manage their own schedule and you become a casualty as you are forced to wait and are put through delay after delay.
  10. The client shrug off your efforts to educate them about how business continuity works.  They don’t take any responsibility for learning about the field. They’re opinionated without being knowledgeable.

TRAITS OF A GREAT CLIENT

Fortunately, there are a lot more good clients than bad ones. What makes a great BCM client and have a healthy BCM consultant relationship? Here are the traits and behaviors clients display that really make the consultant feel privileged to work with them:

  1. They have confidence in their own judgment about hiring you.
  2. Once you both agree on goals and a budget, they let you get on with the job.  
  3. They’re there when you need them, but they don’t hover and interfere.
  4. They help you connect with the right people. They’re proactive about identifying and reaching out to those people ahead of time.
  5. They explain to their colleagues what you’re doing, why it’s important, and what their responsibility is in terms of helping you complete your mission.
  6. They’re flexible about scheduling. They recognize that you also have a family and that sometimes emergencies arise.
  7. They work with you as a partner rather than treating you as a disposable human widget.
  8. They realize that you’re both working toward the goal of a more resilient, better-protected company.

BE A GOOD CLIENT

Are you currently working with a BCM client, or planning to hire one? If so, do yourself and your company a favor: make an effort to establish a good BCM consultant relationship. It’ll help you get the best value for money out of your consultant. As a fringe benefit, it will also make your consultant feel lucky to be working with you.

FURTHER READING

For more information on how to treat your BCM consultant and clients and other hot topics in business continuity and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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