Consultant Culture

From Elizabeth Parsons:

Some finer points on consultant culture

Allan Tsang is a consultant, but you wouldn’t know it by his friendly, unassuming demeanor. 

“Consultants,” he told me at a recent glitterati event celebrating the area’s technology community, “don’t give out business cards. It’s just the opposite of what you would think. Business cards say ‘salesman.’”

“Nor do they shake hands.” Allan extended his hand to demonstrate. I reached out to accept it, and instead he wrapped his fingers gently around my elbow, leaning in. “’Let’s talk,’” he said, in his best consultant voice, deep and serious. “Follow me over to the table.”

Such is the upside down world of “marketing” for the crème of the crème consultant. The best ones are like those elusive, sexy strangers hovering around the edges of the party. You might hear about them – but never will the accolades stream from them. Blatant self-promotion is tacky, the telltale sign of a wannabe.

Most area techies know Allan for his, which the entrepreneur describes as “eHarmony for business,” matching companies eager for seasoned, reliable consultants with “the one” (or ones). Each consultant is carefully vetted; they must prove they’ve been in the game at least 10 years. 

I just passed the 10-year milestone in writing, PR and marketing, but I don’t do mysterious well.  And I’m not ready to burn the business cards that emerged after a 12-hour brutal battle of the wits with my printer. But for those ready to join (or access) the “in” crowd, give Allan a shout. 

Since, for now, I'm more comfortable with the “freelance” moniker, I've been checking out oDesk.  I've joined a smorgasbord of fellow freelancers who offer their services at competitive rates.  Like in any free market, I've got to do the  leg work to construct my success – but oDesk sure does it make easy for me to find work, and for work to find me. 

Video credit:  Z. Kelly Queijo 


Elizabeth Parsons is a seasoned editor, writer, and communications professional.  You can follow her on Twitter at @e_claire_p.

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  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for the kind words! It is great to see you on this “medium” and working with Handshake 2.0/Anne.

    I feel I should explain the comments about the business card and handshake a little more. From experience, when I was hired as an analyst (consultant), the first few seconds of walking into an office are so crucial. since many of the staff are aware of the “visit” and are already on edge.

    In order for me to perform the analysis effectively and efficiently, it was important not to come across as a salesperson or a friend to anyone of them. Handing out business cards, shaking hands like a politician and smiling like I was on my first date would undermine my job and give the wrong impression. The subject of hand shake itself deserves a book by itself. In this case, it would break down certain barrier. I am there to tell them what is working and what is not so being their “friend” is the last thing I want and what they “really” need.

    The art of when and how to hand out the business card in some cultures is also important. In China, the cards are handed out as though you are presenting a gift with your index and thumb on the two corners facing yourself. That is followed with a slight bow. Usually that is handed down to the person with the highest seniority to the lowest. It is generally bad form to hand out business cards like a dealer at las vegas…

    Hope you all have a fantastic day and hand your your cards a little more mindfully now.

    🙂 See I do smile.

  2. Elizabeth Parsons says:

    Interesting. Thanks Allan… Eliz

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