Three important factors for diversity consultants to keep in mind.
Congratulations! You have made it. You started your consultancy business after years of preparation. You crossed your T’s, dotted your I’s, and invested fully. You didn’t feel quite ready, but you made the leap nevertheless, and now, you are prepared to open your doors to clients. As a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant myself, I have spent several years guiding nonprofits, governmental agencies, corporations and educational institutions on how to reach a more diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment.
Although I do not regret any partnerships, I wish I had been more directed on my journey. Here are the three key questions I wish I had routinely asked to help decipher which clients would be most aligned with my consultancy’s service offerings and the way my firm likes to approach DEI work. Before you begin, stop to ask yourself these questions.
Why This Client, and Why Now?
As a diversity consultant, you may have multiple reasons for working with a client. Perhaps a proposed project or DEI initiative inspires you, and you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Or you may have a client or project you’re not enthusiastic about but feel a moral obligation to take action. Both scenarios are possible. It’s important to know that you don’t have to, and likely will not, be excited about every project that lands on your desk.
Regardless of your excitement, it is essential to think about why you want to work with this client at that particular moment. To assess if this particular client will be a good match for you and your offerings, analyze what drives you to be a DEI consultant. These questions will guide you to make more thoughtful and informed decisions about your clients. Once you find the right people to work with, your consultancy business will inevitably transform for the better.
■ What problems do you enjoy solving with DEI?
■ What industries speak to you and your interests?
■ What personal connection do you wish to have with your client or their problem?
■ How can working with this client help you create the change you want to see in the world?
Am I Taking This Client Because We Are Aligned or Because I Am Desperate?
This can be a difficult question to address, especially for new DEI consultants. If you are unsure whether to take on a client, ask yourself: am I taking this client because I believe I can help? Or is it because I’m new and desperately in need of income and recognition as I build my business? The truth is, as you develop in your business, clients will come. Choosing the most aligned clients early on will lead to your ideal clients later, who will fit well in your consultancy scope, and the results you provide them should feel aligned and actionable.
If you are just now gaining traction in your consultancy business, finding new clients can be a tricky spot to navigate. For optimal success in the long run, be intentional about who your clients are and building a partnership that feels empowering for all parties involved.
Is the Client Ready to do the Heavy Lifting in the Partnership?
As consultants, we are here to listen, learn, diagnose and suggest changes to an organization. We shed light on where the client can improve and how they can transform the way they interact with DEI in their organization. However, our job is not to do the heavy lifting for the client. We are the guides, and the clients are the ones that must carry the torch and keep the good work going. If a client cannot do the heavy lifting, commit to the necessary changes, and carry them forward, your work may not succeed.
A failed partnership can be a disappointing experience for everyone involved. We want to avoid letting our clients and ourselves down in the consultancy process. The key is to make sure your client has the tools and motivation to implement your suggestions at various levels of the organization. The changes you are offering should be actionable, sustainable and effective.