The primary skill of all consulting is communication. If your small business offers consulting services, you have some communication duties that other types of small-business owners don’t. You must balance communications for input on your projects with communications for output to the people the project will affect. In addition, you have to make your continuing value clear to the person who pays you.

Key Employees

You must establish a productive relationship with key employees at the business where you perform consulting services so you can distill information from these company specialists. Your communications must elicit the information you need while at the same time conveying that you value their input. Ignoring input or questions from company specialists can cost you a consulting placement. The rule is to over-communicate. Email frequently, call regularly and meet in person when you can, just to let them know about your progress on a project and how you are using the information they have given you.

Additional Stakeholders

Besides company specialists, you have several stakeholders on a project. Stakeholders include anyone who is affected by a project or who can affect the project. Communicating with stakeholders requires finesse. For example, you want the manager who hired you to know how the project is progressing, but if subject matter experts or another consultant on the project have a relationship with the manager, they may resent you communicating directly to that manager. You have to learn the rules for communication in the organization you consult for. Follow all protocols for reporting up the hierarchy and for reporting to stakeholders such as other departments. If you are unclear on those protocols, ask. You will gain respect for being aware of the necessity to communicate without stepping on toes.

End Users

Consultants seldom need to communicate with end users. For example, a training consultant may create a manual for a call center but never meet the trainees. Feedback from trainees tends to come through company channels, such as from the instructor to a project manager to the consultant. If you have the opportunity to communicate with end users, keep your communications to solicitations for feedback. Let project managers keep the end users informed of changes and progress on the project. This prevents miscommunication and unwittingly taking credit for progress the project manager may want to take credit for.

Your Agency

If you find consulting opportunities through a placement agency, make sure you let that agency know how your project is progressing and how you are getting along with the company you consult for. The agency will solicit feedback from the hiring manager, but make sure you give input as well. You will need the agency for future assignments.