Last week, our team at Soliant Consulting hit a mind-blowing milestone – delivery of our one-millionth consulting hour.
When we established Soliant in August 2004, we had a specific mission in mind: to help businesses thrive with innovative and reliable technology. Since then, we’ve grown from a team of 23 to 72. We’ve also grown from one practice area to four, expanding into cloud platforms and services.
We’ve discovered many things over our first million hours of working on client projects, and we’d like to share eight of the most important lessons we’ve learned.
1. Trusted Advisor is an Ethos, Not a Buzzword
When a new employee starts at Soliant, onboarding includes much more than hardware and a crash course on our processes. It also includes a physical copy of The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford. New hires are expected to read the book to fine-tune their skills in trustworthiness, and to learn the value of earning the trust and confidence of clients and co-workers. Trust, of course, is the foundation of a fruitful business relationship, especially in consulting. At Soliant, we don’t just go through the motions; we make a daily effort to build mutual trust with our clients and partners.
2. Solving Problems Goes Further Than Building Solutions
At the end of the day, what we physically deliver to our clients is technology – a system, an application, an implementation, an integration, etc. It’s what these solutions do that matters most, though. We build applications that solve problems, that navigate through business challenges and leave them behind. Our consultants regularly remind one another and themselves that our clients partner with us to achieve business objectives, and that technology is merely a means to this end. We focus on learning and understanding our clients’ businesses and then develop and implement solutions that deliver real results. When clients come to us with an objective, it’s our responsibility to engineer a technology solution that achieves it.
3. Consulting is a Relationship Business
It’s not just because of our technical expertise that 80% of our business comes from repeat clients. Our team strives to build strong relationships with each of our client contacts. We take the time to understand our clients’ culture and values and work collaboratively, empowering us to launch more targeted business applications. Many of our clients rave about our team members, and that admiration goes both ways. These relationships are the glue that holds our business together.
4. Flexibility and Agility are Paramount
Over our first million hours of project work, we’ve had ample opportunity to fine-tune our processes, workflows, and tools. Our clients benefit from almost 20 years of trial and error in everything from coding standards to requirements gathering. That said, as consultants, we excel when we think on our feet. That requires agility. Sometimes, we need to adjust how we do things to meet our clients’ needs better. And when new technology is always around the corner, we need to stay flexible enough to adapt to it. We’re always evolving, seeking to learn and improve.
5. Treat Your People Right, and Your Business Will Thrive
Our average tenure at Soliant is 8.1 years. We do our best to do right by our people so that they do their best to do right by our clients. As a result, our team members tend to stick around. And that’s only good for our business – productivity goes up when a team is happy. They’re more willing to go the extra mile for clients and show up to project meetings with a smile. We believe in this so much that 5 years ago, we decided to become an Employee Owned company. Our team knows that their long-term best interests are aligned with those of the business.
6. The Questions Are Just as Important as the Answers
Many businesses seek out consultants to find ways to solve their problems. They walk into the first meeting with a list of questions and expect to walk away satisfied with an equally big list of answers. But good consultants ask as many questions as they answer in those initial meetings. They seek to understand what’s really going on and what the pain points truly are. This strategy leads to one, our best a-ha moments, and two, the best path forward for long-term collaboration with our clients. Even when speaking with clients we’ve known for years and whose business we understand inside and out, our consultants try to uncover new opportunities to help.
7. The Sum of Continuous Improvement is Massive
The most rewarding part of our business is having a front row seat to witness the success of our clients. We’ve worked with over 1,200 client organizations over the past 19 years, and we’ve learned that the most successful of them have one thing in common: they’re dedicated to continuous improvement. They understand that small incremental changes, over time, lead to massive results. They have a perpetual to-do list and are constantly looking for ways to improve their tools and workflows.
8. Technology Can Be a Help or a Hindrance
In a million hours of work, we’ve seen that technology can be a powerful multiplier of an organization’s success, or just as well an impediment. Often the stakeholders who pick up the phone and call us are people dissatisfied with the status quo, who know that technology can better serve their organization’s needs, impatient with what they see as blind spots or missed opportunities. We’ve seen competitors’ multi-million-dollar systems initiatives under-deliver or fail altogether, simply because their project teams didn’t ask the right questions, or enough questions. We’ve seen clients who’ve been sold an “implementation” left uncertain about how best to adapt a platform to their unique business. In our next million hours, we hope to continue helping clients use technology as a key to unlocking the best their organizations have to offer.
Cheers to the Next Million
I’m so proud of this milestone, and I’m so very appreciative of all the Solianteers who have contributed to it over the years. As we grow and add more offerings and employees, we expect to work our next million hours much sooner than another 19 years. We’re looking forward to navigating technology changes while staying true to the values that steered us in the first million. And we’re most grateful to our clients who we’ve laughed and learned and succeeded with. Thank you for entrusting your success to us.