Consulting is Product Management

Tami Reiss, Product Lead at Justworks and former Product Consultant, shares how she gets clients to buy-in to her strategies, the pros and cons of consulting as a career path, and the best ways to get new clients.

Consulting is an attractive career path to many product leaders. You can earn large fees and help companies solve important problems. Consulting and development agency work can even grow into a large and profitable business, like it has for companies such as Pivotal Labs and McKinsey.

But what are the downsides of consulting? And what do consultants need to do in order to be successful?

Tami Reiss has worked as a Senior Consultant at Pivotal Labs and as an independent consultant. She’s worked with over 50 companies, including JP Morgan and Humana. In this episode, I ask her about everything from how to debate with clients to how to get new clients.

I started by asking Tami about the various types of consulting engagements and why companies hire consultants as opposed to full-time employees. Consultants can help companies with ideation, user research, strategies for entering a new market, project management, or internal processes.

Tami also describes how consultants provide companies with a safer way to test new ideas. Often times executives at large companies are faced with excessive bureaucracy or reputation risk that prevents them from taking risks. Consultants and agencies are willing and able to bear the risk and do the hard work of putting new ideas in front of customers and creating a great user experience in the face of business and legal requirements.

Tami shares how she tells clients when their ideas are bad and how she educates them about her recommended methodologies and strategies, including a great story about how she got into a heated debate with a client in the middle of their office.

One of the most challenging aspects of consulting is getting new clients. Tami tells a story about how she asked someone in her network for a referral and landed the client, and shares how she positions her LinkedIn profile to attract new opportunities.  

You’ll learn a lot from this interview about starting a consulting practice and building trust with clients. Here are the highlights:

  • Tami describes the various services consultants can provide to clients (6:30)
  • Tami explains why companies hire consultants, as opposed to full-time employees (8:50)
  • How Tami aligns a client’s business needs with the needs of their users (12:20)
  • How Tami handles disagreements over methodology or strategy (15:00)
  • Tami’s best advice for finding new clients (20:20)
  • Tami’s thoughts on the viability of consulting as a career for product managers (25:00)

Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or SoundCloud below.