Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Quintessential Consultant

In the moderate degree of interest I received (recruiters excepted), I found myself in a lengthy discussion with a CTO of a company on my way back from an enjoyable mountain bike ride. I still had grit in my mouth. Ultimately the discussion came about the pay rate and how it's calculated. I realize this is where a lot of capable people fall on their noses - they do not know what their time or contribution is worth to a company.

In the past, I always "lowballed" a salary, and have found companies more than willing to correct the pay rate to market rate quickly. This tends to be my modus operandi, simply because this way I can gauge quickly if others feel I am making a positive impact or not. The other part of the equation is that I need to see if I can feel driven by either my work at that company, or by the companies' goals. Yes, that's right, I am always looking for a company whose ideas I can buy into. Often, I buy in too much. I am working on that.

Now for other consultants: As someone who was a salaryman, I always deplored the high pay rate and no stake in the company position that a consultant usually occupies. Big words, like "enterprise" and "synergy" are typically thrown about with reckless abandon, and soon the engagement degrades into several trees' worth of inactionable gobbledegook. Sure, consultants need to pay for their own insurance, need to pay an accountant to prevent surprises at the end of the year, and so on, but that cost hardly exceeds 20% of the pay unless they work at a big consulting firm with directors and other trimmings.

Charging rates in excess of $2000/day for technology strategy consulting may be fine for strategic boardroom politicking, but in this case I will be tasked to clean up and define a project at the company that had been abandoned by its champion.

I told the company this: temp employee status (i.e. 1099 status), medical and dental (I hate dealing with that on my own), and $2500/week. The client in this case felt I was selling myself rather short, and perhaps I was, but I was not afraid to mention that if they really felt I was contributing they can pay a bonus at to-be-agreed milestones. Will they pay a bonus? Who knows, and I personally don't particularly care. The work expected is something I have done numerous times in the past, and is low-risk for me. I have a problem with milking companies for all their money, even if I am heard to say that "it's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money."



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