The Pitfalls of Trust: What Hospitality Consultants Should Know.
By Mila Petruk ~ Exclusive Column
Friday, 7th December 2012
Exclusive Feature: Whether you are in hospitality consulting or any other type of advisory business, you know that when you meet your client for the first time, you always think: 'Amazing, that is the person I always wanted to work with!'.

'He is going to be my best client! His attitude and professionalism are just perfect for my expertise!'

However, if you live in real world, you only think so once at the beginning of the consulting project. Because in real world perfect clients simply do not exist.

Consulting is not about providing your best expertise and knowledge to the client with proper phrases and terms, but about engaging emotionally in a mutual relationship of trust and information exchange. Both parties of this relationship get their benefits and act according to their interests.

However, if the consultant only thinks about the project fee and provides information, the basic function of consulting is failed: the client does not trust the consultant, and information exchange occurs only one way.

That is why in order to protect the results of your work and ensure that the client gets what is initially required, we propose five major aspects of hospitality consulting to be covered by each consulting company.

These issues may seem obvious to many consultants and probably even stranger to clients, however, they are important to ensure both parties are satisfied from the project.

1. Always document data regarding client communication. Client is always right, that is why the only thing you have to prove yourself is documented data. In any situation, even if the client seems to be your best friend, always document all communication. Create a file ‘Client communication log' in your client folder, and make sure you type in everything including meetings, topics of the meetings, follow-ups etc. Even phone calls, if you please.

2. Never waste your efforts consulting the employees. Always refer to the owner. The owner is the only person who knows what is best for his company. In decision-making process, he (she) is the one who makes final decisions. But what is most important, the owner bears all responsibility for the actions taken. So if you propose anything, you either receive ‘yes' or ‘no'. The owner always responds, while his employees are silent and never know what to do.

3. Contact the right people in an organization. Make sure that when you talk food, it is not cleaner of financial director but a chef. However, when the accounting goes wrong and you are eager to offer new ways of invoicing clients, call financial director. Information is key to the process, and you need to be sure that the source of information is correctly chosen by you. At the same time, you will also save yourself from unnecessary work (which incompetent people tend to ask for) and wasted time. And time is money.

4. Make a proposal crystal clear in legal context. Your contract should have your consulting proposal attached with all the information that is to be provided to the client and the dates. This is also important as both you and your client can plan discussion time and follow-ups. Making it crystal clear is not only writing it in clear language, but also make sure it is signed properly and the client understands it the way it is written. Do not hesitate to ask the client questions regarding the proposal information.

5. Always keep primary data until the project is finished. Primary data such as your calculations, excel files with formulas, list of potential suppliers are necessary when the client has questions. Even if the client is silent during the course of project, it does not mean he agrees with you. Some clients simply prefer waiting till the end and then putting everything out when you're about to get it done. For these occasions, make sure you have references to show where this information and recommendations came from.

In the real world of services consulting, it is not about simply quality of work you do. It is about a system you build around the consulting process. If this system works well, you will succeed.

In order to see the pitfalls of this system, you will have to face these situations in real life. Then your consulting practice will improve, and each new project will bring more mutual satisfaction for you and your client.

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Mila Petruk is a hospitality consultant and a founder of Milina Outsourcing Management (MOM) which provides consulting to hotels and restaurants including mystery guest audit, temporary staffing and training support. Being a hospitality industry enthusiast, Mila has a global insight into the developing trends of hotel and restaurant business all over the world.

Having a rich international hotel work experience and an MBA from one of the reputed Swiss hotel schools, she has applied it in almost every hotel department she had worked. Contact Mila at mila.petruk@gmail.com.
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