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John de Guzman

My days are split between the ones when I'm consulting on a project and those days when I'm working on my books and music.  It's hard to say which is busier!  I'll try to talk about both.

When I'm on a consulting project, my days completely vary.  In consulting, you have to be wherever the client is.  Usually, a consultant flies out to the client on Monday mornings and comes back home on Thursday night.  For example, I've flown to Dallas, TX every week (Monday morning to Thursday night) for a full year!  I have friends who have flown all over the world! Kansas City, Mexico, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Wilmington or even London.

When you're on a project where you have to travel, you stay in a hotel.  You leave your hotel room early to go to the office and you work for 10 to 12 hours.  Sometimes you can have five or six meetings a day.  You usually eat at your desk, and you can't get any work done without your computer.  You spend most of your day on Excel and PowerPoint.  Having non-stop access to email and a cell phone is essential.  It's a really intense industry.

Where you sit is flexible, too.  You would think you sit on a desk with a nice chair, but really you sit wherever the client has space.  Sometimes you sit in the library.  Sometimes you sit in a cubicle.  Sometimes you get your own office with a door.  I remember one project where they cleaned out the back room of a kitchen, and we had to cram 20 consultants in there.  Again, you sit wherever the client has space.

That said, I've been working with a BIG American company on and off for the past 18 months, and, luckily, they are in NJ, and I can drive there.  So, I start every day of this project at home, not in a hotel.  Now, the drive is quite long (sometimes two hours each way), so the client is kind enough to let me work from home.  The only thing that changes from the paragraphs above is location.  I still sit at the computer all day long on Excel and PowerPoint, email/cell phone is essential, and meetings can line up like toy soldiers, one after another.

So, what are all these meetings?  Well, as a consultant, you are hired to do something the client can't currently do.  Either they don't know how to do it, or they don't have the manpower to do it.  It's like you are tutoring them, and now you have to help them solve the problem!  So, one of the most important things to do is research so you can better understand the situation.  You have to find out a lot about the client and their current situation.  The best way to do that is meetings.  You sit down with the right people at the client, and you say, "I need to know how many things you buy. I need to know where you buy it from."  And so on.  You hope they respond to your questions quickly.  Once you get that data, you do a "sanity check" on it to make sure the data is accurate.  Sometimes even the client doesn't know that their information is wrong.  That's one of the reasons they hire consultants: to point out even the most basic things!  One time I saw a company thought they were buying 5 of something, but really they were buying 5,000!  Once you are assured the data is accurate, you can work with it. Sometimes you use the data to build a pricing model in Excel, or you optimize and redesign a process.

In 2001, one of my clients was Marsh McLennan.  The technology department hired me to help them build and design presentations they were giving to their CEO.  I spent time in their offices with them before the meeting, at the end of August.  They were on the 93rd floor of on of the Twin Towers in Manhattan.  I sat at a cubicle and was pulled into the board room, when appropriate, to work with the global team of senior vice presidents and the big bosses.  That building was attacked one week after I was last there, 9/11/2001, and I knew a lot of people who died in the attack.  Anyone who was at work in that office that day did not survive.  It was right where the first plane hit.

The days I'm not working for a client are just as busy, but they still have me sitting in front of a computer.  I usually get up early and spend the entire day writing music or working on my books.  It's not as hectic as my days as a consultant, but I work 10 or 12 hours on it a day!  I take it very seriously.

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- 9 May 2007


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Last Updated:
10 May 2007

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