Women Clients as Allies

Group of multi-ethnic womenWomen Clients as Allies

Bee Moradi’s post Women As Allies this morning made a very good point about the need for women to “have a stronger sense of allegiance to one another”. It made me to think that not only should we support other women’s attempts to achieve their own ambitions but we should also say thanks to the women who inspire us and support us when we succeed. So …

Thank you to the Woman Clients who gave me my business idea!

I’ve been fortunate to work most of my professional life in corporates where women were valued: I even worked with Anita Roddick when The Body Shop was almost unique in being a listed business led by a woman.

When I started my own brand consulting business, I found myself with disproportionately more women clients. In the main, they had the same needs, the same demands and the same approach as my male clients. But, there were two women clients whose help ensured that I was open to the entrepreneurial opportunity that I am building today.

Why don’t you…?

The first client (‘Joan’) was a very senior manager in a well-known multinational business who thanked me for delivering on a tough international branding project and remarked “I really appreciate that you have a store of frameworks and tools at your disposal to help with all types of branding problems.” Then she added, partly as a joke “in fact, why don’t you open a store that sells tools and frameworks to marketing professionals?”

I think a light bulb did actually go on above my head.

Over a cup of coffee, ‘Joan’ then helped me sketch out what a client like her would want to buy from ‘the store’, how she would like to be able to access consultancy expertise while travelling and how I could make it efficient and cost-effective for her.

That was the birth of what has become www.opento.com – an online store to provide expert consultancy on brands.

Saving a client’s career…

The second influential client (‘Kate’) was one whose future was in danger. She hadn’t delivered on her (very tough) objectives. Her manager parachuted me in as a consultant to ‘do the job that Kate hadn’t completed and started to plan for Kate’s departure from the business.

As a consultant, I have always avoided those types of job but I took this one because, unlike her boss, I saw some potential in Kate. I quickly realized that she was smart, disciplined and highly-motivated: she just didn’t have the tools for the job.

So, once again my handy tools and frameworks helped but, more importantly, Kate and I constructed the project to ensure she was showcased, she took the credit and she delivered. Not only was she saved, she was promoted within weeks.

Clients are smart

The experience with Kate reinforced one of my core beliefs: clients are smart. Clients know more about their business than consultants do and the job of the consultant is to complement the client’s expertise, to provide guidance on how to think about problems and to challenge the client’s thinking. Real success comes from collaboration: client expertise plus consultant expertise.

Collaborative consulting

After working with Kate, I started to shape my branding tools and frameworks into online interactive products so that I could work collaboratively with clients, especially at a distance. We now sell a number of products to help clients with brand and business challenges and have even built some specifically to meet a client need.

Thank you Joan and Kate for helping me create opento – you know who you are!

Sandra Pickering founded www.opento.com following an international corporate career in Unilever, Mars, Quaker Oats and The Body Shop.

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