Have you ever thought about becoming a consultant? It’s a lot different than being an employee, and that’s what the consultants at RoseRyan love about their role: Our finance pros have joined us for many reasons, with flexibility and variety in engagements being top faves.

Consultants who are great at what they do have the skills required and the experience to match what their clients need, and they have a whole bunch of other must-have abilities that don’t quite fit on the résumé. The following traits are just some the attributes that turn a “good” consultant into a great, in-demand consultant:

1. They get it done. Ultimately clients hire consultants for results—to do the things they can’t do with their current resources. The more ways a consultant can help out, the more valuable a consultant is. The best consultants are always looking for solutions and efficiencies, and they do what’s necessary to finish a project or fix a problem. In some cases this may involve making copies at 7 p.m. to get a report together. There’s no better-than-you attitude here when job-number one is to make the client happy. They do what’s required and follow through to make sure it happens.

2. They add value. Consultants who shine consistently go beyond what’s asked of them. They listen carefully to the client and find ways to make the client’s life easier. A client expects a consultant to be an expert and bring in fresh ideas—but the client may not always know the exact right questions to ask. The best consultants have a sense for what each client needs.

3. They are leaders. You can be a leader without being the one in charge, and great consultants fit the bill. One way to look at leadership is people who take action instead of waiting to be told what to do. They’re effective observers who have the power of persuasion to make smart recommendations when they make sense.

The consultants who understand what the client wants and then makes it happen are the ones who get asked for by name the next time around (we love when that happens!). If a meeting needs to be called, they call it. If tasks need to be divvied out, they do it. No micromanaging needed. Not only do they step back and see the bigger picture, they figure out what must get done and then gather the resources to do it.

4. They stay out of politics. In finance and accounting, in particular, consultants are expected to be discreet. They may a hear a lot of chatter as they work alongside employees who could be struggling to get past politically sensitive issues. Things may have become messy and the consultants are expected to bring in some calm. The best consultants don’t get sucked in to power struggles and office gossip. They do their job and maintain a professional demeanor.

5. They are chameleons. Consultants who get repeat clients are able to fit into any environment, whether it’s a loosely structured startup or a tightly wound corporate culture. They shed their personal agendas at the door and take in the personalities and makeup of the company before making any recommendations. They become a part of the team and zero in on what makes sense for the client, at that moment.

6. They are life-long learners. Clients are looking for people who are on top of the latest requirements and leanings in the field. They want to bring in early adopters who can show them what to do, and they want to know what other companies like them are up to. Consultants can bring them that expertise only if they set aside time to stay on top of trends and innovations. It makes them better at their job—and it makes them more marketable.

7. They are confident but not cocky. Great consultants have an easy confidence that lets the client know “I got this,” but it never strays into arrogance. Clients want to believe the consultants they’ve brought in to fix a problem know what to do. But clients don’t need a big ego to get in the way.

Consultants who have these seven habits are a special group (we call ours the dream team). They’re experts in their field who are willing to do anything they can for the client. They have above-and-beyond attitudes. And they are all about follow-through, professionalism and thoughtful, quality work.

Think you have what it takes? Check out our latest hiring opportunities, and inquire about a career at RoseRyan by reaching out to our talent manager, Michelle Hickam, at [email protected].

RoseRyan can keep track of our consultants’ skillsets and whereabouts because of Matt Lentzner, the firm’s IT guru. He manages the evolution of our internally developed DTS system, a sophisticated scheduling, timesheet and skills management application.

With unemployment figures hovering in the 8 percent range and headline news of a slow economic recovery, it is hard to imagine there is a shortage of qualified accounting talent. And yet, in a recent survey by Robert Half reported in CGMA Magazine, 69 percent of CFOs surveyed reported challenges in finding skilled accounting and finance professionals. We’re seeing this too: many of our clients are struggling to find the right fit for open finance department positions.

I think there are several factors at work here. Companies reacted to the economic downturn by cutting costs significantly, and workforce reductions left the remaining employees in the position of doing more with less. This “temporary condition” has lasted a lot longer than most people anticipated and resulted in burned-out employees, projects on hold, no time or resources devoted to process improvements and little to no talent management or career development.

Top talent drives top performance. When an organization is focused on cost cutting, not growth, it can be challenging to provide sufficient opportunities for building skill sets and providing career advancement. Many organizations claim “people are our most important asset” and yet often fail to act in a way that supports that statement. Although talent isn’t captured on a balance sheet, it is a valuable asset and oftentimes provides the most important competitive advantage.

Here are my suggestions for bridging this talent gap:


Make employee development a priority. Acknowledge that talent management is important and integrate that into your corporate culture. Make this a priority in bad times as well as in good times.

Come up with a plan. Formulate a strategy for developing and retaining talent. (And execute it.)

Talk to employees on a regular basis. Making time for focused 1:1 conversations is not easy, but it is critical to your own success—and theirs.

  • Conversations should focus on what the employee wants in the context of what the organization needs. Help employees clarify what they want, build on strengths, address career liabilities and identify development opportunities for future roles.
  • Determine how engaged your employee is with the organization. What are their drivers for job satisfaction? What makes them feel valued?

Augment in-house talent with outside help. Burning out your people is not in anyone’s best interest. Are there skill-set gaps that can be filled with a consultant? Rather than trying to hire an employee who meets a detailed set of requirements, can you hire a professional who can adapt and learn quickly while augmenting missing skills with consulting help? For instance, it may be more cost-effective to hire an employee who can fill 80 percent of the requirements and use independent expertise on an as-needed basis.


Show interest and initiative. Be engaged with your organization and contribute to its growth and success—and don’t wait to be asked. Employers have little interest in developing or retaining people who show little initiative or interest in the organization’s future.

Grow with the company. Organizations evolve, new tools come to market and regulations keep coming (and changing!). Keep pace with the changes and stay ahead of the curve.

Be proactive about your career. Talk to your manager about what you would like to learn and how you would like to contribute to the organization. Gain agreement about priorities and discuss how to carve out some time to work on new areas while keeping mission-critical tasks on target. What deadlines can slide out a little? What new tools can add operational efficiency?

Take the long view. You may need to put in some extra hours in order to develop new skills. Your payoff is down the road, either in becoming more valuable to your organization (increased pay, bonus potential) or in landing your next job.

Not having the right talent at the right time can cause serious harm to strategic initiatives with delayed projects, missed market opportunities or botched strategic execution. Losing a key resource can derail day-to-day operations until a suitable replacement can be found and can get up to speed. Talent management should be considered part of an enterprise risk management (ERM) program. Don’t have one? Get a good overview in our report, ERM: Not Just for the Big Guys.