Jonathan Hazell illustrates the differences between consultants and contractors with a closer look at a consultant’s report.
It goes without saying that there are some very good practitioners in the fields of both arboricultural contracting
and arboricultural consulting. However, an expert in one field may be ineffective in the other and you, as the practitioner, may well have a role in guiding the customer to the right expert.
The consultant’s role is to evaluate a client’s needs and provide expert advice and opinion on what needs to be done, whilst the contractor role is generally to actually perform the work.
We all know of examples of the point I am trying to make. One such example that I can share is of necessity very general. A client asked me as a consultant for a second opinion over the supply of a service; a very good local contractor had already expressed an opinion, but the way it was expressed did not move the supplier to support my client’s view. I am pleased to say that my report, which reached the same conclusion as the contractor’s, was accepted and persuaded the supplier to change their stance.
What’s the difference?
Why, you may ask, if the conclusion was the same? I believe it is all to do with presentation, and little to do with experience, understanding or wisdom.
In my experience, good contractors are brilliant at ‘how’ (the organising and the logistics) while a good consultant excels at ‘why’ (they have a skill with words).
The two may have common experience, understanding or wisdom, but one will be better placed to explain the ‘why’ to the client than the other – and that may be either ‘why you can’ or ‘why you cannot’. It’s also worth remembering here that the client doesn’t really want to know what you know, simply how you can help them.
The consultant’s report
In almost every case a consultant will provide a report, rather than just a simple letter expressing an opinion. In the opening paragraphs the report will set out what was required to be done (ie the task was defined) before
considering how it was done (ie the design of the research and fieldwork) before presenting the results in a way the client can readily understand (ie deliver the output as client ready).
There will be a “golden thread” running through the report – if something is referred to at the end it will have been discussed in the middle and introduced at the beginning, and if something is referred to in the beginning it will make an appearance at the end too.
The report will be carefully structured, care will have been taken to separate fact from opinion in different sections of
the narrative. There will be a section where the findings will be discussed, with the client’s defined brief in mind, and a number of options or scenarios will have been debated, and all but one or two will have been eliminated.
The consultant will reach a conclusion, or maybe two, and recommend prescriptions that will help to deliver the client’s objective. The report will know what to say, how to say it, which references are critical for a particular client, and importantly, when not to say anything.
Jonathan Hazell’s career began on the tools with the Ealing tree gang in 1980. Senior roles in the public, charity and commercial sectors followed and in October 2011 Jonathan established his own arboricultural consultancy practice.