Seven Major Lessons Learned from Working with Simon Vision Consulting

The following blog post was written by Gilbert Bonsu ’18S (MBA)

My tenure on the leadership team of Simon Vision Consulting at Simon Business School ended in mid-May. The journey between beginning as a project manager and ending as the managing director was transformative and significant. Simon Vision Consulting (Vision) is a professionally managed, student-led organization at Simon that provides pro-bono consulting services to businesses and non-profits in the Greater Rochester area. My two years with Vision have been a great opportunity for me to work closely with over 16 organizations across multiple industries addressing critical business challenges. These firms ranged from solopreneur entities to publicly traded companies.

Below are seven business lessons that I learned and were reaffirmed during my time with Vision:

gilbert1.) It’s all about people.
Tactful people skills are foundational to your success in both personal and professional life. Matured interpersonal skills allow you to maneuver in your workplace with ease. You might be the most technically gifted person in the room, but if people hate working with you they will pass on you, even for a less experienced colleague. On the other hand, when people love working with you and you have the capabilities to deliver success, the sky is the limit. The people skills of our Vision team, from the president to consultants, in addition to our technical prowess, help us generate more business through referrals. When our clients talked about their experience with our teams, one of the first things they mentioned is how they loved working with us. People skills are crucial in life and they come in the forms of personality, empathy, verbal and non-verbal cues, and listening. Which leads to the next point:

2.) Actively listen and embrace learning.
Actively listen: We all have heard the saying “hearing someone and listening to them are two different things.” As a consultant, it is critical to actively listen to others. Don’t start formulating a response while the client is still talking. Not only may you need collateral information to truly understand and appreciate the situation, but also, good ideas take time to form. Listen without interruption and take time to formulate a response. You will learn a lot.

Embrace learning: The importance of learning cannot be overstated. Continuous learning is important in your professional life as it makes you more adaptable to change, builds self-esteem, and improves your skills. To embrace learning includes taking the time to experience even the same things multiple times. The same problems in a different environment present renewed and unique learning opportunities. Welcome these opportunities and the ambiguity that comes with them.

3.) Welcome ambiguity.
Ambiguity can be stressful and tiring. When we are faced with uncertainty, we can sometimes feel paralyzed. In these situations it is important to recognize that ambiguity is a path to knowledge. We can expand our horizon when we don’t back down from uncertainty. The unknown comprises many lessons waiting to be learned. Instead of meeting it with fear, recognize that you will come through it transformed. Following that unknown may result in outcomes that were beyond your frame of thinking and planning.

4.) Simplify.
Reality does not happen in a vacuum. There are many actions and reactions occurring simultaneously. Everything in this world is complex; thus, simplicity is sometimes thought of as unrealistic or naïve. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t neglect the power of simplicity. When faced with complex issues, try and strip it apart to simplify it. Then, only when it is completely understood, bring it all together with the nuanced pieces. At times when you simplify a problem and apply due diligence, you are able to understand the core value of the problem and plan accordingly. Indeed, things are not always black or white, but you need a starting palette to create a rainbow.

5.) You don’t need to be the expert.
Clients expect a know-it-all, but no one is truly the expert. It is okay to admit you don’t have all the answers. In fact, everyone has their expertise, and knowing whom to call on is just as valuable as knowing what to do. You may even be the subject matter expert and still not know the answer at the moment. We sometimes miss the process of discovery when we feel pressured to have all the answers right off the bat. Worst case, we end up giving the wrong answer or make up something completely useless.

6.) Be prepared and be ready.
Simply, poor preparation promotes poor performance. Whether it is a short meeting or a formal presentation, be prepared and ready to go. Train like it’s game time. Being unprepared is not only disrespectful to your teammates and clients, but also disrespectful to yourself.

7.) Not all clients know what they want.
Sometimes the clients just don’t know what they want. It can be frustrating, especially when the client thinks (s)he knows the answer but can’t readily articulate the problem. However, this is okay. You’re there to help. Here’s some advice when you find yourself in that situation:

  • Try and figure out how the client operates
  • Make them feel comfortable (don’t be intimidating or condescending), and build a rapport and a genuine working relationship
  • Engineer your questions appropriately
  • Guide them towards what they need, not what they want (they will be grateful later)

These seven business lessons are from my unique experience with Simon Vision and I wanted to share them with you; however, the lessons don’t end here. Above all, it is important to remain curious and passionate. Approach every situation as a showcase for your strengths and a test of your resolve.

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