Do you have favorite movies, that whenever they’re on TV, you absolutely HAVE to turn them on and watch a bit? I know I do. One of my absolute favorites is Pulp Fiction (though the censored for network TV version is excruciating to watch). I’m sad to admit that I’m old enough to have seen the film in the theater when it was first released in 1994!
The movie, with its sharp dialogue, dark humor and eclectic soundtrack is widely recognized as one of the most influential movies of the decade. It launched the careers of now well-known actors Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, and rebooted the careers of John Travolta and musician Dick Dale, whose classic cut “Miserlou” is now eternally linked to the film.
Obviously, over 20 years later, I watch the film with a very different perspective. While I still am immensely entertained by many of the same scenes I was when I first saw it, now, as a consultant, I find myself more and more fascinated by Harvey Keitel’s character, Winston Wolf.
Fellow Pulp Fiction fans remember “The Wolf” as the brutally efficient problem-solver brought in to help main characters Jules (Jackson) and Vincent (Travolta) clean up the aftermath of a grisly mishap resulting in a dead body in their car.
Here’s what Winston Wolf taught me about being an effective consultant:
The Wolf: “I’m 30 minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”
Act with a sense of urgency.
The best consultants don’t waste any time, and exude purpose and a sense of urgency. I had a consulting manager once tell me that as consultants we’re expected to deliver what a regular employee does in a week—in a single day.
Jules Winfield: “Oh, you’re sending the Wolf? …That’s all you had to say!”
Earn & inspire confidence in your clients.
The best consultants inspire confidence in their clients, reducing their stress and anxiety about the project or initiative. These consultants are the ones that get brought back again and again because clients know they can count on them to get things done.
The Wolf: “I’m Winston Wolf. I Solve Problems.”
Solve your client’s biggest problems.
It doesn’t matter what technology or project we’re working on. The bottom line, consultants exist to solve our client’s biggest problems; often, big hairy ones that they have been unable to solve internally. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just do it themselves?
The Wolf: “If I was informed correctly, the clock is ticking, is that right, Jimmie? Your wife, Bonnie… comes home at 9:30 in the AM, is that correct? I was led to believe if she comes home and finds us here, she wouldn’t appreciate it none too much. That gives us forty minutes to get…outta Dodge, which, if you do what I say when I say it, should be plenty. Now, you’ve got a corpse in a car, minus a head, in the garage. Take me to it.”
Understand your client’s business, processes & problem as well or better than they do.
The best consultants must know their SOW, their client, and any available project documents inside and out on day one of the project. This ensures week 1 is productive, rather than reactive, and shows immediate progress.
The Wolf: “I’m here to help… If I’m curt, it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast, and I need you guys to act fast if you want to get out of this.”
Communicate clearly, and be direct.
Clients often need to be led—And consultants often need to be the bearer of bad news. We don’t do our clients any good by candy-coating things. Critical risks or issues must be treated, and communicated as such.
What do you think? What have you been able to take from The Wolf, or Pulp Fiction in general, and implement in your work?
About Paul Danek
Paul Danek is a senior consultant in Statera’s Salesforce CRM Practice. He possesses certifications in Salesforce.com (Admin & Service Cloud), Apttus Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) and Project Management (PMP). When he’s not working Paul enjoys Crossfit, road cycling, and hiking the Colorado foothills with his wife, Ashleigh and Rottweiler, Arizona.