​French & Company provides Business Intelligence consulting, development, and training to corporations and government agencies.

Chris French is principal consultant specializing in Business Intelligence methodologies and development using tools such as IBM Cognos and Oracle OBIEE.

We work directly with clients and through sub-contract relationships with other firms. For more information, please contact us.

Located in Indianapolis, IN.

How to Get Your Clients to Throw Stuff at You

This story ends with me getting hit in the face with a citrus fruit. To this day I have no idea the name of the fruit but it was bigger than an orange but smaller than a grapefruit. What I remember most clearly is the sound as it smacked off my forehead and the instant "what the hell just happened but whatever stay calm" thought that popped into my head.

Did I have it coming? I don't know if throwing fruit at somebody ever falls into the professional behavior bucket but I was being myself and that sometimes has consequences.

It was early in my career and me and another guy were doing an ERP software evaluation for a produce company. We were in the president of the company's office talking and shooting the breeze when he hollers out to an assistant to bring in this fruit that he claims is his favorite. But he doesn't know the name and she doesn't know the name and I say, "the president of the fruit company doesn't know the name of his favorite product..?" By about the time I pronounced the "ct" I could see in slow motion this orangish sphere on a collision course with my face and as fast as the thought could register, SMACK! I smiled, picked up the fruit and handed it back to him and he cut it open and we ate it. And we carried on as if that was normal operating procedure.

If I got to re-shoot that scene today, would I do it the same way? I'm pretty sure that I would. In the long run, speaking my mind and even being a mild smartass has paid more dividends than things being thrown at me. A friend told me about a meeting she had with her CEO at a large company. He told her it was refreshing to have someone tell him like it really is because he gets lied to all day long. I suppose people are afraid of looking incompetent in front of the boss. But so many more times than not it has been the candid, honest, and direct communication that the people I've worked with appreciated and building trust is the most valuable trait in those relationships.

The produce president didn't fire me. I didn't fire him. We went on and did good work. 

On Being Outsourced

The pro of being a consultant, contractor, or freelancer in this economy is that the temp workforce is growing. Companies don't want to hire you or deal with healthcare and retirement. They'd rather fire you, automate your job, replace you with a robot or a low cost worker from a "developing" country. 

It has been my job to automate processes that in the end require less human involvement. I build BI systems that allow companies insights into their data that allow them to maximize efficiencies. That means I've built systems to eliminate jobs. 

The next step is to erase ourselves from the bottom-line. Case in point, I recently trained a team of developers in India to do my job, to replace me. And in some cases, that makes sense. If time-zone differences and language barriers don't impact crucial deliverables then it works. In other cases, not so much. And the same client still hires me do their important work when they need it. There are still plenty of opportunities like this and with more and more companies opting for termed contractors rather than in-house staff, it's a good time to be a freelancer.

Here's a few things I've learned in my many years as a consultant:

1. Be damn good. Clients will call you back again and again. They will refer you to their colleagues. I love when I get a call from a client that says so and so is putting together a team of ass-kickers and wants you on it.

2. Under-promise and over-deliver. I don't need to explain that, just do it.

3. Be honest and don't ever try to bullshit. Your client is your partner. You have to trust each other. Just because you are THE CONSULTANT doesn't mean you are required to have all of the answers. It's okay to say, "I don't know but I will find out." Then go find out. 

4. There are perceived problems and real problems; find the real problems and fix them. You can be a drone and do exactly what you're told or you can dig in deeper, understand your client and their business, uncover the real pressure points and help relieve them. Separate yourself from the machines.

5. Celebrate the successes. You can take your requirements and turn out good work, collect your invoice and go home if that's your thing. But if you want to strengthen your partnership, then celebrate each milestone with your client and team. Speaking of team, always be a team player and always give credit where credit is due.

I could go on and maybe later I will.