The lighter side of day one
Everyone has something they look for on the first day of an assignment. For me it’s quite process driven – I want to know if I can get an ice cold diet coke (inputs) and whether the toilets are clean (outputs).
Of course, there are the work related factors. How easy is it to get meeting rooms? Has the client setup all the things they need to in order for you to be productive quickly? We looked at this in a previous post “Hitting the ground running on day one of your assignments” where we considered intelligent and naive buyers of consulting. In this post we’ll take a consultant’s view – what do I look for when I arrive on site?
Getting to client site is the first battle. I’ve spent hours and hours of my life on uncomfortable trains making unlikely connections to get all over the country. Rotherham station for a change on a dark and cold winter’s evening was not what I imagined the day I graduated from university. For me, I want a central London client, preferably on the Northern Line and within easy walking distance of a few good sandwich shops, pubs and shops.
Once I’m onsite, it’s a bonus to be working somewhere that’s pleasant to spend a day. I once had desk over London Bridge with a view of the Thames. It was an easy commute and it had a river view. Borough Market for lunch became a Friday team tradition. There is even a South African shop in London Bridge station so I was spoilt with home delicacies.
During the course of the working day, most people like to have a cup of tea and a biscuit. What are the coffee facilities like? On some sites, there’s barely a kettle and some disposable spoons. A recent client of mine provided fruit, bread (for sandwiches), Marmite, a toaster and a hot drinks machine – bliss. For me – somewhere I can get an ice-cold diet coke, so cold that there is condensation on the can, makes a day all the more bearable. Vending machines with a few decent treats make those inevitable late nights a bit less painful.
Lunch time is an important time. It’s well known that drafting 2 x 2 matrices burns more calories than just responding to emails. What is the cafeteria like? I’m more interested in fresh food, decent sandwiches and some fruit than a dazzling array of choices or a hot lunch. Having somewhere pleasant to sit and eat is another plus, especially if it is outdoors.
Getting offsite is also important, especially if the cafeteria is no good. How accessible are some local shops? Even consultants sometimes need a post office, a bank and a florist. City centre sites are the best for this but not every client has offices downtown. My worst experience (so far) was a rural office park in south Wales where the closest store was a 15 minute drive away. Not ideal, particularly if – as was the case for me – you don’t have a car.
Finally, the single most important thing all consultants look for – the stationery cupboard. My personal bag of tricks tends to require sticky notes, white board markers, reams of paper for notes (I prefer A5 books, that’s just how I roll) and lots of coloured stickers (preference voting for options analysis). I can spend many an hour salivating at the sight of a well stocked stationery cabinet ready for me to devise new workshopping techniques requiring a specific blend of bulldog clips and bubble wrap envelopes.
Use the comments to let us know what kind of things you look for.