Getting Naked : A Business Fable

Getting Naked : A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
by Patrick Lencioni

I have enjoyed all of Patrick Lencioni’s books. My firm uses some of his materials in our consulting practice. I couldn’t wait to get this book, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The “fable” centers on a consultant with a mid-sized business consulting firm being tasked with investigating how to integrate a small “boutique” consulting firm they just acquired. The consultant hangs out with the boutique firm’s personnel and clients, and ends up learning a whole new way of consulting that is simpler, more genuine, and more rewarding to both consultant and client than what he learned in school and working with a “real” firm.

I won’t give away the whole book, but the key to Getting Naked is one word: vulnerability. A consultant has to be willing to be vulnerable with a client, as opposed to believing s/he has to descend from on high with revealed wisdom to impart. We consultants aren’t better or more informed than our clients (usually), but our expertise, experience, and perspective blends with the client’s own knowledge to allow us to partner in an effort to be successful – together.

I’ve been a consultant to nonprofits for thirty years, and I’d like to say that my practice embodies many of Lencioni’s principles and practices. However, I also found myself cringing in a couple of places as I realizsed that I could improve my own practice to meet goals and principles I already believe but had wavered a little in applying.

One such area is the willingness to give guidance away while building rapport with a client. A few clients will steal your ideas and try to implement them without you, but most will respect your value and want you to help them achieve results. As for the few, it’s better to see their true colors early and be ready to walk away from such transactional and superficial client relationships.

My partner and I often say, when speaking of our own practice, we have never regretted refusing a client engagement, but we have occasionally regretted taking one on. In other words, it’s better for both one’s peace of mind and one’s livelihood if you’re willing to walk away from some paying work, when that work (or the client) doesn’t fit your firm’s mission and priorities.

Getting Naked is a great companion to two of my favorite books on the business of consulting, Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss and Flawless Consulting by Peter Block. Consultants serve both themselves and their clients best when they focus on maximizing value rather than fees, when the client relationship involves partnership rather than selling, and when both the client and consultant are working toward a mutually identified goal or goals. Of course, focusing on delivering value for clients who appreciate it results in better consulting and higher fees, which is good for consultants!