What's to Show for Posterity?

Posted Jul 13, 2015 by: Robert RooksWhat's to Show for Posterity?

When an architect designs a structure, they can point and say “Look, I designed that!” And the look and feel of the building becomes his reputation. When a contractor builds a house, and it stands straight and resists a hurricane, he can point and say “Hey, I built that!” And onlookers can say “Wow, he’s a really good builder.” Even the software developer, the car mechanic, the butcher, and the baker create a product that the customer can see, test, touch, or otherwise evaluate for quality. And quality becomes the reputation.

But the poor environmental consultant! His goal is to leave behind clean soil, clean water, air that’s safe to breath, reduced risk, compliance with regulations, and a host of other things that no one can drive by and look at. So how does he make a reputation? Only from doing a good job, doing it quickly, and at a fair price. To be fair, the client will remember the speed and the cost, and he may remember having an other-than-unpleasant experience, but how does a consultant build a reputation for good (high quality) work?

Environmental consultants write reports, then those reports get skimmed by the client or the regulator and put in a file or on a shelf to collect dust. But that’s all we really leave behind for posterity – no pretty building to look at, no shiny new product. These days, more often than not, those reports also go into an online repository where they are available for anyone to look at, at any time, literally forever. And that’s were those harmless mistakes, errors, and typos come back to haunt us. As consultants, we must strive for perfection, and get nearly there every single time, if we are to preserve and grow our reputation for doing good work. Like I say to my kids, once you are out of school and have a job, you have to get an A, every time, every day. Since the consultant’s report is what you are paying for, you have every right to expect perfection.