Establishing Trust with Clients as a Grants Management Consultant
By Kellie Russell, CEO,
KLR Consulting Services, LLC

My grants management career is quite varied. I began my career in grants management over 25 years ago while working for a local municipality. In 2019, I switched gears and established my own consulting company, a minority woman-owned small business called KLR Consulting Services, LLC. As an entrepreneur, I quickly noticed the difference in my grants management day-to-day tasks and how I accomplish them. My focus and responsibilities expanded from simply completing tasks required by an organization to completing tasks for my own business and, most importantly, building trust with clients. Building trust is a key component in managing any successful consulting business. How do I go about it?

A few tried-and-true tactics that have been successful for me are:

1) Be transparent with your clients. Share good and bad outcomes. You can’t always have good outcomes, but whether the news is good or bad, a client should always be fully aware of where their project stands. Sharing bad news is never easy, but doing it in a courteous and straightforward manner and offering alternate solutions whenever possible goes a long way.

2) Regularly engage with your clients and establish an open-door approach. Keep your clients posted on a regular basis. Whether it’s via weekly emails and/or regular meeting dates, do what works best for you and your client. Maintaining regular engagement and ensuring your clients know they can reach out to you anytime is a critical step in establishing trust.

3) Ensure your interaction with the client is professional and, most importantly, sincere. Behaving in a professional way is common sense advice for anyone. But being sincere in your interaction changes the game. When working with clients, I manage their projects as if they were my own. Their success is my success and vice versa. I genuinely want the best outcome for all my clients and I make sure they know this every step of the way.

In all my projects, I provide an abundance of attention to the management and compliance issues associated with my clients’ projects. I share with them any areas of risk and give them the opportunity to correct them. I have found that being transparent with my clients gives them a sense of relief. It makes them feel good to know that they have partnered with a consultant that has their best interest at heart.

Transitioning from working for an organization to becoming a consultant in the same field of work is a challenging and sometimes overwhelming experience! Through the ups and downs, these things hold true: Service, dedication and genuine caring are the most powerful assets a consulting business in this or any field of work can have. I am proud to say that my consulting business embodies them all.   

Kellie Russell is the CEO of KLR Consulting Services, LLC. She has been a member of NGMA since 2019 and currently serves on the NGMA Education and Membership Committees and is the Chair of the NGMA Atlanta Chapter.