Are you driving your consulting business (or is it driving you)?

Business Model

I was reading Seth Godin’s recent post, “Profitable, Difficult, or Important?”, and it struck me: that’s a tension I’ve felt throughout my consulting career.

Although the tension was inside my head, it showed up in my business model,[*] which means it eventually showed up somewhere else. You guessed it: In my bank account!

For example, early in my second consulting practice (I’ve had three), we focused on what we thought was important: serving small nonprofits. That proved to be both difficult, and, as you might guess, not very profitable. Continue reading “Are you driving your consulting business (or is it driving you)?”

‘Tis the Season…to Tackle Business Planning

tis the season for planning

In the lead-up to the holiday season each year, I keep the leftover Halloween candy close as fuel for my professional holiday tradition: planning. If there’s one thing I can attribute to the growth of my consulting practice over the years, it’s this regular practice of taking stock of where I’ve been and what’s to come.

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Some find the timing of this ritual odd. After all, if your business is like mine, many clients are blasting into the busiest weeks of the year. As their consultant, you are experiencing a similarly demanding period.

Oddly enough, I find this the perfect time to start brainstorming about my business’s next act. Why? Because it’s easy to lose some perspective once you’re away from crunch time. I used to take some planning time in early January, and somehow, the fall’s enhanced hustle and bustle feeds my desire to push my business to new heights. Continue reading “‘Tis the Season…to Tackle Business Planning”

What Does Your Prospect (Really) Think of Your Proposal?

What do prospect really think of your proposal

As a consultant, how many times have you wished you could have been a fly on the wall as a prospect reviewed your proposal and those from your competitors? We might be gratified. We might be mortified. But oh, what we could learn!

I recently helped a client prepare a request for proposals (RFP) for consulting services that are outside my core area of business. And, I thought the client’s comments would make for an interesting mini case study on proposals and the proposing process. Although it’s only one data point, I think a lot of my client’s observations had to do with human nature rather than the particulars of this client.

Background: The client sent an RFP to 10 firms, nine of whom responded. This was a “short list” of firms recommended by the senior executive team and board members. The fee for this project will be in the $150–200K range. There’s also an opportunity for repeat business with the client for projects in the high five-figure range. The RFP clarified that my client was reaching out to a “select list” of firms.

Here are some of the standout comments my client made in the review process: Continue reading “What Does Your Prospect (Really) Think of Your Proposal?”

Are You Confident about Your Confidence?

confidence

Here are five ways you can boost your confidence as a consultant.

As you start a business, it can be tempting to set up shop, secure a client or two, then expect that things will continue to pop. I was guilty of this myself at times.

I thought that my busy first year would translate into a busy second one. So, I enjoyed the newfound flexibility that came with the occasional slower day. I planted flowers in the garden and met friends somewhat regularly for lunch… until I realized that I was being premature in my comfort. Continue reading “Are You Confident about Your Confidence?”

How’s Your Hustle?

how is your hustle

When you first thought that you might consult, did you assume that your years of experience in the trenches would propel your new career path forward? Most of us learn quickly that this field is filled with talented people. Yet the overarching trait that keeps consulting businesses at full capacity isn’t talent—it’s hustle.

You likely know professionals less skilled than you who have sustained themselves over time due to sheer will. They befriend the key connectors in town and have mastered the art of closing the deal. While it’s a difficult admission to make, these endurance activities are every bit as important as knowing the content of our respective fields.

Many new consultants view hustle solely through the lens of securing clients. Yet it is necessarily multi-faceted: Continue reading “How’s Your Hustle?”

Attorneys and Accountants: Your Quest for the Best

How to pick the right attorney and accountant for your business.

One of the biggest investments you will make as a new consultant is in those who will provide professional services to you. At a minimum, you will likely consider engaging an attorney and an accountant. Given their influence on your early business decisions, you will want to do all you can to ensure that you pick the right attorney and accountant to help set you up for long-term success.

When selecting these advisors, referrals are clearly worthwhile. Ask other small business owners who they recommend, but consider limiting your survey to firms that are similar professional service firms. Also, attorneys and accountants often refer clients to each other, so if you find, say, an accountant whom you like, request a referral to an attorney, or vice versa.

Don’t hesitate to interview your top few candidates. These are core advisors that you might turn to time and again, especially your accountant. Your goal is to set up for a long-term relationship, so if you find an attorney who is, say, too formal or too alarmist for your taste, you are likely to be unhappy with your choice.

There are three general categories that you want to give advance thought to for each of these key advisors: Continue reading “Attorneys and Accountants: Your Quest for the Best”

7 Signs of a Good Consulting Project

seven criteria choosing good consulting projects

If you believe that choosing good clients makes consulting life more blissful—and in my experience it certainly does—then you might consider putting the same weight on the projects you take.

“Hold on,” you might be thinking. “If I am going to be choosy about both the client and the project, how in the world will I ever find enough engagements to put food on the table?” Of course, the opposite can also be true: “The more risk factors associated with the jobs I take, the higher the likelihood that I don’t do good work and risk jeopardizing my reputation.”

You certainly reserve the right to make decisions affected by both ends of this spectrum. But there are some basic criteria that tend to make engagements flow more smoothly for all of us. Consider these factors as you learn about your next job. Does the proposed project: Continue reading “7 Signs of a Good Consulting Project”