Category Archives: Business of Consulting

Fog

Here on Nantucket, the planes can’t land if it’s excessively foggy, which it often is. Whether a commercial flight, private jet, puddle-jumper, or whatever, the weather is egalitarian in determining if the wheels will meet the runway. There’s no place to divert, you simply go back where you came from and cancel your plans or try again later.

There’s a fog surrounding many businesses. Potential customers can’t quite make them out. The lines blur. The benefits aren’t clear. It’s uncertain where solid ground is separated from deep water. The value isn’t emerging. It seems dangerous to try to land. There is no one who is helping to “talk them down.”

Does your business stand out like a beacon, or is it lost in a fog of uncertainty where it’s hard to discern its value?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Flipping Pages

I was asked for an appointment next month, and as I flipped through my Filofax (no, I don’t use electronic calendars) I realized I had gone too far and I was in mid-October, not September.

In a half-second, I had lost a month. How often do you think you’ll get to something, there’s plenty of time, no hurry, and you’ve lost a month? Whether it’s a half-second or it’s weeks, it’s very easy to watch time go by with no action, no results, nothing happening.

Have you accomplished what you intended over the past 30 days?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Square Zero

I’ve never understood the concept of “square one.” If you want to start anew, then erase the board, tear off the sheet, delete the entry.

Square zero is your starting mindset approaching a prospect. There are two primary chords which seem to be played:

1. How can I get this business? How can I “sell” this person? What objections will I have to overcome? What are the weaknesses in my arguments? How much money can I make?

2. How can I best provide value? What improvements will be most impressive? How can I help this buyer exceed expectations and objectives? How much help can I provide?

You’re either walking in—and pre-determining you success—with a “take” or a “give” mindset. Every day I hear from people who want to “take” something from me. I ignore them or tell them “no thanks.” But I stop to pay attention to the very few who seem to sincerely want to give me something.

What’s your mindset at the outset?

Start again at square zero.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Social Work Doesn’t Pay

I admire social workers. They perform a vital role in society and receive very little money for their labors. I think it’s a calling for most of them, or at least the best of them.

 

But we have many “social workers” in our midst who believe they’re actually consultants and running a business. Thy are overwhelmingly worried about other peoples’ well being and create these excuses in their behalf:

 

“I need to give her more time to introduce me to her boss.”

“He might feel threatened if I went over his head.”

“She’s new to the job and I can’t push her too hard.”

“He must have a good reason for not introducing me.”

 

If you really believe you can help people, then you have to get to the people whom you can help and who can pay for that help. Allowing subordinates and gatekeepers to prevent you from doing so because you don’t want to threaten them or, worse, need for them to like you, is an express lane to failure.

 

Stop worrying about others’ positions and preferences. They are adults and clearly looking out for themselves. Don’t relay on them to promote you or market you. Simply use them for introductions to true buyers.

 

But if you want to be loved, get a dog. If you get a big enough dog, you can use it to clear out the gatekeepers.

 

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Customer ROI

The Peninsula Hotel in New York is one of my favorite hotels.

I arrived late yesterday, because of a delayed train, and when the limo deposited me in front of the hotel an assistant manager said, “Welcome back, Dr. Weiss. May I escort you to your room?” I casually asked on the elevator if I was upgraded by American Express.

“Oh, we double upgraded you,” she said, “to your favorite suite.”

The Peninsula is expensive, but I can walk to my meetings and shopping and to the theater, it’s 10 minutes away from Penn Station, and they know how to treat their best customers.

If you want to earn high fees, you must provide high value and recognize who your best customers (and potential customers) are—I call them “your ideal buyers.” You have limited time and resources. Focus them on the largest potential return.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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One Straw At A Time

We had to have a large tree cut down recently, so I removed the bird house that had resided there for years to move it to another tree. I had to open it to secure it on the trunk, and found about six inches of nesting material inside.

The house was used by sparrows, I know, because I could watch them from my den  doing their commuting each day. The height and tiny opening are apparently perfect for them. Twig by twig, with the occasional piece of pilfered cotton or napkin shred, the birds built a formidable, comfortable nest.

That’s how our businesses can grow, twig by twig. A great many people look for the “magic bullet” and the get-rich-express. They usually fall victim to some sharpster making HIS money preying on them or to their own impractical dreams. If you can build an internet empire overnight, more power to you. If you can create the strategic approach that propels business giants to seek you out, I’m happy for your success.

But most often, building a consulting business (or any business, for that matter) is a question of constantly moving forward, one step at a time. You make a call, have a meeting; create marketing materials, gain referrals; develop new IP, write an article. Home run hitters swing for the fences and usually lead the league in strikeouts. The people with high batting averages merely try to make contact with the ball on a consistent basis.

Of course, some people are born on third base but think they’ve hit a triple.

The key for all of us is to build our business every day, always moving forward, one step at a time. Pretty soon, you’ll have a very comfortable nest. Once you do, of course, it’s time to start thinking about building a bigger one.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Most Powerful Pieces on the Board

You need to influence your ideal clients with irresistible value. One you do that, they will tell others, and future buyers will come to you.

When buyers come to you, credibility and fees are no longer ever an issue. The question changes from, “What can you do for me?” to “How can we best work together?”

These client evangelists should be capitalized on for video testimonials, appearances at your events, co-authored articles, and testing of new, irresistible value. This is somewhat like promoting a pawn to a queen in chess, creating the most powerful piece on the board. There are eight pawns on each side in chess.

Do you have or are you developing eight evangelistic clients who promote your business?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Booms

My granddaughters call fireworks “booms.” Every Thursday evening, the beach here at Point Pleasant explodes with them for 15 minutes or so. The town does a great job, better than most of the July 4th celebrations I’ve seen. We watch from the porch of our house.

People in boats, on the beach, on the boardwalk, and outside of their homes are mesmerized. As each rocket lights the darkness, you can see people staring, silently and intently, at each new array. Even if they hadn’t come specifically for the event, they stop what they’re doing, cease their travels, and watch.

What are you doing to create fireworks around your business? What are you creating that lights up the dark and allows people to marvel at the ingenuity and spectacle? Or are you merely hoping that people will somehow find you in the dark?

DSC_1792

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Analysts

Apple had a brilliant last quarter, ahead of last year’s, but not quite up to the analysts’ “expectations.” By any empirical measure, Apple is a phenomenon, innovative beyond the death of its founder, with giant cash reserves, and huge profit margins, a global player making deep inroads in the China market.

But the “analysts” were disappointed because their arbitrary goals weren’t quite met. (Apple stock slightly declined that day, but then went up significantly the next day, obviously from investors taking advantage of the slight dip.)

As consultants, we have to agree with our buyers about what’s reasonable and expected in terms of project goals. We need metrics to both measure progress AND validate that our contribution is making the difference. We also must stipulate the value of achieving the new levels of performance, so that our fees demonstrate a significant ROI.

Don’t allow anyone else—from accounting, procurement, HR, or the owner’s family if a small business—to become the “analyst” making independent and arbitrary conclusions about performance. That’s between you and the buyer, as partners in the project.

I bought Apple stock at $17. “Experts” told me they were a niche player; that they were lucky; that too much of my portfolio was in technology; that Apple wouldn’t be a player without Steve Jobs. I ignored them all, because I use their products and have known people who have worked there. I know they’re the best, both products and people. I’d guess my portfolio is far larger than most of the “analysts.” So is my income.

March to your own drummer. Just make sure you buyer shares the beat. Ignore the critics who claim the music should be different but who can’t play an instrument.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Directing Traffic

Restaurants here in Bali hire people to direct traffic in and out of their parking lots, because the street traffic is so heavy that drivers otherwise wouldn’t be able to make the turns. They have lighted rods and whistles. The church we attended, in order to accommodate the maximum amount of worshippers in its lot, has attendants who parked the cars in a great, solid mass. But after services, they adroitly directed people out with a minimum of waiting.

What are you doing to direct people out of the “traffic” and the noise and into your business? Do you have features that light the way and allow people to turn to you?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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