Category Archives: Business of Consulting

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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But Why?

My twin granddaughters keep asking “Why?” ever since they learned to speak. “Why is the car top down?” “Why don’t all cars have tops that go down?” “Why don’t trucks have tops that go down?”

You get the drift.

It’s a great habit, one often ignored by consultants. A buyer says, “We need a two-day strategy retreat” (or a week of coaching or interviews with our clients or a focus group) and the consultant tries to figure out how to convince the buyer that he or she can meet the demand and get the money. That is a commodity approach.

However, if the more confident consultant simply asked, “Why do you want that?” one might discover a completely higher level of need with more impact, larger value, and higher fees. That is a value-based approach.

“We need a leadership development workshop.”


“Because our leaders aren’t acting in concert with each other and are too often competing with each other.”


“Because I’m the third CEO in three years and they have become very territorial and mistrusting.”

“Then let me suggest that a ‘program’ isn’t the answer, but that we need a range of interventions, some individual, some group, and some starting with you.”

The questions “Why?” raises the level of the decision and also raises the ante.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Perspective of Sales and Squirrels

Bentley will see a squirrel, drop whatever he’s doing, and tear after it, irrespective of the distance, number of fences, and amount of trees intervening. When he has to pull up at the first fence, he looks up at the squirrel safely on the branch of a distant tree, and he barks in frustration.


Stop barking at business.


We have a tendency to smell money, see money, hear money, and pursue it relentlessly, despite the intervening obstacles and the overall distance. Not all business is good business, not all buyers are relevant buyers, not all people with money are buyers. We leave “money on the table” when we don’t use appropriate fees with our proposals, but we leave “time on the table” when we don’t use appropriate judgment with our prospects.


Some potential business is too small, too remote, too laborious, too demanding, too ridiculous. Some of it is unethical or repulsive. Eschew it.


Pursue that business which you are great at and love doing, provided by your ideal buyers. It’s as simple as that.


The Great Dog Koufax, knew his ideal squirrels. They were in his yard, within the fence, and he could reach the nearest tree before they could. He caught squirrels.


© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Million Dollar Solo Practice

What my communities help develop, from The Daily Stat of the Harvard Business Review, courtesy of Cliff Eslinger:

May 07, 2014


Yes, You Can Have a Million-Dollar Business with No Employees


Census figures show that the number of one-person businesses in the U.S. with revenues between $1 million and $2.99 million rose 10% year-over-year in 2012 to more than 29,000 firms, Forbes reports. Most are professional, scientific, and technical-services companies, but retail and construction firms are well represented too. Still, such companies are rare: Firms with sales over $1 million make up far less than 1% of the nation’s 22.7 million nonemployer companies, for which the largest revenue category is$10,000 to $25,000.

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The Coyote Lesson

I’m conducting the Million Dollar Consulting® College here in Newport, RI. We’re at Ocean Cliff, one of the huge, former private mansions, overlooking Newport Bay and the Atlantic.

Participants who walk or jog in the beautiful surroundings often report seeing coyotes. These animals thrive here, with plenty of food and no natural predators. They shy away from people and generally mind their own business. They are far from the ineptitude of the best known of their clan, Wile E. Coyote, who never catches the roadrunner.

They come here, and proliferate, because there is an abundance of wildlife—rabbits, squirrels, and other small game running all over the hillsides. I’ve never seen a coyote waiting on a corner for a rabbit to come to it, or making a list on how to catch a rabbit, or sitting around with colleagues discussing why they can’t catch rabbits.

If you want business, find out where your buyers are, go there, and pursue them. If ten of you are chasing one buyer, your odds aren’t too good. If you’re chasing ten buyers by yourself, you should do okay at dinner time. And the only natural predator you have to worry about is the negative aspect of your own beliefs.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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I passed a property today that had been for sale for some time, and saw the prominent SOLD notice pasted over the “for sale” sign. I wondered for an instant why the realtor would take the time and expense to maintain a “sold” sign, then quickly realized it was great advertising.

Just as quickly, I wondered why consultants don’t post SOLD on past business. What would that look like? Well try this:


• Who is a leader in health care innovation? The Acme Pharma Company.

• Who is the global standard in hospitality? The Omega Hotel chain.

• Who is the best known brand in timepieces? The Chrono Stores.

• And who does Acme Pharma, Omega Hotels, and Chrono Stores choose as a trusted advisor? Joan Essex of Essex Consulting.


The statements are public knowledge and supportable. The consultant is not claiming she’s responsible for the statements, simply that those outstanding firms have hired her.



© Alan Weiss 2014

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Anyone who has ever seen and heard me speak (or perhaps even merely conversed with me) knows that I use stories to illustrate my points. In a typical keynote, I’ll use about 10. The “story index” I maintain on my computer (so that I don’t repeat any for the same client or group) is now at 126.

Stories help people to identify with you and with your point. They enable the listener to think, “I’ve been there and done that, I know exactly what he means.” They may add humor, or pathos, or texture—but primarily they add understanding. They are the short cut to comprehension, avoiding dreary narrative and explication.

However, they also create something more subtle and surprising, in that they slightly “rewire” the listener’s brain.

At Princeton, neuroscientist Uri Hasson posits that the patterns in one brain are often matched by another. Think speaker and listener. After the speaker tells a particularly engrossing and relevant story, the brain patterns in the listener tend to match those of the speaker. His research validates his point.

I’m not quite talking about Spock and Vulcan mind melds, but I am suggesting that effective stories create an empathy and even synergy between listener and speaker. We’ve all seen fascinating works about influence and persuasion, and the techniques and tactics to create them. Perhaps, however, the real secret of influence is a carefully crafted story.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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How Do You Begin Your Day?

If you begin your day worried about paying bills, finding business, and meeting “quotas” you’re going to behave as if you’re trying to get money from people and be hesitant about calling them because they don’t want their money taken.

If you begin your day confident that you have tremendous value that can help others you’re going to behave as if you’re obligated to contact others in order to help them and they’ll be happy to hear from you because they appreciate value and help.

The way you begin your day is your choice. It’s not about competition, the economy, technology, demographics or any other factor. It’s about how you see yourself and what you believe about yourself.

Your success is dependent on how you view your worth, and whether you see yourself as a “taker” or a contributor.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Have you ever tried to leave a theater and found that a small group of people have paused in the doorway to chat about the play, blocking everyone behind them? Have you experienced people getting off an escalator and stopping dead to try to get their bearings on the new floor, creating a potential human pileup? Have you experienced the terribly clever person who usurps all of the server’s attention, while others are waiting for their meals?

These are the terminally self-absorbed, those who are oblivious to the world around them.

And so it is in business, with too many people paying no attention to the customer, or the quality, or the opportunities, but merely focusing on their particular task and needs at any given time.

That’s no way be admired by others, and it’s no way to run a business.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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