How to Grow Your Practice Outside of Where You Live
By Andrew Miller
When I started my consulting practice in 2006 I was nothing more than a glorified project manager. I left IBM’s consulting division, where I was project managing large system implementations, to do what? That’s right. Manage large system implementations. I was doing the same work for a little more money, but no more freedom or flexibility.
After two years of this, I decided things needed to change. I wanted more flexibility, more clients, more exciting work and different types of projects. Coincidentally, that’s also when I found out about Alan Weiss and read Million Dollar Consulting. In 2008, the transformation began. Seven years later the transformation is ongoing. I have more flexibility. I have more clients. Most of the work I do is exciting. I work on lots of different types of project. I am in a better place than I was in 2008.
I wanted to share with you the key strategies that allowed me to make this transformation (and keep making it).
In 2008 I was providing procurement expertise to hospitals in the Toronto area. Now I provide operational excellence expertise to companies in almost every industry – pharma, financial services, hospitality, healthcare, technology, distribution, oil and gas, and not-for-profits. And I have clients all across North America with prospects all across the globe.
There are three things I did, above all else, that helped me grow my business outside of my Toronto healthcare procurement bubble.
- Immersing myself in Alan’s community
Once I got over my initial fear of Alan, I jumped right into the community. My first workshop was “From Six to Seven” in Las Vegas in 2009 and it changed my whole perspective on what we do. After spending three days in a room with so many brilliant and successful people, my biggest takeaway was the realization that I belonged in that room with those people. And so the transformation began.
Since then, I have been a member of a Growth Cycle, done a few Total Immersion sessions with Alan, joined KAATN, attended the Mentor Hall of Fame meetings, the Consulting College, Thought Leadership, Mentor Summits, and many other programs. Many of my successes can be attributed to working with Alan, and there are also many others that came from other members of the community. Some of the best ideas come through get togethers at Mentor Summits, on Mastermind Group calls, participating in Forum posts, and of course, casual chats at the bar.
You need to immerse yourself in Alan’s community and be open to new ideas. Find out what has worked for others and how you can replicate it. Everyone has been where you are, no matter where that is, so take advantage of that knowledge to accelerate your own success.
- Leveraging my network
When working to expand by business outside of procurement and Toronto, I used my network as often as possible. My first non-healthcare client came through a consultant I used to work with at IBM. My first U.S. client came through a member of Alan’s community. My first paid speech came from an introduction from a close friend. The agent for my first book came through an introduction from someone in Alan’s community. My biggest and best client to date came through an introduction from someone I volunteer fundraise with. I try to connect with, and keep track of as many people as possible. You never know who might be connected to whom.
The key to leveraging your network is not only connecting with a lot of people. You need to provide them with value and be very comfortable asking those people for introductions (think of the principle of reciprocity). And more importantly, following up with them to make those introductions happen.
- Trying new things
I’m Canadian, which means I am risk averse by nature. I also have a propensity to please and want to be liked, giving me two strikes when it comes to trying bold things. But I needed to overcome those behaviors. I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I knew that was the only way I was going to transform my business and my behaviour. So I learned to let go of some things, sometimes by choice and sometimes forced. I learned to try new things that made me nervous, like hosting a breakfast event in another city or writing a book proposal or telling a prospect what I really thought about their strategic direction. What I found was, the more comfortable I became being bolder and trying new things, the better my advice was to clients and the more fun I had.
Not everything will be a success. I’ve delivered teleconferences where no one was on the line. I’ve cancelled events at the last minute because not enough people registered. I’ve done work with clients I never should have touched with a 10-foot pole. I’ve had clients never pay me because I didn’t get money up front. I’ve had my share of failures and missed steps. And I learned from each one of those situations. I learned how to better market what I offer. I learned how to be more provocative in my content. I learned what I want and what I don’t want to do.
You need to try something new. Put on a free teleconference in your area of expertise. Say something to a client or prospect that makes you uncomfortable but you know is the right advice. Write that edgy article that you have been thinking about. We often spend too much time worrying about the consequences and the outcomes of our actions, and not enough time just doing it.
Andrew Miller is an expert in operational excellence and the author of Redefining Operational Excellence. He helps organizations like 3M, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, McKesson, Scotiabank, and the YMCA accelerate growth and maximize profitability. He is a Master Mentor and member of the Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame. Andrew can be reach at 416-480-1336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2015