skyOften times when there is a business challenge, someone will step up and say, “We’ve got to think outside the box.”

I recall being in a consulting firm, related to the real estate industry, and the 2009 downturn and we were facing a huge drop-off in business. This was to be expected, given the market conditions that were unfolding. So the owner said we needed to think outside the box.

By the way, this is the kind of situation the consultant can expect. While you are often there to provide key assistance, it will definitely happen when they are in deep trouble. And, of course, they want help in getting out of the box they are in. First of all, they put themselves there, but pointing that out is of little value. It won’t produce an improvement to the situation.

What this goes to is Einstein’s proposition is that you can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it in the first place. It is up to you to be out of the box of “conventional wisdom.” Convention doesn’t help in a crisis. So you Mr./Ms. Consultant need to make sure you are out of the box. As you know, industries have certain ways of thinking and acting. You cannot be trapped there.

How do you remove common constraints. First, is to not get caught there in the first place. Do this by studying other industries and ways of thinking. I once was creating an org chart for an architectural firm. The common leader of projects is called the project manager. But I wanted to change this up. So I used the term “account manager” which I borrowed from the advertising world. This brought a change in thinking. Best of all, it created a focus on the client (account) and not on the work (project). For at the manager’s level the client is the focus. Its more about managing expectations.

A second way to avoid the box is to use contrarian thinking. Which way is the crowd doing? Look at the other. What is the conventional wisdom? Be unconventional. In other words, don’t do what has always been done. It is either outdated or going extinct. That same architectural firm I did the org chart for, was like all the others – all hand-drafting of plans. It was the mid 80’s and the computer was just beginning to arrive. So I got a CADD system. That’s short for Computer Aided Design & Drafting. Preparing plans by CADD is now common place. The next level of resistance to change is the adoption of 3-D modeling, so that inevitable conflicts in plans can be spotted early and better visualization than 2D is possible.

Technology today is the harbinger of constant change and evolution. That is the consultant’s role today – to aid movement forward and not maintain the status quo. Those that do the latter are having troubles.

So, when your client asks you to think outside the box, you can respond, “what box.”

 

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

IMG_0981The prior story (post) is from another era. The idea of the traditional consultant pitching and giving, sometimes obvious, information in a one-way delivery is long gone. We are now in a new epoch – consulting is taking on added dimensions and new ways to develop information and deliver it. And with technology, this process is exponential.

So, let’s take a look at the “new” consultant over a series of posts.

First off is the definition of “consultant.” At one time it meant advisor – either generalized or specialized. Today the definition is expanding to include doing, specialized services not available in house, advising, collaborating, and sometimes supplementing on as ‘as needed basis’. Some are coaches, who ultimately become accountability agents, helping to keep organizations and/or individuals on track. In some cases, the definition may include the ‘freelancer’ who is brought in for a specific period or assignment.

The definition is now more complex and the consultant often becomes vested in outcomes, rather than a distant advisor. Of important in the list above is collaboration. The consultant is no longer stand-offish – he or she is totally engaged in the enterprise.

Therefore, the new consultant must be prepared for a greater variety of involvements. No more cookie cutter assignments. Each company must be viewed dynamically, not only for special needs but for the rapidly changing technology and markets we experience today. The adage that experience is the key is no longer the only factor in play. The younger generation does not appreciate your years of experience, since they know you are not necessarily as tech savvy as they are, or not as “with-it.” You now need to leverage your experience in another way – one of bottom line achievements or other measurable methods.

Today the consultant must be more agile, less rote in approach and more flexible with changing environments. Does this mean you don’t specialize? On the contrary, specialization is still important, but the dynamics of today’s marketplace is greater than ever before. Now is the time to be a cutting (or bleeding) edge thinker and problem solver.

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

Here Is A Story For You…

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud toward him. The driver, a young man in a Broni suit, Gucci shoes, YSL tie and Ray Ban sunglasses leans out of the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looks at the man who is obviously a Princeton grad, then looks at his grazing flock and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Sony notebook computer, connects to his AT&T cell phone, surfs to a NASA page on the Internet where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location. He feeds that data to another NASA satellite which scans the area in an ultra-high resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility located in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an e-mail on his “Palm Pilot” that the image has been processed and the data stored.

He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulas. He uploads all of this data via an e-mail on his “Blackberry” and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP Laser jet printer and turns to the shepherd and states, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep,” says the shepherd.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on, amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the shepherd says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and replies, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a consultant,” says the shepherd.

“Wow! That’s correct,” answers the yuppie. “But how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required. You showed up here even though nobody called you… you want to get paid for an answer I already knew to a question I never asked… and… you don’t know shit about my business.

“Now Give Me Back My Dog!”

Note: I can’t credit the source of this story for I have seen it several times in different places.

The so-called unemployment rate is nearing 5% – a good number by most standards, but it does not reflect a more significant number which is the not-in-labor-force. According to one source there has been a loss of over 14-million jobs in the USA since 2000, when you consider unemployed and those who have given up looking. This is not a real recovery although government tends to tout the employment numbers.

But what does this mean to consultants, coaches and freelancers? Companies are not hiring as readily as in prior recoveries. Also, the make-up of the economy is changing. We are no longer a manufacturing giant as many of these jobs are exported to other countries. Those that claim they will bring these jobs back are likely blowing in the wind. Why should companies pay more to produce goods when they can do it more cheaply? Business is economics. Companies respond to the legislative incentives they are presented by the government, so it is not surprising many choose to go to places in which taxes, labor and resources are lower.

It means that the consulting and freelance model is here – at least for now. Yes, you can get picked up from time to time by a company you are working for, but the trend is not on your side. So, it is time to understand that a consulting mode is likely your immediate future. Especially for those more senior. Yes, you have the experience, but you also expect the bigger paycheck. Not a winning formula today.

Besides, the little secret is that you can actually make out better as a consultant or freelancer. Why? Your rates are shorter term but higher. All of your expenses are now tax deductible since you are a business. A company that needs your services doesn’t hesitate, since it is not a long-term commitment and they don’t have to cover benefits, which can be as high as 1.5 to 2 times your base salary. Best of all, you can be more flexible in your work – from home or a co-working space. Name your hours, which if you are busy is not always a benefit.

Regardless, embrace the new economy. It is hard to see when it will change back to the old mode – I bet never.

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

skyLet’s be clear – consulting or coaching is not for everyone.

You may have the skills and experience, but that is only part of the equation. This is why those who have worked in the corporate world may have trouble making the transition.

When you work for a company there is a safety net. There is an infrastructure already set-up to support you. You have a boss of some kind, who will keep you on track or, at least, feed you work assignments. Now, I know, there are some of you who were rainmakers – you are able to create work for yourself and others. This type of person has much better odds of success as a consultant.

Being a consultant can be a lonely prospect. Unless you have partners there is no one else to talk to or bounce ideas off. There is no one to give you occasional guidance or another perspective. There is no one to find you paying work. You have to create everything – from the prospecting, to executing the work. Yes, you can have virtual and other types of part-time assistants. That is wise and extremely helpful, but you are the reason for being.

For some this is an exhilarating situation. There is enormous freedom and responsibility at the same time. But it can be scary for there is no safety net – no one to turn to or back you up. If you are okay with this, then fine. Test the waters and see if you have the entrepreneurial spirit to succeed – for that is what it takes. A sense of embracing risk and the unknown, while being grounded and helpful to your clients.

By the way, it is not a matter of personality. You don’t have to be an extrovert. You do need to be competent and have a belief in yourself – that you can and will succeed in life as a consultant or coach by bring value to others.

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

Every consulting or coaching business needs to have targets – measured at least monthly.

These are a simple set of numbers you use as a guide for assessing your progress as a business. Don’t make a big deal out of this – it is a tool, not an end in itself. These measurements include:

  1. Marketing
    1. Number of prospects
    2. Number of proposals
    3. Number of signed agreements
  2. Business
    1. Goal or target of $ of signed business
    2. $ of signed agreements
    3. Goal or target of revenues
    4. Actual revenues
    5. Utilization – time billed vs. time available (%)
    6. Efficiency – subjective, but amount of progress made on contracts. Does time spend equal or exceed portion of work done.

That’s the minimum. It gives a snapshot of your business. If you don’t have the signed agreements, then you need to up the marketing to produce more prospects. If the revenues fall short, you can determine if it is a lack of signed business or a lack of progress on existing contracts.

The marketing portion I would initially tack on a weekly basis, for those are easy numbers to identify. The point being is you need to know.

e Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

marketingThe use of content marketing is a natural for consultants and coaches. Why? Because content marketing is a great way to demonstrate your expertise, authority, knowledge and skills. After all, that is why people hire you.

This could be the subject of a book, but here are some ideas to turn your content into great marketing.

  1. Blog: Regular posting gives ideas and demonstrates your capabilities – not directly, but by the breath of your knowledge and experience in the topics you write about.
  2. Newsletter: The opportunity to regularly reach out and touch your prospects with interesting and compelling information that had meaning for them – all while showcasing your expertise.
  3. Case Studies: Everyone loves a case study. It is instructive and demonstrates your track record as a plus.
  4. Reports: A report on a given topic does more of the above and can be an excellent “give-a-way” to entice readers to join your list.
  5. Videos, Webinars, etc. All excellent vehicles.

The point is to create content, then repurpose it. An article in a newsletter can be reused on an article site, giving you additional exposure and links. I have even taken a series of newsletter posts and created an eBooks. Easy to do. See the link below.

Everyone says that content is king – I say it is connection. It can engage the reader and, in a subtle way, demonstrate your know-how. A win-win.

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

consulting Consultants and coaches run into two significant drains of time and income. They are:

  1. Giving away services in order to get the contract.
  2. Scope creep, or the client asking for more beyond the original agreement.

These can be tough to deal with, but you must develop strategies to confront them.

The first, the tendency to give more upfront is completely in our control. We feel that if we don’t do something, the client will not select us. We are simply trying to ensure success. The secret here is simple. Tell the client what but not how. That is the way many on webinars and sales letters do. They get into the problem, the solution in terms of what needs to be done. Note: the politicians do this too. But hold back on the how. If they ask you how, then it is relatively easy to say, that comes with the contract or that is what you are hiring me to do. If they knew how then they would not need you.

The second is more challenging. I recently had a client who continued to send emails asking me about this and that of the assignment just completed. While some were appropriate, it go to be too much. So I simply said, I have completed the work you asked me to do. Are there additional services you wish me to perform? If yes, then say that will be at the standard rate stated in our original agreement. If no, then that you for the opportunity to serve you. I hope we can work together again in the future.

While these phrases are good, you still need to use judgment in using them. Try to understand the psychology of the client. Are they trying to squeeze more out of you or are they genuinely in need of help or explanation. Be kind, generous and considerate, but know when to draw the line on giving away consulting services.

 

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

54592_letter_soupI keep running into small business owners who define their business by what they do. While this is accurate they are missing any important mindset that can transform their business and their marketing.

This mindset has to do with how you define your business. Try doing an exercise. Write down all that your do that is a benefit for your client. By this I mean, what results do you give them or what problems do you solve?

For example, a photographer. You can rightfully say that a photographer takes pictures. But what are the benefits? For one that takes family pictures, he could say that he creates memories. For a photog that is business oriented you can say that she helps a business put their best foot forward, or represents a professional image to the marketplace.

Now let’s see what this change in mindset does for you the business owner.

  1. It changes your view as to why you are in business – it puts it in terms of the client or customer.
  2. It helps you organize your mind – and business – around the client, improving your services and creating client oriented experience.
  3. It fives you a marketing message that resonates with your target client. It is in terms that have meaning for them.

That’s just the surface. Make this change and your business will transform.

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.

484189_businessmen_shaking_handsOne sign of your professionalism is the use of a formal agreement for your services. Now, this doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be several pages for a major service or merely a one-page letter for brief assignments. But it is important to get it in writing.

Why? You never know when something is going to go south – for no good reason or intention. Projects get cancelled or put on hold. There can be cash flow problems. The client changes her mind. You decide you can’t do it justice. Any number of reasons.

Your agreement can be your only protection in such instances. It can address prepayments, cancellation and a host of other issues. The contents can vary based on your industry or specialty, but here are some of the constants.

  • Scope of Services
  • Compensation
  • Terms

The first two are unique to the assignment, the latter is standard. Go online for examples relative to your industry. I find that having a set format is useful. I merely fill in the blanks and it’s ready to go. I even carry some blank ones, so that I can write in on the spot for simple projects. For changes to a standing contract, a simple note will do.

One you go to the effort of creating a standard form, then issuing new agreements can be easy – which is what it should be.

Steve Kellogg is author of the e-book: “Successfully Start, Market & Run Your Own Consulting Business” on Amazon.