Why Maintaining Organizational Flexibility is the Key to Sustainable Growth for your Consultancy?

 

A consulting firm is a dynamic organization that is vulnerable to the fluctuations of the business cycle. New projects come and go, and the people who staff your firm tend to change over time. While you may not have current problems with recruitment, finding the appropriate level of staffing is tricky. A major economic event could shift the entire market, meaning that your company might quickly lose or gain projects that affect your staffing scheme. Whether you have too many staff on hand or not enough, firms rarely end up in the middle with the perfect number of consultants. Due to unpredictable economic changes, it’s important to have a flexible staffing plan that accounts for factors affecting your firm’s optimal size, considering the structure of the business and the market demand. The appropriate level of staffing is not an issue that will go away. With too many consultants, you could lose profitability in the case of headwinds. Without enough consultants, your firm could miss important opportunities to grow and profit. In addition, having excess staff could mean that your firm accepts projects for which it isn’t qualified, which creates the risk of damaging your credibility. In a consulting firm, delivering great value and return on investment for your clients is a must have, but the key to profitability is finding the size and cost structure that works for you.

Optimizing the Risk Rewards Equation

The driver for profitability, in all asset intensive businesses, is optimizing the utilization of the assets. Consulting, despite being asset light from a tangible standpoint carries the bulk of its costs through salaries. This means that you need to find the right trade off to get the maximum economic performance results from the utilization of each employee, without overextending your human capital budget. Besides sizing, finding the right equilibrium between base salary and bonus Is very often an underestimated lever. Many consultancies consider the total compensation as a fixed cost and link the bonuses to the quality of delivery without taking advantage of the flexibility it could provide. Tying part of the bonus calculation to the economic profitability of the firm can not only mitigate partially the risk of the downturn but also drive the right behaviors from your consulting staff. Another lever can be, to change the ratio between base salary and bonus to lower the guaranteed amount but grant higher rewards if the firm is doing well. This is a deal that many young consultants are more than willing to take as it mimics the classical partner structure they aspire to.

Sizing for the Unexpected

Just like staffing for any business, maintaining the right number of employees directly affects your profitability. Keep in mind that, once you have people on the payroll, you measure profitability by what remains after their checks clear your company bank account. Your firm makes a financial obligation to employees, at least in the short term, by offering ongoing employment and perhaps benefits and perks. When you extend your budget for a certain number of staff, financial issues and downsizing might threaten your ability to keep them on the payroll. Or worse, the pressure to keep up with your payroll needs could lead you to unscrupulous or deviant behaviors to capture new business. You cannot always predict an economic downturn. Because of this, your firm should add new employees in stages, so as not to overextend the payroll budget. It’s always easier to hire new consultants than it is to fire them, so be prudent. If you do have to begin downsizing, you run the risk of blemishing your firm’s reputation and damaging relationships with your consultants.

Investing in Non- Production activities

When reviewing your sizing assumptions, it is important to anticipate that not all days will be productive. First by design as assignments usually don’t align themselves to optimize your own schedule. Second as you need to dedicate some time to other activities that are key for the sustainability of your company. Those activities will range from commercial and networking to more knowledge related tasks on research, capitalization, thought leadership and knowledge sharing. This layer in your resource planning is extremely important as it will condition your ability to bring something fresh to your clients and your flexibility to move from one contract to another.

“The secret formula lies somewhere in the ideal balance between internal and external resources. This means that you have enough full-time consultants on staff to provide stability and to inspire client confidence. While at the same time, you have successful partnerships with external organizations and individuals to meet the requirements of special projects on schedule.”

Preparing for Good News

Once you have defined the minimum size and added some resources to handle other activities, choosing the right size for a consulting firm is still not an exact science. As it turns out, with a sizing like this you might be unable to take additional projects and therefore to grow your business. The secret formula lies somewhere in the ideal balance between internal and external resources. This means that you have enough full-time consultants on staff to provide stability and to inspire client confidence. While at the same time, you have successful partnerships with external organizations and individuals to meet the requirements of special projects on schedule. You want the size of the staff to meet the level of projected demand. You also want your company to build a network of valued partners and qualified subcontractors. This enables your firm to augment consulting staff when the demand for all projects exceeds your internal capacity. When you accept new projects, you can temporarily take on extra consultants. Later, you can scale down to the usual team size, especially after those extra projects are completed. Unless in the frame of a deliberate strategic move, none of your projects should extend your firm too far beyond its core competencies.

Partnering with Qualified Staff

While you may rely on external consultants, you must also ensure that each of these resources possesses the right skillset for the job. Not every consultant will have the appropriate qualifications for each new project. You may need a diverse recruitment strategy to attract subcontractors who can augment your operations. Beyond the optimization of your cost base and the proper management of your company’s risk profile, working with external partners creates new business opportunities. When you expand your professional network, you can pitch new business. Your additional partners can bring capabilities that are complimentary to your core business. At first, this may seem like conflicting advice, but your firm should begin by adding partners with capabilities that closely relate to your core competencies. While you could augment your staff through relationships with other firms around the world, it’s important to choose those located in countries or regions that offer your company the biggest competitive advantage. The intent is to win new business. This occurs, in part, by attracting the interest of the companies that are familiar with your new business partners.

Be Flexible and Prepare for the Future

Your firm will eventually adjust the number of staff, hopefully to include more consultants. This will mean that the pessimistic scenario is improving and that you are growing your activities in a sustainable way. Even though financial challenges may arise, you will agree that the best time to add more human assets is when things are going well. When your company is successfully completing its current projects, and attracting more projects and your worst-case scenario in term of planning can cover your internal staff it may be time to consider adding at least a few consultants to your team. In essence, you are scaling up to prepare for future growth while managing risks. Looking at your teams and discussing the capabilities needed for new opportunities, as well as factoring in the use of qualified partners and subcontractors, will help you to optimize your consulting set-up. Balancing your current resources, while leveraging partnerships, doesn’t mean you need to fundamentally change your recruitment plan but those adjustments can make all the difference on your balance sheet, reduce risk, provide higher rewards to your employees and open new opportunities to fuel your growth.

About Teambuilder

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Teambuilder is the first global marketplace specialized in providing consultancies and independent consultants alike a shared location to communicate their project team needs and pair it with the right skills and expertise. The platform is designed to streamline the search process for bringing on consultants to strengthen your team and win more projects.

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Consulting Quest Announces Launch of their Global Directory!

Consulting Quest Announces Launch of their Global Directory!

After much anticipation we are very excited to announce the arrival of our newest resource – The Consulting Quest Global Directory – the World’s Largest Active Database of Management Consulting Firms. The Directory will serve as a great tool for Consulting Clients to search for firms in their geographic region and providing general information for each Consultancy. The Directory also provides tremendous exposure for small to mid-sized Consultancies looking to expand their own network. The use and inclusion in the Directory is free of charge without commitment to any membership.  

The Directory currently boasts more than 2,000 Management Consulting Firms worldwide spanning more than 100+ Countries allowing to sort for firm by name directly or to search by region. If you would like to run a custom search via capability and industry experience for your business we are able to provide directly by e-mailing us at info@consultingquest.com.

For advanced research, we use our proprietary Consulting Navigator, an internal function of the website, which includes case studies and performance reviews allowing us to evaluate each firm’s specific experience and potential fit for future projects.  We use our Navigator every day to help our clients source the most qualified consultants in an efficient manner.

In addition to the listing of Consulting Providers, the Directory also features various links from all over the globe covering topics such as: Consulting Blogs, Consulting Industry, Consulting Career, and Thought Leadership.  The goal of Consulting Quest is to become the Go-To-Source for all your Consulting Needs whether it be general information, sourcing, performance assessment and improvement. 

If you would like to be listed in the Directory or need to update your firm’s information, please e-mail us at directory@consultingquest.net

Consulting Quest is a global, performance-driven consulting platform founded in 2014 by former members of Top 10 Consulting Firms with the objective of Reinventing Consultancy Performance. With a worldwide presence and a range of proprietary performance measurement tools, we help companies navigate the consulting maze. We work with Consulting Clients to increase their business performance through consulting and also with Consulting Providers to improve upon their performance and assist in new client acquisition.

50 Ways to Ruin Your Proposal: The Problem is All Inside Your Head

50 Ways to Ruin Your Proposal: The Problem is All Inside Your Head

      The many common mistakes performed by consultants while preparing their proposals are not just inside their head. Mistakes often enter into proposals and presentations in the most awkward time and manner.

The following is a list of many of the possible ways we have seen consultants ruin their proposals. Examine the following list with care (and humor) because the proposal is often the first impression you make on the client and you know the saying: “The first impression is always right, especially if it’s a bad one.”

  1. Call your client by another name. They like that; it’s like role playing! Even better, if you forget the name of their entire company, that will really impress them. They’ll think, “Wow, they can’t remember our name? Their business must be booming!”
     
  2. Forget the name of a previous client on your document. Who cares about confidentiality? I mean, isn’t a name on a document just like a referral?
     
  3. Present a generic presentation. Like people, all businesses are the same, so you don’t need to put too much effort into building your presentation. Right?
     
  4. Don’t insert the company’s logo, or if you do, use the wrong one. What’s in a logo, anyway? Chances are, the client won’t even notice.
     
  5. Don’t customize the resumes of the project team. No one cares about who the guys are on your consulting team. Their seniority and expertise don’t actually have much bearing on the project. Besides, the client should trust your judgement in personnel. That’s why they’re hiring you, isn’t it?
     
  6. Don’t answer the questions of the clients. If you’re not careful, you could learn a thing or two about the context of the project and better tailor your proposal. Yikes!
     
  7. Forget the criteria of choice included in the RFP. The client included that just for kicks. It’s really not that important and definitely not worth your time to include.
     
  8. Present a bland presentation. Graphics and images are much too distracting. Keep your documents black and white with 12-point Times New Roman font and no formatting, except for paragraphs. That will catch their attention and show them that you mean business.
     
  9. Don’t explicitly state your pricing. When it comes to pricing, it’s better to keep your client in the dark. He should just trust you on this one. After all, trust is rarely earned through clear communication.
     
  10. Hide some fees here and there. It is just like an egg hunt. Clients love it, and it keeps them on their toes.
     
  11. Forgo details about your approach or the deliverables. If the client has done their research, they should already know how your services will fit with their business needs.
     
  12. Don’t explain the governance of the project. You might give the client a good understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different parties involved. This would give the client the elements to estimate their internal cost for the project; see point 9 above.
     
  13. When you change the pricing, don’t say so. Especially when it goes up! Clients love hidden surprises, almost as much as they love egg hunts.
     
  14. Don’t talk about timelines or milestones. It is very often a minor subject for your client. Focus on how this is going to be a long-term relationship with no clear results or predictable costs. That will reassure your clients that you have everything under control.
  1. Send the proposal by email, and wait for the client’s answer. Don’t give them the chance to ask questions. You could end up having to rework the proposal. What a waste of time!
     
  2. Ignore the timeline explained in the RFP. The client will not include that element in the evaluation, unless you actually think they need your services in a timely fashion.
     
  3. Use psychedelic color schemes. The tie-dye theme was a great hit at your seventies party. Your clients will love it too!
     
  4. Don’t ask questions. You already know their business. Why would you waste all that time and energy? You are the consultant, and they’re here to learn from you, right?
     
  5. Provide solutions to issues not found in the RFP. After all, you know their industry/product/market better than they do. Why not “wow” them with your prescient ability to create solutions in areas without any problems?
     
  6. Don’t listen to the client. Listening to the client talk about their needs is a pain. You might have to collect more information or even have to rework your proposal to better meet their expectations.
     
  7. Base your price upon a client’s ability to pay. Larger companies can pay more. It’s not like they picked you because they thought you would offer a better price, right?
     
  8. The longer, the better. Need we say more?
     
  9. Give them a long, comprehensive overview of your company. The client really needs to understand who you are, as a company, before anything else. You’ll get extra points if they fall asleep.
     
  10. Don’t demonstrate an understanding of the scope and goals. Go directly to the pricing section. That’s what really matters to the client.
     
  11. Offer them the moon. Sure, you know that you can’t actually deliver the customer a 500% return on their investment in the first 6 months, but hey, the customer is really excited about that guarantee.

Okay. So, you get the idea. This list could go on and on, but these points are starting to sound like variations on a theme. (Speaking of variations, if you have never listened to the Paul Simon song this post is parodying, enjoy.)

In truth, these points are guaranteed ways to start a bad consulting relationship and probable ways to never start one. Some of them are even possible causes for litigation. The best way to avoid them is to do these 5 simple things: ­

  • Customize ­your presentation for each client. Every time.
  • Work on the form ­of your presentation. People are visual, visuals do matter.
  • Be clear on how you will do the work. Definitions and roles give everyone guidelines on how to move forward.
  • Be transparent about the pricing. Customers really don’t like hidden prices, and it’s not like an easter egg hunt.
  • Start working the relationship with the client. Communicate, listen, ask questions, and understand that this is their business. Your job is to help their business succeed.

Do these five simple tasks and you can avoid any number of ways people ruin their proposals.

What Is the Right Size for Your Consulting Team?

What Is the Right Size for Your Consulting Team?

A consulting firm is a dynamic organization that is vulnerable to the fluctuations of the business cycle. New projects come and go, and the people who staff your firm tend to change over time. While you may not have current problems with recruitment, finding the appropriate level of staffing is tricky. A major economic event could shift the entire market, meaning that your company might quickly lose or gain projects that affect your staffing scheme. Whether you have too many staff on hand or not enough, firms rarely end up in the middle with the perfect number of consultants.

Due to unpredictable economic changes, it’s important to have a flexible staffing plan that accounts for factors affecting your firm’s optimal size, taking into account the structure of the business and the market demand. The appropriate level of staffing is not an issue that will go away. With too many consultants, you could lose profitability in the case of headwinds. Without enough consultants, your firm could miss important opportunities to grow and profit. In addition, having excess staff could mean that your firm accepts projects for which it isn’t qualified, which creates the risk of damaging your credibility. In a consulting firm, delivering great value and return on investment for your clients is a must have, but the key to profitability is finding the size and cost structure that works for you.

Optimizing the risk rewards equation

The driver for profitability, in all asset intensive businesses, is optimizing the utilization of the assets. Consulting, despite being asset light from a tangible asset standpoint carries the bulk of its costs through salaries and follows the same rule as consultants on the payroll also generate the value. This means that you need to find the right trade off to get the maximum economical performance results from the utilization of each employee, without overextending your human capital budget.

Besides sizing, finding the right equilibrium between base salary and bonus Is very often an underestimated lever. Many consultancies consider the total compensation as a fixed cost and link the bonuses to the quality of delivery without taking advantage of the flexibility it could provide.

Tying part of the bonus calculation to the economic profitability of the firm can not only mitigate partially the risk of the downturn but also drive the right behaviors from your consulting staff.

Another lever can be, to change the ratio between base salary and bonus to lower the guaranteed amount but grant higher rewards if the firm is doing well. This is a deal that many young consultants are more than willing to take as it mimics the classical partner structure the aspire to.

Sizing for the Unexpected

Just like staffing for any business, maintaining the right number of employees directly affects your profitability. Keep in mind that, once you have people on the payroll, you measure profitability by what remains after their checks clear your company bank account.

Your firm makes a financial obligation to employees, at least in the short term, by offering ongoing employment and perhaps benefits and perquisites. When you extend your budget for a certain number of staff, financial issues and downsizing might threaten your ability to keep them on the payroll. Or worse, the pressure to keep up with your payroll needs could lead you to unscrupulous or deviant behaviors to capture new business.

You cannot always predict an economic downturn. Because of this, your firm should add new employees in stages, so as not to overextend the payroll budget. It’s always easier to hire new consultants than it is to fire them, so be prudent. If you do have to begin downsizing, you run the risk of blemishing your firm’s reputation and damaging relationships with your consultants.

Investing in Non  Production activities

When reviewing you sizing assumptions it is important to anticipate that not all days will be productive. First by design as assignments usually don’t align themselves to optimize your own schedule. Second as you need to dedicate some time to other activities that are key for the sustainability of your company. Those activities will range from commercial and networking to more knowledge related tasks on research, capitalization, thought leadership and knowledge sharing. This layer in your resource planning is extremely important as it will condition your ability to bring something fresh to your clients and also your flexibility to move from one contract to another.

Preparing for good news

Once you have defined the minimum size and added some resources to handle other activities, choosing the right size for a consulting firm is still not an exact science. As it turns out, with a sizing like this you might be unable to take additional projects and therefore to grow your business.

The secret formula lies somewhere in the ideal balance between internal and external resources. This means that you have enough full-time consultants on staff to provide stability and to inspire client confidence. While at the same time, you have successful partnerships with external organizations and individuals to meet the requirements of special projects on schedule.

You want the size of the staff to meet the level of projected demand. You also want your company to build a network of value partners and qualified subcontractors. This enables your firm to augment consulting staff when the demand for all projects exceeds your internal capacity. When you accept new projects, you can temporarily take on extra consultants. Later, you can scale down to the usual team size, especially after those extra projects are completed. Unless in the frame of a deliberate strategic move, none of your projects should extend your firm too far beyond its core competencies.

Partnering With Qualified Staff

While you may rely on external consultants, you must also ensure that each of these resources possesses the right skillset for the job. Not every consultant will have the appropriate qualifications for each new project. You may need a diverse recruitment strategy to attract subcontractors who can augment your operations.

Beyond the optimization of your cost base and the proper management of your company’s risk profile, working with external partners creates new business opportunities. When you expand your professional network, you can pitch new business. Your additional partners can bring capabilities that are complimentary to your core business. At first, this may seem like conflicting advice, but your firm should begin by adding partners with capabilities that closely relate to your core competencies.

While you could augment your staff through relationships with other firms around the world, it’s important to choose those located in countries or regions that offer your company the biggest competitive advantage. The intent is to win new business. This occurs, in part, by attracting the interest of the companies that are familiar with your new business partners.

Finally Answering the Question: What is the Right Size for Your Consulting Team?

Your firm will eventually adjust the number of staff, hopefully to include more consultants. This will mean that the pessimistic scenario is improving and that you are actually growing your activities in a sustainable way. Even though financial challenges may arise, you will agree that the best time to add more human assets is when things are going well. When your company is successfully completing its current projects and attracting more projects and your worst case scenario in term of planning can cover your internal staff it may be time to consider adding at least a few consultants to your team. In essence, you are scaling up to prepare for future growth while managing risks. Looking at your teams and discussing the capabilities needed for new opportunities, as well as factoring in the use of qualified partners and subcontractors, will help you to optimize your consulting set-up.

Balancing your current resources, while leveraging partnerships, doesn’t mean you need to fundamentally change your recruitment plan but those adjustments can make all the difference on your balance sheet, reduce risk, provide higher rewards to your employees and open up new opportunities to fuel your growth

How to Step Up Your Commercial and Delivery Performance: A Key Lesson from the Big Guys

How to Step Up Your Commercial and Delivery Performance: A Key Lesson from the Big Guys

What is it that truly differentiates the commercial and delivery performance of consulting firms and that of the “big guys,” the large consulting firms?

It isn’t expertise. Your firm likely was founded by a former corporate senior partner or experienced corporate executive who has the skillset, experience, and seniority to offer high quality deliverables to clients. That background already confers on your founder and your firm all the credibility clients seek.

So what’s missing?

In addition to front-line expertise, the largest firms have a back office depth that provides a greater commercial edge. That back office support boosts the quality and speed of the firms’ deliverables by providing consultants and partners with a whole host of immediate, simultaneous functions:

  • research on prospective clients
  • the ability to improve slides overnight
  • checking and proofing documents
  • running online surveys and research
  • liaising with experts to investigate specific topics

If those support functions and their associated fixed costs seem out of reach for your consulting firm, we have great news: there are now specialized firms geared towards helping you step up your commercial and delivery performance by supplying the immediate back office services that will enable you to level the playing field and gain that competitive edge at a practical cost.

After all, you help your clients optimize their ROI by more efficient and effective alignment of costs and time. You now are able to do the same for your consulting firm by outsourcing cost-effective back office functions—which enables the optimal alignment of costs and time of your senior consultants.

 

The Juggling Act

 

It is a given that managing a successful consulting firm is a veritable juggling act, requiring a versatile skill-set that begins with deep expertise in your field, of course, but that is not sufficient.

  • Your proficiency needs to extend to both production and commercial activities.
  • You need to consistently maintain the highest standards in the quality of your deliverables.
  • At the same time, you need to juggle handling the high value-added work and the basic, elementary tasks of running your business, while keeping up with all the texts, calls, tweets, and emails.

All that juggling now takes place in a global business environment that drives client enterprises to squeeze more efficiency out of each work day, comply with evolving regulatory targets, get innovative, outsource more, and in general, work harder and faster to stay competitive. All that translates into more and more exciting and lucrative opportunities for consulting firms.

Unfortunately, as you no doubt have noticed, there is no magic wand to increase the number of hours in a consulting day. Finding ways to maximize your commercial and delivery performance, while imperative, is not easy—but it can be done by taking a page out of the big guys’ playbook.

 

Optimizing Productivity the Smart Way

 

Large consulting firms have found the formula that works to optimize the productivity of their partners and consultants: they free their frontline consultants from getting bogged down in handling all the basic and repetitive back office tasks. That freedom enables the consultants and partners to concentrate their time and effort on the high value-added activities, which optimizes productivity the smart way.

Here are just a few of the numerous tasks that the large firms transfer to their back office support team:

  • Enhancing the quality of the firm’s deliverables: accessing the slide template library, sending the slide deck overnight for a makeover in India, checking and proofreading documents for clients, and procuring translation services for documents and slides to be distributed multi-nationally.
  • Research activities: Verbatim analysis of computer-assisted interviews, proprietary online surveys, interviews and focus groups, accessing the network of experts; and reviewing breaking news in the client’s field.
  • Commercial tasks: review media related to client work, check recent stock price trends for the client and competitors, review analysts’ evaluations of the client and the field, and (a key one) prepare a new complete slide deck for a critical next-day meeting.

Stop for one moment and imagine what a boost your commercial and delivery performance would get from delegating many of these tasks. The result? The optimum alignment of cost and time in your consulting firm.

 

Outsourcing Your Back Office Tasks

 

Let’s say that you are on the verge of deciding to pivot to outsourcing your back office tasks to the right partner. Your immediate questions at this point are: who to turn to, and can your firm afford to do it?

Good questions. First, it is important to note that several firms are out there proposing to cover your support tasks for you. Identifying the one that meshes with your value proposition, your timeframes, your culture, and your vision will require a significant initial output of time, cost, and lost assignment opportunities during the vetting and start-up process.

There is a way to manage the outsourcing, however, that will make the pivot more attractive to boutique firms: pooling the back office task needs of multiple medium size consulting firms.

Pooling enables you to access those support services at an affordable price—which also enables you to control your budget and manage your financial risk.

 

Get Your Competitive Edge On

 

By leveraging this specialization of tasks, large consulting firms have achieved a significant competitive advantage. But those services are now within reach of firms like yours—and would offer you the boost you need to step up your game, differentiate your firm from the crowd, and get your competitive edge on.

So the only question left is…what are you waiting for?

A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Consulting Business

A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Consulting Business

 

You are an expert in your field, have established a stellar professional reputation, and now you are ready to strike out on your own and start a consulting business. You may be itching to jump in and get started, but like any business, having a solid and well-thought-out plan is essential to your success. This practical guide to setting up your consulting business is your first step to the successful launch of your business. Read on, then get ready to roll up your sleeves!

Start with a self-assessment

The very first step you should take, before you even begin to set up your business, is to do an honest self-assessment. Ask yourself these questions before moving any further. When you are done, you’ll have a clear idea of your motivation.

1. Is this the right professional decision for you?

Starting a consulting business isn’t for everyone, even if you are very skilled at what you do. It’s important to be sure you are making this decision for the right reasons and that it will further (not hinder) your professional achievements. What is motivating you to take this step now? Are you feeling stagnant at work? Have you reached a point in your career where this is the logical next step? By defining your why, you’ll be better able to decide if this is the right decision at this time.

2. Do you have the skill set to proceed?

Clients hire consultants for their knowledge, and the foundation of any successful consulting business is expertise. However, starting and running a business requires a variety of business skills and, most importantly, a lot of determination. Be sure you’re prepared to handle ALL of the responsibilities that come with running a consulting business, not just the consulting.

3. Is there a market for your business?

You can spend all the money you want on a slick marketing campaign, but it will be for nothing if there are no takers in your market. How many other consultants in your market are in the same field as you? If your market is saturated, you’ll need to be prepared to compete with other consultants for business. Take a look at the other consultants in your field, and see what they are doing. What can you bring to the table that is unique? What do you offer that will bring clients to your door?

4. Are your numbers and gut feel in sync?

It may be tempting to hitch onto that gut instinct, and just go with it. Branching off and starting your own business may seem romantic and adventurous, but the real goal is to build a business with longevity. You don’t want to have to close up shop a year from now, when you realize your money can no longer support the business. Run a check-up of your financial health. Do you have enough funds to live on while you start your business? How much money do you have to invest in start-up costs, and how much will you need to borrow? This is also where your research into your market will help. Is your market viable enough to make the initial investment of funds worth it?

Once you’ve made your way through these questions, and you are confident that this is the right decision for your career, it’s time to get down to the real work.

Launching Your Consulting Business

The next several steps will guide you through the essentials to starting your business. Follow these steps carefully, and you will be well on your way to a fulfilling and exciting consulting career.

1. Determine your value proposition.

This is where you define your mission. Why are you doing this, what makes you different, and how will it help your clients? A value proposition is a short summary of your business, what it offers, and the reasons why a client would want to buy from you instead of someone else. Keep it clear and concise, and seize the opportunity to differentiate yourself. Decide if you will present yourself as a generalist or a specialist. Will you propose specific products or formalise them as you go? Make this clear in your value proposition

You’ll want it to say 3 things: what do you do, what makes you unique, and how will your clients benefit.

2. Create a business identity.

This is where you get to brainstorm what your business will look like. What will you call your business? Will you use a slogan or tagline? If you have the skills, create a logo; otherwise, investigate companies that can help you design one. Create a uniform identity that will be recognizable in your market to appear on business cards and other marketing materials.

3. Set up the administrative foundation.

Next, you’ll need to focus on setting up a proper work environment and administrative framework. Will you be working from home or setting up in an office? Define your space, then move on to details like office furniture, computers, software, and other technology. Set up internet and a phone number, with options to conference call or video call if you plan to conduct business from a distance. You’ll also need to acquire or draft your own legal documents, like contracts for business agreements with clients, and make sure you have satisfied all legal requirements for setting up a business in your area.

4. Create your marketing campaign.

Your business is set up, you’ve acquired your first launch client, but now you need more.

Your marketing campaign is what introduces you to potential clients and convinces them to learn more about what you have to offer. Start close to home and let all of your personal and business contacts know about your business. Send business cards out to everyone you have worked with in the past who may be in need of your services, or could provide a referral. Pick up the phone and start making calls. Get people talking about you and what you do!

Your marketing campaign should also include a professional website, social media profiles, brochures, and other printed materials. Have your logo, slogan, and anything else that is a part of your “look” on all of your marketing materials. You are creating a brand along with a business.

5. Decide on your fee structure.

Know in advance what you are going to ask in compensation for your services. Define your sales pitch and your selling tool kit for proposals. Consider gathering testimonials, slides, case studies, and printed materials that demonstrate your track record and the value of your services. Have your resume updated and ready to go.

Growing Your Consulting Business

Once your business is launched, your marketing campaign is going full blast, and you are beginning to negotiate with, or perhaps have already signed, a few clients, you want to continue to focus on building your client base.

1. Continue to leverage your personal network.

People who know you personally have an interest in seeing you succeed. Continue to remind your personal network about your new business.

2. Expand your network.

Next focus on expanding your professional network, both digitally and in person. Having a social media presence is a valuable tool in building a business. Consider not only professional networking sites, like LinkedIn, but also social ones, like Facebook and Twitter. Join in-person meet-up groups that bring together professionals in your field, and connect with businesses that may be in need of your services. Participate in local networking events to meet other professionals who might need or can refer your services. And don’t forget this one simple rule: ask your network to introduce you to other people who may be interested in your services.

3. Develop partnerships.

Relationships are key in business. Partner with consultants in other fields or professionals in a related industry who are willing to exclusively refer business to you in exchange for your exclusive referrals. As you continue to build your network of personal relationships, you’ll see more referrals over time.

4. Promote your services.

Become a walking and talking advertisement for your consulting business. While you’re getting things off the ground, you’ll need all the promotion you can get. Stay diligent! Build a strong digital and social media presence, market your services to your target audience, and even consider running special promotions to start building a clientele and establishing your business’s reputation.

Final Points to Remember

As you embark on this journey, it’s good to come back to these simple reminders.

1. Devote yourself to this new venture fully. You won’t find massive success with half effort.

2. Value yourself. You may be tempted to offer lower rates as a new business, but don’t undervalue your skills. Know what you are worth and stick with it!

3. Know when to walk away. Don’t give up if you’re having a rough patch. The road to starting a new business is always bumpy. But, if you’ve been at it for a while and your heart is no longer in it, don’t hesitate to walk away if that feels like the right decision. Go back to the beginning of this guide and start at step one to reassess your passion for your business.

4. Have fun! This is an exciting, new chapter in your life. Enjoy it!

Starting your consulting business will not be easy, but it will almost certainly be exciting and fulfilling. Let this practical guide be your starting point. Then, just keep it simple, stay the course, and enjoy the ride.