When My Consultancy Business Really Took Off
I realised the other day when my consultancy business suddenly changed from being a good business to a brilliant consultancy business. It was something that I did, or didn’t do…
I was sitting around the table the other week with someone who used to be a consultancy client but is now a friend but no longer a client. The reason he is now a friend and not a client is because I sacked him. I shall explain that more in a little while.
We were in a mastermind group and it was his turn to talk about his business. As he explained to everyone else in the group what he did (the part I knew well) I just started thinking about how my consultancy business has changed over the last few years. This client, Daireann, was probably a client at the start of that change.
We all, as consultants, have heard people say that you have to ‘be yourself’ and not put up ‘any fronts’ in our business.
I never really got this.
I don’t think that I ever put up ‘fronts’ per se, but I understood this more when I started working with people like Daireann.
The ‘front’ part for me wasn’t about me changing but more about quietening down parts of me that I knew might rile my clients. For instance, if I could tell a client needed a boot up the backside, I would hold that back ‘for later’.
If I could tell that my consultancy client was not being truthful with themselves or me (I could hear it in their voice) I would let it go, thinking that I would come back to it.
The trouble with this approach is that in time I discovered I was working with some real charlatans.
They were people who I would never choose to have a drink with or spend any time with away from working with them on their business. Consequently, it became harder and harder to help them because I just didn’t like them.
I realised that this wasn’t their fault. It was completely my own. I had not been myself from the start; if I had been, I would have turned them away.
Overnight, I changed.
When I heard a client covering something up, I called them up on it instantly. That usually stumped them. No one had been brave enough to do that to them in their business before. It did one of two things:
- It annoyed them, they reacted inappropriately to my challenge and it was clear that I could never work with them; or
- It stopped them in their tracks, made them think for a moment, then answer the question and almost guaranteed that they went on to work with me because they knew that I would make them and their business better and stronger.
Being myself has helped my consultancy business to grow substantially. Being myself also means that I now from time to time have to sack my clients. I sacked Daireann after working with him for about 5 years. It was a shock to him, but it had to be done.
A major part of working with him had been to get him out of his business. When I started working with him he was the main bread winner. I explained that if he was serious about growing his business, that had to change. He accepted my blunt advice and 3.5 years after I started working with him I helped him to recruit an Operations Director. Once he was in place, I sacked Daireann, because I only work with the main decision maker in a business. He had moved on from that role and I had to be true to myself and my business model.
So, my advice to you is to do exactly the same in your consultancy business:
Be you, tell your clients exactly how it is and when your ‘gut’ tells you that you are talking with someone you do not like and would rather not work, listen to it. It is never wrong.