There are a few small, simple, but vitally important secrets to getting customers for a consulting business.
- Secret 1: Start with the Problem
- Secret 2: You Are a Hero
- Secret 3: The Problem Is Valuable
- Secret 4: Empathy Transforms You from a Hero into a Superhero
- Secret 5: Superheroes Have Nothing to Prove
Superheroes don’t need to use confusing jargon to show clients that they know things. Confusing the client and making them feel small won’t win you long-term, valuable, loyal clients. Your job is to remind your client of their competence, not to make them feel dumb.
- Secret 6: Superheroes Are Always Polite
- Secret 7: Even as a Superhero, You Are Not the Hero
- Secret 8: You Make Things Look Too Easy
- Secret 9: The World Is Full of Flakes
People don’t keep commitments. People don’t finish things.
- Secret 10: Details Matter
- Secret 11: Even If You Are a Mere Mortal, Your Work Is Still Important
- Secret 12: Value-Creating Projects Tend to Be More Difficult Than They First Appear
The fact that something doesn’t work the first time is no reason to quit. Showing appreciation is payment without cost. Almost everything of importance requires a team. Every team begins with one person who cares.
If you can think strategically about their business while you’re being strategic with your own business, you not only can accomplish your proposed projects but also develop processes for them that will serve as marketing materials for you.
Successful consulting means you must always be networking — even though it’s difficult to keep looking for new clients while you’re working with existing ones. Network within each client engagement!
Avoid providing custom work for free in the hopes that you will be hired. What people pay for, they value. If they offer value in return for your contributions, they will likely be a good client.
What is far more fundamental and beneficial to success is that everyone understands and completely buys into agile values such as: transparency, inspection, adaptation, alignment, and built-in quality.
Agile means to be able to move quickly and easily. Agile teams find ways to remain fresh, inspired and committed. Agile leaders know how to rally their teams in support of their organization’s purpose, mission and vision, as well as encouraging them to remain adaptable in the face of inevitable change. Agile doesn’t mean a lack of long-term thinking or detailed planning.
One paradox for many global companies is that products are becoming more complex to develop but have a shorter lifespan.
Alignment and culture
The culture of continuous learning needs constant nurturing.
A shared understanding of who the customer is and the metrics associated with customer satisfaction and success present the most natural and neutral focus for alignment — in part because the customer is a human face to the business.
Mergers and Acquisitions Pose Particular Alignment Challenges
How to support alignment and engagement across your organization:
- Document company goals.
- Define target customers and get to know them in detail.
- Ensure that all employees are familiar with your vision, mission and goals; who your customers are; and what customers need, want and are willing to pay for. Remember that your customers might have different roles as well: buyer, influencer, end user, etc.
- Provide support for individuals and cross-functional teams to engage and collaborate on delivering true value to your customers.
If a customer asks whether your solution does X, don’t say yes or no. Instead, ask them why X would be valuable to them. Focus less on specific features and more on understanding what they are trying to achieve.
Following in the footsteps of others with “best practices” puts you at a disadvantage. Great leaders adopt and implement these three interactive business strategies. They focus on quality, continual improvement and innovation as their foundation. They pivot and disrupt old thinking and “best practices” and transform themselves and their organizations.
Instead of focusing on the bottom line, focus on improving or innovating the system that creates the results.
Being accountable and being responsible are two different concepts, and each must be applied differently. Leadership is held accountable for the system that it created and for the system’s results. The people are responsible for contributing their part to help the system deliver its outcomes.
Performance appraisals are destructive, particularly those that rank and rate employees. They create internal competition and fear. They do not promote collaboration, teamwork, or the interconnected thinking that provides value.
Great leaders focus on developing and appreciating people, using authentic communication.
Innovation and transformation
While all transformation is change, not all change is transformation. Transformation occurs when leaders create a vision for transformation and a system to continually question and challenge beliefs, assumptions, patterns, habits and paradigms.
Innovation can be simply defined as an idea implemented with impact.
The Maslovian model of human needs is not practical. A new model categorizes needs into two dimensions: physical-psychological and security-stimulation. These diversify with increasing physical, financial, intellectual and spiritual resources.
In the 21st century, there are three major challenges for organizations: exponential technology change, growing demand for autonomy and meaning by workers, and increasing fragmentation of markets due to diversified needs of adopters.
Survival by adaptation evolves solutions and promotes success. Failure that provides learning and progress is success. Fail forward!
Five cognitive biases that are the most common in the workplace, each focusing on a different way that we learn, as well as how we make and use categories. These “Frequent 5” form the acronym LEAAP: Like-Me, Egocentric, Availability, Anchoring and Proximity.
- With Like-Me Bias, we like people who are like us.
- Egocentric Bias is the belief that “my ideas are obvious and absolute.”
- Availability Bias occurs when decisions are made based on easy or incomplete ideas without looking at the bigger picture.
- With Anchoring Bias, decisions are made from the initial data point, graph or image to which we are exposed.
- Proximity Bias is when we unconsciously favor whoever is closest in time or space, while undervaluing those in remote locations.
Culture is best defined as what we do when we’re not thinking about it.
Everyone in life teaches you something. Some teach you what to do, others teach you what not to do. You must determine which is which.
If you live with one foot in yesterday and one in tomorrow, you’ll end up pissing all over today.
“Business transformation” means proactively and strategically ensuring that a business has the sustainable capacity to continually meet its mission and goals despite inevitable internal and external challenges. It involves making fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to: increase revenue and market share reduce operating costs improve customer satisfaction cope with shifts in the business environment. Business transformation is often achieved by one or more of the following: redesigning business processes and realigning the way people do their work increased focus on innovation implementing transformative technologies focusing on stakeholder engagement and customer satisfaction strengthening the organization’s culture.
A strong culture (the Yin) that aligns with a specific vision (the Yang) is a winning combination.
What is your POC (Proof of Concept) or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to prove that your solution is suited to solving the problem or filling customer needs?
Managers light a fire under people. Leaders light a fire in people.
According to one study published in MIT Sloan’s management journal, over 80 % of global teams self-reported as failing to reach their own goals and the most common causes of failure in these teams were:
- lack of trusting relationships
- failure to overcome communication barriers (and this is not limited to language and culture)
- unclear goals
- misalignment between individual and team priorities
Even a brief peek into the inner workings of many organizations reveals that they are not teams, but merely groups of people working together.
Might we find better ways to spend our time besides meaningless meetings where the only thing we decide is to meet again?
- Big WHY — What’s your purpose?
- Big WHO — Who are the stakeholders involved or impacted? This often involves a complex universe of conflicting interests that seem truly impossible to satisfy.
- Big WHAT — What exactly would “success” look like through the eyes of your key stakeholders?
- MEASURES — What would be the measures of success through the eyes of your stakeholders? Then, and only then, create your
- Big HOW! — This should be a draft plan filled with plenty of experiments, prototypes and other opportunities to learn, adjust and pivot.
- EXECUTE with excellence — Take necessary risks, learn from mistakes and fail forward.
An optimal amount of planning more than doubles your chances of success in complex tasks.
The Knowing-Doing Gap. What is the source of this gap between knowing and doing? Here are a few:
- Learned helplessness: This is “It’s not my fault!” and “They are doing it to me” thinking.
- Fear of failure: If you’re not allowed to fail, you must be very careful what you start.
- Aversion to planning: As I’ve mentioned, given a choice, people prefer not to plan . . . at all!
- Instinct for competition: A win-lose frame is the first assumption that many people make in any situation involving another person, even when win-win can yield more benefits.
Knowing how, by itself, changes nothing! Over 70 % of business failures have been attributed to an inability to execute.
Manage schedules and budgets, not people or teams.
Leadership is about behaviors, not beliefs. The best leaders on Planet Earth A.C.T. — Act like a leader, Communicate like a leader and Think like a leader. It’s simple but not easy.
Money is like oxygen: If you have enough, you don’t appreciate it and if you don’t, that’s all you think about.
Think about businesspeople solving customer problems vs. technology-centric training.