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10 Impressive, Consulting Firm Achievements that Require Only One, Small Act

You deserve congratulations for your accomplishments so far. Your consulting firm, whether big or small, thriving or struggling, is a manifestation of your intention and commitment to create value for others. Could you achieve more?

Yes.

Much, much more?

Definitely.

Common wisdom and common sense point you toward a simple maxim: build on your success.

That sensible guidance will lead you and your consulting firm to better outcomes.

Stop. Put ‘er in park and drop your creamsicles, because “build on your success” is also extraordinarily misleading and will rob your consulting firm of its greatest feats.

That’s because success isn’t a game of accumulation, as in, “Whoever collects the most chocolate chips, wins.”

Success is a game of renewal and replacement.

The “winner” parlays her chocolate chips, through a series of persistent trades, missteps, sidesteps, backpedaling, and leaps forward into a chocolate factory. (And, along the way, drags many others into the glory of cacao-rich success.)

We’re talking about transformation.

Businesses with physical requirements—professional basketball, for instance, may be out of reach. However, you’re in consulting, and consulting is a mental game. There is nothing stopping your consulting firm from learning and then helping clients in an entirely new area.

Your inner critic may be protesting right now. “We can’t just transform. My consulting firm offers leadership development. We can’t suddenly become Salesforce.com consultants.”

You are, of course, quite right. Because of one word: “Suddenly.” Take that word out of your mental pushback and your objection evaporates.

“But I’m already <fill in your age> year’s old,” you self-righteously counter, “and we employ <fill in your FTEs> people.”

Change is hard, scary and intimidating. The amount of time required to learn new skills may alarm you. So what?

If you really wanted to, you could become a physician, architect, or chocolatier now, no matter what your age. (A few of you already are!) Grandma Moses, whose 25-year painting career produced works valued at well over $1 million, started painting when she was 76 years old.

Yes, the bigger your consulting firm, the harder, and slower it is to alter course. Again, so what?

Ray Kroc changed the nature and fortunes of his firm when he was 60 and had already franchised 200 McDonalds. At that point, he wasn’t making any money. So, in his seventh decade, Kroc pivoted McDonalds to real-estate and the business took off.

To make room for your next great success, your first step may prove to be the most difficult of your entire journey:

Let Go.

Consultants are intellectual (and emotional) hoarders. Individuals and consulting firms clamp onto their past with beartrap intensity. After all, you are where you are because of where you’ve been.

You never need to forget what you’ve learned; however, you may have to surrender your notion that what you’ve learned is right or true.

Grant your consulting firm the opportunity to vault to a higher plane of eminence and fortune by easing your iron grip on… well, quite a lot, actually.

10 Achievements You Can Make Room for by Letting Go

Below are nine amazing and worthwhile achievements. And each requires you to let go of something you value dearly.

Click the plus sign on each achievement, to see what you’ll need to release.

Tasks you accomplish modestly well

Your small wins and opportunities

Longstanding, low-margin clients

Your own, historically sacred approaches

Your ego

Fear

Adherence to your self-definition and your history

The need to be right

Anger

Explain what must be let go.

What else do you believe people need to let go of in order to succeed?


12 Comments
  1. Jay Arthur
    August 5, 2020 at 11:09 am Reply

    Let go of what you learned and how you learned it. Just because you learned a slow, manual, error-prone way doesn’t mean your clients have to learn it the same way before graduating to the fast, flawless, effortless way.

    And you don’t have to know everything to do anything. Just because you learned everything about a subject doesn’t mean your clients need to know it all to do anything. 4% of know-how will yield 50% of the results.

    My mom used a wringer washing machine and hung her laundry on a clothesline for decades. Even she graduated to a washing machine with a spin cycle and an electronic dryer.

    In Six Sigma, we learned how to calculate control chart formulas using a hand-held calculator. Now anyone can do it in seconds with affordable software.

    • David A. Fields
      August 5, 2020 at 11:26 am Reply

      Excellent advice, Jay. It’s natural to want to take your clients along the same learning journey that you took; however, as you smartly point out, that’s noeither necessary nor even helpful in many cases. Stay Right-Side Up and present what your client needs to know in the way they need to know it, not what you learned and how you learned it.

      Thanks for the terrific addition to the article, Jay.

  2. Gayle
    August 5, 2020 at 11:20 am Reply

    One small correction: it is Ray Kroc, not Kroc. Still a much loved figure here in San Diego.

    • David A. Fields
      August 5, 2020 at 11:30 am Reply

      Thanks, Gayle. Typos were harder to spot while we’re working out of the Whole Foods parking lot. (The hurricane knocked out power, internet and cell service here.) I’ve made the correction.

      • Franziska
        August 14, 2020 at 1:11 am Reply

        Wow, hope you’re okay, David & team.
        And for the poster above, Jay: Not just during an emergency (ST power outage or LT climate crisis), you might reconsider your mom’s clothes line – it’s back in style because of its energy advantages!

        • David A. Fields
          August 14, 2020 at 12:23 pm

          We’re all good, here, Franziska. Though, I’ll admit that days without power, internet, cell coverage, etc. made for a challenging work environment! (Note to self: don’t try to deliver a webinar from the front seat of your car, tapping into whatever cell phone signal you can find.)

          Sometimes the old, simple solutions are the best! One more thing we can let go of: an addiction to new.

          Thanks for lending your voice to the discussion, Franziska.

  3. Robyn Bolton
    August 5, 2020 at 6:36 pm Reply

    Stop falling back on “Well, this is just how it’s done” and start asking “How do I want to do this?” and “How do my clients want to experience this?”

    It’s easy and comforting to fall back into old habits and mindsets (e.g. professional services is feast or famine, high-end consulting must be delivered in-person, if the C-suite isn’t your client then you’re not doing meaningful work) even when they don’t serve you, your business, or your clients.

    I fall victim to this all the time so it takes conscious effort to pull myself out of the habit, ask questions, and then have the courage to do something different. But it’s always worth it!

    • David A. Fields
      August 6, 2020 at 10:23 am Reply

      Well said, Robyn, and also a case study that will ring true for many readers. It is always easy to revert to the “tried and true” because the risk is low and the energy required is minimal, compared to challenging your beliefs or developing something new.

      I appreciate you expanding on the idea and sharing your experience with me and other readers.

  4. Praveen Puri
    August 5, 2020 at 7:52 pm Reply

    David, I’m amazed by how you keep coming up such great, thought-provoking posts—again and again!

    • David A. Fields
      August 6, 2020 at 10:27 am Reply

      Praveen, thank the smart person you see in the mirror. The content here builds on the fascinating questions and provocative insights from you and other readers.
      I’m forever grateful for your ongoing input and feedback.

  5. David Hane
    August 12, 2020 at 3:21 pm Reply

    “Your inner critic may be protesting right now.” My constant companion… the bane of my existence. Years ago I poured copious amounts of alcohol into him a fruitless attempt to silence him. These days I’ve found practices like meditation and mindfulness much better for quieting that voice and allowing more productive insights to surface. Oh, and hockey. Thanks for this insightful, well-written article, David!

    • David A. Fields
      August 12, 2020 at 3:27 pm Reply

      It sounds like you’ve walked a colorful and bumpy journey with the fellow in the mirror. Congratulations to you on transitioning to a more healthy and helpful lifestyle–I’m sure your example is inspiring to many readers.

      And for the handful of folks who aren’t aware: all aspects of life are better with regular bouts of hockey (and chocolate) sprinkled in.

      Thank you for being willing to share your experience, David. I’m deeply appreciative.

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