The USA and Canada celebrated Independence Day this past weekend (as did seven other countries), which is a good reminder to reflect on why leading an independent consulting firm is such an amazing choice.
10 Benefits of Leading an Independent Consulting Firm
You Define Success
You decide what the goals are, what performance is acceptable and what rocks! As a result, you can perfectly align your job, your consulting firm’s objectives and your personal ambitions.
You Design the Plan
You devise the blueprint for success, and the effort follows your timetable. Therefore, you work 100% of the time on strategies and tactics that you believe in (or want to try out).
You Control the Place and Time
Work where you want and, within surprisingly flexible bounds, when you want. You decide your consulting firm’s location(s), where you travel (if you travel), and when.
You Hold the Crank
You can pound out 80-hour weeks or limit your effort to a couple of hours every few days. We’ve seen individuals on both sides of the scale leading consulting firms earning six, seven and even eight figures. Whether you pedal faster or coast more is in your hands.*
You Define the Culture
Want your consulting firm to exude a joyful, silly, chocolatey atmosphere? Prefer a serious, sensible, hard candy culture? Since you’re at the top, your intentions actions and attitudes mold your consulting firm’s environment.
You Choose Your Work Family
As a leader in a consulting firm with, at most, a few score employees, you select (or have a significant voice in) your work companions. Surround yourself with people who fit you like a glove or with people who stretch you like… uhm, a glove? Either way, it’s your choice.
You Explore Exciting Topics
Curiosity, fascination and passion intersect in a small consulting firm. Like being in the library and having every book on every subject available to you, the choice is yours.
There is one little restriction on what you can choose: clients must be willing to pay for help in the area that interests you.
You Can Turn on a Dime
If your consulting to bricklayers runs into a wall or your cantilever advisory revenue drops off, you can quickly and easily redirect your consulting firm’s focus.* Agility is rewarded in today’s economy, and a small consulting firm is supremely nimble.
You Can Veto Clients
Your small consulting firm may not attract the specific clients you’re longing to work with; however, you absolutely can decline work from clients you deem unethical, unpleasant, uninteresting, or any of about 950 other “un” adjectives.
You Enjoy Obvious Impact
If you want to create a legacy with your consulting firm, that option is available to you. If your goal is to create value for clients, then close your firm and ride off into the sunset, that’s within reach too. Either way, you make a difference and the people you work with appreciate your efforts.
Now that you’re reviewed the list, take the following steps:
- If you find you’re not experiencing one or more of the benefits of leading a small consulting practice, make a plan to start.
- Send the list to friends of yours toiling away in corporate jobs or in roles they don’t love at a large firm.
- Contribute to the lives of other readers by expanding the list and sharing your experience. Post a comment about why you enjoy leading a small consulting firm.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Great stuff! Many of my friends in the corporate world are retiring because they think their only other option is to continue to work 50-60 hour weeks. Almost inevitably these card-carrying members of the “high achiever cohort” soon become bored because they don’t have the fulfillment that comes with meaningful work.
Meanwhile, I’m able to take my foot off the gas a little, continue to control my schedule, and enjoy my career while having more free time to go to the beach, visit grandkids, etc. Every choice has pros and cons, but I’m glad I made the one I did.
You’re an exemplar of good choices well executed, Doc. As you’ve pointed out, this profession allows you to balance fulfilling work with refreshing downtime and family activities.
Thank you for sharing your example, Doc, which will serve as an inspiring model for many other readers.
Like you Terry, I have many friends in the process of retiring. I’ve spent the last couple of years asking them about what they plan to do, and it mostly comes down to: gardening, exercising, family, and traveling — all of which I can do now anyway! Plus, I have the added benefit of helping clients and feeling purpose in my life. The only folks I know who are excited to keep working are those who are self-employed, for all the awesome reasons David outlines above! (Thank you David for reminding us how lucky we are!)
Excellent reminder, Gwen, and you’re absolutely right that we get to enjoy most of those retirement activities while creating value and bringing in cash. Sounds sorta perfect to me!
(Added bonus: We get to hear from smart folks like you, Gwen. Thanks for adding your two cents to the discussion.)
And you can even recruit some of these bored high achievers, Terry, if they fit your firm’s bill!
Good point, Franziska!
These benefits speak to sustainability . I think of that as a gradual decline in work intensity. I can go for a long time past “65” (I’m 72 now) by working less, and I love to commute to my upstairs office each day!
Exactly, Tom! Why retire when it’s so much fun (and so easy and manageable) to help clients? Good on you for continuing to make your mark on the world as you approach the halfway point. (You’re living to 150, right?)
I’m glad you’ve chimed in today, Tom. Some youngsters who are reading what you wrote will realize that 70 (and 80 and 90) doesn’t mean your old and no longer adding value. Well done!
You’ve hit the nail on the head! These are all great reasons for being an independent consultant.
There is one issue though that needs careful planning and consideration … and that relates to the business not being totally reliant on the owner of the consulting practice where he/she can’t get away without the business being adversely affected.
One solution is systemising the practice and knowing how to delegate duties to the key employees. If a consulting owner can get their practice structured like that, then they’re off to the races and living their dream work/social life balance!
You’re right, Greg. Creating a business that will run without your attention as the leader (or founder/owner) is definitely one of the pieces you need to work on in order to fully enjoy the all the benefits of an independent consulting firm. There are quite a few other considerations too (we typically focus on 16 “levers” for solo firms and 19 slightly different levers for small boutiques).
Consulting is a great business and it’s a simple business, but it’s not necessarily an easy business.
Thanks for highlighting the flip side of those benefits, Greg: we need to invest time, energy, money and a fair bit of ourselves to build a successful firm.
A smart piece. Saving it to share with people I know who grow unhappy and are unsure of what to do “next.” I can also use this article as a reminder on tough days.
Good ideas, Michael. It never hurts to have a psychological booster at hand. This profession has tons of benefits, but it also has it’s challenging days. Almost every consultant is apt to feel alone or rejected or unworthy at times. Reminding yourself of the rewards can shake you out of your slump and push you toward success in those darker moments.
Good on you for sharing the ideas with others too! I appreciate you joining the conversation, Michael.
I’m guessing you’ve written the article outlining those 16 levers for solo firms. What is its title? I could not find anything with a quick search.
Fair question, Michael. As best I recall, I’ve not written publicly-available content about the 16 levers (or 19 levers for boutiques) of consulting firm growth.
We have tons of content that’s only available to one-on-one clients, but I don’t usually reference it publicly. Sorry about that, and apologies for any confusion.