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The Ten Roads to Growing Your Firm

In the early 1990s, when I was a fresh-faced marketing executive at a consumer products company, I developed a framework for my team to help them think through strategy. There are, I posited, precisely ten ways to increase the profit of your company. No more. No fewer. Ten. The Ten Roads to Profit Growth™.

That framework proved so useful that I incorporated it into my practice when I founded Ascendant Consulting. We have uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars of growth opportunities for businesses ranging from $2 million to $20 billion using the Ten Roads to Profit Growth. Last summer I was visiting a high-growth software company in Boston, the CEO of which actually served on my marketing team all those years ago, and he told me he still referenced the framework to direct his company. He also said I’m still fresh-faced. Go figure.


Could a framework that was developed for consumer products apply at consulting companies? Could it help you grow your firm this year? You bet.

Below is a simplified approach to using the Ten Roads to Profit Growth. Yes, you could plod through the whole, software-based, weeks-long process I’ve used with corporate clients, but you really don’t want to. Not only is the full process less fun than pulling splinters from your aunt’s toenails, it’s overkill for most consultancies. The Ten Roads Infographic

[at the bottom of the post], two pages of paper, a thinking partner and a single day of effort following the steps below will serve you well.

      1. Diligently Think Through All Ten Roads. It’s easy to dismiss one or another road as either too difficult or irrelevant. Often those roads turn out to have the greatest opportunity. Two questions will help you investigate each strategic road to profit growth:
        • How could you create an improvement on this road?
          Example: How could I trade my clients to higher-ticket offerings [Road #7]? By always presenting my most popular, current offering as one piece of a larger approach and always pursuing “Stage 2” of my approach before I finish the initial engagement.
        • How much could you move the needle with this road?
          Example: I estimate I could convert 10% of my clients from my most popular offering to a larger-ticket project. This would represent a $300,000 revenue increase.
      2. Prioritize. The four probes below will highlight your best paths:
        • Which roads deliver the greatest, expected impact on the business?
        • Are there any high-risk/high-reward roads where you’d like to place a bet?
        • Are there any low-return roads you would consider to hedge your risks?
        • Are there any low-return roads you should pursue over the next six months in order to achieve your 3-5 year objectives?
      3. Focus. Arrange in advance for an outside partner to help you focus. Trust me on this. After thinking through all ten roads, the opportunities you’ll have uncovered are like chocolate; they’re strategy crack and highly addictive. You’ll be overwhelmingly tempted to gobble them all up, even though you know intellectually that pursuing too many strategies and initiatives will bury you. That’s where your pre-arranged partner will jump in, strap you down and insist you choose one or two roads. Three at most.
      4. Pinpoint Your Activities. Translate the strategic roads into specific initiatives you’ll pursue over the next six months. What, precisely, will you do to bring your focus to life? What resources do you need? What help will tip the scales to success?
        Example: I will create new marketing materials that describe my most popular offering as part of the larger picture. I will also create a standard diagnostic I can use in my client engagements that will expose the need for the larger, follow-on work. To accomplish this, I’ll hire a couple of freelancers to design the materials and test the diagnostic. I’ll also enlist the help of my mentor to develop a killer diagnostic

The Ten Roads to Profit Growth are in the form of an infographic, which you can download using the button below. Since this was originally designed for corporations, I’ve included one-line summaries of how you could use each road to accelerate your consulting firm’s growth.

Let me know which roads you’ll be pursuing by posting in the comments section on this page.


Click Here to View The Full-Size Infographic

  1. Mike Dalton
    January 22, 2015 at 11:12 am Reply

    I like it David – Parallels the approach I use with clients that want to drive improved new product innovation where the first fork in the road is “Find better opportunities (Higher Market Impact)” or “Execute current opportunities better (More completions, Shorter Cycle Time, More Reliably)” Very helpful; to see something similar applied to consulting

    • davidafields
      January 28, 2015 at 3:51 pm Reply

      Thanks, Mike. You probably use a number of approaches with your clients that could be turned around and applied to consulting practices. Consulting firms (especially large ones) have a reputation for struggling with innovation. Perhaps you can give them some tips!

  2. M
    January 22, 2015 at 10:33 pm Reply

    The phrase “less fun than pulling splinters from your aunt’s toenails” was the most colorful phrase I have seed online in years!

    • davidafields
      January 28, 2015 at 3:53 pm Reply

      A little bit of color spices up the typical, dry business writing that lulls us all to sleep. Thanks for noticing and commenting, Martha!

  3. Anatoli Naoumov
    November 21, 2018 at 10:36 am Reply

    infographic is not available any more – 404 error 🙁

    • David A. Fields
      November 21, 2018 at 1:32 pm Reply

      Should be up and working now. Apologies for that resource being unavailable while we switched servers.

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