Back to the List

10 Rules for Building a Happier Consulting Firm

As a consulting firm leader, you pour your time, energy, intention and heart into building your practice. Ensure your firm rewards your investment with happiness for you and your team.

Apparently, life can’t be all banana splits with hot fudge sauce. (Despite my life mission to disprove this thesis.)

Similarly, consulting isn’t always a barrel of laughs for consulting firm leaders or for your subordinates, associates and colleagues.

However, studies show that fudgier happier companies outperform their competitors. So how do you maximize the happiness of your consulting firm?

My team and I developed a score of suggestions after reviewing research, assessing our current and past clients, and downing six pints of Rocky Road ice cream.

Many of those suggestions are outlined below, along with an empty space waiting for your addition.

10 Rules for Building a Happy Consulting Firm

Track and Manage Workload

Consulting firms experience surges of work; times when client deliverables converge on a certain date or multiple projects land almost simultaneously.

Increase happiness by improving your planning and forecasting, by rescheduling work if it’s going to create unnecessarily challenging calendars.

Turn down work rather than burning out your team.

Hire Right

Pack your ranks with positive, upbeat, can-do personalities. You’ll benefit from diverse thinking styles, of course.

Skeptics and doubters play an important role in a consulting firm. However, avoid (or let go) the Debbie downers, negative Nellies and complainers.

Deal Directly with Down Times

Rather than hiding from dark tidings, burnt caramel or teammates having an off day, acknowledge the low points and demonstrate your dedication to creating a positive environment.

For instance, if a client provides negative feedback, state the situation plainly to your team and confirm your commitment to creating client delight in the future.

Similarly, if an associate appears to be down in the dumps, offer, “You seem a bit sad today, is there anything I can do to help?”

Inspire with Ideas

Provide yourself and your team plentiful opportunities to explore ideas, test hypotheses and create an impact on others’ lives.

That will generate more happiness than offering layers of bonuses or other extrinsic rewards,

Enable Success

Set clear, detailed expectations for everyone in your consulting firm, and explicitly describe outstanding performance. Then let your team achieve success with your support and without micromanaging!

If you focus on failures and missteps, you’ll find and, ironically, provoke more errors.

Conversely, directing your attention, time and resources toward positive achievements stimulates optimism and productivity.

Connect to a Bigger Purpose

Your spirits are buoyed when you know you’re lifting the fortunes of others. The same principle holds true for the rest of your team.

Fortunately, your consulting firm exists to create value in the world. Highlight the good you and your coworkers do, and your firm’s positive impact on other people’s lives.

Lighten Up

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Descend from your pedestal and laugh at yourself a bit more. Share your personal flair with your co-workers via stories, tasteful humor, colorful clothing or the occasional pointless diversion.

It’s okay to loosen up with your consulting firm’s clients too. They’ll like and trust you more when you’re more human, engaging, and fun.

Praise and Recognize Liberally

Foster a Thank You habit at your consulting firm.

The acknowledgee and the acknowledger both enjoy an endorphin boost when a Thank You is exchanged. Imagine that multiple times per day at your firm!

Smooth the Ups and Downs

Create a calmer, steadier, happier environment at your consulting firm by keeping everyone’s eyes on the big picture rather than every little dip in revenue unexpected obstacle, or scoop of ice cream that plops onto the floor.

Decouple temporary dips in performance from overall delight.

You lead a consulting firm. Life is good. Keep the smiles, praise, acknowledgment, happy tunes and chocolatey morsels flowing in the face of rainy days and occasional missteps.

What else?

Finish the list. What are your other suggestions for running a happy consulting firm?

Add your smart thinking, ideas, and experience to the list above. What else creates a happy environment, no matter what size consulting firm you lead?

  1. Ted Demopoulos
    August 23, 2023 at 6:24 am Reply

    I especially love: “You lead a consulting firm. Life is good.”
    I should remind myself of this more often, especially when tired/jetlagged and trying to lose weight!

    • David A. Fields
      August 23, 2023 at 7:06 am Reply

      Absolutely right, Ted. Remember, as the leader of the consulting firm you get to decide where you’re going to fly, whether you want to fly at all, and what schedule you keep. It’s an enviable position to be in.

      Thank you for highlighting that point, Ted!

  2. Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D.
    August 23, 2023 at 7:22 am Reply

    Hi David,
    Good stuff. I have a Daily Wisdom list that I review in the mornings to “get my mind right” (as they say in Cool Hand Luke). One of my favorite maxims is “Focus on the positive and on what I can control, and let go of the rest.” As you well know, fun is strictly prohibited at my firm–NOT…rock on!

    • David A. Fields
      August 23, 2023 at 8:09 am Reply

      Rock on indeed, Doc. Many people find daily affirmations to be positive and uplifting. I’m glad they work for you, Doc, and love the focus on being positive.

      Thanks for adding your perspective and fun energy, Doc.

  3. Michael
    August 23, 2023 at 7:26 am Reply

    Start meetings by everyone sharing something positive, either professional or personal. This puts people in a good mindset.
    Allow dogs in the office, everyone smiles when they are patting a puppy!

    • David A. Fields
      August 23, 2023 at 8:13 am Reply

      Two excellent suggestions. (Or one excellent suggestion and one allergy instigator, depending on whether or not anyone on your team is allergic to positive statements 😉.)

      We start all our internal meetings and client sessions with positive statements. It sets the right tone. Haven’t incorporated the dogs yet… I wonder what the no-dogs-household appropriate substitute is.

      Outstanding additions to the list, Michael.

  4. Marlene
    August 23, 2023 at 7:57 am Reply

    If you have a conflict address it as quickly as possible, with curiosity and compassion. Avoiding or appeasing leaks out as sarcasm and passive-aggressive behaviors. You won’t be happy if you have inner turmoil and pretend everything is OK.

    • David A. Fields
      August 23, 2023 at 8:15 am Reply

      Well said, Marlene. Wishing away the negative and hiding from conflict are counterproductive strategies for creating happiness.

      I’m glad you highlighted those points!

  5. Marie
    August 28, 2023 at 5:47 pm Reply

    I love this! In a time of turmoil, happiness and fun gets tossed out the window too quickly. Thank you for reminding us that happy consultants lead to happy business, happy life.

    • David A. Fields
      August 29, 2023 at 8:30 am Reply

      Exactly, Marie. Your consulting firm should support your happy life, not be a constant source of stress or dissatisfaction!

Leave а Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prev Article

Which is Better for Your Consulting Firm: Giving Advice or Implementing?

Next Article

Your Consulting Firm Needs to Find This Line


Subscribe to receive insiders’ access to information and resources that will help you grow your consulting firm.

Note: By subscribing you are confirming that you have read and agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. You are also confirming your consent to receive emails from David about his articles, programs and recommendations.

Firm Type