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5 Steps to Overcome Fears That Hold Back Your Consulting Firm

It turns out your consulting firm’s worst enemy isn’t a competitor, a procurement department, or a Rottweiler nicknamed Bitey. No, the greatest impediments to your consulting firm’s forward progress are your personal fears.

Every time you transcend your doubts, you open yourself up to a breakthrough.

Success always waits on the other side of fear.

Imagine your worries are rivers and your aspirations are on the far shore. What you need is a sturdy, secure, unshakable bridge.

5 Steps to Overcome Fears that Hold Back Your Consulting Firm

Recognize Your Fear

Before you build a bridge, you need to find the river. You know the obstacles your consulting firm is facing: too few clients, or trouble finding qualified personnel, or one person (probably you) being a bottleneck. But why do you have those challenges?

Behind each challenge is a fear. That’s your river.

For instance the struggle to win consulting clients could be fueled by an unwillingness to change your message, uncertainty about narrowing your focus, or doubt your firm can deliver more work while maintaining quality.

Label Your Fear

Labeling your fear puts it in a box and robs it of power.

Write down your concerns, your apprehensions and what could go wrong. Don’t worry about being concise. Just get it all out. Putting your anxiety into words reduces the ocean fog of general dread to a clearly-defined river.

The river may flow wild and gnarly, but it’s contained by banks and borders, which means you can build your way across.

This article labeled five common fears consulting firm leaders face: losing control, being exposed, disappointing a client, suffering rejection, and facing ridicule. There are others, of course, including missing out, being irrelevant, not measuring up, and running out of snacks.

Naming your fear also makes it easier to communicate to others. Once you apply a label, you’ll find others who know your river too and have traversed its rapids.

Collect Evidence

What facts support your concern that the troubled waters will sweep your consulting firm toward the land of doom? (Not to be confused with the town of Doom Dooma, which is a real place in India.)

Alternatively, can you point to evidence that your consulting firm (or some other firm) has surmounted the doubts stopping you? Of course you can. Others have faced down the same fear.

If you’re concerned your consulting firm can’t keep up with higher demand, are there instances when you did meet a surge in workload while delighting your clients?

You can draw on evidence for strength as you build your bridge and for courage when it comes time to cross the span.

Here’s a surprise gift: this step is optional. You don’t have to collect evidence.

Yes, this step is helpful. It may buttress your bridge and give you confidence that you can reach the other side. However, fear is emotional, not rational, and it’s very possible that data won’t hold sway, no matter how much you amass.

See, there are only four steps required. If you were afraid this process would be difficult, it’s already easier than you thought!

Construct a Four-Part Plan

Most fears are grounded in truth. You will get wet if you fall in the river and there are hungry crocodiles paddling around in there. Yikes!

Therefore, it’s time to create a blueprint for your bridge.

How can you prevent disaster? What guardrails can you build to reduce the risk of your fear being realized?

How can you mitigate the impact? What safety nets can you rig so that if your consulting firm does careen off the side, the damage is lessened?

How will you remedy missteps if they happen? What ladders can you place along the way so that your consulting firm can scale its way back up to the bridge?

For instance, if fear of failure is blocking your path to larger consulting clients, you can prevent disaster by equipping yourself with more knowledge. You can mitigate the impact of errors by instituting a strong, client experience process.

You can also locate a couple of consultants that have more experience with larger clients. You might lose a few dollars if you have to call on them them to help bail you out, but in case of emergency they’ll help your firm get back on track to pleasing your client.

And don’t forget: what actions will you take to set this bridge-building project in motion and ensure steady progress?

Act, With Help

Don’t face your fears alone. Bootstrapping is just silly. If your trembling legs are anchored to this side of the river, find a friend with nerves of steel and a steady gait.

It’s time to leave the shoreline and cross the river of fear. Find  a peer group, roundtable, coach, consultant, or confidante that will take you by the hand.

No one will think less of you or your consulting firm if you’re receiving guidance or coaching to achieve your goals, and the fruits of success will still taste as sweet. Perhaps even sweeter.

Oh, and keep in mind you’ll have to cross this same bridge again and again. Practice makes it easier.

The 5 steps above are only one approach. What else have you done to overcome your fears?

  1. Andreas
    March 20, 2019 at 4:03 am Reply

    Enyoing your articles, this one in particular: Clear and simple, for anyone to follow and to take action :).

    • David A. Fields
      March 20, 2019 at 7:10 am Reply

      Thanks, Andreas. The key of course, is for you to take action! I look forward to hearing your success stories.

  2. Matt Gibson
    March 20, 2019 at 4:28 pm Reply

    Here are a few things that have and do help me, most of which are related to your post.
    1. Ask myself “why?” and “how?” when confronting a fear. For example, I may be afraid of sending a proposal. Why? Because I’m afraid they won’t accept it. Why? Because I’m sure I have articulated the value in it very well. How can I solve that? Lots of ways…I can talk to the potential client in advance. I can have someone else read it. I can sleep on it for a day, brainstorm a little, and then update it and send.

    2. I have found a lot of value in “acting with help,” as you say. When I have made my intentions known, a lot of people are happy to help.

    3. Finally, fear seems to dissipate with action. Sometimes, fear presents itself as procrastination. Sometimes, I just have to take action: make the call, hit the send button, do the work.

    • David A. Fields
      March 20, 2019 at 5:49 pm Reply

      Three, outstanding tips, Matt. You are so right that fear dissipates with action. The insidious aspect of fear, though, is that it curtails the very action that would make it dissipate. Another reason why finding help is so important.

      Asking Why? is brilliant and a great addition to the process outlined above. Thank you for contributing your wisdom.

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