At virtually every restaurant, waitstaff plunks down some variation of bread and butter soon after you’re seated.
The same pros and cons of that starchy pre-appetizer ring true for your consulting firm, which is why every successful consulting firm includes “bread & butter” projects in their diet.
When you’re dining out, a steaming hot roll suppresses angry growls from your stomach while you contemplate the menu.
However, without a bit of willpower, you (or your kids) will stuff yourself on the easy-to-reach carbs and fat, leaving no room for the healthier, more delectable items on the menu.
Similarly, your consulting firm’s bread & butter projects consist of engagements that are easy, inexpensive and plentiful. They keep the lights on and your team employed through the normal ups and downs of consulting revenue.
If you fail to maintain a steady supply of bread & butter projects, your consulting firm’s revenue swings will be wider and the risks to your firm, your team and your morale are higher.
On the flip side (of the cracker), if your consulting firm loads up on bread & butter projects, you won’t have capacity to win high-margin, capability-stretching engagements.
What is your consulting firm’s bread & butter project?
Probably what you considered center-of-plate engagements a few years ago. Every firm’s bread & butter is different, and yours will change over time as you grow, elevate your offerings and raise your minimum fees. Today’s artisan loaf is tomorrow’s day-old croutons.
Your Firm’s Bread & Butter
Find your consulting firm’s bread & butter by identifying projects that fit three criteria:
- High demand (i.e., a pervasive problem)
- Easy to deliver, without high levels of expertise or experience
- Relatively low fee
Bread & butter projects are likely to be fairly commoditized and competitive and, therefore, margins tend to be lower than ideal.
Importantly, bread & butter is lower-end work than your standard fare, not lower fees for your core offerings.
Always include bread & butter work in your consulting firm’s revenue mix, even when you have plenty of demand for your higher margin projects. If you don’t have it built into your plan yet, pencil in at least 20% of your revenue coming from bread & butter engagements.
That’s enough to stave off hunger and prevent scrounging for work when your pipeline is thin.
Keep bread & butter work under 50% of your annual capacity and never let it fill your schedule so much that you can’t take on a demanding, high-margin project.
What is your firm’s bread & butter work?
Post your thoughts in the comment section below—that will help other readers understand the variety of work they could consider as bread & butter for their firms.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.