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The Very Important Role Bread & Butter Plays In Your Consulting Practice

Bread & butter. Some form or variation graces the table at every restaurant. Parents know a steaming-hot roll can eliminate howls of “I’m starving” when the family first sits down to eat. And barring supervision, the kids will happily stuff themselves on the easy-to- reach starch and fat, leaving no room for the healthier, more delectable items on the menu. Bread & butter should also play a role in every consulting practice, and has similar benefits and pitfalls.
For consultants, I define bread & butter as easy, cheap, plentiful work. Often it’s the type of tasks you perfected early in your career and you can now do in your sleep. These generally aren’t highly paid gigs or even particularly enjoyable since they’re not stretching you. This could be basic accounting or bookkeeping for a financial consultant, a simple market research analysis for a marketing guru, writing a press release for a communications expert or running a one-day consultative selling training session for a high-level sales strategist.

I recommend you always have a small amount of bread & butter work on the docket. Yes, I know it is not the work you aspire to do; so, why would you take on bread & butter work? To stave off hunger. A meal is far less enjoyable if you’re so ravenous that you scan the menu impatiently, order the fastest dish available and scarf down without savoring the flavors, scents and mouth-feel. Starving consultants beg for work (which makes them less attractive to prospects) and accept any project that comes along, no matter how unhealthy it is for the long term of the business. A famished consultant is neither productive nor

Plan on at least 20% of your revenue coming from bread & butter, and plan a way to win that easy business. This type of work will keep the lights on and will protect you from the panic mode that cripples so many independent consultants when business is thin.

Conversely, never fill your plate with bread & butter. Just like a kid who sates himself before the delicious entree arrives, too much basic work will crowd out your opportunities to take on highly lucrative, business-building projects. Therefore, 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.bread-&-butter-zone-2

All this talk of bread & butter may have wakened your appetite, but I have one quick request before you run to the fridge for a snack: please post in the comments section below the type of consulting work you do and what you consider to be bread & butter work for you. That will help other consultants see the variety of work they can take on too.


  1. Alex
    November 19, 2014 at 8:40 am Reply

    Thanks for the post, David. Meeting planning would be a bread and butter project for me.

    • davidafields
      November 19, 2014 at 8:58 am Reply

      Excellent. Alex, What type of work do you do now? What is your aspirational consulting project?

  2. dan markovitz
    November 19, 2014 at 10:38 am Reply

    For me, a bread & butter project is a presentation, either at a conference or inside a company, on time management. My aspirational project is redesign of business processes.

    • davidafields
      November 19, 2014 at 10:41 am Reply

      Cool, Dan. Thanks for posting!

  3. Trevor
    November 19, 2014 at 11:20 am Reply

    My B&B is testing software. However, I should be a Consultant instead. Thanks for the ideas.

    • davidafields
      November 19, 2014 at 11:42 am Reply

      Thanks, Trevor. Testing software sounds like good Bread & Butter income!

  4. Greg
    November 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm Reply

    My firms bread and butter are short term-leadership development seminars with no follow up or implementation.

    • davidafields
      November 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm Reply

      Thanks, Greg. And what type of consulting work do you do?

  5. Luda
    November 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm Reply

    What I aspire to do is to build effective project teams that create solutions by leveraging power of collaboration and collective knowledge.
    What I am paid to do is to schedule checkpoints and hold hands so that people talk to each other and get work done.

    • davidafields
      November 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm Reply

      Holding hands is excellent Bread & Butter work!

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