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 effective.
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.
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.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.