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Four Mistakes You Must Make to Grow Your Consulting Firm

If you want to build a successful consulting firm, certain errors aren’t just acceptable, they’re practically mandatory.

While most readers of these articles are aware of my book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, fewer are aware of my first book. Almost none are aware of an earlier, unpublished book researched over many years about the top challenges facing CEOs.

(And, come to think of it, no one knows about my earliest book, My Dads a Dinasore, crafted in crayon on construction paper when I was three years old. Too bad!)

Was laboring for years on the failed CEO book a mistake? At the time I gave up on the project it certainly felt that way. However, most mistakes loom larger in the moment than they turn out to be in the long term. Researching the CEO book led, in multiple ways, to the growth of my consulting firm.

This article is not an admonishment to take on big challenges, recognizing you’ll have failures along the way. You already know that.

Instead, look at how you’re handling the other side of the mistake spectrum: the little gaffes you and your colleagues make on everyday activities.

Frustrating minor errors fuel quality-assurance systems, induce extra rounds of reviews and cause general aggravation.

Stop it. Stop trying to prevent and rectify minor errors across your consulting firm.

Perfectionism is a form of procrastination.

Your consulting firm is avoiding mistakes that you shouldn’t be worried about. Not because they aren’t harmful or damaging, but because averting them drains time, attention, energy and passion you and your team could be devoting to huge wins.

The exchange you should be willing to make is: small mistakes for big accomplishments. Or, as Tim Ferris has written, “In order to do the big things, you have to let the small, bad things happen.”

When you understand the value of what your consulting firm will gain by letting the petty goofs slide, you’ll realize it’s not a big deal to commit some errors.

Which blunders should your consulting firm embrace? There are plenty of candidates for this list, and you can start with the four below.

If you’re never making these errors you’re probably devoting too much time to prevention and correction, and that’s holding back your consulting firm’s success.

Typos and grammatical errors in your blog/newsletter

My articles are proofread by someone on my team before you see them. If they weren’t, an occasional sentence look like tihs. Every now and again an error slips through.

I don’t care.

You should be equally indifferent with your consulting firm’s periodic content. Readers are forgiving and both you and your staff can do much better things with your time than review an article a second, third or fourth time.

(On the other hand, error-proofing your client deliverables is worth the time.)

Administrative staff mistakes in emails, phone calls and minor tasks

Sure, if you wrote the email it would be better than the one your assistant wrote. If you handled the call you’d wouldn’t have bungled the request for rescheduling.

So what?

Unless your client is unhappy and the errors are directly reducing your consulting firm’s revenue, don’t sweat it. Point out the error to your administrative staff so that they’ll be aware of it and improve.

Weak or no social media presence

Social media isn’t a big deal for your consulting firm (unless you specifically consult on social media topics).

Yes, it’s possible to spark or nurture contacts through LinkedIn. However, social media is an unreliable, inefficient marketing vehicle.

If you redirect a week or month worth of social media energy to more powerful marketing activities, your consulting firm’s revenue and EBITDA will grow.

 “Waste” hundreds or thousands of dollars

Many consulting firms (and consulting firm leaders) spend inordinate amounts of time on small decisions. “Should we try this $120/year software?” “Should we buy the replacement webcam at Staples or on Amazon, and is it worth $40 for the newer model?” “Should we hire the part-time hot cocoa preparer for $500/month?”

Just buy it, then move on. If the software helps, great; if not, toss it. Whatever webcam arrives quickly will work fine. Hot cocoa is obviously worth any expenditure.

A penny saved is not a penny earned.
A penny saved is a valuable hour wasted.

Those are just a few starting points, of course. Ignoring your email for a couple of days could have made the list too. No doubt a few minor tragedies would occur, but you could use that time to tackle a big win on your to-do list.

What small mistakes can your consulting firm ignore that will free time and energy to pursue big wins?

  1. Mack
    January 10, 2024 at 9:34 am Reply

    Thanks David, I needed to hear this. I am constantly telling the people who work with me that I have a bias to action, what I am really trying to say is, “Perfectionism is a form of procrastination.”

    • David A. Fields
      January 10, 2024 at 9:50 am Reply

      Exactly, Mack! If you’re going to run smack into a tree, then it makes sense to slow down and plan a route around the obstacle. But if you’re running toward brambles, just crash through and accept a few scrapes and scratches as part of rapid progress.

      I appreciate your chiming in, Mack!

  2. Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D.
    January 10, 2024 at 9:39 am Reply

    I’m a huge fan of whoever said, “When all else fails, lower your standards.” It helps we high achievers keep our businesses and our lives in balance so we can enjoy the ride.

    • David A. Fields
      January 10, 2024 at 9:53 am Reply

      That’s quite funny, Doc. In another article, I wrote a response to the oft quoted advice of shooting for the moon: “No, shoot for the chandelier. Not only are you more likely to hit it, you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying crash of shattering glass.”

      You always add excellent flavor and insights to the discussion, Doc.

  3. Christin Marvin
    January 10, 2024 at 9:41 am Reply

    I use to obsess over grammar mistakes when I first started my business. I now look at them as a way to show my audience I am human and that it’s ok to make mistakes. It doesn’t shape who you are. Thanks for these tips!

    • David A. Fields
      January 10, 2024 at 9:57 am Reply

      Well said, Christin. Good grammar and a strong vocabulary mark you as intelligent, well-spoken and articulate. Uber-precise language without any room for mistakes marks a person as lacking perspective.

      I’m glad you added your personal case study, Christin. It will resonate with a lot of readers.

  4. Jay Arthur
    January 10, 2024 at 10:23 am Reply

    When your accountant spends hours trying to find a 50 cent error in the books, they are wasting time and money. Write off the 50 cents. Move on.
    When you spend a few hours a week simplifying, streamlining and optimizing your business to accelerate the smooth flow of work, priceless.
    As Zig Ziglar would say: “Don’t major in minor things.”

    • David A. Fields
      January 10, 2024 at 10:58 am Reply

      Outstanding, Jay! As another reader put it a few years ago, “Don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.”

      Great addition to the topic, Jay.

    • mark
      February 8, 2024 at 5:37 am Reply

      Another idiom I’ve used ‘Penny wise Pound foolish’ – although I like Zig Ziglar’s – broader set of possibilities!

      • David A. Fields
        February 8, 2024 at 5:28 pm Reply

        Yep, Mark, that idiom applies too!

  5. Ariane
    January 10, 2024 at 10:46 am Reply

    I in particular value your comment concerning social media, as it is so easy to be sucked into spending time consumptively on LinkedIn etc. due to FOMO! (without having any tangible business impact). Thank you!

    • David A. Fields
      January 10, 2024 at 10:59 am Reply

      Replace, FOMO with FOWT (Fear of Wasting Time), and social media goes *poof*. I look forward to not seeing you in social media, Ariane. 😉

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