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How (Exactly) to Make Room for a Blockbuster Year of Consulting

Last week we agreed the single, most powerful step you could take to double (or triple) your consulting business is to let go. (See this article.) I proposed letting go of tasks, pride, and certain clients, and readers suggested letting go of fears, offerings and past mistakes, for starters.

We need to excise low-value activities, people, thoughts, calories, or whatever other flotsam we have in our lives and businesses. Fabulous. But also obvious and intuitive. And it must be difficult, because we cling to old habits and thought patterns like a pit bull clamped on a bone. How do you let go?

Squeeze & Replace

Squeezing is the process of crimping the resources you expend. Rather than focusing on the beast (clients, tasks, fears), you focus on how much you feed the beast.

For instance, in the past I opened my entire day to client meetings. Squeezing the time available to only afternoons forced me to be choosier (and more efficient) about the client meetings I would accept.

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Your resources include time, funds, attention, mind-space and people (if you have staff). If historically you have spent 5 hours each week on admin, then squeezing that down to 2 hours per week pressures you to delegate or dismiss activities you can’t do in that time.

To be effective, you have to squeeze hard. You need to remove clients, activities, thoughts, etc. that are low-value, not just those that are no-value. To create room for growth, you have to cut out weak branches, not just deadwood.

Replacing is actively redirecting your resources to create higher value; i.e., feeding a better beast!
When I freed half my day from client activity I then added an extra hour to writing, to outreach, and to crossword puzzles marketing.

Replacing is absolutely critical when you’re addressing mind-space, which is the home of fears, pride, assumptions and brooding over past mistakes.

Let’s say you’ve been holding on to the self-limiting belief that reaching out to prospects is disruptive and annoying to them. Trying to simply let go of that belief is rarely effective. You’ll also need to concentrate on a substitute belief; e.g., outreach gives others an opportunity to connect, which can be the highlight of their day.

To create major impact, replace small with ginormous. Improving on what you’ve deleted isn’t enough. The value of your replacement clients, activities, thoughts, etc. should exceed your current best. Replace your old Honda with a Rolls Royce, not an Acura.

squeeze-and-replace

If your average client is $50k, squeeze out the $10k variety by reducing time devoted to current clients, and divert your energy to landing $100k projects.

Or review your standard, 60-minute speech. Cut out the 20 minutes that fall flattest and add material that eclipses the moments your audiences currently love most.

Those are just a couple of examples. The same approach works for letting go then enhancing your offerings, your processes, your marketing activities, and your thinking.

Squeeze & Replace can be the practical, high-impact approach to letting go… if you use it. So, how will you use it? How can you squeeze your current practice, and what audacious replacement will you take on instead?


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4 Comments
  1. Scott M
    April 20, 2016 at 9:38 am Reply

    David,

    What I really like about squeeze and replace is it frees me from the feeling I need to be prospecting all day. I feel guilt when I don’t do that.

    When I was managing internal consulting teams in banking I was always trying to eliminate, outsource, or automate low value activities so we could fill the time with 80/20 activities.

    I’ve found this to be the biggest challenge in a nascent consulting firm…Identifying those highest value activities and focusing more time on them.

    For example, prospecting for banks and credit unions nationwide versus attending local networking events to find coaching opps with local business owners. I drew the line and said yes to banks & credit unions nationwide and no to local networking. Hopefully wise but an example of squeezing something out and replacing.

    • David A. Fields
      April 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm Reply

      Scott, you’ve given an excellent example of squeezing and replacing. Local networking can be effective if your target is local companies; however, it sounds like you’re targeting larger, geographically scattered prospects, in which case limiting the time you’ll give to local events sounds very wise. Identifying the high value activities and sticking with them definitely contributes to an independent consultant’s success.

      Thank you for adding your example, Scott.

  2. Meredith Kinder
    August 16, 2016 at 8:52 am Reply

    David, you make some great points about focusing and prioritizing. No matter how large or small the business, these are valuable activities. Thank you for your examples and straightforward description of these concepts.

    • David A. Fields
      August 16, 2016 at 6:25 pm Reply

      Meredith, virtually every day seems to bring a reminder on the importance of prioritizing. Yesterday a firm called me that is thinking of “turning off” their new business engine because they are at capacity. I was aghast. Turning on the engine again is a heck of a lot harder (and less profitable) than cutting out the low-value clients and taking on higher margin engagements.

      Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.

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