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How to Know if You’re Successful at Consulting

How do you know if you’re doing well at the consulting game? Revenue? Client feedback? Those are okay metrics; however, if you look around your office you’ll find a better clue.

Somewhere nearby, you probably have a stack of business cards from people you met at conference or trade show or similar event.

Who’s In Your Stack?

Let’s see… there are possible prospects, some of whom you actually followed up with. There’s a little bunch of cards from competitors, and there are cards from people you don’t even remember collecting.

Oh, and there’s the card from that guy whom you politely listened to while thinking. “I bet I can stop that table at Sal’s Pizzeria from rocking if I fold this business card twice and slip it under a leg.”

Each of those cards represents something special: a potential relationship.

As consultants, relationships are our manna. They are the sustenance of our business.

You can trace every client you’ve signed in the past year back to the relationship you built with them, either actively (you reached out to them) or reactively (they reached out to you).

Relationships are far more important than consulting, though. They are the currency of your life.

Relationships are the True Measure of Your Wealth

Money is a poor indicator of how well-off you are as an individual, and a shallow metric of your success as a consultant.

The amount of leisure time (or “executive time”) filling your calendar also doesn’t tell you whether you’re rocking your consulting practice and your life. You know that leisurely years lived in a vacuum are meaningless and decades spent with a tiny, inner-circle can leave little imprint.

In contrast, when your life is intertwined with others, creating value for those in your large web of relationships, you create lasting, positive impact on the world around you. In return, you enjoy commensurate growth in the accounts that matter most.

Wealth, Relationships, Life and Consulting

As a consulting firm leader, you want to win business based on your firm’s merits.

When you springboard off the idea that relationships are the ultimate measure of success and wealth, then you understand that your consulting firm will win (and deserves to win) more business as you build better relationships with prospects and clients.

Thought leadership and proven results are still important, of course. They draw people to you and grease the skids for relationships to speed along.

So, what does this mean for you and your consulting firm’s day-to-day activities?

  • Call people in your Network Core just to say “Hello” even though you don’t have any value to offer. Nurturing the relationship is inherently valuable.
  • Don’t throw away that stack of business cards. Fold up one of your own cards to stop Sal’s table from rocking, and create a plan to connect with the people you’ve met.
  • Ask your current contact for introductions – regardless of whether the people they can introduce you to will turn into clients.
  • Touch your entire network, including those outside your Network Core at least once each year—even with just a “Hello” email.
  • Leave work early and take vacations so that you can strengthen your relationships with your closest family and friends.

Yes, you can devote a few more hours to perfecting your consulting firm’s approach. But if you redirect that same time toward developing new friendships you’ll find yourself leading a more successful consulting firm, and you’ll  be a wealthier person in the truest sense.

How have strong relationships benefited your consulting firm?


16 Comments
  1. Liz Wainger
    February 13, 2019 at 7:07 am Reply

    Love this post, David. Relationships are what makes our world go around and we really don’t succeed without others.

    • David A. Fields
      February 13, 2019 at 7:42 am Reply

      Totally agree. Plus, even if we achieve some measure of success without others, it’s much less fun and rewarding, so the net win is lower. Thanks for chiming in, Liz.

  2. Jamie
    February 13, 2019 at 7:14 am Reply

    Great article, David!

    • David A. Fields
      February 13, 2019 at 7:42 am Reply

      Thanks, Jamie, and thank you for taking the time to read it and comment!

  3. Patty
    February 13, 2019 at 7:29 am Reply

    I am not in marketing anymore–as much as a real marketer can ever really leave marketing. I am basically retired, but for several years I have been writing for the newspaper in my rural community. I cover the criminal courts and county government. As a reporter, I survive on my relationships, so I talk to everybody. I never know where an important idea or bit of information may come from. In a small community (not unlike a workplace or professional organization), connections–relationships–are broad and deep. And not to be taken lightly.

    • David A. Fields
      February 13, 2019 at 7:50 am Reply

      Very well said. All communities are small, by the very nature of our human limitations. Even large groups break down into small communities where relationships are the most important assets. The relationships and reputations we build in one community carry over to adjacent communities, multiplying our wealth.

      I’m glad you gave us your perspective, Patty, and congratulations on your (basic) retirement!

  4. Ilene Leff
    February 13, 2019 at 10:09 am Reply

    All of my current clients are from relationships originated at McKinsey and nurtured through the years because I truly respect and admire these people.

    • David A. Fields
      February 13, 2019 at 10:25 am Reply

      You’re a poster child for the value of creating and nourishing relationships, Ilene. Using a common affiliation as a guide or a screen for your network can also be helpful, as you aptly demonstrate. Thank you for contributing your experience to the dialogue!

  5. Julieann Pina
    February 13, 2019 at 11:00 am Reply

    All of my best customers have come through relationships. They are people I met all sorts of ways – volunteer work, professional organizations, kids’ activities, traditional networking, and online groups focused on a topic. Often they are also contacts of people who have become friends. The funny thing is, I thought that would change when consulting went from on the side to my main focus. Hasn’t changed a bit.

    • David A. Fields
      February 13, 2019 at 11:15 am Reply

      Your learning is very consistent with most small consulting firms’ experience. One, very successful, boutique leader I work with in London creates social situations (parties, events, etc.) specifically to allow a wide variety of relationships to spawn.

      His experience, like yours, is that it’s impossible to know which relationships will lead to business, but it’s virtually guaranteed that some will.

      Thanks for highlighting the value of relationships as your consulting practice grows, Amber.

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