Some consulting opportunities are rotten. Blech. Don’t want ‘em.
Leave ‘em, don’t look back, and set your sights on better projects for your consulting firm.
But hold on, Harry. (Wait, Walter? Pause, Paula?)
A few of those stinky projects may actually be goldmines.
A quick story:
This past June, my wife and I were driving to a remote Portuguese town, when a landfill appeared on the horizon.
Even from a distance, it was easy to recognize the manmade hill; trailer-sized blocks of compacted, brown and white trash, stacked and tumbled into disorganized heaps like some giant toddler’s Lego pile.
Our car windows were down to enjoy the temperate air, and my wife was dozing in the passenger seat. Since the only alternate routes involved goat paths, I faced a dilemma:
Should I wake my wife up by closing the car windows, and alert her to the unpleasant landmark ahead, or should I hope that the smell would be tolerable while we drove by, leaving her asleep and unaware?
I chose to wake her. (After all, travel is about sharing the adventure.) But, the potential stain on our mental travelogues never materialized, because the trash heaps turned out to be…
Gorgeous, 15-ton slabs of Portuguese marble excavated from one of the world’s premier quarries. So much marble, that enormous slabs were strewn about and piled into landfill-shaped hillocks.
Nearby, in Estremoz (pronounced the way Sean Connery would say “stray moss”), we admired, and purchased, stunning art sculpted from blocks of the local stone.
Which brings us back to the starting question:
Are the consulting opportunities you’re avoiding, fetid trash heaps or dazzling sculptures hidden in landfill clothing?
Your goal is easy: unearth great projects that other consulting firms decline.
A few guidelines may help you distinguish diamonds from dross, and rubies from rubbish.
When Garbage is Garbage
Your consulting firm should have a minimum acceptable project size, below which you reject opportunities. Although small projects can sometimes be a gateway to larger engagements, more often they are low-return, resource drains.
Similarly, skip unprofitable projects. This sounds obvious, of course; however, I’m amazed at how many consulting firms accept unalluring projects that deliver minuscule or negative margin for their firm.
Flee from projects that appear unattractive and also would jerk you far away from your target market or core offering.
There’s no reason to accept consulting projects from clients who are ill-mannered, inconsiderate, rude, or don’t pay on time. Leave those ugly opportunities behind.
When Garbage is Gold
Many consulting firms walk away when the industry, problem or client are decidedly not sexy.
Hordes of consulting firms want to pursue silicon valley clients while turning their nose up at rust-belt opportunities.
That’s a mistake. Plain-Jane, out-of-favor industries and problems may offer consulting opportunities that generously stimulate your consulting mind and pocketbook.
Working with Fortune 500 clients is like a badge of honor for many consultants. They scoff at the idea of working with tiny companies.
Good. Let them scoff while you gobble up the many, lucrative consulting projects offered by pint-sized organizations.
If your minimum consulting project size is $10 million, then you need to fix your target firmly on huge companies. However, if your minimum project is $100,000 (or less), then there are plenty of obscure clients who could hire you.
Difficult to Service
Consulting prospects may be difficult to serve because they are geographically remote, demand significant hand-holding, or require complex (and expensive) project management.
As long as you price your consulting projects correctly, these opportunities are outstanding for your firm. They force you to upgrade your systems, processes and client experience.
Other consulting firms look at these opportunities as money-losing nightmares. For your consulting firm, they can be an opportunity to shine while improving the effectiveness and efficiency you’ll apply across your client portfolio.
How else do you identify outstanding consulting opportunities that other consulting firms miss?
Text and images are © 2021 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.