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How to Make Your Consulting Joyful (Again)

If your consulting firm’s plate is overflowing with client work, you’re probably hustling long hours and stressing over deliverables, capacity and quality.

On the other hand, if your consulting firm’s workload has dipped, you’re fretting over the new business pipeline and combatting fears about cash flow, expenses, and the effects of a recession.

Either way, running a small consulting firm offers a veritable cornucopia of opportunities to feel pressured, anxious, and worried.

Fun? Not so much.

Yet, when you derive delight from leading your consulting firm, you’ll also enjoy three benefits:

Attracting More Clients

Remember, one of the Six Pillars of Consulting Success is Like, and prospects like consultants who are enjoying themselves.

Everyone would rather work with a happy camper than a sourpuss.

Retaining More Clients

Even though you’re awesome at your craft, if your attitude, demeanor or lifestyle dims your client’s day with a cloud of negativity, they’ll find reasons to stop engaging you.

Conversely, clients who genuinely enjoy interacting with you will search for opportunities to keep you around.

Living Longer (and Healthier)

Medical research indicates that happy people live longer, healthier lives. Your work hours consume an enormous share of your awake time—especially if you include the evening and weekend hours spent thinking about work.

Therefore, to capture the health benefits of a joyful existence, running your consulting firm needs to generate a bounty of cheerful moments.

How to Make Your Consulting Joyful (Again)

Joy and fun are deeply personal concepts. What triggers your giggles may leave another consulting firm leader cold.

Consequently, I can’t prescribe precise activities for you and your consulting firm.

However, I’ll tell you a few of my methods for maintaining merriment amidst the mayhem, and perhaps they’ll spark some ideas for you.

Make Silliness Your Job and Enjoy Your Shortcomings

I’ll combine these two techniques with one illustration. Literally.

On the grand scale of artistic skills, I convincingly bounce around the bottom ranks. Heck, I can barely draw a bath.

Yet, these stick figures litter my articles and books. Why? Because they make me laugh. Whether or not you and other readers like a particular drawing, sketching it made me chuckle.

Plus, the mere fact that it can take me ten attempts to draw a circle round enough to serve as head, constantly amuses me.

Hoot, Honk and Guffaw

On any given day, my schedule includes at least half-a-dozen advisory calls with consulting firm leaders. And every one of those clients will tell you I laugh throughout our conversation.

I emulate one of the partners at the consulting firm where I earned my spurs. He seemed to chortle no matter what a client told him. “You hate our work? Ha, ha, ha, that’s certainly a bad way for us to retain you as a client. Ho, ho, ho.”

At first, I thought his behavior was bizarre and inappropriate. It’s not.

He was diffusing the tension, striving to keep his relationship with his consulting client positive, and enjoying his day, virtually regardless of the circumstances.

That’s savvy consulting.

Play Games

During team presentations to consulting clients, I usually insist we play the “word game.” (Each presenter is required to incorporate unusual terms they’ve been assigned—e.g. spaghetti and Serengeti, without making it obvious to the client.)

Similarly, peppering my articles with puns and obscure references entertains me while I’m engaged in the hard work of crafting IP.

There are myriad ways you could inject merriment into your long, long consulting days. Whistling, skipping, dancing, singing, pranks… the list goes on and on.

How do you make consulting joyful for yourself and/or your consulting firm?

  1. J.W. Arnold
    September 18, 2019 at 6:11 am Reply

    I really needed this column, David. I’ve become a fan as a result of your brilliant presentations to the Public Relations Society of America’s Independent Practitioners Alliance and look forward to your weekly posts. Thanks!

    • David A. Fields
      September 18, 2019 at 8:35 am Reply

      The article neglected to mention that receiving kind words brightens every day. Uplifting others during your work hours is another sure-fire way to create joy for yourself.

      Thank you for the reminder and the generous comment, J.W.

  2. Katrin Siebenbuerger Hacki
    September 18, 2019 at 6:20 am Reply

    Great article!!! I try always to find the interesting and quirky that clients and co-workers have to say, so in many conversations, apart from laughing a lot, I try to find the things that are surprising to me, I didn’t yet know. Another game to play is the “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” but with your clients or contacts.

    • David A. Fields
      September 18, 2019 at 8:40 am Reply

      Quirky and surprising are candy for inquisitive consulting minds. That’s a great habit, Katrin.

      My vegetarian substitute for your game is Six degrees from Albert Broccoli.

      Great suggestions, Katrin!

  3. Reuben Swartz
    September 18, 2019 at 8:13 am Reply

    Great stuff, as always, David. I’ve found it helpful to make a little bit of time for “nonessential” conversations. Talking to colleagues in the office or other people around the world who aren’t a current client, prospect, etc. Just someone you find interesting, that if you ran into around town, you’d have a great conversation. So instead of leaving it completely to chance, carve out a few minutes each day to initiate these conversations. (I started calling it the “Reconnection Challenge” because it made my days so much more enjoyable.)

    • David A. Fields
      September 18, 2019 at 8:46 am Reply

      You’ve tapped into one of the great ironies facing many consultants, Reuben.

      Human connections (a.k.a. relationships) are at the heart of effective consulting and an enjoyable, fulfilling life. Yet, many, many consultants hesitate to initiate the “nonessential” conversations that foster a stronger, wider web of relationships.

      As you’ve suggested, creating a habit of connecting each day will help your consulting practice thrive and reward you with regular doses of good will.

      Thanks for wisdom, Reuben.

  4. Gail
    September 18, 2019 at 9:27 am Reply

    Thanks for the perfectly timed article. It’s been a slog lately, and starting the day with a chuckle is just what I needed before going into two long consulting days.

    • David A. Fields
      September 18, 2019 at 10:01 am Reply

      Hooray for a chuckle to start the day, Gail! Good luck on your long, consulting days.

      You may want to consider a moment reflecting on what you’re grateful for at the start of the day and at the end of the day too. Those can be great bookends on tough days.

      I appreciate you contributing to the comments!

  5. Elaine
    September 18, 2019 at 11:29 am Reply


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