Consultants tend to sell (and believe in) rigorous processes. However, successful entrepreneurs are known to eschew process and doggedly chase results. Uh oh, what does that mean for us independent consultants? Especially when it comes to business development, should we be devoted to the process or the results?
There’s a natural tension between process and results. Especially when there’s a lag between effort (e.g., cultivating the tree) and reward (e.g., eating its fruit).
Executives developing compensation plans constantly wrestle with this issue. Should they reward employees for doing the right things, or only for achieving the desired results?
Your challenge is a bit more fundamental: to grow your consulting firm, should you diligently follow best-practice processes and activities, or should you scrap the process and do “whatever it takes” to close new clients and projects?
Extremely process-oriented people are rigid, like BOARDS. They stick to their approach no matter how tempting the winds of opportunity are gusting. They explain they are “being disciplined.”
Extremely results-oriented people are reactionary, like KITTENS chasing laser pointers. They flit from tactic to tactic, always chasing the opportunity that appears closest. They note they are “seizing the day.”
The downside of being a Board is you let projects slip by if you won’t adjust your process to meet the exigencies of a specific opportunity.
The downside to being a Kitten is you never even see opportunities if you bail on a tactic just before it starts to pay off. Plus it’s difficult for Kittens to scale their firms or create efficient projects.
Obviously, you need to find a middle ground. But where, precisely? How do you know when to stick with your activities or abandon them?
For instance, if you’re giving speeches about baking cookies, and those speeches aren’t generating clients, at what point do you abandon the topic or public speaking altogether?
The answer for independent consultants like you and me is to lean toward an action/results orientation without becoming Kittens.
I offer two tidbits of advice to all the consultants I work with:
Learn and practice the principles that will grow your firm. But never let those principles get in the way of business.
To succeed in this business you need to trust in the process, while relentlessly pursuing results.
Practically, that means sticking with your approach and process, while being willing to change when positive evidence suggests you should. A lack of something happening (e.g., negative evidence) is, in the short term, not a reason to change.
Let’s go back to your speeches about baking. If your audiences respond positively, but the first few speeches fail to produce any clients, don’t suddenly switch your topic to sautéing then, when that doesn’t work, to soufflé mastery in subsequent speaking gigs.
You have a lack of evidence, or negative evidence. Stick with your original speech for a year’s worth of speaking gigs and see what happens.
However, if a dozen attendees at the baking speech each tell you afterwards that they’re dying for information on sous vide, then give that a shot your next time on stage. That’s specific, positive evidence guiding your change in direction.
Say a new prospect tells you he’ll sign a proposal if you submit it tomorrow; assuming he’s legit, that’s positive evidence that you should abandon your standard, two-step proposal process. Drop the process and close the project.
Net: be more Kitten than Board, but trust in your process and only chase the light when there’s specific, positive evidence indicating a shift in direction will pay out.
How do you balance process vs. results?
Text and images are © 2020 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.