A nearby grocer prominently displays a sign proclaiming, “Rule #1: The customer is always right.” That’d never work for consulting because, well, clients aren’t always right.
Rule #1 of successful consulting is to remember consulting isn’t about you. It’s about them–the clients. Got it. What’s rule #2?
Let’s talk about rules for a moment.
My first boss in marketing explained the freedom of a tightly written strategy: when you’re crystal clear about your target and the activities that will or won’t help the business, then decision making is easy. (In hindsight, he may have meant, “Stop being so creative, David, and just do what you’re told.”)
A tightly written strategy implies rules. Clear definitions of what’s in and what’s out.
Rules are great. They direct your conduct, telling you what to do and what not to do.
A good set of rules will save you time, boost your productivity, and promote harmony in your consulting firm. They can push you to delegate, deflect distractions, and dismiss bad consulting business. Plus, without rules, teenagers wouldn’t have anything to rebel against.
Among my rules. for instance: I schedule no calls with consulting clients before noon, I will waive my speaking fee for certain (well-defined) audiences, and I eat no more than two chocolate truffles before my bedtime snack.
Rules are particularly effective if you’re trying to change certain behaviors or achieve a difficult goal. For example, if you never seem to find time to write thought leading articles you might decree, “No email in the morning before writing.” The close cousins of rules are rituals, such as, “Every work day starts with 15 minutes of writing.”
Rule #2: Develop a set of explicit (i.e., written) rules
More precisely, Rule #2 for a successful consulting firm is to write the rules for the three main elements of your consulting business: winning engagements, creating value and infrastructure.
Your rules for winning engagements could specify the parameters of assignments you accept, and govern your prospecting. (Example: Don’t ever give a firm, fee quote before completing a Context Discussion.)
Your value creation rules encompass the client experience, productivity, deliverable quality, and so forth. (Example: Respond to client phone calls within two hours.)
Your infrastructure rules define how you run your business, including interaction among team members, assignments, and work/life balance. (Example: Assistants, not consultants, book travel.)
I’ve shared a couple of examples of rules I use in my firm. What’s one important rule you follow to keep your consulting firm on track?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.