In consulting, if you want to earn big, you need to think big. That’s true. In consulting, if you want large projects you need to work with large clients. That, surprisingly, is not true.
Let’s start with an important reminder:
Penny Thinking: if you’re constantly worrying about the number of hours you’re working on your projects, then you’re playing a micro game and your results will bang against a low ceiling. That’s “Penny Thinking.”
Dollar Thinking: If hours never cross your mind and you’re occasionally worrying about the number of weeks you’re devoting to one client or another, then you’re playing in a bigger game and pulling down bigger revenue.
Goldmine Thinking: If hours, days and weeks are basically an afterthought while you’re consumed with providing massive value to clients, then you’re in the hunt for global domination… or at least jumbo-size consulting revenue.
Or, as my stomach reminds me: if you’re picturing one slice of pizza, you get one slice of pizza. When your gustatory imagination knows no bounds, you could end up like this chow hound:
Moral of the story, Part 1:
Stop thinking pennies; adopt Goldmine Thinking.
Good so far. Except this: consultants who focus on small clients often remind me that their prospects tote around small purses that can’t accommodate big, juicy goldmine-worthy projects.
I’ve always agreed with that sentiment and, personally, built my consulting firm to serve $1+ billion clients. The Willie Sutton logic of “that’s where the money is” was undeniable.
Well, gather ’round the cash register and listen up: A few years ago, I took on a client that was under $25 million in annual sales and, to my delighted surprise, they have contracted over $100k of consulting with my group every year since. Wow. Was this an anomaly or did I need a mind shift.
Mind shift. In the past couple of years I’ve added numerous clients who sign six-figure projects despite (or because of) topline annual sales below $10 million. Wow-wow.
In fact, triple-wow.
- Small companies—say, those under $25 million—outnumber large, $1+ billion companies by a factor of 6.25 bazillion-to-1. (For those of you still thinking in the weeds, the actual data is about 2,500-to-1).
- The decision-maker in a small company is often far easier to reach.
- The competition from big-name firms and embedded incumbents is often far lower.
But, if a company is so small, will they pony up for a sizable project? As a friend of Nemo (the fish, not the captain) said, “That’s a pretty big but!”
Every $10 million company is wrestling with at least one million-dollar problem. Most are plagued with even larger problems (e.g., how do we double to $20 million without breaking?). That million-dollar problem supports a six-figure project. Voila.
Yes, larger companies include many, many large issues on their to-do lists; however, the urgency driving each one is lower, and the internal staff available to tackle those problems is greater.
At the small company, the million-dollar issue is the priority. It’s a fresh, hot Frank Pepe’s pizza waiting for you to sink your teeth into.
Moral of the story, Part 2:
Small companies will pay handsomely to solve big problems.
You may still be hesitating, thinking, “I don’t work on those big, juicy, million-dollar problems.” Well, my friend, why not? What’s stopping you? Absolutely nothing other than Penny Thinking.
Small companies in every industry and every market are facing myriad, major challenges. Your mission is to be open-minded enough to listen for the opportunities with your Goldmine mindset.
What has your experience been with small clients?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.