How cool would it be if you could choose greater success for your consulting firm from a drop-down list? Well, crown yourself the new monarch of freezerland, because that’s exactly what you can do. (Sorta)
There’s a straightforward exercise you can complete that will deliver the following benefits (and others) for your consulting firm over the next six months:
- Higher likelihood of achieving your goals and your objectives
- Faster, easier strategic decisions
- Less conflict internally and with clients
- Less confusion and overwhelm
- More enjoyment and joy from your work
- More successful hiring of employees, subcontractors and vendors
Plus, as a bonus, I’ll send you a cheat sheet to help you complete the exercise. (More info below.)
Before we get to the exercise, it’s worth noting that thriving consulting firms come in many, many varieties, serving different industries in different ways and with totally different management styles.
However, there is an extraordinarily common theme:
The most successful consulting firms possess a strong, well-defined culture that is true and evident.
In other words, top-performing consulting firms purposefully nurture a culture that is consistent with their beliefs and actual behavior, and those firms routinely spotlight the importance of their culture.
Nifty, but how do you define or identify your consulting firm’s culture? Easy:
Your consulting firm’s culture is the expression of your values in action.
Hence, your consulting firm’s values—the real values you act on, not those aspirationally captured in a credentials deck—dictate your client relationships, your internal team dynamics, your growth path, your fee structures, your choice of projects and virtually every other aspect of your consulting business.
For consulting firms, values are destiny.
That’s also nifty, and vaguely Greek.* And it forces another question: What are values?
A value is a descriptor of your consulting firm’s behavior at a moment of choice or conflict—particularly a difficult choice or conflict.
You may already have a list of your consulting firm’s values or you may have thought about them but never captured them explicitly.
Or, you may have developed a list of values without realizing they’re supposed to describe behavior at moments of choice.
Either way, clarifying your values and building a plan to live them loudly will deliver enormous benefits to your consulting firm.
Choose 4-10 values; i.e., descriptors of how your consulting firm behaves at moments of choice or conflict.
Every one of your values must be true; i.e., your past behavior must show that your consulting firm acts in accordance with the value the majority of the time when you have the opportunity.
Occasionally, your consulting values may conflict with each other—and how you behave during those times of conflict is your best indicator of your consulting firm’s true values.
Include “easy” values that reflect the choices you make consistently without any gnashing of teeth.*
Also include values that are true but challenging—that require choices you’re committed to making even though they give you pause.
Exclude values that you have not lived in the past.
Exclude values based on false choices; i.e., where no consultant or consulting firm is likely to make a different choice.
A Few Prompts
If your consulting firm already has a list of values, work backwards. What choices do your values describe? Do you abide by your choice consistently?
If you haven’t written out your values, start with your difficult choices. Look for areas of scarcity, cases of conflict, and instances of opportunity. For instance:
- How do you behave when you’ve made an error? When someone else has?
- Do you standardize your consulting firm’s offerings to create efficiency or customize them to create a “perfect fit”?
- Do you invest in growth or do you maximize short-term profit?
- When it comes to working on firm-growth initiatives, do you leverage in-house resources that are already paid for, or do you pay outside experts who may be more expert and experienced?
- If your consulting firm is hungry for business, do you take on projects that are outside your skill set?
- If you’re hungry, do you eat the box of truffles that was supposed to be mailed to your new client?
What is a choice you make at your consulting firm and how does it express itself in one of your values?
(If you post an example in the comments below, we’ll send you a cheat sheet with 237 values collected from over 90 consulting firms.)
Text and images are © 2022 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.