The driver and limiter of your consulting firm’s size are the same: a single variable simultaneously fuels your growth and resists expansion.
Let’s look at three consulting firms:
Hans Olo Consulting is a $500k, one-person practice focused primarily on helping chocolate manufacturers successfully implement their most important, transformation projects.
Weera Gruppe consists of 20-ish personnel and they bring in around $5m/year primarily through chocolate-related transformation projects
Lotta Partners is also a project management consultancy in the chocolate industry, and currently they boast 200 employees and $50m in annual revenues.
All three consulting firms are in the same industry, solve more-or-less the same problem, and were founded around the same time by one or two partners. So, why is the scale of these firms so different?
Over time, the size of your consulting firm is a product of two factors and one constraint.
The two factors that enable your consulting firm’s growth are Commitment and Know-how. Those two span a host of important topics including your market offering, systems, capital, confidence, etc.
Most of the articles on this site aim to increase your know-how, and often they challenge your commitment. For example, are you committed enough to success to switch the focus of your firm, if necessary?
The one constraint on your consulting firm’s growth isn’t what you might suspect. It’s not the market demand or the availability of trained staff—though those two do create temporary, local limits on the size of your firm.
Ultimately, the invisible ceiling that limits your consulting firm’s size is your Aspiration.
Your aspiration acts like the mechanical cruise control on the 1966 Chrysler Newport I drove in days gone by.
When you flipped the switch on that contraption, it would pour on the gas until you reached the pre-set speed (often in gut twisting bursts of acceleration). It also would press back hard against the accelerator pedal if you tried to exceed the cruising speed.
Your aspiration sets the boundary on your consulting firm’s scale, and also drags you forward, encouraging to increase your know-how and make the commitments necessary to reach the boundary.
Determining Your Consulting Firm Aspiration
The most common point of confusion around consulting firm aspirations is whether they are a destination (we want to be a $15m firm) or a journey (we want to serve clients and be a force for good).
The most helpful aspirations are both. They are a journey with fairly well-defined destinations along the way. They describe what you want to do (e.g., serve) and what you want to achieve (e.g., $15m revenue).
To help you identify and refine the aspirations that set the invisible ceiling for your consulting firm, consider the following five questions and one redirect:
5 Aspiration Questions + 1 Redirect
Q1: What makes you tick: what are your passions and what creates happiness and joy for you?
Q2: Describe your perfect day: what happened from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to sleep?
Q3: Describe your perfect year: what happened over the 12 months?
Q4: Describe some of your ideal achievements: what do you want to have accomplished over the course of your life?
Q5: What do you stand for: when people speak of you to each other, what do you want them to say about you?
Redirect: Go back and answer those five questions again, with this additional prompt: What are the implications of my answer for my consulting firm?
Remember, your aspirations aren’t carved in stone. For instance the size of my own consulting firm changed markedly when I decided to embark on a different journey.
Also keep in mind that there are no bad aspirations. Big, small and everything in between are all good. Your aspirations for your consulting firm are perfect as long as they are true to you.
You accelerate your likelihood of achieving your aspirations when you commit publicly. So, please share: what is one (or more) of your aspirations for your consulting firm?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.