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This Question Will Determine Your Consulting Firm’s Path Next Year

The route from your consulting firm’s current state to your desired future is absolutely crystal clear and straightforward. You could call it Easy Street.

Well, except for the obstacles in the way. Those could slow you down. You know…the little speed bumps, the other consulting firms that swerve in your way, the police barricade.

But should the impediments you can point to actually hinder your consulting firm’s success?

Maybe.

Some of the challenges that hold your consulting firm back are legitimate hazards that you need to navigate carefully. Careening carelessly into a dumpster could swiftly arrest your consulting firm’s forward motion and create long-term damage to your relationships and your prospects.

Other obstacles, however, are illusory. Many of the shadows cast across Easy Street are fears and doubts that unnecessarily constrain your consulting firm’s initiatives, actions and results.

Therefore, the question that will determine your consulting firm’s path going forward is:

Which of the obstacles to my consulting firm’s progress are valid dangers, and which are irrational fears?

If you can discern the difference, then your consulting firm can plan appropriately and you can summon your courage to act resolutely in the face of ghosts and demons.

For those of you working through the 8-Week Consulting Firm Planning Process, you can ask and answer this question during each of the first four weeks. (Everyone else can ask/answer the question any time 😊)

Since phantom perils can appear every bit as real as genuine sink holes for your consulting firm, how do you differentiate between them?

Tips for Distinguishing True vs. False Dangers to Your Consulting Firm

Locate the Voice

Determine whether your brain or your viscera is chattering about the risk. Your gut feelings are important guides; however, they’re particularly unreliable when you think you’ve glimpsed a monster.

Is the voice presenting your potential woe alarmed, emotional, exaggerated, and imprecise? Or is it calm, reasonable, and specific about the possible consequences for your consulting firm?

For instance, if the thought of launching a visibility-building campaign or hiring an (additional) administrative resource for your consulting firm gives you heart palpitations, you’ll benefit from taking some deep breaths and soliciting outside perspective.

Assess the Source

Look at who’s presenting the evidence. Are you being alerted to potential doom by a frequent provocateur who touts hearsay evidence, or by an experienced advisor with detached interest, hard data, and a track record of clear, calm thinking?

If your hysterical neighbor who runs a barber shop is telling you that hyper-inflation is going to destroy all small businesses in the next 12 months, you might want to nod politely then go back to washing your car. Or spray her with the hose.

Seek Confirmation

Ask advisors, colleagues and even your clients for additional perspective.

For instance, if a wide range of people agree that relying so much on your current clients could send your consulting firm over a cliff, that doesn’t guarantee you’re approaching a chasm; however, it justifies some careful planning and parachute preparation.

Test Your Way

In many cases you can poke at the shadows to find out whether they’re substantive or ephemeral. For instance, if you think raising your consulting firm’s fees will cost you clients, test out higher fees on a couple of proposals and see what happens.

Sometimes it’s tough to distinguish between unfounded fears and justifiable concerns. How have you coped with this conundrum?


8 Comments
  1. Andrea Jill Miller
    October 27, 2021 at 10:13 am Reply

    Great post re: the Gremlins that often get in the way of taking action/being successful. I was wondering how you create those great images. It makes the post even more engaging.

    • David A. Fields
      October 27, 2021 at 10:59 am Reply

      Thanks for your feedback, Andrea. (Andrea Jill?) That’s always appreciated.

      Illustration creation process: I draw circles with a stylus on my laptop for ten minutes until I finally produce one that’s round enough to use as a head. Then I draw limbs over and over until the stick figure doesn’t end up with arms that are longer than its body and that wrap around in weird directions. Then I delete the image entirely because the joke was too far on the fringe of obscurity. Then I start over. It’s a complex and laborious process that could be completed in 5 minutes by a six year-old. Unfortunately, I’m no longer six.

  2. Dr. Shay
    October 27, 2021 at 12:39 pm Reply

    Great read as always!! For me, it is not just quarter 4 and the start of the holiday season but it is also when I start to plot out the next year! What worked, what did not? Do I need to pivot, what does my 2022 budget look like?

    • David A. Fields
      October 27, 2021 at 3:36 pm Reply

      Right on, Shay! We’re big fans of post-mortems too and we conduct them all year long. Good on you for reflecting on what’s working then baking your learning into the next year’s plan.

      I’m glad you highlighted that aspect of the article!

  3. David Hane
    November 2, 2021 at 5:11 pm Reply

    My default is to think the worst. I counteract such thought distortions by voicing them to people who know me, and whose perspectives I value and trust.

    • David A. Fields
      November 3, 2021 at 7:42 am Reply

      You’re right, David. Soliciting outside, independent perspective is always a good idea. (Well, as long as you’re asking someone you can rely on to see the world as it is and report that back to you. Plenty of people ask for confirmation of their fears from others who share their fears.)

      I appreciate your insights, David–thanks for posting them!

  4. Tomaž Vidonja
    November 12, 2021 at 8:36 am Reply

    Hi David,
    for the first time, we used this year a combination of three customer experience metrics in order to get insights into how we actually perform. We asked our customers after each project finished to fill a short survey (8 questions) to measure NPS – Net Promoter Score, CSAT – Customer Satisfaction Score, and CES – Customer Effort Score.

    Particularly the latter helps understand the potential of the future business. Low CES means customers are struggled too much during the project and may find our cooperation too complex, time-consuming, etc.

    We try to bring more data and metrics into our consulting business and we search for digital technologies that may help.

    We find this approach as important feedback on our obstacles and estimation of how realistic they are. 🙂

    • David A. Fields
      November 17, 2021 at 7:18 am Reply

      Very impressive approach, Tomaž. The overall point is especially helpful: bring data to bear and let the evidence (particularly customer-based evidence) reveal which hazards present a true risk to your firm.

      Thanks for highlighting that point with such a good, detailed example, Tomaž. Very much appreciated.

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