Consulting can be a thrilling, wealth-building career. It should be. If you’re in the consulting business for keeps—particularly if you’ve taken on the risk of independent consulting in a boutique or solo shop—then the reward should be sky-high job satisfaction and a burgeoning bank account. If that’s not where you find yourself, I’m about to show you why and offer directions to the promised land.
Let’s talk about fun and money.
First up: rollicking, frolicking, whoop-and-holler fun. Oh yeah, this is professional. Let’s talk about days-flying-by, can’t-wait-to-jump-in, sense-of-pride-and-accomplishment joy in your consulting work.
When does that happen?
When your work aligns with your innate genius.
Your innate genius is where you, as an individual and a firm feel like work is play. Thought leadership flows from you effortlessly. Time spent gaining experience is a pleasure, not drudgery. Your high score at Minesweeper remains untested because daily tasks engross you and are easy. You attract like minds who enjoy untangling the same analytical or human riddles.
Got it, now let’s talk about money.
Where are the rich oil fields in the consulting profession? Wherever there’s an urgent, unsolved client need. Information Technology has been a bubbling, frothing geyser of consulting opportunity for years because new, innovative computer systems increasingly pervade every aspect of life and business while we’re still befuddled by three year-old smartphones.
Cool, let’s model innate genius and market need.
Four Independent Consulting Flight Paths
Consultants and boutique firms that are grounded are struggling, at best, and not enjoying their time in the profession. Individuals look for unlocked doors back into the corporate workforce; firms teeter and collapse.
If you’re here, close shop, get a corporate job, join a thriving firm, or prepare yourself for wholesale change.
A practice built around a personal interest rather than a market need never flies high or far. Consulting engagement are occasional, short hops. Rainmaking is a brutal struggle and rarely expands beyond the founder.
I’ve seen boutique firms reach low seven-figures if they’re on the fringes of a market need, but rarely grow past that. Solo puddle jumpers scratch and scrape to collect low six-figures. It’s exhausting.
To upgrade your flight path you have to let go of your definition of what you do. Resist starting from what you love, what you’re good at and what you’ve done in the past. Develop a perfect offering, conduct the “Problemeter” exercise (explained in this book), and ruthlessly point your consulting firm toward a market need.
Gratefully accepting any available engagements results in dreary, grueling, unsatisfying, low-margin work. Many consultants either can’t find or have ignored their innate genius. If you’re on this flight path, you’ll tackle any project that pays.
I often see extremely bright, alumnae of big-name consulting houses on this path. These consultants engage—often through a broker—in projects that leverage their big brains, but not their innate genius.
For boutiques, incorrect expansion strategies blur their focus and lead to more commoditized work, compressed margins and bored staff.
The fix here is two parts: 1) find (or reconnect with) your innate genius while continuing to listen to the market; 2) learn to say “No” to projects that are not aligned with your innate genius.
Where innate genius meets market need, the sky’s the limit. This is where consulting is fun and lucrative. Where sustainable, scalable practices are found. Independent consultants who are blasting off, connect their innate genius with market needs.
It’s where the love of exploring novel, intellectual territory intersects with manufacturers’ need to enter new markets. It’s where the joy of enabling others’ career progress intersects with large companies’ desperate desire for a better coaching approach. It’s where the intuitive analysis of complex financial records intersects with conglomerate’s desire to capture profit after a complex acquisition.
All of those intersections represent firms that are blasting off because they’ve married their innate genius to a focused, burning, pervasive market need.
What about you? How can you connect your innate genius to market needs?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.