There are two truths that govern the success of your consulting firm: your Revenue Truth and your Leverage Truth. Today, we’re talking about leverage and the extraordinary benefit of building jigs.
While a deft artisan with a lathe can craft a breathtaking bowl from a block of maple, my attempts at turning produce only piles of shavings and misshapen chopsticks. Alas, woodworking isn’t my forte.
Nevertheless, countless hours spent sawing, drilling, sanding and poring over woodworking magazines taught me the value of jigs. (And shopvacs.) More about jigs in a moment.
If you’ve been leading a consulting enterprise for a while, you already know the importance of leverage. Leverage expands your capacity to create value and lifts the cap on your earnings. You also know that creating leverage requires you to delegate, systemize and productize your consulting work.
So, why aren’t you creating more leverage?
Because of the crazy amount of work required at the front end.
In your ideal world, leverage looks like Alpine skiing: you push off at the start, immediately gain speed, and thrill in the cold wind tearing at your parka. In the real world, leverage resembles childhood tobogganing—and you’re the parent. You slog uphill through deep snowdrifts, tugging unappreciative kids until your thighs are burning, your hands are freezing and you’re hallucinating about scotch. Then the youngsters scream downhill while you shiver at the top, gasping for breath.
That’s where jigs come in. Well, not in the snow, exactly. Leave the kids out in the blizzard and wander into my workshop. In woodworking, a jig is a device that guides your tools, enabling you to produce high-precision work, over and over again.
A jig could be as simple as a few blocks of wood, meticulously measured and joined, that ensure you mark all your toboggan slats at the same length.
Unfortunately, effective jigs require an investment of time and money. Both can be in scarce supply.
When you’re anxious to commence cutting toboggan parts, do you really want to divert precious hours to constructing a jig–something that won’t even show up on your toboggan? No. And that’s why impatient woodworkers produce shoddy results.
Professionals build jigs.
In consulting, your jigs are detailed systems, tools, templates and training aids that enable other folks to consistently, repeatedly produce work that will delight your clients. Alas, just as in woodworking, assembling your consulting jig requires an extraordinary investment of time and slavish attention to details.
“I didn’t delegate it because it took far less time to just do it myself” is a common refrain among consultants in boutique and solo firms. You may have sung that one yourself a time or two.
If you weigh the near-term payoff of constructing a consulting jig against doing the work yourself, you’ll set aside the jig and jump into the work. In the near term, you come out ahead, but your leverage and upside is limited.
Looking for payback the first, or second or even third time you bust out your consulting jig will just leave you frustrated. Set your sights on the distant, larger gain.
Build your consulting jigs with an eye on the payout you’ll receive the 20th, 30th or 50th time someone other than you produces exceptional work on your behalf.
At that point, your Leverage Truth is working in your favor, your firm is spinning off cash, and you have time to carve hunks of mahogany into tiny chopsticks. (Or to sip on scotch while the kids are off skiing.)
You’ve probably built at least one jig in your consulting practice already.
Tell me about a jig you’ve constructed (or a jig you want to build) so other consultants can be inspired and learn from you.
Text and images are © 2020 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.