A senior colleague at your consulting firm keynotes Cacao Jam, the cacao dessert industry’s annual conference. As she wraps up her inspiring tale of the modern workplace melting pot, the audience rises to its feet. She basks in the thunderous applause and the glow of the spotlight framing her against the chocolatey brown backdrop.
You wonder, though, shouldn’t the adulation be flowing toward your firm, rather than an individual?
Even if you’re the on-stage speaker and your firm’s name is eponymous (like mine is), the question remains: what’s the role of your personal brand vs. your firm’s brand?
Three Concerns About Personal Brands
Three concerns anchor most arguments against building a personal brand:
- Client Demands – Clients want the A-team and assume that team must include the individual whose name graces the door, shows up in the news or tops the cake. All sorts of capacity and project fee problems result from too much demand for one consulting resource.
- Market Valuation – When you decide to sell your consulting firm, you’ll receive a lower valuation or multiple if the big draw is your name rather than your consulting firm’s name. Worse, if you name the firm after yourself, it could be unsellable.
- Attrition Risk – If an employee at your consulting firm develops a strong personal brand, they could put your business at serious risk if they leave.
Dispelling the Myths
First and foremost, don’t operate your consulting firm from fear.
Client Demands – Most clients will work with any consultants you designate as long as you (or the other big name at your firm) expresses total, unshakeable confidence in your team. Sophisticated diners know executive chefs design the menu, but cooks serve up the delicious meals.
Market Valuation – The market will reward you for building powerful BD and delivery engines that leverage the strengths of individuals. Whether your consulting firm’s logo includes some individual’s name is largely irrelevant. Even if it’s some variation of your own name, the valuation of your firm won’t be affected.
As a quick case study, I was recently involved in two consulting firm transactions with the same PE group. The firm bearing its founder’s name received a higher multiple than the firm with the more traditional business name.
Regarding Attrition Risk…
Not every consultant wants the spotlight, but everyone wants a chance to shine.
Make your consulting firm a place your colleagues want to stay! The best consultants flock to firms where their personal brands can flourish and be rewarded.
Balance Personal and Firm Brands
The answer, of course, is to build personal brands and your consulting firm’s brand.
They’re both important.
(If your consulting firm is eponymous, you still have a personal brand and a firm brand.)
You’re in a people business. Clients turn to small consulting firms because they know, like and trust the individuals at the firm–other human beings with whom they’ve forged a bond.
That’s why personal brands outperform firm brands at attracting consulting clients!
That said, personal brands are only part of the picture. Personal brands should be presented in the context of the firm’s brand. Individuals who garner attention should acknowledge they’re members of a larger, better team and promote the overall strength of your consulting firm.
Clients will be drawn in by the personal brands then become loyal clients who give referrals because of the quality your firm delivers.
That’s the power of personal brands working for the business and, ultimately, building your consulting firm’s brand.
What have you done to build your personal brand or firm’s brand?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.