Becoming a consultant and ensuring business success should probably be all about playing to your strengths. After all, you may well have become a consultant so that you can share your expertise with clients who find themselves with a skill gap at a critical time. They are looking for someone who will bring them knowledge, wisdom and new perspectives in areas where currently there are insufficient in-house skills. This is what you can provide and this is probably why you decided to develop a consultancy business. High level work with a diverse client base and bringing your calendar under your own control is the way to create a lifestyle business where the choice about work life balance is in your hands.
However, sometimes success comes because you are also able to play to your weaknesses and make sure that you identify them and prevent them from tripping you up. Being aware of personal blind spots plays just as big a role in success as the powerful demonstration of your skills and talents.
In an executive role you are likely to be part of a well oiled machine. The management team will accept responsibility for their own functions, so although the Sales Director will be aware of cashflow and payment terms, the responsibility sits with the finance department. Equally, if you are the CFO, your task is not to implement sales strategies. As a consultant, it is being able to apply yourself to areas where you may not have direct skills or experiences that count as much as the areas where you excel.
How do you make sure that have all of this covered and make sure you have identified blind spots?
Here are my top ten tips to stay on track for a successful consultancy career:
1. Write your business plan with clear goals, timelines and metrics.
2. Manage your own business - have a plan for all aspects including finances, insurances, tax, VAT admin, IT, business development, marketing, funding and resourcing.
3. Be clear about your product, about what you offer and what kind of consultancy projects you are looking for. Be just as clear about what you don’t want.
4. Have a clear and creative plan for business development with timelines, actions and metrics.
5. Create the marketing collateral that will support your brand - website, CV, LinkedIn profile, social media.
6. Build a powerful network and ensure that you are connected to decision makers and business leaders.
7. Get out and about and meet people. Attend networking events, arrange coffees and be sociable with a purpose.
8. Understand your competitors - what are they offering and what do they charge?
9. Lifelong learning is for you. Retrain and stay up to date.
10. Stay focused and be resilient. Find the ways to maintain your momentum and motivation.
Some of this may appeal more than others to you. The successful consultant is the one who concentrates on least preferred areas as well as playing to strengths.