Every consulting founder or partner can make more money by eliminating 80% of their activities.
This is my strongest held belief. Working more hours are not the solution to a dry sales pipeline, management problems, or lack of direction. What partners need is to increase effectiveness by working on the right things.
Here are three true stories to illustrate this problem:
- A boutique consulting firm had lost its biggest client and wanted to boost sales pipeline. They hired a marketing agency to support them with lead generation. After thousands of dollars invested and several workshops with the agency to align initiatives, results are mediocre. I asked the partner: "What made you believe generating more leads was the best solution to your pipeline problems?"
- A small consultancy with four employees was growing fast and decided to hire two more full-time employees. They hired a recruitment specialist to help. After time and money invested in interviewing, vetting, and training the new people, partners are now worried they are "overextended". I asked them: "What made you believe hiring full-time employees was the best solution to your capability gaps?"
- A solo advisor was expecting his first child and wanted to reduce his working hours. He hired a digital guru to help him automate administrative tasks and create an online course he could sell while sleeping. The automated tasks helped a bit, but the online course didn't sell. I asked him: "What made you believe creating an online course was the best solution to reduce your workload?"
Can you guess what their answers were?
Some of them were self-diagnosed and thought they could solve these problems themselves. But the vast majority hired someone who pitch them on these solutions. And the quality of this external advice turned out to be dubious.
It's hard for us to admit this. But when it comes to leading and managing our own consulting business, most of us suck at hiring external advice. Why would you ask a butcher what's the best thing to eat?
Although 99% of those external consultants are honest and ethical individuals, no one can ignore the conflict of interest. They want to give you unbiased advice, but there are financial implications around whether you invest in certain initiatives or not. After all, they get paid mostly to implement.
Unfortunately, these stories are not exceptions. Founders and consulting partners waste hard-won money and family time working on the wrong things. And this happens, ironically, due to following poor advice from others.
The solution is not easy, but simple: find a trusted source of ideas. You need support from someone who is (1) a specialist in solving whatever problem you have, and (2) who offers unbiased advice without profiting from the implementation, dodging any conflict of interests.
Getting access to a specialized and fiduciary advisor means having a process to ensure you are working on the right things. Ask a butcher, and he will always recommend you add meat to your diet. This might be true, but wouldn't you feel safer hearing this from an unbiased doctor?