Sealing Watertight Doors: Shifting Mindsets for Boutique Consultancy Growth

Don't be surprised when you slide back down.

I remember a call with a prospect who contacted Singular Reach, the marketing agency I used to lead, to support his sales initiatives. In less than 20 minutes, it was clear he was not a good fit for our productized service. The reason: the mentality.

The consultancy sells to mid-size companies in Europe and has positioned itself in a clear market niche. When asked about their previous initiatives, here are some of the things the partner shared:

  • They have always hired people on a commission basis only, refusing to pay them a base fee or offer training;
  • They had invested in scrapping and buying "lists of leads" to get the biggest amount of contacts with the lower possible cost;
  • They had lost information and were currently without a CRM tool, since they saw no need to "pay" for one.

Now, if you have a goal of hitting a six-digit revenue but are reluctant to invest $15 per month in a CRM tool... is there any surprise the company is on its way to the graveyard?

Sometimes you make a bad bet, learn the lesson and change the plan. But the reason a lot of the consultancies we work with aren't getting the results they need is that they are underinvesting. Your present investment isn't getting you the results you need.

After that call, I remembered Alan Weiss' watertight doors.

THEPAC 2014 - Alan Weiss
Credits to the great Alan Weiss

The idea is simple but powerful. As we grow through the stages of our careers, we have to change our mentality to make the best of our resources and continue to grow the business. The way we do that is by changing our habits, behaviors, and beliefs.

If people associate you and your brand with "cheap", you are not in a good place. And as Alan puts it:

The progression I'm talking about isn't merely about money. It's about being "estimable" in your conduct and bearing. It's about being seen as a success by others.

Here are the different steps he uses to illustrate it:

  1. Survive: When we begin our career as independent consultants, usually our biggest concern is to "put food on the table". If your goal is to survive, you will take whatever work you can - especially if you need to provide for your family.
  2. Alive: After acquiring a few clients you can sustain yourself, but your savings are few and bills are still a recurring concern. You have, however, started to build important relationships and can invest in growing the business.
  3. Arrive: Here you have the financial security to be more selective on which clients to work with, and is beginning to become known in your niche. You also see occasional qualified opportunities coming to you, either from referrals or inbound initiatives.
  4. Thrive: When you're a thought leader with a strong brand, all of your opportunities come to you. Prospects ask "How can I work with you?", and fees and credibility are not an issue.

There's nothing wrong if you've adopted a "survival mode" when you first started your consulting practice - maybe that was what you needed at the time. But as you grow, you need to shut the watertight door. Not changing your beliefs and behaviors will slide you and the business back.

Thanks for reading. You can get more specialized and actionable growth insights for micro consultancies in our newsletter. Every Tuesday, you get one idea from Danilo, one quote from other experts, one number you need to hear, and one question for you to level up your consulting practice.

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