Sam Walton, American entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club, famously said:
There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
This is true for retailers, just as it's true for consulting firms.
Your clients are the final arbiters of your financial destiny. It doesn't matter what and how you sell it - strategy, implementation, productized services, training and coaching, information. All of your revenue streams flow down from your clients' pockets.
This doesn't mean you should put them on a pedestal and let them run your firm for you. As Henry Ford said, if he’d asked his customers what they wanted before the first Model T came out of the assembly line, they would have asked him for faster horses.
This is especially true in consulting. You are the one who possesses specific content and process expertise, and who's specialized in solving similar problems to similar companies. More often than not, clients don't know what they don't know.
But as we deliver good work and the firm grows, it's easier for partners to shift their focus inward. They boast about their services, team, and capabilities while forgetting what the primary goal of their business is: to deliver value to clients in a profitable and sustainable way.
And clients' demands change. They request more complex solutions. They want to see results faster. And they are affronted by new challenges, which require different solutions.
Every boutique consulting firm has two options. Get closer to your clients and innovate. Or wait to be fired by them.