Yesterday I wrote about the importance of consciously picking a game to play on. How you choose to define work success determines what and how you deliver value, build and grow your consulting practice, and make the decisions that matter the most. To do that, however, you often need to get rid of assumptions most people believe as true.
When you live in the paycheck world and work as an employee, for example, a career path is a familiar idea:
- You start as an individual contributor - junior consultant, analyst, or whatever it is that you do. You produce something that is used for others in the company.
- Then you move to a management position, where you need to ensure work gets done well, on time, and under budget. You have some kind of leverage now since a good manager can raise the productivity of everyone under them.
- Then you might move into a senior management position, or even into an executive position - where you have the authority to take strategic decisions that might impact the whole company.
The career path is a useful concept for the majority (at least for now) of the population. It is based on things like your job title. The total budget you control. The number of people reporting to you.
The thing is: Using any of these to measure your progress as a founder makes no sense whatsoever. You can be a one-man consultancy and give yourself the title of CEO. Does it really change anything?
Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater though. The career path is not suited for us, but rejecting those mental models doesn't help us either. Each of us does have personal preferences and interests, and we need to feel like we are growing.
That's why I believe before anything - any strategic planning, growth initiative, change in your business model - each consultancy founder should invest time into identifying how exactly they want to measure success in their work and career.
It might be wealth and equity value. It might be net profit after taxes in your pocket. It might be employing, managing, and developing other people. It might be funding a desired lifestyle while affording discretionary time and location independence. Most of the time, it's a combination of those.
And those are the elements that you will use to create your own, personal career path. Something you can use to measure progress and feel proud of your achievements. Something that will guide your business decisions.
First, you invent the game. Only then you can keep the score.