Today, almost every fast-growth consulting business invests time and energy in developing a key resource: intellectual property assets.
What exactly is an asset? The best definition I found is from Daniel Priestley, for whom a business asset is "anything that would still be valuable if you and your team disappeared".
Chances are your consulting business has (or at least, should have) a variety of assets. These include offering assets, brand assets, financial assets, and so on. Intellectual property (IP) assets are for many firms the most important.
These are the many ideas that you have documented into text, videos, audio, code, and methodologies over time. The advantages are many - a client can read more about your work and thoughts, an employee or collaborator can learn how to follow a given process, and so on. And, of course, they are scalable whenever documented in a digital version.
When I diagnose or look into my clients' IP assets, there are 3 categories I look at: Content, methodology, and registered intellectual property.
Content includes books, reports, podcasts, blogs, videos, and so on. It has a double use for consultants: First, creating content helps you better articulate ideas and think more clearly. Second, it's a tool to generate visibility and opportunities.
Although we're currently experiencing an overdose of content (due to the incredibly cheap cost to produce it), it's still an immensely valuable asset. As long as your content speaks directly to your audience and is what they're looking for, people will consume it. Sharing expertise and insight is how you earn trust in scale.
A methodology is a specific way to generate an outcome. Your consulting business might have more than one, and they can be documented as checklists, frameworks, diagrams. They can sometimes be coded into software that reproduces the methodology automatically - many firms use some kind of program to collect and process data for their diagnosis, for example.
There's not a single rule to follow here. Some consultants will openly share their methodologies, using them in marketing initiatives. Other firms will keep methodologies confidential, with frameworks and tools that can only be used by the internal team to deliver client work. No matter your choice, every consultant would benefit from documenting their methodologies.
If you want it to be legally defensible, you must register your IP. This could involve registering your business name as a trademark with a government body. Or even, at a more advanced level, filing for patents and registering offering names, slogans, or logos trademarks.
I believe these are more important for consulting partners that have the goal of selling their firm in the future. Any buyer will want to make sure you own and can protect your business’s intellectual property. Even if it's not your case, registered IP is an overlooked mine of gold and can easily become a new source of income for you.