The 10 Drivers of a Consulting Business Success

The 10 Drivers of a Consulting Business Success

Part 1

The Drivers of a Successful Consulting Business ⤵️

Whether you’ve been in business for a while and are struggling to get traction, have some traction but are stuck on the revenue roller coaster, or are drowning in client work with no time and capacity to grow the business, these drivers of a successful consultancy will help you create and grow a more profitable, joyful business.

Discover 5 of the 10 drivers of a successful consulting business in this episode of Profitable Joyful Consulting (and stay tuned for the next 5 drivers in a part 2 episode!). Some drivers are more important to focus on than others based on where you are in your business, and I break it all down in this episode.

Key areas discussed in this episode

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 2:24 The three categories most consultants are in when they come to me
  • 5:12 What to focus on when you’re struggling to get traction or drowning in opposite-of-joyful client work
  • 7:05 The biggest determiner of profit and joy in your business
  • 9:50 Cultivating a cohesive business identity that you present to your clients
  • 12:56 Not being everywhere, but being exactly where your perfect potential clients are
  • 15:30 Signing on clients in ways that align with your values

When you start to master these drivers, you’re going to see different results in your business. You’re going to see yourself getting traction, getting off the revenue roller coaster, and coming up for air in your business.

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Podcast Transcript

Hey there, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This season we’ve been talking about all things consulting business success and you may have heard me refer to my 10 Drivers of Consulting Business Success. 

In the background of this show, I have a cataloging system for what I specifically talk about, and each area is something that I’ve identified as things that move the needle, like a driver or a lever of success.

I finally put together a whole list of these for you. Now I’m going to be talking about those 10 drivers today and next week. I’ve broken them into five and five and I’m going to go through them for you, but before I get into them I wanted to share that I have a new free resource that I’ve put together for you. 

It is a self-assessment where you can figure out what all of the drivers are and then assess how your business is doing in each area. It’ll show you the opportunities you have and the gaps you have to close. I think it’s a really fun and informative document. 

You can get the free download at super. It’s actually where I have all of the resources from this show so you may find some other cool things while you’re there. 

Now onto the 10 Drivers of Success. How I came up with these was over the years I’ve been working with small businesses, and then I finally began to really specialize in working with consulting businesses.

They’re unique in that we’re selling services, a lot of times the product is us–we are what we do, and we are the thing that we deliver. Sometimes there’s one of us or there’s a small number of us, and I just saw a lot of commonalities in helping consultants to grow their businesses. 

Now the first thing I want to share with you is I tend to see consultants come to me in 3 general areas. The first one is a consultant who has been in business for a while but is still struggling to get traction, and this can be a single person, or small consultancies. 

I’ve worked with 3 to 5 principal consultants, they’ve come together but their business still doesn’t really have the traction that they want it to have. This means they’re underearning, the structure of the business isn’t what it needs to be for them to be both profitable and joyful. That’s really the first category of consultants I see.

The second one is those who are earning and they have some traction but they’re still stuck on the revenue rollercoaster. It means that they can have a really good month, even as high as a $100K month. But the months after that will not always sustain that amount, and so they’re just experiencing these exhilarating highs, but these terrifying lows.

That unpredictability in business makes it very hard to settle in and feel comfortable and it’s hard really to grow and relax and thrive and flourish. When consultants come to me on the revenue rollercoaster there’s a few specific things that I do and that’s what I’m going to talk about in these drivers.

The last category is the consultant who seems like they’re so successful to everyone else. They are drowning in client work and they have all of the clients they need or want, and the one thing that they don’t have is the time and capacity to grow the business. 

There’s a ceiling stuck on the business because there’s just no place for new clients to go. While it might seem like that’s my dream, right? I want to be booked solid or I want to have tons of clients. We don’t want to limit ourselves to being trapped at the $300,000 mark or the $150,000 dollar mark.

Wherever they are on the Path to $2M that number isn’t the ultimate number that they want to be earning. They want more than that but they can’t get unstuck from that situation. 

So those are the 3 categories that most consultants are in when they come to me. You’ll probably have heard that they identify with being in one or maybe more of those groups. I created the 10 drivers to specifically address when consultants are in that situation.

I’m going to go through the first 5 of the drivers and I’ll tell you when this is a really good driver for you to focus on. When it’s top of mind for you in your business, and then if you take the self-assessment, you’ll also see this is the time when I need to address whichever driver is the most appropriate and fitting. 

Driver #1 Vision: What is the vision for your business and what are we building? If you are in a struggling bucket or a drowning bucket you might feel like, Dude I don’t have time to talk about vision, that feels like a luxury. I don’t even really care about that right now, I just have to get out of the situation that I’m in.

Here’s why vision is actually really important for you. You’ve created something and you’re stuck in it and you don’t know how to get out of it because you don’t have an image of something that is showing you what you need to be moving towards. Vision is an image of what you need to be moving towards.

When clients come to me and they’re like, I can’t stand my business, I don’t like these clients. I’m either bored of it, or sometimes worse I’m really sick of this thing. They could have been drowning in it. A lot of times when somebody comes to me they’ll have been drowning in a business and then pushed a lot of those clients away.

Now they’re in terror about not enough revenues. I will ask them would you go and create the vision for your business, and you’ll remember I’ve done videos about this so I’ll link to those here.

Going through a visioning process and actually clarifying for yourself: What you do want, what you are building, reconnecting with why you started this in the first place, or where you want to be going with the business now, what’s the path forward?

When you find yourself stuck in something that’s not working for you sometimes it’s because you’re not clear on what you’re building. If you feel like I am clear and I’m still stuck then that’s another driver for you.

The question you want to ask yourself here: Are you clear on the business that you’re building and why you’re building it? Is the business that you’re in right now a fulfillment of that or is it not? That’s the first driver.

Driver #2: Perfect Clients: The second driver and this will sound really familiar to you is the biggest determiner of profit and joy in a business, it’s perfect clients. You have to be working with perfect clients. Just as we create a vision for our perfect business, we create a profile, or an avatar that describes clearly our perfect clients. Now why do I need to have something outside myself? I know a perfect client when I see one.

What you are doing is teaching yourself and referral partners and colleagues who’s a perfect client for you so that they recognize them and send them to you. For ourselves sometimes when we have that feeling inside of like I’ll know a perfect client when I see them, then somebody comes along and you’re like I’m excited I like her, this seems really great. Then you work with them and you’re like, Oh I didn’t remember to ask about this, this and this, and it didn’t occur to me that this actually isn’t a fit for my services, etc. You see what I mean?

Having a formal, written-down profile helps you to attract perfect clients and turn down poor-fit clients. We have to have the courage to turn them down and going through the perfect client process will actually embolden you to have courage when the wrong fit client comes along.

So the question on that one: Is everyone that you’re working with a perfect client? I had somebody say to me, are all your clients perfect? I mean you really love all your clients? I was telling her that she needs to be working with perfect clients and I said, “Yeah every single one of my clients that I work with is a perfect fit for my services. Exactly what they need is exactly what I do”

I don’t know that love is the category that we’re looking for here. What I am looking for is Joy. Do I enjoy working with them? Yes. Do I need to go on vacation with them? I mean not necessarily.

Focus on ensuring that exactly what they need is exactly what you do and you’ll enjoy working with them because it’s fulfilling. They appreciate you. They value you, they pay you joyfully and on time. Those are the qualities that you’re looking for.

I’d say love is a bonus. Do I love a lot of my clients? Absolutely, I’m excited to get on the phone with them. I have a great time working with them and I actually might go on vacation with them. When we meet in person I’m delighted to meet and enjoy them in person. So I’d say love is a bonus, but definitely perfect fit and joy are not optional. 

Driver #3: Brand and Messaging: The third driver is brand and messaging. Now my former corporate self says, you need to start with a brand. What are the elements of a brand? Brand contains within itself the target audience. We’ve already pre-covered some of the elements that are required in brand and message. The brand is your business identity. It’s who you work with and what you do for them and the outcomes that you get for them. It’s what you’re known for or known as.

It is the visual identity that you present to your clients. Everything communicates that and when you have a brand all of the aspects of it are sending messages to your perfect clients, and perfect potential clients that you’re the one for them. What kind of posts you do, what kind of marketing materials you create, what kind of website you have. All of those things are part of affirming the business identity and communicating your business identity.

Now I’m including messaging here. That really makes this a pretty big driver because brand and message are a lot. They’re a big component but they both do the same job, which is explaining, teaching, sharing and differentiating for your potential clients who you are and what you do for them.

Many, many years ago I wrote something that was surprising even to myself. I was like when does marketing stop and I thought, well marketing is the process of value identification. That’s when we figure out what is the thing that you do that everyone needs. In order to do that we need to figure out who those potential clients are and what would you do for them, and who needs that.

So value identification is part one of value communication. That’s what all marketing is, right? Then I thought, well then aren’t we done, but we really aren’t. Value delivery is also part of marketing because you’re being the brand. So if the brand and message is making a promise, the experience of working with you is delivering on that promise. That’s the brand and message.

What I need you to think about are: Do I have a distinct identity and am I known in the market for that identity? Do my perfect clients and potential clients know how to talk about what I do in ways that communicate the value and would entice other colleagues of theirs to come and work with me?

Are all the ways you show up in the world for potential clients aligned around a single, clear, compelling business identity? That’s the test of this driver.

Driver #4: Strategic Visibility: I have whole shows on strategic visibility. So this one is really important. We don’t need to be everywhere in the entire world. Ubiquity would be exhausting for someone like us. We’re not the Coca-cola Company, we’re not Apple. We don’t need to be everywhere. You need to be in all of the places where your perfect potential clients expect to see someone like you and could find you.

Where are they gathering so you can communicate messages that get their attention and they know where to find you. That’s the job of strategic visibility. Why is it strategic? Because it’s not ubiquitous, it’s not like we have to be everywhere. It’s that we need to be in certain places where they are.

What is visibility? It’s everything from you showing up on video, in networking situations, at events where they expect to see you, on social media, and even to things like appearing in their inbox. When your newsletter or follow-up email appears in someone’s inbox, that’s you being visible. When you reach out through a DM, when you are sending a handwritten thank you note, or any of the myriad ways that you can be visible with someone. Those are all visibility opportunities.

Think expansively about what visibility is for you, and then be strategic about your actions. What are the things that you can do to be visible?

Having said this I would say all of us are about 50% as visible as we should be. So if you can think of someone on social media, or in general media and you’re like, oh my gosh I’m so sick of seeing you, you’re the opposite. You are probably getting messages from people in your audience like, oh I didn’t know you existed, I’ve never heard of you until now.

If you have ever heard that best-kept secret kind of thing, which is super annoying, then that means it’s time to be more visible. It’s a growth edge for most people and that we need to be courageous and push ourselves just beyond the boundary of comfort because that’s probably how visible you need to be. 

Driver #5: Selling with Integrity: We have talked about our own identity and what we want to create in the world. Working with perfect clients. Being more visible. When you bring everyone to you there is an opportunity to invite them to partake of your services, right? We want to be able to sell.

I call it selling with integrity because for so many consultants, the sales piece is really yucky and distasteful and gross. I only occasionally meet other women who also love selling. I love selling. Why do some of us love to sell? It’s because we understand and we think about it in a way that is different from those who hate selling, or think they hate selling.

If I were to share with you that it is figuring out what your potential client needs, and doing discovery calls in which we’re really discovering. You’re not pushing anything you’re discovering: What’s going on with you? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their struggles? What do they wish things were like and that they aren’t like right now?

When you hear: that’s actually stuff I know how to help you with, then you can make offers to them, and offering is selling. So I distinguish marketing, which to me is teaching and offering, that is selling. I think that for a lot of people what selling feels like is the potential for rejection, and that’s terrifying.

If it’s not a fit for them, it’s okay if they say no, you’re going to discern that in discovery calls. This is selling with integrity. I’m discerning if there is a fit. If I see a fit and I think, I can help you with that, here’s how I would help you with that. If they then say no for whatever reason that’s okay, it wasn’t meant to be.

Your opportunity is to figure out how to sell in alignment with your values. I don’t want you to close everybody. This isn’t like, “always be closing.” This is to invite select companies to work with you and if they’re a fit they’ll say yes. If they don’t say yes, I want you to never feel like they should have said yes. I want you to feel like it wasn’t a fit. It turned out I thought it was and they didn’t and that is okay. Then we find more.

Having an abundance mentality and offering with non-attachment to the outcome is part of selling with integrity. If you feel like, I rock at sales, or I enroll all of the clients who I think are really, really a perfect fit for my services, that’s the standard I want you to look at.

If you close only a certain percentage whereas somebody else thinks they should close like 90%, that’s not how we do things here. I want you to close everyone who you feel like should be working with you because they’re a perfect fit and it would be a joy to work with them. 

You can hear that those 5 drivers are thinking about things in different ways than traditionally consultants have thought about how they should do their work. I want to offer that when you start to master those drivers, you’re going to see different results in your business.

You’re going to see yourself getting traction. You’ll see yourself getting off of the revenue roller coaster, and you’ll see that you are able to create capacity so that you’re not drowning in your business.

One of the ways that we create capacity is we stop working with the wrong fit clients. Not a value judgment. Everybody’s wonderful, but some people are not your client. In part 2 of this when I talk about the next 5 drivers, we’ll get a little more into ways to create capacity in your business.

Before I do, I just want to share with you a client who recently said to me, “Sam, I’m off the rollercoaster.” I almost burst into tears because I knew how important this was to him. I knew what work and what courage it had required to get off the revenue roller coaster. You have to propose different things, you have to sell differently, you have to choose clients with a different selection criteria.

I won’t say promise even though I feel like I can promise, but I want to offer you because I know people are skeptical about this, but it is possible to smooth out the revenue rollercoaster to create capacity in your business. And to get on the Path to $2M wherever along that path you choose to be. More on that in the next episode.

If you haven’t yet be sure to visit super and download the list of the 10 Drivers and take the self-assessment. Find out how you’re doing in your business against the 10 Drivers.

All right and with that I am wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting business. I’ll see you in part 2 of the episode.

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