Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Building Blocks to Consulting Success

I'm a regular reader of a blog written by Andrea' Coutu, a marketing consultant in Vancouver, BC. Andrea' made a recent post to her blog about Successful Consulting Business: 5 Building Blocks.

One of the many goals of Treasure Valley Consultants' Network is to help the membership avoid some common traps or pitfalls that limit our chances of success through the blog and educational topics we provide during our meetings. I encourage you to read the full post, but here is a brief outline along with my personal commentary on her 5 Building Blocks:

  1. Planning - "fail to plan, plan to fail" as the old saying goes. One of the complaints I hear often from entrepreneurs and some consultants is that they hate planning. The common excuse is that they can't see anymore into the future than the weatherman can, so why should they write a business plan or marketing plan? The point of writing such plans is to keep you honest and firm on your commitment to your business. It's almost like a contract. Your plan documents what you are going to do, so are you willing to break a deal with yourself? What I tell people is this: business plans and marketing plans are not written in stone. You can always go back and alter it based on the conditions of the business climate.
  2. Credit - what is your policy on credit? You have to make sure you get paid for your services. Unfortunately, some consultants have been taken advantage of by clients. Invoice regularly, require initial deposits, do whatever to make sure you get paid for your work.
  3. Marketing - I talk a lot about this topic as it relates to consultants. Bottom line is you need to market yourself in order for people to find you, get to know and trust you and eventually hire you for your services.
  4. Accounting - mind on your money, and your money on your mind. Set up a system for accounting. Always know how much is coming in and what is going out in the way of expenses. If this is not your cup of tea, then find a good bookeeper.
  5. Selling - this should really be a sub-set of marketing. This is another topic I talk a lot about, mostly because it is the one business function I dislike the most. Fortunately, I changed my mindset about selling and I see it now more as a consultative, honest, open, real conversation with another person. I learn about their needs and what interests them. If what I have meets those needs and piques his or her interest, I'm on my way!
There is, however, one more building block that is important. That block is legal. Recently a friend told me that he ran into a legal hassle over his contract with a client. The client ended up not paying for more than 20 hours worth of work. I didn't get into the details with my friend over the contract dispute as I knew it upset him, but the lesson learned is to make sure you have a contract in place that is difficult to dispute. It spells out what your roles and responsibilities are to the client and vice versa. It may cost you a little money, but seek out an attorney to help you with your consulting contract. In the end, it may be money well spent.

Take a moment to read Andrea's blog post and browse the rest of her blog. For someone who's been in the business for 10 years, she has a lot of advice to share on how to be a successful consultant.


Andrea > Become a Consultant said...

Thanks for the mention. I'd lumped legal into those other areas, but I can see why you saw the need to split it out. I must say that good legal and credit planning are very important. I've taken two clients to court for not paying. I won both times and I couldn't have done it without my documentation, planning and knowledge of the law. Those are the only two who ever got away with being more than a month or two late in paying -- and I managed to get the money with interest.

Justin Beller said...

Another aspect to legal, Andrea, is liability. Two things come to mind - errors and omissions and anything having to do with personal safety. Those examples may make legal its own category.