|If the answers to these questions and many more like them are not crystal clear to you, be prepared to become another statistic; and depending on which statistics you read small business failure rates are anywhere between 30% and 90% within the first 3-5 years.
SO DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A STATISTIC?
Well if you haven’t addressed some simple foundations for establishing and running your own sales consultancy you have already unwittingly taken that decision.
So here are 10 things you must know BEFORE you open for business.
1. Know why you are setting up your own consultancy
What are the reasons you have decided to set up your own consultancy? Is it to improve the sales processes of blue chip companies? Is it to make a million by the time you are 40? Is it to have 100% control of your life? Know your REAL reasons, as these will be your foundation for how you set up and manage your business.
2. Know how your business and your life interconnect
You are one person. That may seem obvious. Yet many people act as though they have a work life and a personal life and never the twain shall meet. I don’t know anyone who sets up their own business with the intention of working harder, spending more hours away from their family, friends and hobbies and being more stressed and pressured.
So before day one of your new business, plan exactly how you want your work and non-work time to integrate. There may be compromises along they way yet again, this up front thinking will act as a good foundation for making decisions when times are fraught.
3. Know what part you want to play in your business
When you worked for someone else, you were the Sales Manager or the HR Director and that was it. You had one set of accountabilities with one set of targets/objectives and were compensated accordingly.
When you run your own business, there are many roles that need to be fulfilled and you can do all of them or some of them. However, you are accountable for all of them; finance, admin, sales, marketing, operations, service delivery and more.
Just “doing the consultancy” is the delivery of your business. You need to consider and plan the whole structure of your business, so you plan to work on your business and in your business. For further reading on this subject I recommend The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
4. Know why you have a consultancy that is different
Be clear what specific results you deliver for your clients and how that’s different from other consultants in your field. Phrases like “We believe in working with our clients to deliver to their specific needs” and “we offer excellent service to grow your business” are too generic. As a client I would expect both those things, as standard and the phrases don’t tell me what you can actually do for me.
Differentiation is key; be it what and/or how you deliver. The more focused you are in what you do, the more likely it is that
You become a specialist in achieving consistent results in your chosen specialist areas
You become known for what you do
You know what to say yes to and what to say no to in terms of new business and activity
5. Know what you and your business stand for
What is the purpose of your business? What are the guiding principles by which you will manage your business? What are the core values by which you will do business? What is it about what you want to achieve that makes you stand apart from your competitors?
What is the boldest, outrageous and provocative statement you can make in your field/sector/target market?
Know what you stand for and when you develop your marketing plan, you will already have some clear thinking to construct powerful messages.
6. Know what the profile is of your ideal client
“I do anything for anyone”, simply puts you in the “same as/so what” pot with every other consultancy.
If you have a generic broad offering to a broad audience
it is difficult to stand out
it is difficult to be “attractive” to potential clients
it is difficult to become known
it is difficult for other people to recommend and refer you
By being clear about your ideal client and defining a clear profile of them, you will be able to
create more targeted marketing
know what to say yes to and what to say no to
attract more clients that are ready to buy, rather than having to “sell” to clients that are not ready
“I work with manufacturing SMEs in the south of England” is better than
“I work with SMEs” and
“I work with UK software companies looking to expand into Eastern Europe” is better than “I work with IT companies”
Each of the better phrases tell me specifically the kind of company you work with, so I am more likely to be able to think of people I know that I can refer you to.
7. Know what benefits you will add to your ideal clients
You first need to know who your ideal client is. You then need to know what benefits your service offers that solve the pain of your ideal clients. Your clients are interested in solving their problems, not how great you are. Know their problems, know the benefits of how and what you do helps them solve their problems and you are already a cut above the rest.
So building on the 2 examples above, you might say
“I work with manufacturing SMEs in the South of England to reduce their sales cycle time by 30%” or
“I work with UK software companies looking to expand into Eastern Europe to create effective cross cultural work teams”
8. Know how you will lead and manage your business
In point 3, I talked about knowing what role you want to play in your business. You also need to consider how you will lead and manage your business. Irrespective of whether you intend to remain a solo business owner or whether you intend to hire people, you need to be clear about the direction, structure and operation of your business. You need to decide how; day to day you want the business to function.
9. Know what support you will need to make your business succeed
“I don’t need any help” – the first step to long hours, stagnated thinking and raised blood pressure. So get your ego out of the way and acknowledge you will need help. That help may range from an accountant and phone answering service to a range of alliances/partners to complement your services and skills, to a full employed staff situation. In deciding what you need and how you can arrange it, you need to be clear about points 2, 3 and 8.
10. Know that you must have clarity around the above 9 points if you have any chance of truly succeeding rather than just surviving
You want to run a successful consultancy and reap the rewards that managing your own business can bring. That’s why you are considering leaving or have already left the corporate world.
Many consultants fail because they start out
Making incorrect assumptions
With no planning
Thinking it’s ALL about making money – anyway and anyhow
Believing that they’ll just do what they did in their corporate role and forget that they have to run a business as well as do business
Consultants have been called many things, many of which are unrepeatable here! So what can you achieve that will change the face of consulting? What is it that you can provoke, challenge and innovate that will mean as a consultant, you
Create value and not just add value
Change behaviours and not just reinforce behaviours
Challenge conventional thinking and not just agree with conventional thinking
Innovate in what you offer and not just imitate with what you offer
Define and measure results and not just talk about results
The world doesn’t need another “same as” Sales, HR, IT or Marketing consultant. The world does need challengers, innovators, success driven inspirers who can help their chosen ideal clients take their businesses One Step Further.
© Beverley Hamilton 2006
About the Author
Beverley Hamilton, MD of One Step Further, helps Consultants grow a profitable consultancy and still have time for a life. To get a free 5 part ecourse – Discover the 5 Most Common Incorrect Assumptions Independent Business Consultants Make, go to www.OneStepFurther.co.uk. You can contact Beverley on +44 (0)1344 625713 or firstname.lastname@example.org .