My first consulting business never really took off. I started it in 2003 with a former colleague and we were, frankly, naïve. We thought because we were good project and programme managers the work would come to us. A few phone calls. A bit of networking and hey presto, contracts would be signed.
The reality was so different. Some of out early discussions took over a year to come to fruition. Preferred suppliers lists got in the way. And when we did get some work, we were so focussed on delivery that we forgot about sowing the seeds for the next piece of work. We suffered from the 3 biggest challenges that hold businesses back.
- Working in the business , not on the business
- Not dedicating some time on most days to getting and keeping clients
Why are these the BIG three?
Let’s look at each one in turn, and then you’ll understand why I have picked out these challenges.
Working on the business, not in the business
Whatever your business, be it product based or services based, there is no business without a sale. No clients, no business.
Now, when you get a client, you want to make sure they get the best product or service you can deliver. So you focus your efforts on just that. Me and my first business partner did just that. And when the job was done, we were back to square one – without a current buying client.
We spent all our time working in the business delivering for the client and none looking for the next client. I started to realise this when I had a gap between clients and my partner was working on client site for his current client. I could never get any of his time to do stuff to develop the business.
Now a lot of people become business owners because they like doing what they do. They just want to do it for themselves rather than work for someone else’s company a give them all the profit.
But the reality is if you are constantly working in your business, doing the stuff that you like, but not growing it, not constantly finding new clients, hiring staff, putting in processes to make the business efficient and resilient, you will always go from feast to famine. You will always be trading your time for money. You will always be at the coal face.
Not dedicating time to getting and keeping customers
There’s always lots to do in running a business. Whatever line of business You are in you’ll want to keep abreast of the latest developments.
As project and programme management consultants my business partner and me needed to keep up to date with the latest tools and techniques. We had to get to know the latest software in case a client used it or might find it useful.
And then there’s the website to get up and running. There are brochures to write about all those new tools and techniques. And there’s the accounts to do.
The list goes on, but no mention of getting and keeping clients.
You see, we were busy. Very busy. But not with the right stuff. Without clients, all the other stuff was meaningless. Yet we didn’t dedicate any time on a daily basis to finding, getting and keeping clients. It’s the single most important task and we didn’t do enough of it. We certainly didn’t prioritise it.
When my first consulting business was struggling it wasn’t that I didn’t realise we were doing the wrong stuff or that we didn’t know we need to spend time getting clients. It was more that we didn’t really know how to go about things. We didn’t know what to focus on.
So we procrastinated. We kept busy. Very busy. But not in a revenue, or even lead generation, way. We found things to do to avoid the difficult stuuf. The hard conversations.
And this is something I see an awful lot of with businesses I talk to. Procrastination is a bit like an addiction. To deal with it, you first have to admit to it and then seek help. For those that want help, I’m here for you.
How to tackle the BIG 3
Tackling the BIG 3 requires determination and effort. There’s no silver bullet, bio quick fix. You have to commit to doing things differently. After all, you’ll have heard me quote the old saying before:
If you always do what you always did,
You’ll always get what you always got.
A great way to do this is setting aside a specific amount of time each day to work on your business with a focus on getting and keeping clients.
Setting aside 90 minutes a day to build you business can have dramatic results. Nigel Botterill who owns and runs the Entrepreneurs Circle built 8 £1million + businesses using this discipline. He continues to use it today and almost every working day.
I follow this principle in building my businesses. When my business partner decided he’d had enough of our roller-coaster consulting business, we closed it down and I started again, on my own.
The first thing I decided was to learn about, and get better at, marketing. So I signed up for some courses, joined a mini-mastermind group and then joined the Entrepreneurs Circle, where I learned about Nigel’s 90 minutes philosophy.
So as I built my new consultancy, I would do my 90 minutes – split in to two 45 minute chunks corresponding to my training journeys into and out of London. In the mornings I’d craft blog posts, e-mail campaigns and product collateral. In the evenings I would engage my social media audience turning them from followers and connections in to leads and clients.
As a result I have had a near 100% utilisation rate in my new business with very little down time between client assignments. Often I have had training and SharePoint assignments running in parallel to consulting assignments. In fact I’ve often had to turn assignments away because I have had too many commitments.
In short, this stuff works!
From the experiences Nigel and his team learned building those businesses they created the achieve 365 library – a series of Implementation Plans covering virtually every aspect of buildinag, growing and running a business. Each plan comprises a series of checklists, templates and how to videos taking you through the subject step by step.
One of the core Implementation Plans is Getting (Loads) More Stuff Done…. and it’s all about your 90 minutes. If you’d like to find out more about achieve 365 and the Implementation Plans and how I can help you keep yourself motivated and accountable, let’s get a free 30 minute Skype call set up. Click on the link to my calendar below, select the “Achieve 365 30 minute call” option and book that call now:
Allen’s calnder link