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Episode 237: Being a Go-To Source of Knowledge and Wisdom for Your Market—with Terry Chevalier

Episode 237: Being a Go-To Source of Knowledge and Wisdom for Your Market—with Terry Chevalier

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So, on this podcast, we are going to be talking about how to stay on top of the industry or industries that you work in such that you can offer amazing value to clients. And then we're also going to talk about how to make sure that you are generously sharing value, which will increase clients' desire to work with you, but also increase your visibility. I brought on someone who does this pretty much better than a lot of folks I've seen. Terry Chevalier shares how he does this in the industries that he works in. And then we'll also talk a little bit about some of the skills and knowledges that you can develop that will make you valuable regardless of what industry you're talking about. So, let's get started. I want to welcome to my show today, Terry Chevalier. Terry, welcome to the show.

Terry Chevalier: Thanks, Deb. Great to be on. Thanks for letting me join you and your listeners.

Deb Zahn: You bet. So, let's start off, tell my listeners what you actually do.

Terry Chevalier: Well, I am the owner and managing director and sole employee of Sunstone Associates, which is my own firm. So, I provide management consulting and advisory support. But primarily what I do is I work with clients who are owners or leaders of small to lower middle market companies, primarily in telecommunications but not limited to it.

I also act as a pathfinder. And so what do I mean by that is every company has some sort of vision and a plan. And I have found in the course of my career, there's normally three problems. Number one is they have a vision, but they actually don't have a plan. And so you need to write it down.

Number two is you've got a vision and a plan, but you have no money. So you need to raise the capital either through private or public sources to get it. Or the third thing is you've got a plan, you've got the money, but things just aren't working. And so you need somebody to come in and provide that sort of support. So, that's generally what I do with my clients.

Deb Zahn: I love that. I love how you can come in at different sort of life cycles of reality and say, "Yeah, I can help solve that."

Well, what I thought we could do is one of the things that's always impressed me about you is you really stay on top of your market and then the niches within your market, sort of the segments of those and very wisely look at opportunities to help, which is what consultants of any type in any industry, that's what they should be doing. And so I thought it would be helpful, and we can use telecommunications as an example of that, knowing that you do that in other industries too. But you have described to me before and in no way surprises me that it's a dynamic, volatile, there might be other words that people use to describe it, but it's an industry where there's a whole lot going on and not as much clarity and clear path as everybody would hope. So, at a high level, what does that actually look like? When you look around, what are you actually seeing?

Terry Chevalier: So, that's a great question and I think, yeah, so with telecom, one of the things is you have this interesting intersection of an industry where you have significant amounts of regulation and politics going on. You've got technology, different types of technology. You have different customer segments that are going on from urban, what's happening inside the city to outside in the rural, you have enterprises, you have consumers, you have businesses, and then, at the backdrop of all this, you've just got macroeconomic effects, capital raising, things like that because it's a very infrastructure heavy business. So, there's a lot of capital at stake. And how you think about how do you create value in that business, which is primarily dividends. That's the big thing, versus a growth stock, and these dynamics of different players in the ecosystem. And I've got vendors over here who are creating stuff and I've got people who are buying it. I've got service providers. I've got back-office people. I've got infrastructure places. So, there's all these different dynamics that are going on with that. In terms of how you track that, honestly, there's a few different things that you have to do. Number one, there's a lot of reading. And one of the things I love about being an independent consultant is when I come in the morning, I can lay out what I'm going to do for that day. Obviously, I have client work that I want to make sure that I get done, but if I want to take time and I want to go download a notice of proposed rulemaking from the Federal Communications Commission and read it and understand it, well, I can do that. When I was working for other people and I had a W2, I mean, I had to do the day job and many times I was burned out by the time you get to the single space, Times New Roman font, one-inch margins of an FDC document.

But as you read it, what you're trying to do is just start to think about how is this going to work? How is this going to be played out? And you have to think about different constituencies. For example, there's a big issue, and I don't necessarily want to get into net neutrality because a lot of people have a lot of strong opinions on it, but as you read it, you have to think about what are the practical implications of this? If you're a broadband provider, what are you going to have to do differently? If you're a big company, what is that going to cost? If you're a consumer, what does that mean for you? If you're within a state broadband office, what do you have to do? And as you begin to think through these things, you begin to paint a picture of what kind of implications this could have. And from that, you could start to figure out are there opportunities to help people in that?

Deb Zahn: I love that. And it's so funny as I'm listening to you, so I don't know anything about telco at all, but as I'm listening to you, I could replace that with healthcare, which is where I am, and I could look at that in a very similar way and say heavily federally regulated, a lot of players, a lot of different things going on. And when I was working in it, it was exactly true what you just said is it's hard to keep your head above the den of your to-do list and what you have immediately in front of you to pay attention to the larger landscape and say, what's coming, what might hurt us, what might actually help us?

Again, one of the benefits of a consultant is that there is somebody who can have that larger vision and knowledge base that if you're the head of a company and you're just trying to make payroll or you're just trying to get through the day with putting out as many fires as you can, you don't have the bandwidth for that.

Terry Chevalier: You don't. And on top of that, if you're putting yourself in the owner, the CEO's position, on top of that, you may not know what you don't know.

Deb Zahn: Right.

Terry Chevalier: An example of that is I was going through, there's this big program, it's called BEAD, Broadband Equity Access and Deployment, which is going to deliver, depending on your estimate, it's actually $41.6 billion that's going to the states and territories in order to deliver broadband, generally fiber like speeds to areas that are unserved. And every state's got a different portion. And historically, all money from the Fed has gone through the FCC or USDA or some of these other federal agencies. Well, they changed that. It's actually going down the states. And so it's a wild west as you go through it. And I was looking at how one state was planning to award this money.

It's very different, I think, than what people are used to. They don't realize that, OK, in the past, I write a grant, I submit it, I get approved, I'm done. I just maximize my score, and I'm done. Well, this one has rounds, it has a second round. Well, now, I've got an option. Yeah, I have a game theory dynamic, and I just don't think that many owners understand that this is coming and that concerns me because they are actually in the best position to help these folks who need this connectivity. But if they don't get the money, it could very well go to somebody who maybe doesn't have the best interests in mind.

Deb Zahn: That's right or isn't going to execute well, or dot, dot dot, so many things could go awry. You sit because you're in charge of your day, benefit of being an independent consultant. So, you read, what else do you do to stay on top of what's going on? Again, not just for the overall industry, but even once you mentioned rural, which we've talked about, even when you get down into segments where that's a whole different world, how do you start to tease out again in a way that somebody who's in it might not be able to? What's really going on that actually might help or hurt them?

Terry Chevalier: So, if I can step back, I mean, really what we're talking about is fundamentals of research, and research sources, in my view, in my training come in two different ways. We have primary and secondary, so a secondary resource are things like the FCC document where I'm going to go read something, news articles from influencers that I see, looked on LinkedIn, people who are posting interesting things. Primary research is when I'm going to talk to people, I'm going to go pull data, I'm going to get my hands dirty. So, in those instances, what I'm looking for is a couple of different things. Ideally, if I've identified who are the people who are most affected in that segment, I'm going to go talk to them. I'm going to find ways to talk to them.

I'm going to reach out to them from LinkedIn. I'm going to find people in my network. But the other thing that I find that's really important is to have a set of trusted partners who are closer to other elements of the network if you will, I know several people in Washington DC and I talk to them frequently because I want to say, what's the latest on this bill? When is this going to go through? Do we think this thing is going to get funded? Because if it doesn't get funded, it's going to hose up a whole bunch of people, and you find, well, there's politics and this, and this is the priority of this person over here.

Or you want to talk to people who are connected with specific vendors and seeing what technologies are really going forward, what are the problems that people are beginning to have, the obstacles to deployment? As you go through those and you start collecting your thoughts, it doesn't take long before you start to build a picture. And I think that this is where it's important to start writing it down. I literally will say, "I believe this is going to happen, and here's the points of why I believe this is going to happen from what I've learned, and the implications of that are X, Y, and Z, which means my clients need to do these things to be ready for it."

Deb Zahn: Right. Well, and of course, you're saying things that are beautifully and gorgeously organized. There's a lot of consultants that would go out there and be like, "Yeah, I found out a bunch of stuff and I'm going to hurl whatever out when it seems appropriate to do it." But one of the things I love about what you do is you organize and frame that information and intel so that it's digestible and understandable, and particularly in terms of what it means, what the implications are, timing, everything. So, I'd love to talk a little bit, because one of the first things I saw from you is a sort of regular publication that you did where I looked at it and I thought, why doesn't someone come do that in my sector? Darn it. So, talk a little bit about what does that look like? Why do you do it and who's it directed towards?

Terry Chevalier: Sure. Sure. No, I appreciate that. Thank you. If I can just be honest with you, it's part of just my core DNA since I can remember. So, I'm one of those weird kids who knew what he wanted to be when he grew up when I was eight. Originally when I was six, it was mechanical engineering. Eight, I got to electrical engineering and I didn't change majors again. But my whole point was I wanted to be the bridge. I wanted to be the person who could explain technical issues to the business and business issues to the technical and be that person to help bring those together. And so, for example, you mentioned the specific element here was I mentioned there was this one program.

I started looking into this because I said, "There's a lot of my clients who are wanting to go get federal money." The more I looked into it, it was incredibly confusing. It was all over the place. How do you begin to think about it? And so I said, "If I was in their shoes, I would really like to have some sort of simple way to simply look and say, what's out there? What's already passed? What's open? How much is it? What's for me? What's for other people? And then how would I go about doing it?" And so it took a little bit of iteration obviously, but started to boil that down to first a one page and say, what does that one page look like?

And then as I built the one page, I said, "Well, if I was to double click on something, what would I want to know?" And so then I built out the next piece of it and the next piece. And then over time, as you've noted, there's been other programs that came along. They have different nuances. I've done different pieces about those. And I generally just share those with potential clients, with potential partners, influencers within my industry, but with the whole intent to be helpful. And there's a joy that comes for me of taking massive amounts of complexity and making it very simple for somebody.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. You mentioned also the generosity piece of it, which is this is not something where you've said, “OK, I'm only going to give this to someone if they give me a bunch of money.” And it's not bad to have a product. I am a big fan of products, but this is extraordinarily generous and I built my entire consulting business off of generosity, so I know how powerful it is. But for somebody who would just be lost in the wilderness, absent having something like this, this would be a lifesaver. And folks can't see it now, but I feel like we should put a link to it in the show notes. But it does. It takes this tremendously complex information visually with visuals and copy, breaks it down so that if I was going into a leadership meeting at a company, I could say, "I got enough of this that I at least know what's the first gate of decisions that we need to think through. And then for the love of God, bring Terry in so we can make the rest of the decisions."

Terry Chevalier: Sure. Absolutely. No, and it's ironic, because as I've shared this, it's led to where I've had state broadband personnel reach out to me and say, "Hey, I really like the way you laid this out. Would you be OK if I use it?" I'm like, "Yeah, please be my guest." I've had invites from different trade organizations come in and do a presentation just to lay these things out. And all of these create more opportunities. It creates more brand awareness about me and what I do. But at the end of the day, you're right, it's a useful tool for folks. Now, candidly, as we're getting to this point, that BEAD program I mentioned, that's taking on, that's pretty much going to be it, but you've got 56 programs if you count all the eligible territories in state that are going to go forward with that.

And so keeping up is going to be a little bit more challenging. But yeah, things like that. As an example, when I think about telecom, I want people to understand that it's a massive industry and there's sort of what people think about the AT&T's and T-Mobile's and Verizon on my cell phone. There is the AT&Ts and Frontiers and CenturyLink, well, not CenturyLink anymore, it's a Brightspeed, the broadband connection. There's all these other things that people don't know about, but every one of them has their own set of issues that pops up. What's going on in what I call mobility your cell phone world is very different than what's going on right now in the broadband world and what's happening to the home. They're related, but they're quite different. And similar thing, we had a big federal auction a few years back for wireless spectrum.

I created a very detailed analysis of that because I've actually been the bidder. I know how bidding works in these auctions, and I'm able to convey information about, well, it's clear that this operator actually wanted this much spectrum because I look at the bid pattern and I explain how people are doing it and what the implications of all this were for folks. And again, these things, at the end of the day, they give me a level of joy, but they're helpful to people. And as long as you can fit them in with the client work, I think they're a great thing for folks to do because there's just so much great stuff and all the consultants out there in their brains, they just need to get it out.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and because we're also talking to so many people, which is not going to be true for everybody we work with, we're also getting insights and intel from across the spectrum, which is extraordinarily useful. But I want to hit upon quickly because you were talking about market segments, or for consultant, if you're thinking about niches, and I think this is where consultants need to think very deliberately for exactly the reason you said, so I translated that into the healthcare world. Let's say I'm even talking about providers, people who are entities that provide healthcare, forget medical device, forget all the vaccine, pharmacy, forget all of that. But even folks that provide healthcare, if you're a small struggling rural hospital, you have completely different issues than an academic medical center that has many more opportunities for cash and capital than a struggling rural provider.

If you're mental health services or you provide community health, it's so, so, so different, which is why knowing that and knowing who do I think I can truly be most helpful to, and it's OK to work across them as long as you can bring the depth and breadth that will actually serve them best. But for most people, you're going to pick a few, you pick one, you pick two, you maybe pick three to go at the level of depth that you're talking about.

Terry Chevalier: That's true. And I guess the thing I would just build onto that is you may walk in and you say, "I don't know where to start. It's just massive." So, the first thing you want to do is actually put some level of structuring around it. How am I going to structure? Is it based upon size? Is it urban, rural? Is it type of service for example? So, mental health versus other forms of health, is it public? Is it private? There's this Rubik's cube that you can begin to do, but then you figure out, OK, where do I want to test? And when I say test is I want to go look at just enough to understand what's going on, what are the key trends, what are the issues going on?

Can I craft a few offers and use that to at least get in front of people to test and get some feedback? And very quickly, you're going to start finding that there are certain areas of that market that work for you and others that don't. And once they don't, take them off, it's nothing personal. It's just that you only have so many hours on this earth and you've got to focus on where they're going to be most productive. And as you go through this, you're going to start to identify, and it's OK if you have more than one. I think we all here as a consultant, you want to have a niche. And I totally agree with that.

But at the same time, sometimes to get to your niche, you have to be testing a few things. And the other thing from a diversification like I'm seeing right now in the telecom sector, the cellular world is in a sort of call it a bit of a downturn because all the 5G spending has really dried up. But meanwhile, rural broadband or just general broadband is really high because of all the federal money coming in. And so if you've got your irons in a few different places that seem to work for you, then that's the way you can create some level of stability or at least in terms of potential for your pipeline.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And when I think about how, so when I picked my first niche, I did it, where I basically said, where do folks know me? Because I had a few initial really embarrassing conversations where I said I was a healthcare consultant, which is essentially meaningless. And I didn't want to have those embarrassing conversations anymore. I liked to have any self-esteem intact. So, I thought, where do folks know me? Where can I get meetings and where do I have results that I can point to? And that became the first area I worked in. But interesting how my second niche came on board was because that provider sector and the original provider sector started to mingle a little bit, they started to, I wait, why does that sector get all the goodies? How do we get that goodies? We need to understand that sector more.

If I hadn't been able to play that sort of interpreter role that you talked about, I would've shut myself off from a whole bunch of different business that I could have gotten to the point now where that second sector is one of my largest niche, because I learned how to serve them, I learned more about them. I had to do some more research because I wasn't as used to them. But I knew what they cared about and what they cared about changed over time.

Terry Chevalier: Of course. And the thing I love about what you just said there, Deb, and I think people get it, but maybe they don't get it sometimes is it always starts with the customer. It always starts with the client. I've got to understand my client. I've got to know what's going through their head. And if I'm not talking to the client, I got to find a way to get to the client to talk to them. A lot of folks figure out I've got to have the offer out the door and it's got to work. It doesn't work that way. Developing an offer takes time because what you're really trying to do, and going back to sort of the servant's heart is really, where's the pain? Where's the best pain? And where's an overlap with something that I can take the pain across?

You don't find that out immediately. And frankly, there's a level of trust you have to build with folks over time. And I think that comes back to offering things, doing things with intent to actually be helpful, helps build up that relationship. And just something else in terms of what you said, I agree. I think the other thing that happens, which I've found, which has started to be a little bit of another sort of diversification outside my industry, is as I started working with owners, I started to see a specific need. And that need was for owners. The stats are horrible about how many of them successfully exit their business.

Deb Zahn: Ouch. Yeah.

Terry Chevalier: It's like 80%. In a year on any year, 70 to 80% of owners never can get the deal across the line. There's all kinds of reasons why. And as I started to study this because it was brought to me because I deal with a lot of small companies owners, and I help them in that process. Well, that same skillset isn't limited to telecommunications. Now, you can take that same skillset and you can help owners in other sorts of industries because it's all the same thing. It's about understanding your goals, understanding where you are, relative to that, what a transaction looks like, what different types of exits might look like, what you need to have done, what a process looks like, how do you value your business? And so to your point, as you're exploring your niche, you're developing skills. Those skills may not be limited to your niche. Those skills could be the foundation of something even bigger.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and to recognize that when you see it so that you don't just get locked into, like if you have a niche, sure you have more than one niche, it's not a trap, it's not a jail cell, it's a place to start to make things helpful for you. And so you can serve very specifically, but the freedom that you're talking about of saying, hey, wait a minute, who else could this be helpful to that I could bring this to is huge. So, I think of you as the Swiss army knife of consultants, and I say that as someone who has tremendous respect for Swiss army knives. I've used every single tool that's in them at least once. But aside from some of what you're talking about, what sort of knowledge and skills do you see apply? Doesn't matter what kind of industry, doesn't matter if it's for-profit, nonprofit, none of that.

Terry Chevalier: Kind of a funny story on that is this was years ago and I was working inside, I was inside a big Fortune 100 company strategy and I was sitting down with the senior vice president of strategy, very smart guy, and he was asking me, he said, "Terry, I really want to find, is there a single framework that will solve every strategic problem?" I mean, it's a fair question. It's like this unified field theory of strategy.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Terry Chevalier: And I said, "Honestly, no." There is not a single framework. There is a process though that works and the process is consistent. And the first piece of that is you write a really good problem statement. You get clear about what the problem is and define what success looks like from the get go. So, before you lift your pen to start going into Excel or doing PowerPoint or doing interviews or what have you, get clear and everybody's in agreement about what success looks like on the other end, that's so important.

Deb Zahn: Oh, my gosh.

Terry Chevalier: Once you've done that, then you actually say, OK, what's important? What are the things, what are the questions I need to do? And there's all kinds of frameworks of different ways to do this, but some people like to do questions, some people like to do hypothesis statements, doesn't matter. But what you're trying to do is get clarity about what things in order to get to that thing that you said is really important, what do we need to know and what do we need to answer? And then you figure out, well, how do I go do that? Because oftentimes it's difficult. And then you go do the work and you come back, and at the end of the day, you always have a set of options. And I always tell people, there's always options, and the options are not left or right. There's always gray area in between. It's how you structure them and you have a conversation about the options and what works.

And then once you have that, then you can begin to create the path. And then once you think about the path, you have to think about the practicalities of doing it. And I say this with all due respect to some of the big firms that are out there, I have found that so many have not had to be on the execution side, that they may not fully appreciate... And they're very good. And let me be clear, they can run circles around me on some of the things they do, but I've spent the vast majority of my career as sort of the knuckle dragon ops guy or the guy who got handed the PowerPoint when the consultant left.

And so I tell you all these things that there are skill sets, framing a problem, defining what success is, getting alignment as a team about what that looks like, thinking through priorities, thinking through, well, how would I get answers? I don't know, but let's go talk to people and figure out how we can figure this out. And then coming up and how you lay out options and then coming up with a plan that's actually reasonable. All of those are what I call soft skills, but they're critical and they're the things that everybody can bring to bear.

Deb Zahn: And you can get better over a time at doing them. So, I just want to hit on the first one you said, which is defining the problem and what success looks like. So, the first two things, I cannot tell you how many times either I've come in after another consultant or I'm on a team and I'm supposed to come in later or something like that. And those two steps never got done. And I can tell they never got done because if you separated all the leaders alone in rooms and asked those two questions, they would have different answers. Sometimes vastly different answers. So, even getting really good at helping places, particularly if there's a lot of top chefs in the kitchen, but I don't care if there's two people, if there's one person getting really good at helping them define those such that if that's the only information you had, you could do something with it.

Terry Chevalier: Right.

Deb Zahn: That's a huge skill.

Terry Chevalier: It is. And the thing is, I remember I had a stint at one of those big companies, I mean, tremendous, amazing, talented people. I've learned so much. I don't know how I lasted like I did, but I remember having conversations with them and I said, "Look, I've really learned the importance of know the question you're solving." Now, for them, they were like, "Well, that's not what I need you to focus on. I need you on getting to the answer." And that really always kind of I respected and I understand now why they said that, but the thing was is once you're on the inside, you understand that that's actually probably the 50 to 80% of the problem that they never saw.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Terry Chevalier: I spent so much time, I can't tell you when you're sitting in corporate, and I'm sure that a lot of your listeners will appreciate this, you get a zinger. A zinger is you get something from somewhere from on high of you need to go do this thing. And you're just trying to understand what is this and why are we doing? Well, wait a minute, I can't do this. I need to talk to them because they need to be on board. You talk to them, "Well, I don't know where this came from." And before you know it, you're at least two weeks into this. You finally have a meeting where you were able to get everybody together. And then they quickly realize that they're not on the same page. So, now, you have to spend time getting them all on the same page in that. And then you have to make them aware of, OK, what problem are we solving?

What's success look like? How are we going to get there? Oh, we don't have all the skill sets, we need to get consultants. Yes, we want to go hire consultants. Yes, there's a budget for consultants, and by the way, who's going to be in charge of them? And I think that a lot of times folks who've done nothing, consultant never get a chance to see that crazy side of things. And you have to have that in your mindset, especially as an independent, we don't have the resources to spend like that. And frankly, that's huge value for clients just to get that alignment.

Deb Zahn: And to not make assumptions. Because if you make assumptions that all those decisions have been made, because obviously they've been made, they hired consultants, you could be contributing to the mess. And now at the same time, you don't want to assume that they didn't make those. You could be in a optimal wonderful scenario where they actually did. I'd love to hear about that one because that would be fun, but don't assume. So, I've been in it, I've been in corporate and I remember, so I interestingly was in corporate while I was getting, I got my graduate degree later, I didn't go right out of undergrad. And I remember being in a project management implementation class having implemented across 32 different facilities over the course of several years and learned from some of the best at how to actually do it.

And I'm listening to the academic version of it, and I had a buddy who also had implemented things, large scale things before and we're sitting in the back going, "Nope, the docs are still arguing at that point." So, no, you're not going off to that point. They're actually mad right now and you're in a conversation with them to try and get them back on board. And so there was none of that messiness that was being taught. And sometimes the only place you learn it is in the real world. You can learn it as a consultant as long as you have the humility and recognition going in that you better be asking the right questions so that you figure out what's actually going on.

Terry Chevalier: Yeah, absolutely. I have seen that so many times, and credit, I had a mentor I worked with and his mantra is, what does success look like? And I have never seen anybody who was as good at herding cats on these issues. And the funny thing is that the level of resistance we would have is directly correlated with the level of perceived effort we would have to go through to get to the answer. So, because you're just saying, OK, well, I don't agree with this. This doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's going to take me an hour versus this is a full bore, three alarm fire, we need to get clarity on what this just came down from.

Deb Zahn: Well, and it's also a good lesson to other consultants that when you're in the discovery process, which you should be asking questions exactly like that, if you don't get a clear answer, if you get different answers, one of the options you should provide them for you giving them value is helping them get clear about that and to explain why. And you darn well better put it in the budget because talk about a place where you could blow the budget in minute five of an engagement is when you get in and you realize nobody's on the same page.

Terry Chevalier: That's right. I think that's a very good point. I think that's a very good point because I think there's high risk, especially as we just said, as an independent, if you're not asking...sometimes I've seen different frameworks online and there was one, I can't remember where it was, but one of the elements was, who are all the critical stakeholders involved in making the decision? You need to have conversations with all of them and ask these basic questions of what do you perceive the problem is? If this project is wildly successful, what would that look like and what would it look like for you? It's that second part that people forget about is that not everybody's incentivized for project to be highly successful. Maybe they're fine with it, but it doesn't do anything for them. It's just more work. And so you have to be at least cognizant of that going in where the problems are going to be.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And that's where you're going to hear, well, I don't know because there's five other huge initiatives we're doing at the same time, and I don't know which is more important. And you got to know that stuff as a consultant. This is, again, one of the utilities of bringing a consultant in is we do that. And I have found, particularly with the leadership level, if you can bring that clarity or even as you just start to go down levels and bring some of that clarity, people love it. People feel relieved.

Terry Chevalier: Well, right, because there's this idea of like, is this thing infinite? Is it never going to end? I don't see an end, or I have clarity, OK, there's a lot of work, but I know at the end of this, I can declare and put a flag in. We're done. That's what's the psychology of waiting lines, this idea of I don't know where I am in the line and when the line's going to end. It's the same kind of concept as I don't understand when I'm done and is this thing what I'm going to deal with for the next two to three years and I'm burned out and I'm done.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Well, and everything you just talked about, it doesn't matter what industry it is, which again is why I think of you the Swiss Army knife of consultants because you could take those skills and that knowledge of how to do things like that. So, there's very specific things like you talked about exit planning, and then there's the general knowledge and skills of how people and systems and strategies and dot, dot, dot, work get developed, et cetera. And as long as you're in an industry that doesn't require the content expertise that's specific to industry or you've got somebody by your side that has it, but you're the process expert, you can take those anywhere.

Terry Chevalier: I think so. And as you were talking, I mean, one of the things I've talked about and I've told people before, and I was actually, when I was interviewed for a head of strategy role, I had the CEO, he said, "Well, define strategy for me." I was like, "OK, define universe, give three examples." But I said, "Look, strategy itself is incredibly simple." I figure out where I am, I figure out where I want to go. I build a path to get there. The problem is figure out where I am, no one wants to acknowledge the failures and deficiencies they have. Figure out where I want to go, no one agrees on the destination, and then build the path to get there, no one wants to be held accountable to the results.

And if you go in with that basic understanding of that element of human nature, you will be light years ahead of so many people because those are the parts that the consultant is really fixing. Anybody can go create, do a bunch of research, throw stuff in PowerPoint and that. It's not that, it's how do I coalesce people around the vision? How do I recognize what's holding them back from agreeing to that and how do we get them there? How do we have sort of trust and honesty in a very call it a safe space that we're not here to judge people. We're here to get better. So, there's some things that we do well, there's some things we don't do well, let's be honest about what we do well so we can keep doing it and let's be honest about what we don't do well so we can fix it.

And then the accountability is if you've done those things and people agree on where they're going, they understand what needs to happen, accountability is a tough one, but you're going to have a lot more buy-in in the process, especially if you have the right metrics, and the metrics, we always use smart goals, but people believe that I have the ability to actually achieve that outcome with the resources you're giving me. It may be a little bit of work, but it feels reasonable and feasible to me. Maybe a stretch, but I can get there. If it's none of those, then it's like, no, I'm done.

Deb Zahn: Right. And I know why, because I know where we're actually trying to get to and why. Yeah, that's beautiful. So, obviously, this makes my heart go pitter-pat. Well, this is the stuff of excellent consulting and anytime I've seen consultants come in and just like bull in China shop or timid consultant in the corner and I'm like, "You are not serving your client and you're making the rest of us consultants look bad, so knock it off."

Terry Chevalier: Right.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. So, where can folks find you? Because this is obviously all good stuff, so if anybody, it's like, I need that guy on my team, where should they go?

Terry Chevalier: Sure. Well, you go to my website, it's at, that's S-U-N-S-T-O-N-E There is a form you can contact me and love to have a chat with anybody who is dealing with any of these things that we've talked about.

Deb Zahn: Fabulous. All right, well, let me ask you my last question, which is, when you're not out bringing light where there is darkness, then how is it you bring balance to your life? However, it is you think about that.

Terry Chevalier: It's always been a priority for me, I think for... And it's been something that I've developed over time, just if I can give people the context, I started my career in the government and so for my first 10 years, by three o'clock, most people are heading home. Then I went into the buzz saw of management consulting at a big firm where a 100-hour a week was very much expected. And over time, I've realized that, and I saw this quote today, Steve Jobs on talking about as he was passing away, the difference between a $300 watch and a $30 watch is they both tell time, and getting focused on too much work, you're missing out on things. So, what I try to do is I always prioritize family. I will say, if I don't have time for things, I really try to protect my schedule.

This is an ongoing thing. My wife and I try to figure out, OK, what are the things that are coming up that I need to be there for? I try to make sure that there is absolutely nothing going to prevent me from getting in there. And it's ongoing. You never achieve it perfectly, but I think as long as you set boundaries, you communicate with your loved ones and trying to be very clear about where those boundaries are for them, that seems to help. And then have that conversation with your clients. Most of the people I work with, if I said, "Hey, my son's got a football game tomorrow night," they're like, "OK, family matters. Go take care of it."

Deb Zahn: And that's how you pick the right clients who absolutely know that.

Terry Chevalier: Yeah. Right.

Deb Zahn: Well, Terry, I can't tell you, I was so excited to have you on, because I've, of course, seen some of your fabulous work, so I really appreciate you coming on and sharing this with us.

Terry Chevalier: Well, Deb, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And thanks for all that you do. It is just been wonderful getting a chance to know you here for the past few months here.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything.

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