Episode 240: Two Big Announcements—with Deb Zahn
Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So this episode is a little bit different. I actually have two announcements that I'm going to make, kind of big deals. And I'm going to share those with you and I'm going to say a little bit more about them so that you have a really good sense of what the heck I'm doing and why I'm doing it. So let me start with the first one.
The first one's a really fun one, which is I am going to again be giving my free live masterclass, which is Top Five Things You Must Do To Get Consulting Clients. And I would love to have you join me. It is free, free, free, and it is going to be live on LinkedIn. It is December 7th, 2023 if you're listening to this episode later. And it's going to be at 9:00 AM Pacific Time. It's going to be at 12:00 PM Eastern Time and you can figure out the time zones from there. A fabulous class.
The entire purpose of it is to go over the five things that will help you get consulting clients much faster and make it a whole lot easier and a lot less stressful to do it. So there's going to be a whole bunch of things that I'm going to talk about within those five things. But the whole point is that you kind of deserve for it to be easier. There's enough hard things that you have to do when you first start your consulting business or if you've already been in your consulting business, it's not quite looking the way that you want it to look.
And there's a whole bunch of things that you probably have to do or had to learn how to do or still have to learn how to do that you've never done before. And then you add on top of that all the feelings that come with it. And I don't say that lightly because trust me, I had all the difficult feelings when I started and as I went along my journey when things weren't going as well as they are today. So all of that stuff I can't take away, but I can make it a lot easier.
And that's the purpose of this free live masterclass and it is chockfull of value. And there have been people who've actually taken it a few times because they got a lot out of it and it really did help them get clients. So I want you to join me so that you can do that. And the one thing that I want to make sure that is clear is I'm going to talk about five things that make it easier to get clients.
This is not a formula, like this sure five formula to get X number of clients in 30 days or anything like that. And the reason is, is I think that's nonsense and I just have to be honest about that. Having a consultant business is all about making a whole series of decisions, as wise a decisions as you possibly can with the information you have and taking as wise of action as you can that's possible, learning along the way, making adjustments so that you ultimately have the business you want to have.
But it's not a formula. And I know there's a lot of folks out there who do some things that are similar to what I do and they try and help consultants and they reduce it down to a formula. And I just think that's a bunch of hooey to be perfectly honest. And I understand the impulse to do it because it's comforting to say it that way. One, it's easier to make sales, but it's also comforting to say that because then it feels less overwhelming.
And I'm definitely not trying to make you feel overwhelmed by this, but the reality is that every consulting business is different. And the way that you're going to build yours and you're going to run yours are going to have similarities to other consulting businesses. But there will be key differences. Your clients are going to be very different. The people who are within the organizations and businesses that you're going to be working with are different.
And oh, by the way, they're people, which is the other reason that formulas don't work. And I've said this on other podcasts is once you get people involved into the mix, that inserts enough variation because people are people, right? We're all not the same. You can't just pin us down and say, "You will do this now." Wouldn't that be lovely? Actually, it'd be quite boring if we could do that. But that's why formulas don't work.
There are key principles and there are steps that do work. And the reason that they work is because they're adaptable to you and your circumstances and the industries and the clients and what you're going to offer to those clients, it's adaptable within that. So you use those principles and you use those key steps again to make the best decisions you can possibly make and take the best action that you can possibly take. And then you're going to go about your business, you're going to figure out what works, what doesn't work.
You're going to make adjustments. But those sort of key things that I'm going to talk about are going to help you do that so you can spend less time sort of flapping around and floundering. And I say that with great familiarity since that's what I did at the beginning because I didn't actually know these things. There wasn't really a source that I could go to that said, "Deb, do this stuff." So I floundered enough. I saw enough people.
I thought, "What's really key here?" And as I've coached now over a hundred different consultants on their path to success, I can say, "Yeah, these are kind of the must dos." So that's what I want to share with you. Now, one of the things that you'll get as soon as you register is I'm going to give you a free tool that you can use to develop a value proposition. And a value proposition is basically how you articulate very succinctly what your value is to the clients that ultimately you want to work with.
And so I have a tool that will actually help you develop, it's going to be free as soon as you register. And a value proposition is going to be one of the things that I talk about within the five because it really does help you get clients faster. It actually helps you figure out so many things about getting clients if you're really clear about what it is. So I want to give you a jumpstart in that.
So as soon as you register, you're going to get it, use the tool and it'll help you define it if you haven't done it yet. If you have done it and you haven't looked at it in a while or you did it and it's not really helping you make decisions and take action in your consulting business, then it's an excellent time to go back, take a look at it and refine it more so that ultimately your value proposition is a tool for you to get more clients. And so if you have one and it's not doing that right now, then it's a really good time to go back and take a look at it.
Now I also love, love, love to incentivize taking faster action. So if you're listening to this before I give the masterclass and you're listening to this before November 30th 2023, then if you sign up on that day before the clock strikes midnight, then you're also going to get a copy that lets you go a little bit deeper. So it's a free copy of a workbook that I call Know Your Zones, and it's the consultants guide to describing what you can do.
So a value proposition is a really short tight description of the value that you can provide to specific clients and what's unique about you. That's essentially what a value proposition is. But you can't just spit that out. That's the elevator speech. You've heard that. You can't just say that and then somebody's going to get you business. So you have to have a way that articulates in more detail and with more nuance the type of results that you can help folks get.
And examples in the past of when you've been able to, either in a work setting or as a consultant, been able to actually help people do that and describe really what you're bringing to a table in much more of a detailed way. And it's often in a conversation, a value proposition might open a door a bit and being able to talk about things with more depth and in ways that are very relevant and compelling to a particular client. That's what's going to open that door wider and enable you to get in and now talk about ways that you might be able to help them.
And it helps, going through this workbook actually helps you back up your value proposition so it doesn't sound like just sales copy or it doesn't sound like just this thing you say because it sounds cool, but you can actually back it up. So that's what this will do. Having that sort of quick statement and being able to back it up is often what will influence decisions by clients to be able to hire you. So register, you're going to get the value proposition tool. Register by November 30th 2023.
You'll also get a copy of the Know Your Zones tool. Typically, I sell it for 49 bucks, but you're going to get it for free if you sign up by then. And I would also say if you register and you're like, "Ah, Deb, I can't make it," don't worry about it. You register, you're going to get email reminders about the event. You'll get a link to be able to re-watch it or watch it if you didn't get a chance to attend.
Plus I couldn't help myself, so there's a whole bunch of little goodies that I'll also send you that are relevant things that will actually help you get clients even before the event. So would love to have you join me with that one. All right. I feel like I need a drum roll for this second decision. I could sort of do that quickly on my table, but this is a really big one and it's really hard to say out loud, but I'm going to say it. So January 1st 2024 is actually going to be my last weekly podcast.
That will be the last time I release on a weekly basis. It's going to be my 245th podcast since I started doing this in 2019. And I cannot tell you how difficult the decision was to stop doing this on a weekly basis. And saying it as I'm recording this is particularly hard because now it's real and now it's out there and now you know about it and it makes it feel really real and it really, really is hard. But I want to explain to you why I'm doing it because I think why I'm doing it is relevant to all of us.
And so I want to share that with you because it's all about making decisions about your business and your life. And how the heck did I come to such a big decision? You can tell when I do podcasts that I love doing this. I love sharing information. I love being able to help people. One of the reasons I wanted to do the podcast is I told people I wanted to reduce suffering at scale.
And I'm not saying I've reduced all of your suffering, but I wanted people to be successful faster. And a podcast is one way to do that. I'm in 72 countries, I've had more downloads than I ever expected to have at this point. And so I know that for anybody who's listened to these, and hopefully it has helped you that I've been able to achieve that. So it's really hard to pull back from that.
But I want to share why I'm doing it. And actually why I'm doing it is about my why. And so you've probably heard me talk about my mom a lot on here. I'm really close to her. We live in the country, and so right up the dirt road is my mom's house. I can actually see it from my house. And she's really important to me and she's one of the reasons that I do what I do. So I took my mom on a trip for her 83rd birthday.
So that was just a bit ago in the fall. And it was just a drive. We went to a town in Connecticut that's on the water because she loves to be coastal. And I'm like, "Let's get mom some Clam Chowder." Now if you've ever heard me talk about my mom, you know that she is not a typical 83-year-old, right? She is very active. And by that I mean really active to the point where actually kind of puts me to shame.
She kayaks, she bikes, she hikes, she does all of this great stuff to stay active. If she can't get outside, she's on an exercise bike, she's doing exercises on a mat. And she started doing this when she was about my age. So she started doing it about 57. I'm 55 right now. And so we were about the same age when she started to be active. I'm really, really, it's not like I sit around all the time, but I'm really waiting for that to kick in.
But her being that active has made a huge difference in her life. So I joke that she's a jock. She's not an athlete, but she's in great physical shape. And I'm not going to add, "For her age." She's in great physical shape. Her mind is really sharp. But there was a few things that happened recently actually that really shook me and made me rethink things. And one was the last time we went hiking. So this was before her birthday, we hiked up to this waterfall that we had never been to before and we'd read about it.
So we drove there and we were going to hike up the waterfall. And the route wasn't easy. There was lots of rocks, there was tree roots, there was all kinds of things that people like us who are not experienced hikers could easily trip and fall on. But we did great. We had to stop a few times because it was much more uphill than we thought, but neither of us fell. So we were fine. I'm like, "Okay, that was great." We had a good time and we felt accomplished. And on the way home, we stopped at this farm store.
And I was in there, my mom went to get something in another aisle and I was picking vegetables and I started to hear people yell that somebody fell. And it immediately didn't even occur to me that it would be my mom. But I went around the corner and sure enough, it was her and she had just blood gushing out of her head. And it was hard. I couldn't tell how bad it was because I know that she's on blood thinner, so any type of bleeding is going to be much worse.
And it was terrifying. Now, she's okay. The bleeding stopped. She ended up being fine. She was probably more embarrassing than anything else. It had nothing to do with a mistake she made or anything she did. They had things setting on this wooden palette and it was jutting out, and I actually almost tripped on it. So it was a hazard that was in the store, and unfortunately she tripped on it and hit her head as she was coming down.
But it terrified me and it did exactly what I think events like that are supposed to do, which is it helped me remember that I can't assume that we have all the time in the world. I can't assume that nothing will happen. And so that shook me, but apparently I wasn't done being shook. So we fast-forward to her 83rd birthday and we're having a good enough time. The town didn't have as many things as we hoped it would. But more than anything else is, I noticed some subtle changes in her.
Now I see my mom every single day, so these are changes that sometimes would be hard to see when you see someone every day. But there was enough that I noticed it and it made me stop and think, particularly those two things happening sort of back to back, "Am I living the life that I said I wanted? Is that the life that I still want? What do I want it to look like?" And part of that, "Am I spending enough time with her?"
Because that's one of the reasons that I wanted to be a consultant and one of the reasons that I wanted to start this business is so I would have more freedom and flexibility and time to spend with her. And was that true? Was I actually doing? Because it's easy to go along and think, "Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I've had that because I have flexibility." Right? "I can take a break. I have all of that." But I thought, "Am I really? Is this look the way I want it to?" And I had to be kind of ruthlessly honest with myself.
And I looked back and I thought about the previous year, and we spent a lot of time together. So it's not like I was neglecting my mom. We still had mom time, which is the dedicated three hours I spend with her every single week that's devoted to her. But I wasn't doing enough things with her that really brought her joy. And my mom's joy really matters a lot to me. So when I think about she loves kayaking, and but she doesn't like to go by herself and really shouldn't be going by herself.
And I went to the lake with her once, but I was too tired to go kayaking. So she went kayaking, and I sat on the shore and hung out because I was too tired. And I was too tired because I was working too much. I thought about, I told her I was going to go biking with her and I bought a bike so that I could do that because that's something that she really loves to do, hadn't gone with her once.
She also thought when she moved here, she moved here from Nebraska, that she'd be going on little road trips to all these New England towns. And I thought about that, and I'm like, yeah, we had gone to a few places, but not as many as that she actually wanted. And it was really sobering to stop and take a look and say, not what's my aspiration, but what does my actual life look like? And given that I have gone into businesses that should allow me the freedom and flexibility and time that I talk to everybody else about, is it actually doing that and am I actually spending that the way I want?
And so it was really sobering because the answer was no. And the reality is that I have found myself tired a lot. I took on more consulting work than I should have, and I did that while I'm running this business. And the irony is lost on me that I end every podcast by asking my guests how they bring balance to their life, however it is they think about that. And I had to admit that if I had to answer that question, I would not like the answer.
It would not be the answer that I would want to give. So I'm like, "Something's got to change and something significant has to change." So I did an exercise that I would encourage you to do or do whatever your version of it, if you find yourself in a similar place. Because what I realized is this is not tweaking. This is not making a few changes at the edges, that I had to make some profound changes. And I talked to my mom about it.
I talked to my husband about it. We all agreed. Apparently they had been thinking about it for quite some time that I needed a really big change because the way that I was doing this wasn't working. So I'm like, "All right, goodness gracious. I'm a consultant. Surely I can approach this the way a consultant can and figure out what's the best course of action here."
So I did what I actually really love to do, which is I mapped out everything that I had on my plate in life. So that was my personal life, my work life, cat rescue is in there, everything was on the table that I mapped out. And then I took out anything that couldn't go away, normal life stuff that just has to get done. And it's not like I can say, "Honey, I've decided I'll create more free time by never doing the dishes." That wasn't going to happen.
So I took out all of that stuff, and then I looked at what I had left, and I started to connect the dots of what's left. I looked for dependencies. So anything that I was doing that there was other things that were tied to that specific aspect of either one of my businesses, because those are really the two things I ended up focused on.
And I knew that if I looked at the dependencies, I could kind of feel like what the weight would be of that particular activity, and that would tell me if it would make a big difference if I actually stopped doing it. So I realized as I went through that exercise, and it kind of shocked me because I hadn't thought about it, is that the podcast had the most dependencies. I mean, work that I had to do in order to make my podcast happen.
This is not a magical pixie dust process. There's a whole bunch that goes into it. There's things that I have to do. There's expenses that I accrue to make this happen. So when I looked at everything else I was doing, I realized this was the most obvious thing, that if I got rid of this, it would make a significant difference. There were dependencies with other things, but this had the absolute most. It wasn't an easy decision.
I wrestled with it a whole bunch. Originally I wouldn't even consider it. And then I'm like, "No, no, no. If you're going to do this for real, you have to put everything on the table in considering it." And even though I love doing this, I had to look at it and make a decision about it. Because at the end of the day, I know that sometimes you have to give up what you love for who you love, and that's what this is. And I'm a hundred percent clear about that.
And I will tell you, in my life, I have made similar decisions that kind of felt the same way. They felt like a big deal doing something that I previously thought was unimaginable, and I took the leap and I didn't have full faith, but I had enough faith that it would work out, and it did, and it kind of always did. Now, how it worked out was often different than what I expected.
I mean, certainly becoming a consultant was like that, but I never regretted it. And I know that I will never regret spending more time with my mom. I will never regret spending more time with my husband. I will regret basically not spending enough time with them. I already regret that. I don't want to compound that by continuing to do it. I am blessed that I have wonderful relationships, and I know that I have to make difficult choices sometimes to honor those.
So now, I didn't just look at what to eliminate. I also looked at other changes that would enable me to have more time. So I got some intel from other consultants, and I raised my consulting prices. Because I knew that I needed to do fewer projects and I knew the market was ripe for me charging more because it was perfectly reasonable within the market. And I've also looked at what types of projects I'm going to do.
So for example, I know that I'm not a clock in, clock out kind of consultant. I care very deeply about what I'm doing. And so there's some work that I've been doing that is very emotionally taxing, and in fact, it kind of has a half-life. So maybe I'm clocking out at five, but really I'm still thinking about it for hours after that. And I know that I want to do less of that. And there's other types of work that do with this, which is still going to be challenging and still going to be meaningful, but it's not going to take the toll on me that some of the types of projects I've been doing.
So that's the big news. Now, I'm not disappearing. I promise. My website's still going to have all the goodies on it that it has. I am going to be devoting more time to my Craft of Consulting membership. I love serving in that membership. I love serving in the sort of deep way that I'm able to do in there, really helping people get clients, helping them solve problems, helping them not feel so alone. So I want to be able to give more to the folks that are in my membership.
I'm still going to show up on LinkedIn with some free trainings. I'm going to do at least three or four of those a year, maybe more if I get excited. And I might occasionally do a podcast. I probably won't be able to help myself. Something will come up and I'll think, "Oh, that's super helpful, and a podcast is a great way to describe it," or something will bug me and I'll have to do a podcast, but probably more the latter.
So I'm not going to do the weekly ones, but I might pop up occasionally. And I am positive it's going to have an impact on my business, and I'm okay with that. I'm at peace with that because I know one, that it's the right thing to do. And two, I don't actually know what the impact will be. So I'm just going to do the right thing and continue forward. And I'm going to stay focused on being as helpful as I can.
And that's in my consulting business, that's in Craft of Consulting, that's in my life. I am completely clear that's why I'm on the planet. So I will find other ways to do that and keep fulfilling my purpose in life. So I want to thank you so much for letting me on this journey. I hope you enjoy the last of the weekly podcasts that are coming up. And of course, if you haven't listened to all the rest, they're all still relevant.
So feel free to enjoy those. But thank you so much for going with me on this journey, and I hope that I've been helpful to you and I hope I can continue to be helpful. 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. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.
And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it. Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up. So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at craftofconsulting.com. Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.