top of page


Episode 245: Five Tips That Make the Most Difference for Your Consulting Business—with Deb Zahn

Deb Zahn: Hi, I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So, this is the last weekly episode that I'm going to be putting out. I want to make sure that it's valuable to you. I’ve got lots a lot of feelings that are coursing through my veins about this, but I am going to talk about some of my top advice. If I leave you with anything, if you ever listen to anything I say, listen to this because this is going to make all the difference in your consulting business and in your life. That's what I'm going to be going over today.

I have to admit...before I dive into that, I want to say a few things. I have been delaying doing this podcast much longer than I should have, and I'm at the point now where I actually have to do it in order for it to be edited in time.

As I said to my husband, I think I've been procrast-a-feeling, which is, I've loved doing this podcast so much and the thought of it suddenly not being part of how I serve people and help people become consultants is really, really tough.

But you know what? I know I made the right decision, so I feel OK about it.

I do want to reiterate that I'm not disappearing. I'm still all about helping other consultants start, build, and grow their consulting business, including you. So, you can still find me, I'm going to be still on LinkedIn, including doing some free trainings. There's going to be a really great one on pricing models and how to price your consulting services. That's going to be coming up in February, all on LinkedIn. I

'm also going to be on YouTube. I'm going to put more information on YouTube and actually more of my podcast archives are going to appear there. So, if you actually want to do more than listen to it, that'll be a great place to go.

I'm going to be doing a whole lot more in the Craft of Consulting Membership. I've got some wonderful, fabulous consultants that are in there now, and I'm going to be expanding the types of things that I do in that membership.

I'm also going to pop up on other people's podcasts. I can't resist getting behind the microphone and sharing things that I think would be helpful. So, occasionally, I will appear somewhere else, and if you follow me on LinkedIn, you'll be able to see where those other appearances are.

And I may occasionally do a podcast, so it's just going to be an ad hoc one where I think something important to say, or I meet someone who's fabulous or there's someone in my membership that I really want them to be on a podcast sharing what they know. So, you might see one show up here and there, but you won't see a regular one.

As I said, when I announced that I was doing this, I know what I'm going to be doing with the extra time I get by stopping this podcast on a weekly basis. So, I know that I'm going to spend a heck of a lot of more time with mom. We just ordered her an electronic bike. So, at 83, she's been out there biking, doing her own thing. But we figure this will help make sure she can still do it. I'm going to buy one so that I can do it with her. So, we're going to have a lot more fun and do more outdoor activities.

I'm going to spend more time with my husband. I'm going to be gardening. And when I'm in my garden, I'm not going to feel rushed, like, “Oh my gosh, I only have a certain amount of time.” And I'm also going to have more ease when I'm doing other things I love. Baking bread, making something good to eat, that's the type of stuff that I want to make sure that I have the ample amount of time to enjoy those things in my life.

The thing is, is I want that for you too, because that's kind of the whole point of being a consultant. We talk about the freedom and flexibility and everything we want to get out of it. Well, why do we want that freedom and flexibility? Hopefully, it's because we may absolutely love what we do when we're working, but there are other things that we love to and to be able to figure out a way to get those into proportions you want and knowing that that changes and will adjust over time and sometimes it looks the way you want, sometimes it doesn't, but at least you're actively engaged in creating the life you want.

That's what I'm going to be doing. So, I want you to do that too. But the other thing I haven't shared yet is that I'm also working on a book and I'm about a third of away done. I'm doing an entire book all about pricing your consulting services. So, you'll get a little taste of that in February when I do a training on LinkedIn. But this is this other thing that I really want to devote my time to is taking all the information that I've gained from 13 years of consulting and the other smart people I know that I've had pricing conversations with and putting it in a book. This will give you a go-to resource when you have questions about what types of pricing models you should use and how you can actually build and construct them to make sure that you're being fair with clients and that you’re getting paid for all of your value and supporting the income you want.

So, I can't tell you when it's coming out yet because I don't know, but this is something that I will be working on when I am not doing a podcast. And I've shared a few chapters with folks who are like, "Oh, num, num, num, give me more of that." So, I'm going to make sure that that comes out. I'm going to be working on it this year, and I will let you know when it comes back out again. That's probably when I'll do an ad hoc podcast when I can announce to you when it's going to come out.

I want to give you sort of my, if you listen to nothing else, I say, here's the things that I actually think are most important when it comes to building your consulting business and having the life you want. It was really hard to choose these things because obviously over this many episodes of having guests and doing my own episodes, I've had a lot to say, but I think I got it down to the five things that I have built my consulting business on. And I know that these are things that will make the biggest difference for you and for your business.

So, let me hit the first one. The first one is, be generous to a fault. I think if some of my consulting clients described me...and I actually had one on recently, and this is close to what she said, is that she's never worried about picking up the phone and asking me for some quick advice or something because she knows that I'm a generous person and she knows that I'm willing to do that.

And for me, I have built an entire consulting business, a very successful consulting business, based on generosity. I have a lot of other values that are important to me, and I do think it's really important to know what your values are, and generosity is one of the top ones.

What I mean by that is don't hoard your best thinking and advice until you get paid. Everything that you know and understand doesn't have to come out only when you're under a contract. And I think that's important because aside from just being a good person, it's also the best way to demonstrate your value to potential clients and in your market, which is kind of what makes you a magnetic consultant. It's one thing to tell them, "Hey, I'm valuable," and to say, "Here's why I'm valuable." It's another thing entirely to show them that you're valuable, to demonstrate that and give them an experience of what that value is like.

And I'll give one example. As a lot of work I did when I first started as a consultant and actually for many years is I would help some of the nonprofits I work with go after federal grants. And these are often really big, high stakes, very, very competitive federal grants, ultimately to do things that are really important for them to do. Now, if I were going in more into that business today, and I was going to try and do more of those federal grants, and I occasionally do them for clients that I've worked with for a long time, is I would say to them that I have a success rate of over 90%. So, over 90% of the federal grants that I help clients with end up getting awarded. That is actually true. I have a very high hit rate, and that's a powerful statement.

And I could leave it there, but I don't want to leave it there is one, it can be misleading because why do I have a 90% hit rate is actually really important to unpack. It's also because that doesn't really give them any value. That's really just talking about me. And so what I want to talk about is I want to talk about them and why this matters to them. So, I will tell them why. And one of the reasons why is that when I work with clients, I don't tell everybody, "Oh, you should absolutely apply for that grant." I don't. If I don't think it's a fit for them or I don't think that they have a really good chance of getting that award, then I don't tell them to do it. My first step, and I tell them this is, “Look, the first thing I want to do is I want to do a quick assessment and see whether or not you can really be competitive.”

And sometimes in the federal grant, there are very specific scoring ways of doing that. And I'll say, "Look, the first thing we need to do is we need to do your scores, and we need to take a look at whether or not you have a shot at all." And if they don't, I actually encourage them not to go any further and therefore not to give me any more money. So, I'm showing them generosity and value in a variety of ways. I'm telling them, "This is the most important first thing that you need to do. And oh, by the way, if it doesn't look good for you, I'm going to tell you not to give me any more money to do it." Now, I get paid to do that because that's part of a first step of an engagement. But if we look at it, and it does make sense for them to go for this because there are good reasons to believe, at least at the first glance, that they have a shot at being competitive, then I actually tell them what makes for winning strategies.

And I give details. So, I give examples of, here's what has made the difference in other federal grants that I've worked on. Now I give them enough details that I know that if they wanted to, they could take everything that I said, they can talk about, "All right, here's how we assess our [inaudible 00:11:07]. Here how we figure out how we can actually win this thing." And they could go find a cheaper consultant. Sure, yeah, they could do that. Now, I am not so humble to believe that another consultant who is less experienced and charges less than me could do what I do. I know they can't, but clients don't necessarily know that. So, am I taking a risk by telling them this stuff? Sure. But I also know that I'm living according to my principles because generosity is important to me. I also know that in that time that I'm telling them some of the secret sauce of what it takes to actually win these grants, I'm building trust with them and I'm also...

They're gaining confidence and my credibility is increasing because they're really getting an insight into, “Oh, OK, well this person really understands the path to this. This person really understands what it takes to do that.” If I held back, then I look like a bunch of other consultants who are like, "You don't get any secret sauce until you're willing to give me money to do it," and I wouldn't be differentiating myself.

So, they would have every reason to believe, "Oh, she's a grant writer. OK. So, she knows how to put words on a page." Well, I'm not just a grant writer. Can I put really good words on a page that can help people win? Yes, I can absolutely do that. But if that's all you need, you don't need me, then, because my main value is largely about strategy and then how you express that strategy through what goes on a piece of paper, through how you organize it, or through other steps that you might take.

I could just say that, but unless I give them an experience of what that's like, particularly if they don't know me, why would they have any reason to believe what I'm saying? Now, it could be that we have the conversation and for whatever reason they decide not to go with me and I'm OK with that, because in that time, again, we've built trust. And if this is the first time I'm meeting them, really we've developed the beginning of a real relationship where they see that I'm generous, they see that I actually care about whether or not they actually win this thing or whether or not they should waste their money on going after something they shouldn't. And this shows them what it's like to work with me.

I want people to know because, again, if you've ever heard me say anything on this podcast…it should probably be a drinking game where every time I say “every experience a client has with you tells you what it's like to work with you,” I say that over and over again because I've seen that true.

And if they see that you're generous, they're more than likely going to want you by their side because who doesn't like to be around a generous person?

Now, I want to differentiate that from doing volunteer work or pro bono work, which basically means doing things for free. Now if there are things that you volunteer in and you want to take your time and talents and that's part of your volunteer work, I love that. I think that's beautiful. I have mine. I do a whole bunch of things that are volunteer related. I think that's wonderful, but that volunteering does not a business build. So, if you're really trying to get income in your pocket and you're really trying to get business, you're not writing the grant for them and handing them to say, "Look how generous I am." What you're doing is you're being generous at the front end with your knowledge and your insights so that they can understand, "Oh, OK, now we understand more about what it's going to actually take to win and if we should actually do this."

It also doesn't mean giving into scope creep. So, generosity is not that the client expands the scope, they don't talk about the budget, they don't talk about paying you more, and you just sort of suck that up and are like, "OK, well I guess I'm going to allow myself to not get paid for value." That's really different. That puts that into the business realm of, you have an agreement to do a scope of work, and it's important that you both honor that. And you have to have the conversations you have to have to make sure that scope creep is appropriately addressed and you get paid for all your value. You getting paid for all your value is a reasonable assumption to make as a consultant. But that doesn't mean that there aren't times where it's perfectly appropriate for you to share information and insights that are helpful to people, whether or not they ever hire you to do it.

Again, that shows who you are and you have to in your own sort of business and life sort of figure out where that line is. If it feels good when you do it, then it's probably a good line. If you feel like you're being taken advantage of, then you want to take a look at it and you want to see if you've drawn the right line. But here's the other thing I mean by generosity. So, it doesn't just stop at clients. So, I also want you and all other consultants to be generous with each other. Say their names in rooms full of opportunities. I saw that quote on LinkedIn once where somebody...and I know that they did it to get engagement on LinkedIn, but I still thought it was fun…where they said, "Who says your name?" And they were talking about women in particular. But who says your name in a room full of opportunities?

And the first person that said my name was another consultant, and it was a consultant when I worked at a firm who worked at a different firm She and I work together all the time because we love working together, and we adore each other. So, the first person that said my name was another consultant, and that's a beautiful thing and you want to be able to do that too. Send them business. I do that all the time with other consultants. Partner with them on projects, particularly when you have complimentary skills. Share intel with them. So, one of the best conversations I had with the consultant that said my name was, we went out to a local cidery. Because we serve many of the same clients in the same industry, we said, "All right, what are you hearing and what am I hearing?" Because we wanted to share intel that was going to be important to our clients and we did it over dinner.

It was really helpful and that enabled us good to go back and to be more generous and do good things for our clients. So, generosity also applies to other consultants or even other professionals. I send business to law firms. I send business to financial folks. Be the person that when someone is asked, "Who do you think is most generous in your market?" your name comes up because that's going to help you, one, live your values, right? Because you want to be a good generous person. But it also, I promise you, will expand business opportunities. And that's a tough thing to say because I'm like, "Don't be manipulative and just do it because you're trying to expand business opportunities," but that is one of the benefits of doing it. I'm just going to name it out loud because it's happened to me over and over again.

OK, let's hit number two. And this is really, truly caring about your clients and potential clients. And I mean caring as like, you feel inside of yourself that you truly care about what matters to them. And that is at the heart of a thriving consulting business because what ultimately matters are the relationships that you're creating with the people in your market, with clients, with potential clients. And authentic relationships, at their core, are based on caring.

Now, that doesn't mean that every person you work with or you might work with, that you're going to become their best friend forever or you feel the need that you have to go hang out with them or something like that. But what it means is that you treat their problems and their aspirations with true care and concern. Not as if they're your own because that's sometimes a boundary issue where suddenly you take it all on and you feel it a little too deeply and it can get in your way of being objective, it can get in your way of a lot of business things. Rather, that you truly care about it as you would care if it was happening to a friend.

And so that can show up in a lot of different ways. So, in the discovery process, one of the ways that you show you care is go deeper into the situations they're describing, ask them more questions about it so you can really get a full understanding of what it is that they're contending with, of what they're trying to achieve, and what might help them and what might get in their way of doing that. When you're working with them, it's focusing intently on getting them the results they want, giving them a wonderful experience of what it's like to work with you. Because if it was a friend on the other side, you would want to give that to them as well.

Now, if you're meeting with them for the first time, in particular in the discovery process, you also want to show that you care about them because you care about them more than closing a deal, right? So, they matter more than the deal itself. And this is where it gets tricky. This is where it gets a little Jedi because if you're worried about whether or not you're going to close the deal, if you're worried about, "Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get income in. I really need this work," then it can be really tough to do, right?

I'm essentially asking you to suspend your feelings. And if you suspend your feelings, then you'll be able to show up with the intent and with essentially the vibe that you want to show up with, which is, at this moment in time, I'm really caring about you. And what I'm saying instead is you're going to have those feelings. Have those feelings, that's OK. But as much as you can, when you're engaging with them, ignite your empathy. This is kind of the best way that I've figured out how to do this, particularly if I'm feeling a little panicky about getting work in the door. Empathize with them because...and it should be something that you can do, one, hopefully you're an empathetic person. But if you've been in the work world, like most consultants, you've probably had similar experience or similar enough experience that it can evoke some empathy in you, right? I remember just feeling like, “I just wish I had somebody else to help me. I wish I had somebody who could help me figure this out because it's more than what I can do.” I remember feeling overwhelmed. I remember feeling uncertain, frustrated, hopeful but not quite sure how to get there.

All those things that we have felt in the work world help us empathize when we're in front of potential clients because that's what calls to mind, “Hey, I get to be that somebody that maybe I didn't have.” Or maybe you were lucky enough to have a consultant and you're like, "Oh, that was great. I've got somebody to help me with this." So, that should help you evoke those feelings.

Then you can give them hope that there is a solution, that there is a way to achieve their aspirations and show them that there is actually a path. And by doing that, you're going to show them that you really care about them and you care about helping them achieve the results they want. Heck, you're going to show them you care by acknowledging and being able to voice the results that they actually want to get.

And that's a qualitatively different experience than they're going to have with other consultants who they can tell might be quite competent or able to do the work, but don't really care too much about them. If you bring them in, they'll do fine, but they don't really care about you. They can tell that, right? You want to just be a good person, and that's how you show up. You show up in ways where you care about who's in front of you, but they can tell the difference, right? They can tell the difference between those consultants who are just chasing income and yeah, they'll do the work and maybe they'll even do a good job at the work, but hey, at the end of the day, it's really about invoicing. It's really about billing. And they can tell the difference, and the turnoff that they experience with those types of consultants is significant.

That's one thing I've heard over and over again from consultants as opposed to, "I'm here, I'm with you. I care about what's going on for you. Let's get this done. Let's figure this out together." And yes, it's a business, and yes, I do bill, and yes, you will be getting an invoice, but that's not the whole focus of what I'm trying to do.

All right, number three. So, number three, I also talk about a lot. If you've taken my masterclass on getting clients, you've heard me talk about this, which is clarity and focus. And in truth, this isn't number three because it's the third less important. Actually, if I rank these in order of importance, this would be a contender for the first one because there are few things that I can suggest that make things easier in your consulting business. I'm going to say what I mean by clarity.

Sort of the three most important things to be clear about, particularly when you start, but even as you're going along your consulting journey is you’ve got to be clear who your buyer is. It could be more than one, but you got to be clear who are you trying to get to hire you? And if you know who you're trying to get to hire you, what do they care about and all of the things that flow from that. So, that's one.

You got to know where they are. So, you got to know what market they're in. And for some consultants, it's going to be across different industries. Some it's going to be within a particular industry or particular niche, but you have to have made that decision so that you can focus.

Then based on those, if I know the who and I know the where, then I can say the what and why me. And the what and why me is when you talk about what your value is to that buyer in that market. If you can be clear about that, everything after that is going to get easier.

And I recognize every time I say this, there are always consultants... And I used to be one of them, but there are always consultants where that just feels wrong. That feels so counterintuitive because shouldn't I just say, "I can work for anybody and that opens up a larger pool of who I could potentially work with." And I understand the instinct. I totally understand the instinct. It’s what I did when I first started. But keeping everything loose, although that may feel emotionally comforting, it may reduce some of the worry and the panic, but the problem is that it's not going to draw anyone to you. The clients that you might hope to work with aren't going to know that you're talking to them. They're not going to know that you can do things that they care about. And to be honest, they're not going to take the time necessarily to try and figure it out because there are other consultants that are clear, "Hey, I solve these problems. Hey, I help you achieve these things. And by the way, I know that those really matter to you enough that you're willing to hire a consultant for."

If you aren't clear and you aren't focused, you also don't have anything that's going to help you really make decisions and take actions. Because if it's too open or if it's completely open, how would you know what to do next? How would you know what would actually make sense to do? And you'll end up just kind of throwing spaghetti against the wall and hopefully something sticks. Now, it doesn't mean that you won't get any business, but it won't be something that you can really very deliberately pursue certain types of business and be able to fill your pipeline full of work. And because ultimately what you're trying to do is you're trying to entice people to find out more about you, trying to entice people that you potentially want to work with to say, "Hey, there's a reason that I should be talking to this person."

And you also want to be able to make really wise investments of your resources because you're going to have some confidence that they're going to have some type of a yield. Without clarity and without focus, you don't really have that. And the thing I will say is everything. Everything, everything, everything gets easier once you are clear and focused and you'll know. I mean, just think about it. You're going to know who it makes sense to talk to. You're going to know what do they care about? And by the way, what do they care about enough that they're willing to spend money on a consultant and they're willing to spend money on a consultant like me? You're going to know where to go find them. Where the heck are they that I can get into these conversations I need to be in? Where can I get noticed by them?

You're going to know what's valuable enough to them that when you have a conversation, you're going to know those things that are actually going to be meaningful for you to talk about. I have some business examples. But truthfully, I have a different example that's actually probably more helpful. And so one thing you don't know about me is that I have written a number of profiles for other people that resulted in marriages.

So, if I were to go into another business, that probably would've been it. But years and years ago, a good friend of mine who was this, and still is, this amazing, dynamic person who, I'm not going to say her name, but she'll know who I'm talking about. And she does those adventure races, which you see on TV where it's like three days and they climb a mountain and then they kayak, and then they bike. I mean, more than a triathlon. Like a triathlon is kind of candy ass compared to what she did. She does a lot of these. And what her idea of fun on a weekend is climbing a mountain.

So, she's this extreme and wicked smart, extremely interesting person. And she wrote a profile that sort of looked like every other profile. It was so generic, and she just wrote it by looking at other profiles and thinking, "OK, this is what I should say." And she wasn't getting anything good coming from it at all because no one knew who she really was and that they should pay attention to her.

So, me and another person sat down and I said, "Look, it makes you sound boring and you're not boring. I read this, and if somebody didn't tell me it was you, I wouldn't know it was you."

So, we rewrote it, and we included pictures of her carrying a bicycle covered with mud, her with her dog, I mean things that really truly spoke to who she actually is as a person and kind of what she brings to the table in a relationship. And she was really nervous, and we're like, "Just hit enter." I don't even think about it. I think we hit send or we hit post. And this was the early days of, so I have no idea how it works now.

But she posted it and the first person who responded to her loved it because of what she said. It was because there was a photo of her covered in mud. It was because it really captured the essence of who she actually was. It immediately got a hit and not for nothing, she's married to the woman who responded to her. It was the first response she got, and they've been married for decades.

Now, lots of us who have been on know that it doesn't always go like that, that often there's a plague of frogs that show up first.

But this is a great example of, if you're really clear and focused about who it is that you're trying to serve, where they are, what it is that you can do for them, and what's special about you, you're going to have a much easier time getting into the conversations and having the right conversations with the right folks who are actually going to want to hire you.

The way to sort of judge if you're clear and focused enough is to think, after you've sort of written out, and I always suggest writing it out, that clarity and that focus of: who my buyer is, where are they, and what's my value relative to them?  If you can answer the question, “OK, so now what should I do next?” And that's much easier to answer than it was when you were trying to be everything to everyone, that's how you know kind of hit the sweet spot.

For example, if you know that your buyer is a CEO of a nonprofit organization in the educational industry in the United States, and that you're looking at companies or organizations that have a budget of $20 to $60 million, then you know what to do next, or at least what to ask next. So, if that were who I was going after, I would say, "OK, what's happening in that industry that I think they would actually care about or they have to contend with or they have to respond to in some way? Where are they? Are these folks actually showing up and engaging on LinkedIn?"

If not, don't spend your time doing that. Are there conferences they're going to instead? Are there other forums that they're on? You start to be able to dig to able to have enough information to guide the actions that you're going to take. Now, if your buyer was instead an HR director, didn't matter what industry, but worked for companies that have about 250 to 1000 employees, you would have very, very different answers. So, the clearer you are, the easier it's going to be to say, "OK, how then can I take that clarity and focus and turn that into decisions and then turn that into actions?"

Hence, the everything gets easier part after that.

OK, so let me hit the fourth one, which is, focus on solutions, right? So, consulting businesses, let's just be honest, stuff happens, and it's not always stuff that you like or you want, right? You're going to experience when things go wrong, you're going to experience when things don't work out the way you want it to, when you're just not getting traction with things. You might do something where, well, that seemed like a good idea but didn't generate any revenue, or I didn't know what to do next after I made that decision or something was difficult to pursue, or I pursued it and I got it and it sucked and it wasn't enjoyable and I never want to do that again. Whatever the version is, there are going to be things that aren't going to go right, right? And you try something, you give it a real shot, doesn't matter. It just doesn't work.

Now, this is where it comes down to focusing on solutions because things not going right all the time is not an indictment of your ability to succeed as a consultant, right? Things not going right, it's a business. That's normal, that's a expected. When you used to be in employment, did everything go right all the time? No, it just had different consequences. It had different stakes, but no, things aren't always going to go well.

So, the key is to nurture a particular type of superpower. So, you want to have the superpower of a problem solver, a solution generator, right, an action taker. This is the superpower, really great consultants who have really robust, wonderful, fulfilling businesses.

So, instead of falling into mindset traps that tells you, "Oh, I'm just not cut out for this or, oh, I should quit.” Hey, it's my last episode, so I'm just going to be blunt, screw that, right? Forget that. That's not the answer when things go wrong. Instead, I sort of have a three, you could even say four-step thing that I do that I find really helpful.

And it doesn't have to take a whole lot of time, it doesn't have to take a lot of hand wringing, but if something's not going right, whatever it is, for whatever reason, stop first and say, "What's causing and contributing this," right? So, define your causes and contributors. It's kind of stuff that we do with clients as consultants, right? So, why did this happen? So, for example, if you sent a proposal to a client who asked for it and then heard crickets, right? You never heard back from them. And that's the problem is you're like, this has happened in this particular instance, or maybe it's happened a few more times. Then you want to ask yourself, "Well, how was my follow-up? Did I do any follow-up? Did I do enough that I felt like I was doing it for real? Did I do it even a little bit more than I was comfortable with?"

Because that's usually a first place we have to push ourselves a bit. "Did I assume that they were rejecting me when I truly don't know if that was happening? And that could just be BS." That's a big one with consultants. You don't hear back and you're like, "Oh my God, they hate me. Oh my God, they're rejecting me." And the truth is, you don't know that. So, this is where you have to sort of balance when you're defining causes or things that contributed to it, you got to be radically honest with yourself, right? You got to say, "What part is me? What part is the situation? What part is the potential client?" Do it with kindness, which I'm going to hit upon later because you don't want to just use it as you pick up a stick and start to hit yourself with, but you really got to get to what's going on. Why did this actually happen?

Then the second thing, is the work the problem. So, what was this? The Apollo 13 movie, I loved that quote, work the problem. So, what could solve this, and what makes the most sense to try? And then you try it, you implement it. So, for example, if you've got holes in your pipeline and you looked at causes and contributors to it, and you notice that in your pipeline, you don't have a lot of past clients that are working with you more than once. Then one of the things you might decide to do is, “I'm going to reengage past clients.” Perhaps they need more help. Perhaps they can refer me to other people. So, you come up with a plan of how you're going to reengage them, and then you do it.

Then you move on to the next part, which is, OK, you did it, but now you’ve got to make sure that it's getting you what you want. So, you pay attention to the outcomes. Is it actually yielding the outcome you want? Now, by the way, the last example I gave, every time you reach out to someone, it's not going to bear fruit. They're not necessarily going to get back to you the first time, but if you really do it and you do it well, you're going to pay attention to the outcomes and then adjust as needed. So, what happened when you implemented your solution? Did it produce the outcome you want? And if not, how do I want to adjust it for the purpose of getting a better outcome?

For example, and I've done this, I will admit. So, if you decide to go all in on marketing, you're not a marketing expert. So, you make the mistake that everybody makes...a lot of people make at the beginning, which is you're on every single channel imaginable. So, you're doing social media marketing, and you're on LinkedIn and Instagram and Facebook, and maybe you're on TikTok or whatever else it is. And you're doing all of that, you're not seeing a ton of results, but it's taking up a ton of your time to the point where it's sucking up time that you could be using for other revenue-generating activities. So, you reviewed it and you said, "You know what? I gave it a shot, and I realized I had to start doing marketing, and so I started to do marketing, but I've done too much. So, now I'm going to stop and say, 'All right, where do I think it makes sense for me to be?'"

Now that could be like, are you actually getting engagement? I don't mean likes or any of that vanity stuff, but are you actually getting into meaningful conversations with people through certain social media? If the answer is yes, well then it makes sense to pay attention to that. You also might say, Well, I never really stopped and thought about where is my buyer? Let me do a quick glance on that and see where they're engaging." And then everything else, all the other channels that I'm using to do marketing, I'm going to stop doing and that's going to be my adjustment. Then I'm going to pay attention again and then see if I need to make an adjustment after that.

But you have to be willing and able to engage in this type of solution-oriented action taking because that's what actually makes all the difference in a consulting business.

Now, you'll notice what I did not say is I didn't say, "Yeah, you’ve got to figure out how everything's going to be perfect." I did not say that, and I didn't say that intentionally. It's not about getting everything perfect because perfect isn't the point. And perfectionism, as I've said before, it is a mindset trap. It is hell bent on keeping you stuck, right? Its primary purpose is to keep you stuck so forget that. I'll say it again, screw that! And what you want to do is you want to look at good-enough solutions that have been thought through because you thought about, "Hey, what's really going on here? What's making this happen? And what solutions might be able to fix that?"

And you've done good-enough solutions, and they're well enough-executed. Then you adjust when you need to make things better. And that is far better than trying to perfect solutions and perfectly execute them so you don't need any adjustments, because that is a fantasy and not the good kind. It's dumb and it doesn't give you anything. So, I wouldn't spend any time trying to be perfect, trying to get it just right. The thing is is engage, stay engaged in your business as a business and implement well-reasoned solutions the best that you can and make adjustments when you need to. And any good consulting business knows that that's a normal and expected thing to do as you go along.

All right, let's hit number five. So, number five means a whole lot to me, and I was not good at this when I first started, and so I want you to learn from my mistakes, and that is be kind to yourself, right? Starting and building a consulting business, it's like, it ain't always easy. I don't care what you hear in the world about, "Oh, take these six steps, and if you take these six steps, everything will be beautiful and perfect." I've never seen that to be true. You can be successful. You can make this work. That's a 100% true, but there are going to be rough times. There just is. There are going to be times when you doubt yourself. There are going to be those tough conversations you'd rather not have, but you can't avoid. Like when things go off the rails with a client or when the scope creep happens or whatever it is, those types of things happen. You may not be comfortable all the time doing all of those things, and that's OK, right?

You don't have to feel 100% comfortable all the time or be 100% confident all the time. But none of that gets better if you berate yourself or you build a case against yourself, and building a case against yourself that you're not right for this and you're not cut out for this, when the reality of the matter is it's not a question of if, it's a question of how. How do you make it work, not if you can make it work. And so being kind to yourself when those things happen, which again, they will, can lighten things up enough so that you can see clearly and you can go back to then figuring out the solution part of it. And it just makes the whole journey a lot more enjoyable. And I know that when I started, man, oh, whoa, I had so many, so many doubts about my ability to do this, all of which I constantly voiced to my husband. And I just didn't have the faith that I could make it work. I made it a narrative about me and what I couldn't do. I didn't bring enough self-kindness into it. When I did wisely, often being urged to bring some self-kindness into the mix, everything got easier.

Now, what I don't mean is I don't mean forced cheerfulness. Ew! That's that toxic positivity that I hate, and it's harmful as hell. I mean true gentleness and kindness with yourself so that you're not being hard on yourself, but you're not pretending to be “la la, la, everything's perfect” because that just actually is, I think, a type of harm to yourself.

So, what that can look like is when something good happens, stop and celebrate. Just don't go over it and go, "OK, OK, so what's the next thing? What's the next problem I have to solve?" Really, if you achieve something, I don't care how small it is, stop and celebrate it. Remind yourself of how far you've come. I'm thinking of somebody recently who's in my membership, and she's getting a contract, the biggest contract she's ever had. It's going to be something for all next year. And I remember, I don't even think it was six months ago. I think it was maybe three or four months ago, that number, that amount of that contract, was unthinkable to her.

When she defined what a big contract was, it was thousands of dollars lower than that because she couldn't imagine that that would be a high number. So, when she shared it, we all stopped and celebrated it. And we celebrated not just, “Oh, she's getting a contract to do what she loves at an amount that is more deserving of her talent,” but we also celebrated how far she came. And this is something that you can do for yourself, and you can invite the good people who care about you in your life to do the same.

Also, the other thing is if things go wrong, and again, things will go wrong, don't make the situation about you or adding things that are about you that aren't really about you or making the situation bigger than it actually is. I call that piling on, where you just sort of pile on narratives and negativity and all kinds of things until it feels so much bigger than it actually is. So, if you can embrace that building a consulting business is a journey, and that every step of that journey, you're going to learn something, right?

If you're open to it, you're going to learn something. Every step, no matter how imperfect that step is going to teach you. And if you have kindness to yourself, it's going to allow you to absorb those lessons and also you can enjoy it much more, right? Every step is going to feel better and better, particularly as you start to see the successes that you're going to have as a consultant.

So, if you got into consulting in part because you really wanted to enjoy your life more, right, then it all starts with being kind to yourself. And in fact, and if you think about it this way, be the best boss you've ever had. And some of the best bosses I've ever had are those that are understanding and kind. That wasn't the only attributes they had, but that was something that you could feel from them that ultimately everything was about wanting things to go well for you and being kind about it.

And that's something that you can learn more and more and more to do for yourself, and it makes, again, everything else easier.

So, those are the five things, and even as I finish this, I can think of, "Well, what about this? What about this?" So, there are a whole lot of other things I have shared, and I will share more of.

But I want to say thank you so much to everybody who listened to this podcast, listened to it weekly.

For those of you that did or are going back through the catalog to listen to them, I truly hope that it was helpful and even validating that you're on the right track. Some of the best feedback I've gotten from this podcast is, "OK, I'm actually doing that so now I feel validated that I'm on the right track."

If there are things that you need to learn, you can go back and listen to other podcasts that I've done. There's a whole lot of them if you haven't heard all of them, and go back and listen to my guests and listen to things that I share, and there's a lot more help to be in there.

And I also just want to thank everybody who was a guest on my podcast. I feel... Blessed, feels like an understatement, but that I had all of these really smart people on my podcast, sharing their insights, sharing their wisdom, and I got to be there like a sponge, soaking it all in, and engaging with them and listening to things that they were sharing to be able to help people on the other side, the folks that are listening like you.

This is the last thing I say, I feel really grateful if in any way I've been part of your journey. And again, not disappearing, so I'm really looking forward to sharing more. It's just going to be in other ways, that is just going to be in other places. But I still want to help you as much as I can because I want you to ultimately have the consulting business of your dreams, and I want you to have the life that you want. So, thank you so much.

bottom of page