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Episode 57: Advancing Your Consulting Business During Times of Crisis—with Linda Popky and Lisa Anderson

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I have two guests today, Linda Popky and Lisa Anderson. Both of them are individual, really successful consultants in their own right, but they are also the Executive Directors of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting. They're going to describe what that organization does to support the consulting field as well as individual consultants build their business. But we're also going to get into some of the details of what consultants could and should be doing during the current crisis that everybody's in—when everything's really uncertain, dynamic, and ambiguous—to be able to still have a thriving consulting business and help their clients. So tons of great information in this episode. Let's get started.

I want to welcome my guests today, Linda Popky and Lisa Anderson. Welcome to the show.

Linda Popky: Thank you. Great to be here.

Lisa Anderson: Absolutely.

Deb Zahn: Let's start off, and Linda, I'll start with you. Tell my audience what type of consulting you do.

Linda Popky: Great. So I'm a strategic marketing consultant. I help individuals and organizations get heard above the noise. If you think about the marketplace as being a loud cocktail party, then everybody's trying to talk at once, you can scream, and try to get above it all, or you can go in a corner and hide, and not do anything. Or you can do something different to get people's attention.

So I try to help people zig when everyone else is zagging and figure out how to be more effective at actually getting their message out.

Deb Zahn: That's great. I love the way you say that because I'm usually the one at a cocktail party petting the dog or cat in the corner. So that's helpful. Lisa, what kind of consulting do you do?

Lisa Anderson: I'm an expert in manufacturing and supply chain. Actually, right now, it's all explained by the fact that I answer the question, “Where is all the toilet paper, and what can we do about it?”

Deb Zahn: You are the most popular person on the planet right now then.

Lisa Anderson: That's right.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. Now, both of you also are the Dxecutive directors for the Society for the Advancement of Consulting. What is that organization, and what does it do?

Linda Popky: So Society for the Advancement of Consulting or SAC was founded about 17 years ago by a gentleman by the name of Alan Weiss, who was the guru of solo consulting. The $1 million consultant. He's written more books on solo consulting than anybody else on the planet. He started this as a way to get individual consultants together, and he ran it, and he ran a couple of events a year or whatever. But he had so many other things going on that he decided he couldn't really put the attention to it.

So he came to the two of us just about two years ago, a little bit over two years ago, and said, "Would you be interested in taking this over?" So we did, and we just decided that this was not going to be an organization where in person meetings were going to be the key, we were going to do things more virtually. So from the beginning we set up the whole membership processes online, but we have virtual webinars, and we have other events. We do have a few in-person meetings, which obviously aren't happening now, but that's what we did.

Lisa can talk a little bit more about what we do.

Lisa Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. We've been doing a series of webinars, Thriving Through Ambiguity, for handling the…well, we actually put that name together at the beginning of this year with all the disruption that's going on, even pre-coronavirus. But it certainly is applicable now. And we also do a best practice series of webinars, and we do a practicum. Working on your business in addition to being in your business.

We do a bunch of webinars, we do virtual meetings, and happy hours now. We do, actually, quite a few different events. I could keep going, but I will allow you to ask us some questions.

Deb Zahn: That's great. How prophetic that you created this space online where consultants can learn things, support each other, and connect with each other. It's a wonderful thing, and I've spent a lot of time on your website, seeing what you do. I just think there's a tremendous richness to it.

Now, if I'm a member, which I am a member…actually, I'm gathering the last bit of information and then I'm going to join. But if I'm a member I get the webinars, whenever we can have in person events again, there'll be in person events. What do individual consultants get out of it?

Linda Popky: There's a couple things. First of all, every webinar we do is archived. So if you missed one you can go to the archives, and you can either watch it, or listen to an audio only. And you can go back, we now have more than two year’s worth of webinars, so you can go back and hear all those great speakers as well.

But we do have a number of different programs. For example, we put out a news release every two months, and our members are allowed to submit a quote. That gets picked up, and put online, et cetera. So that's a way to promote you. We have a website where people have a profile. Also if they've published a book we put that up there. We have a social media person, who is putting out information, whether LinkedIn, or Twitter, or whatever, about our members as they do things. We just started a special interesting group, which Lisa can tell you more about, so we're always inventing things as we go along.

But the idea is to be able to have a lot of different things for members.

The other thing, our news release for April. We decided about the week before that we couldn't talk about a growth economy anymore, so we decided to ask people, "What advice would you give your clients during the COVID crisis?" We go so many responses in a week that I said, "God, this isn't a news release, it's a book." I said, "Wait a minute, this is a book."

Deb Zahn: There you go.

Linda Popky: So we pivoted and within a week, we did not put out a news release, but we turned it into an e-book. We put that together, and we got that out, and we're promoting that. There are 30 consultants that have put tips in there. That's being downloaded.

We do those things, we just look for opportunities to help our members.

Deb Zahn: That is wonderful. Actually, that's perfect for my next question. Which is what is that folks are seeing existing clients or perspective clients actually need right now? Can you give a little teaser of some of the things you heard?

Lisa Anderson: Right now, everyone's looking at how do we successfully navigate through this period of time. However, even more important is, really the name of our series is Thriving Through Ambiguity, is how do we emerge successfully so that we're not just surviving or merely surviving but thriving?

So they're interested in how do we maintain a relationship with our customers, and during this period of time during ambiguity and crisis, relationships move way faster than they do at other times. It's the opportunity to establish, solidify, and move your relationships faster. We actually have a couple of webinars in our Thriving Through Ambiguity series that touch upon this. One with David Priemer on just that topic, and we also had one with Robbie Kellman Baxter about the ongoing customer relationship. She's a subscription and membership economy expert. So one is how to maintain relationships with customers. The other is how to build business during this time, when lots of businesses are shut down. What to do with your people, how do we best keep them employed, how do we move to remote workforce, there's a lot of questions on CEOs’ minds.

Those types of tips, from all aspects.

That's one of the advantages of SAC is that we have consultants that span from manufacturing and supply chain to marketing to organizational development to global topics. We have perspectives from all around the world, actually, included in this e-book, from Australia, to Europe, to Canada, the US, and more.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. We'll put a link to that in the show notes.

Now one thing you mentioned actually spurs a question. Which is, I've heard from other consultants who say, "Ugh, it just feels icky or wrong to try and get business or ask for money from my clients when everybody is really struggling." Or "I can only reach out to them so many times and say, ‘Hey how are you doing?’ without it seeming creepy and weird."

What advice do you have for consultants who are thinking about that, in terms of understanding what clients need right now? And how they can actually get business that is, ultimately, for the good?

Linda Popky: It's funny, we just did this webinar with David Priemer and talked about that. We actually just talked about this with our audience.

I think the first thing is to banish the thought that you're asking people for money because asking people for money is not a good thing. What you're doing, or I hope you're doing, is providing value that your clients, your customers need right now.

There are things that each of us can do that can help our clients weather the storm, help them thrive through all of this, and it may be very different than what we offered two months ago. It may be totally different, or partially different, or offered in a different way. But lose the thought that you are asking people for money because that is just going to send you down the wrong hole.

Think about what's the value you can bring. How can you help your clients, when you do emerge from this, be more successful, and ready to take advantage of the rebound?

Deb Zahn: That's right. They're struggling right now, so how could you not want to help them, is how I've been saying it to folks.

Among consultants, the other thing that I've heard is...I've experienced this myself where there was business…there were things queued up, I was working on something. COVID-19 is absolutely what a lot of folks should be focused on so my business either disappeared or it's gotten delayed. Are you hearing that among other consultants? What types of things are you putting out that can help them think through how to deal with that because that's their income?

Lisa Anderson: Well, certainly. What I'm actually seeing is it's actually boom or bust, typically speaking. My clients, the same. Some have been shutdown and others can't keep up because they sell things like water or…

Linda Popky: Toilet paper.

Lisa Anderson: Or something that's really popular. Yeah, toilet paper. Exactly. Everybody wants to know, “Where's the toilet paper?” Yeah. But the same is true for consultants because certainly as our clients have to lay off their workforce, they start to think about, “Do I really need a consultant when I'm having to lay off my workforce?” Certainly, a lot of our consultants in our community have seen projects go on hold or delayed.

With that said, some are continuing on. Linda and I both have projects that are continuing on. We're both really quite busy; however, a lot of what our advice is overall is what we're doing. So offering webinar series for different groups, reaching out to folks to provide value. But one of the things that I've heard that's most effective is simply to call and talk with folks. Find out how you can help. That's whether they're a client, a potential client, a former client, or just a contact. It will rebound you in the future.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I agree. What I've told people who are worried about feeling icky is that you're even concerned about that tells me that you're going to approach this with heart. If you approach it with heart, then it's going to come back to you, even if it's not immediate business, because they're going to know that you weren't being predatory, which some folks are. And you were doing it from the right space, which is value and wanting to help. That's wonderful.

Linda Popky: Yeah. One thing, too, we have a list of resources for consultants on our website, sites that we've found, and we encourage people to look at it from a real business operations perspective.

What's your cash flow? Do you need to go get a loan? Do you need to get your mortgage suspended? Do you need to go and do some other things? Think about those things, and we put the resources there. Lisa has a long list of resources on her own website, of all kinds of things. So we're trying to just get the information out there, because we know people are suffering at different levels. If you need to do something, go ahead and do that, and don't feel bad about it. Just do what you need to do.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Now marketing is one other thing that comes up, and I know you did a recent webinar exactly on marketing and branding yourself. It's another one where I've heard consultants say, "Ew. Can I really do that?" My answer, I think, is the same as yours, is no, you absolutely need to.

For consultants, how should they be approaching marketing and branding for themselves, during this crisis?

Linda Popky: Marketing is one of those things where there's only three times you need to do marketing. When you have business and you want to grow, when things are OK, and when you have no business. So that covers the whole thing.

This is an important time to do marketing in a lot of ways. Like Lisa said, it's an important time to reach out to your clients and say, "I'm here, this is what I can do for you." Again, it's not, "Hey, Deb, here's a webinar. Can I sell it to you?"

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Linda Popky: It's how can I help you, are there things we can do? I'm here for you, so there's that.

The other thing is a lot of the marketing that we do is not marketing to clients specifically but generating an image, generating a presence. This is the best time to get out there with creating content. In fact, the content producers, the people who are out there publishing content, seem to be hungry for even more content, believe it or not. I've been approached to write articles, and blog posts, and things like that. This is a wonderful time to get your messages out there, and couch them in the framework of what's going on.

Like I said, we totally threw away our prompt that said let's talk about the growth economy, because we're not in a growth economy.

Deb Zahn: Right.

Linda Popky: But being here's where we are, these are the things you should be considering. So get that out there, use social media, start interacting with people, connecting.

Then, the other thing that I do is I write. I write my own books, but I also write for clients. And I edit and produce books for clients. This is a wonderful time to get out there and write that, whether it's a new book, or article, or a book that you're thinking about, that you said, "I never have time. I'm busy." OK, if you're not busy, this is a great time to do that, use the time very effectively and start to create some intellectual property, that you can then use to promote your business, and send to your clients as well.

Deb Zahn: Right, and help your clients develop that.

Linda Popky: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: I'm going to be writing an op-ed for a client of mine because she has something really important to say, relative to what's currently going on right now and it furthers their organizational mission. So am I an op-ed writer? No. Am I going to write an op-ed? Heck yes, and it's going to be great.

Lisa, is there anything you would add to that, in terms of people marketing and branding themselves right now?

Lisa Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. I typically have done a lot of networking, I gained quite a few clients from the networking I've done. I would add to that, that it's a perfect time to invite folks to a Zoom virtual happy hour or to invite folks to a Zoom meeting to just talk. People are getting more comfortable with using software like Zoom and being seen online. Even if not, they can still talk to you even on the phone. Basically, getting folks out of their shells and talking about what's going on and how you can help or ideas you've seen elsewhere. I think one of the things we can do as consultants is bring a bunch of best practices that we're seeing all around us to our clients, and to our contacts and those types of folks.

Like Linda said, it's the right time to do content. Some folks are saying they don't have anything going on so it's a perfect time. I'm really busy, but it's still the right time. So I'm actually publishing an e-book some time later this week or early next week, that'll be about what manufacturing and supply chain folks need to do to emerge successfully and powerfully, instead of having to ramp up very slowly from this whole coronavirus because that's a really hot topic in that world. I think we just need to be doing those types of things and getting out in front of...we need to be even faster than we were before, which is challenging to do.

Deb Zahn: Agreed. Yeah, I immediately thought of instead of Who Moved the Cheese, your book should be called Where's the Toilet Paper?

Lisa Anderson: Yes, exactly.

Deb Zahn: It would be a best seller.

Linda Popky: Who took the toilet paper?

Deb Zahn: Exactly. Who took it?

But I think that's right, that's advice I've given is what you've said before, "I don't have time for marketing. I don't have time for a social media presence. I don't have time for some of the business development activities I need to do." Well, by all means, you have time now. That sets you up as you move in, just like our clients, from a response phase into a recovery phase, and then hopefully into a resilience phase, where now you've got building blocks that you haven't had before.

Linda Popky: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: I know a lot of the folks that are part of SAC have books that they write. I'm curious about that because I know you folks do as well. Any advice you would give for someone whose never actually done it before? This is not the type of content they do, that would help them put out something that is good, and high value, but they don't spend a lot of time sweating over?

Linda Popky: There's a couple things. I think, first of all, get over the idea that it's a book, like this big thing, this mountain, Everest, that you have to climb. It is a written piece of intellectual property that could be electronic. It could be something you print. It could be printed by a publisher. It's less likely that you're going to get a commercial publisher.

You don't start from a blank sheet of paper. Maybe you've done some articles, and you want to gather them and put them together. Maybe you have some workshop, or training, or some other intellectual property and you say, let me pull the key points out of here. I think the key thing is to say, let me work on this. What is the value I have, what story do I want to tell to people, that's important?

Another thing to think about is you don't have to put every single thing you know in a book.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Linda Popky: I've seen people put 80,000 words in a book and it's like, stop. I know that you're an expert in an area, and you know a lot of these things. But you don't have to put it all in book one. There's book two and book three, too, that you could do. Nobody wants to get the encyclopedia of whatever it is you're doing.

Tell people what they need to know and be just as concise and as quick as you can. Because most things today are being published either as e-books, as self-published, or perhaps with hybrid publishers, you can control the content. You don't have to wait for a publisher, a commercial publisher, to say, "Well, I like this, I don't like that. Change this, change that. Oh, by the way, the minute you give us the manuscript, it'll be nine months until the book arrives in a physical format." You can turn things around very quickly.

I just worked with a client who wanted to put together a book of ecumenical prayers for people impacted by the coronavirus.

Deb Zahn: Oh, nice.

Linda Popky: You know, being sick to losing their job and whatever. We just put this together in a week. So you can do things very, very quickly. You're not writing War and Peace, you're not writing...

Deb Zahn: Hopefully.

Linda Popky: …a huge thing that's going to change society. So lose that thought.

One of the things I recommend is that you set an appointment with yourself every day. If writing is not the thing that you like to do or you're used to doing, then make yourself an appointment for 15 to 30 minutes every day and write something.

Whether it's a blog post, whether it's a paragraph or two, just capture it somewhere in a file. Then, if you're done with that, go ahead, do your stuff, and go back the next day. Maybe after a week you say, "I want to write for 40 minutes, instead of 15." Or, maybe you say 15 is enough, but you do that for a couple of weeks and you're going to have a lot of intellectual property.

Then, the things you think about is it's not like you write the book, and then you have to do something else. All of those thoughts in there can be repurposed for a webinar, for a blog post, for social media, for videos. There's lots of things you can do, don't think about it as a book and everything else. But it's a different medium to get your ideas across.

Deb Zahn: That's right, that's right. One other tip that I'll give that's been helpful for me in terms of writing articles, is one, I do podcasts so, hey, I have transcripts. That's something you can repurpose. But the other thing is I'm a very good writer, but if I'm short on time. So I will record something. There are apps that you can do this, and then get a transcript. So for folks that aren't comfortable necessarily writing or have difficulty finding the time, you can also just say it like you're talking to someone, record it, get a transcript. Now, you've got something to work with.

Linda Popky: That's wonderful. I know people with dyslexia who do that as well.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Linda Popky: They know what they want to say, but writing, sitting and physically writing would be difficult. So, that's fine.

Do that.

Then, the other thing is you don't have to do this all yourself. If you are not a writer, and this is not what you want to spend your time on, you can bring in someone like me or someone else and say, "Here's the raw stuff, here's what I want. Can you make it pretty? Can you get all the grammatical errors out?" So, don't feel like you have to go on this road by yourself, there's plenty of resources out there to help you.

Lisa Anderson: I just said Linda's great at that.

Deb Zahn: Oh, good. Yeah, you've got to have somebody who knows the rules of the road, I love that.

Lisa, how did you get your book out? How did you make time, and think about what your topic is, and actually make it happen?

Lisa Anderson: Well, like Linda said, everyone's got their own approach. I think that the most successful approach is the one Linda talked about, where you assign time each day, and you do a little bit each day, and you get it done.

For me, especially being as busy as I am, I ended up scheduling a larger block of time, which is probably not the most recommended, but everyone has different personality types. I've taken a couple of larger blocks of time, and just gotten it done, just the only way to do it.

In order to start the process, I work well with categories...actually, to answer your question earlier about the categories of our benefits, I would speak in those terms. So I did the same for my book. I went through a bunch of my notes and thinking about topics. Then put them into categories, and then I started writing the book.

Deb Zahn: Love it. Of course, if people like Post-It notes as much as most consultants do, organizing by Post-It notes is another way to do it, so you can actually hone your idea.

Lisa Anderson: That's a good point.

Linda Popky: Absolutely, sure. Whatever works for you. There's no rule that has to be done this way. Whatever makes you comfortable.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Keep experimenting until you find out what works well for you.

Any other advice you would have to consultants of things they either need to think about, and approach differently, or just plain old switch up right now, given the time we're in?

Linda Popky: One thing I want to talk about is that you should think about video. Some of us have done video. Some of us have done it under pressure. A lot of people are very nervous about it. I've done video where I've had hair and makeup, and lights and whatever, and that's great. But, the quality of video we have today on an iPhone or an Android is just so high, and people are not expecting this.

If you look at the late night shows, or Saturday Night Live, everybody is broadcasting from their home, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Linda Popky: We are getting used to seeing this. We're not Hollywood level video. In fact, Hollywood, I think, is going to start to do some of these things. Think about using video as a way to get ideas across. If you do consider video, remember that our attention spans are very, very short.

If you look at most advertisements on TV or whatever today, they're five, 10, 15, 20 seconds. Once in a while, 30 seconds.

Deb Zahn: Right.

Linda Popky: The idea of a one minute or a 90 second commercial, outside of the Super Bowl, just doesn't exist anymore. Or late night TV, those infomercials.

So we have very short attention spans, and you are much better off doing a one minute video, and doing 10 of them, than one 10 minute video that you're going to...30 seconds in I'm going to say, "I'm done, I can't stand this anymore." Consider doing a lot of short videos. One of the things that I do when I do a whole series of videos, is I will shoot a bunch of them at once, and get them in the can. Then, I don't have to think about, oh did I do it this week, I'm busy, I don't want to do it today.

But I'll have five, 10, 15 of them at once if they're evergreen, and things that can be reused.

So there's various ways of doing it, but think about video. Think about podcasts. Think about things that, perhaps, you haven't used before. You have a whole toolbox. The whole thing…if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Linda Popky: Look at the wrench, the screwdriver, and all the other tools as well. And don't just be hammering on the same thing you've done before.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Don't worry about what you look like would be the other thing.

My most popular video that I put on LinkedIn was a spur of the moment. I was in my vegetable garden in front of a raspberry bush in a t-shirt covered in cat hair. My hair was whatever my hair was. Most popular video that I ever put out, and I just did it on the fly because I'm like, look, I don't have time for the whole makeup and all of that stuff. I focused on the message being of value, and people loved it. They loved that I was just real, and myself, so don't worry about what you look like.

I just recently cut my own hair, so obviously I care a little bit, and it went OK. But yeah, I would agree with that.

Linda Popky: There’s a shortage of professionals. Yeah, there are no salons open to take care of it. Just you.

Deb Zahn: Everybody knows it. But, I like your idea of short. I like to start with something that draws somebody in, so you aren't burying their lead, and they're waiting until minute 12 to figure out what you're talking about because they won't keep listening. And I would add captions because most videos that people look at, they actually have the sound off. Captions are now easy, because there's apps and software systems that automatically will do it for you.

Lisa Anderson: Actually, very true. I was just on a webinar where the person when through a tip of how to do that quite easily, so that's a really good point.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Who knew? Who knew how easy that was?

Lisa Anderson: Right.

Deb Zahn: One big question is at some point, things are going to be different. I'm not going to say they're going to get back to normal, because I don't think we know what that new normal is going to look like. But if you look into the future, what do you think is next for the Society, in terms of what you'll be offering?

Linda Popky: I think we'll continue to, obviously, grow what we do. We do like to have a couple of in person events, we just had one in Miami in February. Thank heavens, it was before all this hit. We do have an annual meeting we've traditionally held every year in October in New York City. We are holding space in New York City for that, October 20th and 21st. If it is feasible and safe to do that, otherwise we'll go out. But we have ambassadors all over the world, we have about 200 members in 14 countries worldwide. We have ambassadors in Europe, and in Asia Australia, and also in Canada and the US.

We try and do things in small groups, and get people together, so we will add some in person things back when it's feasible to do so.

Then I think we'll also focus on, OK, now that things are coming back, what are you going to do differently? How are you going to really stand out and shine? That's part of the whole thriving idea. But, there will be the next level which is less about how do you look good on a video, and more how do you get back out into a car and go see a client?

Deb Zahn: That's great.

Lisa Anderson: I'd like to add to that, as well. I think that, actually, what's been evergreen about SAC is really necessary going forward as well.

Growth through association is our theme, and our tagline, we offer several ways to do that. Whether it's virtually, which we're going to continue to offer. We actually started recently, in addition to these additional webinars, have been doing accelerated learning labs, where you can dive a bit deeper into certain topics. Linda's been doing one on writing something, and you leave the workshop with a piece written.

Deb Zahn: Nice.

Lisa Anderson: We also did one on a TED talk, on how to host, or lead a TED talk in your area. That's being done virtually.

Like Linda said, we still want some of our in-person events. Also, just reaching out and talking with members is going to always be important, whether we're doing that in person, virtually, and really a combination is the right approach.

But some of the other things that we're doing right now that I think will carry on into the future that's important is we're starting a special interest group on manufacturing and supply chain, which is really quite important right now. After all, we do solve the where is the toilet paper question, and how to bring it back. With that said, we're interested in starting other special interesting groups that we have a demand more, that our members request. That's another thing that's new, that is coincidental to the timing but I think it's very relevant now, and also as we emerge from this.

Then, it's our second year of offering Advancing Consulting awards.

Linda Popky: Yes.

Deb Zahn: Great.

Lisa Anderson: I think that's really important, because we need to recognize our profession, recognize people who have been giving back, who have been innovating. We should have mentioned this earlier probably, but innovation in our profession is critical, not just now. We talked about doing things quickly, but innovating quickly, and then also carrying that on. As a consultant, I think we have to be much stronger innovators than any other profession really, because we need to lead our clients forward, and help them with these topics.

So the Advancing Consulting award looks at top categories, like innovation, like resiliency, which for sure is a relevant topic right now. Of course, your clients results. So we awarded two awards last year, one for an established consultant, and one for an emerging consultant. We're going to do the same this year, we just opened our nominations. You have to be a SAC member, and then there's other criteria, it's listed on our website. But we are definitely interested in having additional nominations, and I think that's a great way to recognize consultants.

The last thing I would say is PR and publicity, and getting recognized in the media is really important, it does relate to the topics I've brought up. But, I think that's another thing we should be doing now, and as we emerge because I think standing out in the crowd's not simple, so we have to leverage our media as well.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Especially if there's a lasting economic downturn, there's going to be more folks likely in the consulting space simply because people lost employment. Maybe it was always their dream, and I hope that's what it is, but there's likely going to be more folks that are looking for some type of business.

Let me ask you personally, and Lisa, I'll start with you since I know you have a book coming out soon. In your consulting practice, what do you see coming next for what you're doing?

Lisa Anderson: Well, actually, I see that folks are already starting to look at redefining their sourcing network. Meaning, are we really going to continue to produce the vast majority of our goods in Asia and then bring them over here? I think that's going to start changing. There's already a large movement underway to more local or near sourcing. So maybe Mexico and the US, for folks that are to supply consumers here, as well as local is wherever you are. But, I think that the movement’s going to start because of the “Amazon Effect,” meaning that everybody wants everything rapidly. Like same day delivery would be great, which by no means are you going to get from around the world. As well as the coronavirus has pointed out the issues with the extended supply chains, and all the problems associated with it.

Then, the rise of technology, so we can leverage technology in automation, we can get visibility into our supply chain. I think that there's a lot to be said for the future of sourcing locally, and leveraging technology, and continuing on with what we've learned during this crisis, to continue to get better and better, to service customers effectively, while making money and having additional cashflow, that's not tied up in unnecessary inventory.

But on the other hand, a strategic stockpile of certain materials is going to become more relevant now it ever has before, because people are learning the hard way.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, absolutely. Linda, what about you? What do you see in the future of your practice?

Linda Popky: It's interesting, my practice has evolved over the last few years. I've been in business almost 18 years. And I started out where I did big projects at Silicon Valley companies, where I was down there, working there. We were doing events in person, we were doing big launches, etc.

Since 2008 that changed, when we all fell off the cliff. Things came back, but they came back differently. I see over the last few years, it's evolved even more, that people are no longer looking for the big event, but they're doing more smaller things. I think that's going to continue.

I have a client, I'm working on the launch of their company, a startup, but it's not going to be a big, big event thing that we would have done a few years ago. It's how you do this in a world where we can't necessarily either get together, or people are not going to want to get...Even when the moment they say, "OK, it's OK to go away." I don't believe everybody's getting in the airport, and getting on a plane.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Linda Popky: So it's going to take a while for people to feel comfortable, for them to have the money to travel. So that means that we have to be able to figure out how to market without being in the big, in person events, and I think that's important.

The other thing is I've been doing more and more of writing and editing, which happens no matter what. I'm going to continue to do that, and to help writers, and people who need editing, people who need production of their books, because that's something...What I liked about is, in the old days I could edit a book whether I was in Mexico, or Hawaii, or Barcelona.

Now, I can edit it from my living room, or my dining room, or my kitchen. But it's the kind of work...I think the more that we can become independent of having to physically be there, it's not just because of this, but it becomes a labor intensity thing.

Lisa's in Southern California. Most of the times she used to call me, she was in a car, driving somewhere because that's what you do in LA. All that time is wasted. If you have to be onsite, there's only so many hours in the day. So how do you move to more advisory work? How do you move so that you're doing more things remotely? Even though you might be showing up and having lunch with someone in a restaurant, but how are you working in this new world?

Deb Zahn: Right. I would say with that is, because I've been thinking a lot about this, is how do you give clients the experience of high touch without it necessarily being high touch? Then what do you with that extra time?

Maybe with that extra time you write a book. Maybe you use that time freedom for something else to grow your business, or to, in my case, grow my garden.

Linda Popky: Yeah, exactly. Maybe you take time for yourself.

Lisa Anderson: That's right.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, now is the time of reflection and choices is what I would say.

Let me ask you one last question, because I always end my podcasts with this. Lisa, again I'll start with you. Balance in your life, however it is you define that, and especially now in this wacky world that we're living in, how do you bring more balance to your life?

Lisa Anderson: Well, I think that's a good question since right now I'm extremely busy. With that said though, I think that the founder of SAC, who's Alan Weiss, and he always talks about you do only have one life, not a work life and a home life. So that's what I live by, and I've always lived by that actually, pre-knowing Alan. If you need to go to your son's soccer game in the middle of the day, go. At the same time, I find myself working at 10 or 11 PM at night, frequently. Or people who are morning people might start working at five.

I think it's how you prioritize, knowing that you're living one life, so that you can prioritize those things that are important, throughout.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. How about you, Linda?

Linda Popky: I'm a musician. I play piano, so a big part of what I do when I go to get away from things is I play piano. I've played classical music for years, and now I'm also studying jazz. I'm able to have piano lessons virtually. We actually use FaceTime because it's one on one. That's something I do is I go get away from all of this, and go sit down at the piano. Or take the dog for a walk or whatever.

I used to travel, I'm hoping to be able to travel again sometime soon, but that may not be for a year or so. I think it's important to just say...maybe you have to schedule it in your calendar, this is time for me, and this is what I'm going to do. Then, just keep that holy, and not go and schedule something else on top of it.

Deb Zahn: That's great, I love that. I do that. And I color code it because that brings me joy because I do love color coding. Then it jumps off the page, and I recognize that, actually, blue is chill time.

Linda Popky: There you go.

Deb Zahn: I hold that sacred.

Well, I really appreciate you both coming on, as well as the wonderful work you do as individual consultants, but also with the Society for the Advancement of Consulting, which is what SAC is for those folks that might have tuned in a little bit late.

But, we'll put a bunch of information that folks can look at in the show notes, so they can look things up. But, thank you so much for joining me today.

Linda Popky: Well, thank you for having us. We appreciate the opportunity.

Lisa Anderson: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

Deb Zahn: Oh, great.

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

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