In this subject, we have explored the initiation of a consulting business and navigating the first year, encompassing aspects such as acquiring clients, securing agreements, assisting clients, presenting findings and reports, and making recommendations based on the performed work. Moreover, we have classified clients according to relationship goals into platinum, gold, silver, and bronze categories. We have also highlighted the significance of templates, processes, and methodology within a consulting practice.
In this module, we will delve into productivity and business expansion through strategic and business plans, as well as effective time management. This entails examining time allocation and determining whether tasks are high or low value. Should tasks be low value, we will discuss outsourcing them to allocate more time to high value activities that contribute to business growth.
Lastly, we will address the consultant’s build syndrome – a pitfall resulting from focusing on low value tasks – and emphasise the role of exercise in time management. We will consider handling challenges when a consulting project encounters difficulties and examine the Zipursky (2018, p. 219)[^1] checklist for productivity and growth.
Success and productivity
Productivity is essentially the efficiency of converting resources to outputs. Improving productivity involves strategies such as planning, goal setting, and effective time management, as per Zipursky (2018)[^1]. Time management and task completion are central to productivity. Zipursky (2018)[^1] emphasises that increased productivity leads to more work being done, resulting in higher earnings, and additional leisure time for consultants to pursue other interests apart from work.
Creating a strategic plan
A strategic plan is vital for any business, and often consultants are employed to aid clients in crafting such plans. It is crucial for a business consultant to create one for their own organisation, establishing the strategic objectives they will pursue. Developing a strategic plan can be challenging, as many people often struggle to distinguish between a strategy and a tactic.
Strategy refers to the high-level choices regarding the business models that will be developed or used within the organisation. Tactics are the daily operational actions supporting the achievement of these strategies. Thus, a business model connects the strategies and tactics in the business. It is essential to understand the specific meanings of strategic plans, strategy, tactics, business models and business plans to ensure everyone is aligned when examining a strategic plan.
The distinction between working in a business, focusing on tactics, and working on a business, concentrating on strategy, is emphasised in Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited (1995)[^2].
According to Zipursky (2018)[^1] strategy is not about developing some complex plan to drive and grow your business. He argues that many people miss the focal point of a business which should always be the client. The strategic plan should therefore focus on how to best service the client which will result in the business growing. Zipursky (2018, p. 195) suggests the following for developing a client-centric strategy:
- If your strategy and plans don’t offer the value your customers are looking for, there really is no point. If someone needs chopsticks for their business and you’re trying to sell them a better kind of fork, you’re wasting your time. Solve the problem for which the customer is seeking the solution.
- Make sure that you focus on and offer what your market wants and what really matters to them.
- If your market doesn’t want what you are selling, then either change to a market that is looking for what you are selling, or change what you are selling to suit the market. Ensure there is a fit between what you are offering and what your market is seeking.
- The best way to find out what your clients want is to ask them.
In the video below, Michael Zipursky talks about getting clear on who your ideal client actually is.
The video below talks about taking “imperfect actions” and revolves around your unique selling proposition. Zipursky contends that it does not matter how well your USP resonates with you, it is how it resonates with potential clients that matters. For this reason, he advocates going to market with an imperfect USP and shaping it until it resonates with clients.
In summary, clients do not buy consulting packages, they buy solutions to their problems. Always find the solution that you need to be working on so it becomes the focus of your work along with the client.
Setting goals and time management
Goal-setting and time management are intertwined, as proper time management is essential for achieving goals over time. Naturally, this is related to productivity. Numerous resources exist to assist in managing goals and time, the key being to find a system that suits you. Among the many approaches are Getting Things Done and to-do lists, but it is crucial to find what works best for you.
Zipursky (2018, p. 197)[^1] offers one such system called the “Goal A Day Strategy”, proposing that each day should have a single high-value goal aimed at improving your business and aiding growth. This could involve acquiring new businesses, writing articles, creating videos or press releases, or developing relationship plans.
Zipursky (2018)[^1] recommends accomplishing your daily goal as early as possible without delay. By doing so, you ensure the most important task driving your business is completed daily. It is vital to start the day early with significant work, refrain from checking emails until the main task is finished, and avoid unproductive meetings, particularly in the morning.
In the video below, the most significant piece of advice is to prepare for the next day the night before. This allows you to start work immediately the next morning without worrying what needs to be done.
Another well known strategy for managing time is the “Big Rocks” approach. There a several videos around on this concept and this video below demonstrates this approach.
The value of outsourcing
Outsourcing is a crucial element in managing a business consulting practice. Frequently, individuals delay contemplating outsourcing, when in reality, it revolves around utilising time more efficiently. Zburski proposes that considering outsourcing from the inception of a business, rather than later, is beneficial. He argues that this mindset shift is necessary because outsourcing is often perceived as an expense instead of an investment.
Nonetheless, by investing in outsourcing at rates of $20 to $50 per hour for certain tasks, you could potentially earn $200 or more per hour with the saved time. As a result, this investment pays for itself. The tasks in question are low-value but essential to the business, and their importance should not be diminished. These tasks can be executed by individuals at a lower cost than your own valuable time. Examples include video transcriptions, website design, programming, graphic designs, setting appointments and scheduling.
All organisations need to keep a check on their results and look to improve continuously. One method of doing this is the Plan, Do, Check and Adjust (PDCA) system which is outlined in the video below.
A similar process is the OODA Loop
The OODA Loop was originally developed by an American Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Although developed for military purposes, the concept has valid uses in today’s commercial and community environments as well. In fact, you could even apply it in family or individual circumstances to work through problems.
Figure 1: The OODA Loop
Gather information by observing your surroundings, any inputs to gain as thorough an understanding of the situation or problem as you can. Make notes on your observations and do not rely on your memory. Also remember that the world is constantly changing and moving. Your observations at this point should take into account that it is only a point in time and you may not have all the information you might think you have. Nonetheless, the observation phase must at some point be considered complete to allow moving on to the next position.
Orientation involves reflecting on all the data gathered during the observation phase. Humans are a product of their environment and can make decisions based on instinct or prior learnings. Such a method of decision making is not always reliable particularly if this new situation is “similar” to past experiences as opposed to being the same. Orienting the information means to organise it in a meaningful manner and remove any bias where possible. Bias can be a significant threat to making correct decisions.
The decision phase is not only about making a decision but also about developing several decisions. There is always more than one way of doing something. The models developed should take into account the speed of resolution, impact on people involved, ethics and morality, financial implications and identify any potential bias. Once done, select the most appropriate decision.
Action involves the implementation of the decision that has been made. You may well have come to a conclusion that there are two very real possibilities. If you have the luxury of time, then testing them both before making a final decision can be invaluable.
It isn’t called the OODA Loop for nothing. It doesn’t stop at the action. The next part of the loop is to circle back to the Observe phase again. The purpose of circling back is to make sure your decision and action has been effective. Could it be improved upon? If so, after observation, the process is repeated and continual improvements made by continuing to employ the OODA Loop
Setting goals is important for individuals and certainly for organisations too. Organisational goals are often contained in a Strategic Plan. One system for structuring goals is the The SMART System
Figure 2: The S.M.A.R.T. System
The SMART system is a goal setting system with specific questions being asked as below.
S – Specific – The goal must be clearly defined and not subject to ambiguity.
M – Measurable – It must be able to be measured against specific benchmarks on a regular basis to see the progress toward the goal
A – Achievable – It must be realistically achievable or no-one will take it seriously
R – Relevant – Make sure the goal is relevant to what you are seeking. Know why it is that you’re setting this goal. What does it mean to you?
T – Timely – Has a start and end date. Create importance or urgency.
Zipursky (2018, p. 219)[^1] also provides a checklist for productivity and growth:
- I have created a strategic plan that makes me matter to clients and differentiates me from competitors.
- I will set one goal a day that will benefit my business.
- I have identified my top time-wasting sins and will eliminate two each week.
- I understand the four strategies to avoid Consultant’s Build Syndrome.
- I have implemented a physical health plan.
- I have put my goals down on a planning sheet and posted it where I can see it.
- I will recognise and act on windows of opportunity.
- I understand the five-steps to handle challenging situations with clients.
- I have found a qualified mentor.
In the list above, the five steps to handling challenging situations are mentioned and Zipursky (2018, p. 214)[^1] outlines them as follows:
- (Wo)man up – if it’s your fault, admit it. Do not hide from it or run from it.
- Be transparent – explain what went wrong and what you are doing to fix the situation
- Protect yourself – if you didn’t cause the problem, or are being blamed for something that wasn’t your fault, present the client with evidence to prove your case.
- Support the client – irrespective of whose mistake it was, your first concern is the client and providing them with support.
- Chill – take a deep breath, calm down and you will think more clearly.
Productivity and exercise are intrinsically entwined. The data says that exercise improves productivity by reducing stress, boosting happiness, increasing alertness and helping you think more clearly. The video below outlines these benefits and others.
All the content above is human generated. However, GPT4 has been used to summarise these notes and returns the following:
The study material offers a holistic guide to launching and managing a consulting business, with a focus on the first year. It covers essential aspects like client acquisition, agreement finalization, and productivity enhancement. Key insights include the importance of strategic planning, the differentiation between strategy and tactics, and the role of time management in achieving business goals. The module also emphasizes a client-centric approach, the value of outsourcing low-value tasks, and the necessity for continuous improvement. It provides actionable frameworks and checklists, such as Zipursky’s “Goal A Day Strategy,” to guide consultants toward sustainable growth and productivity.