My Dirty Little Recession Secret
Maximizing Consulting Success in Uncertain Times
By Heather Petersen, handl Consulting
While rumors of a recovery are brewing, there’s no doubt we’ve been experiencing a challenging time. Maybe I should be depressed about it, stressed to the gills, or at the very least catching up on sleep. There’s no shortage of reasons to be concerned about the consulting climate, but my dirty little recession secret is: I’m not. "And why not?" you ask. Okay, I'll let you in on it. I've been benefiting by having more time to focus on my business, rather than doing business. Here's my secret for Maximizing Consulting Success in Uncertain Times.
- Make real time for reflection: Loads of client work makes for busy days and comfortable pay but leaves little time for the creative and entrepreneurial aspects of running a business – the part I love most. Sure, I should set aside time for these activities, and maybe you are better at this than I am, but too often it gets put on the backburner. With a more balanced work schedule, I’ve had a chance to dust off my business plans, re-examine my goals, and reconnect with the creative aspects of running a business that I really value. While I’ve been fortunate to have a multitude of interesting engagements and truly wonderful clients over the years, there were also several goals I had to set aside. Taking time to revisit these goals has allowed me to take stock of where I’m at and where I’m going.
- Engage the experts: With a clearer view, I decided it was time to engage some expert help to propel my business forward faster. After all, I want to be ready for the upswing, whenever it happens. So, what did I do?
- I attended a powerful three-day weekend seminar in Laguna Beach on taking your business from six to seven figures, which helped me build a new business roadmap.
- I engaged with a process management program to help me streamline the way I do business.
- I enrolled in a twelve-week sales pipeline course, which really turbocharged my sales efforts. (By the way, the sales pipeline course was taught by WIC past president Kate Purmal, and I highly recommend working with her if you are looking for a systemic way to build your business over time!)
- I learned from the experts I may never meet by checking out several business books from the library that had long been on my list to read. Lots can be learned from others. Which brings me to my next tip…
- Swap expertise: In a downturn, it’s possible to extend your momentum further if you swap expertise, and save cash resources for other investments. Really quality resources may have more time than money, and may need your services as much as you need theirs. I provided coaching for a consultant who offered me her market research expertise. An executive looking for a sounding board for strategic marketing career advice exchanged his own marketing insights on my business in return. Everyone walked away a little smarter, and “richer” for the experience.
- Network outside your domain: Most days I associate with a fairly like-minded crowd of marketing folks and consultants, but real breakthroughs in thinking can come from outside the usual group of people who have a lot of commonalities. The education and expert advice I’ve received has exposed me to people from different geographies, in different lines of business, with diverse philosophies that allowed me to look at my situation in a different light. Recently, I exchanged ideas with the president of a mold remediation company and a partner in a financial investment firm – people from different fields with a completely fresh take on my business.
- Connect with clients: With tight budgets, you may be meeting with clients less frequently. It’s easy to get out of touch with their needs. I engaged a consultant to interview my client base about their experience with my company and provide feedback on how appealing some new services would be to them. This allowed me to understand how I could refine my business, based on our work in the past, as well as provide new services that are on target to their needs.
- Roll out new services: In good times, it is easy to continue on with existing services. Changing market conditions, business techniques, and client needs all suggest a need to reexamine existing services. We tested a few new services, and rolled out the most promising ones. Because we asked for client input upfront, our new services have received promising early adoption.
- Provide unexpected client value: I decided to offer a complimentary assessment for clients, in an area where they demonstrated high interest. Providing these valuable but complimentary offerings gives me a chance to connect with clients who may not be looking for consulting help immediately. It helps me set the stage for future opportunities and to position our expertise in a new light.
- Seize unforeseen opportunities: Opportunities may come from unexpected places and when things aren’t so hectic, it may be easier to size them up and seize them. I entered into a product-based business partnership when I was approached with a great idea. With several of us involved my time commitment is minimal, and we’ve been seeing healthy growth from this side endeavor.
It’s hard to tell what’s next, but I’m optimistic and feel I’ve tried to make the most out of the opportunities I’ve had for the last several months. The truth is, I’ve actually really enjoyed this period. My dirty little recession secret is out.
© 2009. handl Consulting. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Heather Petersen is the owner and founder of handl Consulting, a successful high-tech marketing consultancy firm located in San Francisco, California. Established in 2000, handl Consulting specializes in market analysis, competitive intelligence, and customer research for established and emerging technology leaders. For more information or to contact Heather, visit www.handlConsulting.com or e-mail Heather.