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THE CONSULTING LANDSCAPE

BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL CONSULTING BUSINESS AS A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR

Here’s What Your Favorite Consulting Guru Forgot to Mention in Their Book

If you’ve read any book on starting or building a consulting business, you’ve likely noticed that they all read the same.

Start with who you know.

Ask for referrals.

Write winning proposals.

Speak on a big stage.

Self-publish a book or start a blog.

And occasionally do some cold calling to find someone new.

But, if you’re a woman, especially a woman of color, in consulting and you’ve tried all of these things, and they haven’t worked the way you’d imagined, that’s not a surprise. Here’s what they forgot to tell you…

The book wasn’t written with you in mind.

Reality Check (a.k.a. Here’s the Facts💯)

Have you ever thought about what the consulting industry looked like when many of these books were written?

You guessed it. Nothing like it does today.

There were few female trailblazers in the entrepreneurial space and even fewer women of color (WOC). So, the fact that they forgot to disclose that their books were written from the limited perspective of an older cis-gender white male could be expected. Anything else was not part of their everyday reality and, therefore, inconsequential in developing their written work.

Now, that is not to say that they didn’t offer valuable information. But, there are inherent limitations in many of the approaches that are mentioned:

Fact #1. As of 2022, according to the McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace 2022 study, women made up 26% of the C-Suite, with WOC accounting for a mere 5% of this population. We have limited control of major corporations at the highest levels of decision-making and often fewer high-level connections.

Fact #2. According to the Federal Reserve, women are less likely to be approved for a small business loan than their male counterparts. And when you consider credit applications, only 38% of Black-owned businesses were approved for the total amount of credit compared to 62% of white-owned businesses. The inequities we face in society have placed us at a financial disadvantage.

Fact #3. Women are less likely to be regarded as thought leaders in their space. Google a list of notable thought leaders in any industry. You will find that it is only a tiny minority that will make a list despite women consistently earning the majority of doctoral degrees awarded at universities in the United States.

Additionally, access to inner circles and well-connected networks is limited. Requests for proposals are often won before they are posted. And cold calling is subject to societal influence as to whether a woman, especially a WOC, is a legitimate expert service provider.

(I know. It’s exhausting.)

Now, can we overcome these odds? Of course, but the fact that navigating them makes our risk of failure much higher than it should be is unacceptable, not to mention that it wastes valuable time and resources as a result.

But, There’s Good News…

We are no longer living decades ago without an effective way to compete.

The onset of the digital era has created an opportunity to generate more significant revenue and profits on our own terms. This is why NOW is the perfect time to create a new path to consulting success for women, especially women of color, who want to use their expertise to build wealth and make a more significant impact. We can leverage the monetary and energetic investment that has already been made to attain our education (often with more outstanding loans at a higher interest rate), experience, and skills to build greater wealth and financial security.

Here’s how we can do it:

  • Leverage our lived experience as an asset to deliver a unique and highly desirable solution
  • Embrace the digital space and use it to spread our thought leadership (your badazz and innovative thoughts and ideas)
  • Create immense value that fuels social progress that is reciprocated in a monetary format

Your Lived Experience as an Asset

One of the biggest things missing in the corporate space and most industries are the ideas and inputs from women, especially women of color. It’s not that they aren’t there. But in most cases, they’re overlooked, disregarded, and ignored. However, it is precisely this insight and cultural consciousness that is so immensely valuable.

Look at the Pepsi debacle with Kendall Jenner. Who thought it was a good idea to have a reality TV superstar rip her wig off, enter into a crowded street of protesters standing for the justice, healing, and freedom of Black people across the globe to make peace with police by handing them a can of Pepsi with a smile? (🙄 Exactly!) I’m pretty super there was a lack of diversity and representation in that marketing decision.

An image from a Pepsi ad posted on YouTube, starring Kendall Jenner. Source: The New York Times (2017)

There is ample evidence that diverse and inclusive companies will likely make better, bolder decisions — a critical capability in a crisis.

For example, diverse teams have been shown to be more likely to radically innovate and anticipate shifts in consumer needs and consumption patterns — helping their companies to gain a competitive edge.

Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, McKinsey & Company, May 2020

Your day-to-day experience, awareness of cultural practices and taboos, and knowing what resonates with people of similar backgrounds and interests significantly impact business success. You hold the key to that. You’re plugged in. How you have successfully navigated your industry throughout your life is what others can’t recreate. This is a HUGE asset to be leveraged to help others find their optimal solution.

The Digital Advantage

Conventional wisdom in the consulting space is that dedicating time to building an online presence outside your website wastes energy. Social media is often frowned upon except for one or two platforms deemed “acceptable” for professionals.

This outdated way of thinking does not consider that over 4.62 billion people use social media worldwide. Or the fact that everyone from Bain to McKinsey to Deloitte has a notable presence online. As a matter of fact, here are a few statistics:

  • By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions will occur on digital channels (Hootsuite.com)
  • 55% of consumers learn about new brands on social (SproutSocial.com)
  • 80% of business executives think it’s very important or essential to invest additional resources in social media marketing (SproutSocial.com)

The pace at which people are taking to digital technology defies our stereotypes of age, education, language, and income.

Narendra Modi

Businesses are embracing digital innovation and strategy. This is why it only makes sense to do so as well. And the best part about it is that it’s accessible to anyone willing to use it to their advantage. There’s no gatekeeper. There’s not anyone to tell you that you don’t deserve an equal opportunity. Very few limitations exist to keep you from coming up with a profitable idea and solution and making money off of it.

The digital space is a great equalizer. You can start your business with limited resources and human capital and create something worth millions. It can LITERALLY change the trajectory of your life. Not to mention the people and social causes you hold dear. Don’t be afraid to use it!

Value Creation Fuels Success

There is no one more popular today than Gary Vaynerchuk for using social media to give valuable information to others in an attempt to allow karma to return the investment for what he put it in. But he is only one of many. Warren Buffet has done this for the investment community most of his life, and Oprah Winfrey has done the same through communications, mass media and journalism. We have our fair share of examples of wealth attached to value creation.

But what is value?

Value is always in the eye of the beholder, which means that the potential client’s perception trumps everything else. And this is why communicating value is so ridiculously hard. It requires releasing ego and self-serving goals to become intimately aware of what others desire most.

So, you feel like you must be a mind reader because value creation sometimes feels mysterious and elusive. But, it’s simply how your potential client views your service and the price they are willing to pay in exchange for receiving it. There’s always evidence as to where this value lies.

The biggest differentiator between a successful consulting business and one that fails is not how big of a network it has developed but rather the amount of value it was able to create.

“Your network is your net worth.” is commonly misconstrued. Even marketing expert Porter Gale discusses how social media has accelerated networking and making connections. The key in all that you do is to remain client centered in your approach. So, if your network is small, it doesn’t have to place you at a disadvantage.

It’s time to take matters into your own hands and build a recognizable expert brand that delivers undeniable value. The kind of value that positions you as a thought leader and go-to expert in your space. Offer actionable insight, establish credibility as a knowledgeable expert in your field, and build a loyal following for your content. Be your own hype woman. Now is not the time to hide.

Why?

Because the level of value you create is directly tied to the amount of wealth that can be built.

It’s time to build your value and money bank!

Despite this, many of us focus heavily on traditional networking and leave value creation up to chance without focused intention or strategy. Remember that the network can keep you at a disadvantage, but value is blind to inner circles and reliance on the status quo. Rely just more heavily on the benefit of value creation.

The Missing Chapter

We’ve discovered how to apply the unwritten “secret” chapter so that women in consulting, especially women of color, can use it to create a more even playing field. This can completely reshape the landscape of the industry and the ability to develop more highly successful women–led consulting empires. And it all starts with your uniquely lived experience, embracing digital innovation and value creation.

We FINALLY cracked the code.