Your Field Guide to Becoming an Effective Consultant, Achieving Work-Life Balance, and Building Wealth
Are you a consultant? Or are you an expert in your field interested in becoming a consultant?
(If you are reading this, that is likely a “Yes.”)
Great! You’ve chosen a fantastic career. Here’s why…
Consulting remains a very rewarding and lucrative field. It is estimated that businesses in the U.S. spend $120 billion on management consultants each year, and six times that amount on other consultants and advisors.
There is a need and desire for expert knowledge to help individuals and businesses succeed, especially during these unique and challenging times. This is when high-quality work, results, and authenticity matter most. The goal is to stand out from the pack by elevating your practice and all that you offer.
Why is it essential to have a strategy for your growth as a consultant?
Despite what some may portray in a simple social media post, consulting is hard. I know there is an overly glamorized view of consulting. It involves trading your advice and expertise for global travel, fabulous hotels, power meetings, 4-hour work weeks, and lots of money.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, I hope it’s not a shock to find out that not only is this view of consulting extremely distorted, but it just isn’t true for the vast majority of consultants in the field. Consulting is more than just giving advice. It requires the strategic use of multiple core consulting skills to help others solve significant problems in their business and lives.
As you advance and grow in your consulting practice, you will find yourself taking on more clients and working harder to expand your influence within your field. This growth doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work that can easily lead to long hours, competing priorities, increased stress, burnout, and overwhelm. When this occurs, the quality of your work tends to decrease, as high-quality performance is hard to maintain.
I found myself in a similar position years ago. As my consulting career took off, I started to have difficulty staying afloat with multiple large-scale clients and overwhelmed by the responsibility of managing the bulk of our largest contracts at the time, all while my family and personal responsibilities were growing by the minute. Because I was a high-performer and overachiever, I was determined to make it all work. Luckily, I did just that and built relationships that allowed me to maintain and expand consulting contracts amid a global pandemic and a lousy economy.
How did I accomplish the lofty goal of successfully expanding my consulting practice?
(Hint: It has nothing to do with marketing or my business model.)
Simply put, I became a more effective consultant. I worked to expand my personal bandwidth and made room for the work necessary to accelerate and cultivate my career. I developed a strategy for personal career and business growth.
The Excel Method™ for consulting is a strategy for personal career and business growth.Dr. ANGELINA DAVIS
The Excel Method™ is a 3-step approach strategically designed to help consultants excel in their careers and business.
Step One – EXPAND
The initial step begins with a focused effort to optimize time and project management skills to increase productivity and make room for growth and expansion. This expansion of personal bandwidth increases your ability to take on higher-level projects, which are typically more demanding and complete the necessary work to grow your consulting practice without losing work-life balance.
Step Two – ACCELERATE
The second step focuses on enhancing the core consulting skills vital for successful outcomes (i.e., leadership skills, relationship building, strategizing, etc.). It allows you to easily differentiate yourself from the competition and meet the clients’ needs and expectations.
Step Three – CULTIVATE
Finally, in step three, the goal is to optimize service offerings to increase client satisfaction and return on investment. The end goal is to create a more natural and direct client attraction system that quickly grows your business and career.
Let’s discuss why this works in more detail.
What is personal bandwidth, and why is it important?
In the world of digital technology, bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time (transmission capacity). When we refer to personal bandwidth, we are describing a concept analogous to transmission capacity. Personal bandwidth is an individual’s ability to handle more than one thing simultaneously (work capacity).
It isn’t easy to function effectively while continuing to take on project after project or client after client without adjusting your ability to manage it in a healthy and productive way. A narrow personal bandwidth can lead to:
- Increased error
- Compromised memory
- Work-life imbalance
We all experience limits and different levels of personal bandwidth based on our ability to take in information, process it and use it. I don’t want to give the impression that you can expand your work capacity to any degree. Personal bandwidth is NOT infinite, which is why it becomes essential to reduce the mental and physical impact of other competing demands and responsibilities to declutter our lives. Doing so frees up time and increases your ability to focus on other high priority work.
Is it possible to expand your personal bandwidth?
Yes, it is possible to expand your personal bandwidth. In the Excel Method, expanding your personal bandwidth is accomplished through:
- Prioritization and goal setting
- Time and project management
- Increased productivity
- Leadership and delegation
Here is a glimpse of the basic process.
- It begins with prioritizing all projects, tasks, and other responsibilities. Prioritization will help clarify what is most important NOW and allows you to set goals and targets for completion.
- With this insight, you can use time and project management skills to adjust your schedule and workflow to create the space and time required to tackle the highest priority items on your list.
- You can also identify what tasks can be delegated and completed by other team members or outsourced, further reducing your overall workload.
- Lastly, the ability to increase your productivity will allow you to get higher quality work done in a shorter amount of time and preserve the work-life balance you deserve.
It is a comprehensive approach that addresses two fundamental problems many consultants face: increased stress and lack of time.
Now that you have more time…
How do you accelerate your consulting career and business?
Career advancement and business growth never seem to happen at the desired speed. For most of us, it takes much longer than initially anticipated. However, it does not have to be a long and drawn-out process. With the right game plan, it is possible to fast track your growth.
Consulting requires the effective use of many core skills to be successful. Everything, from effective communication and relationship building to the technical skills in which you have the expertise, becomes vital to developing a winning strategy. The job expects that the previous work, education, experiences, and training that have allowed you to become an expert in your field would have also strengthened your ability to perform at an exceptional level in many of these core areas.
LinkedIn recently published a list of the 15 most in-demand soft and hard skills companies need most. Leading the list of soft skills were creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. These skills are in high demand and the focus of professional development in many organizations. Think about the value you can offer if you can present yourself as competent and efficient in each of these areas. The strategic development of your core skill set is priceless.
Building a client attraction magnet
One of the biggest challenges independent and small firm consultants face is attracting and retaining clients. It is important to ensure that you are offering a transformational service to your clients. This begins by understanding their needs and desired outcomes and working to deliver results that make return on investment clear and evident.
Cultivating your offer requires adopting a service mindset. It does not mean that you should ignore your personal career and business goals. Rather, you understand that client-focused service is an integral part of your business strategy. Client satisfaction, client retention, and profitability all center around the perceived value of your service. This perception of value is what can make all the difference.
I learned this long ago when I first started in consulting. I worked with a group that relied only on word of mouth to attract leads. At first, I thought this was a short-sighted business model and could not understand how it could be sustained over the long haul. However, I watched year after year as we grew faster than our capacity to keep up with the work. Now, I am not suggesting that this become your marketing approach but stressing how the positive impact of your work and the significant perceived value that clients communicate to others can move you beyond the constant hamster wheel of lead generation.
It is possible to create a lead magnet. The CULTIVATE phase is designed to do just that by increasing the likelihood that the impact of your services will exceed expectations and offer overwhelming value to the client. This is the point at which your work begins to speak for itself, making client attraction and retention something that occurs with ease.
Hopefully, you get the picture by now. The bottom line…
Simplifying your processes and being strategic with your approach can make you a more effective consultant. When you have a focused strategy to reduce your stress level and workload to produce client-focused, high-quality work, you are positioning yourself to build the influence and eventual wealth you desire. Wealth is the result of a profitable business and value creation. Effective consulting is the key to it all!