The world as we know it is changing. Sometimes when we are trying to enter a new field or gain greater traction in our industry, we focus too much on how things once were instead of what they are becoming. I feel this is common in the consulting world, and it is to our disadvantage.
A New Era Presents New Opportunities for Women in Consulting
Suppose you look at any significant publications for solo or entrepreneurial consultants. In that case, they all present a similar strategy to gain more clients — build your network, seek referrals, respond to requests for proposals (RFPs), and attempt cold calling (if you’re brave enough for the challenge). And for years, this worked for a well-connected, less diverse group of consulting elites that entered the industry as they approached retirement. But, this is no longer the landscape that we are in today.
People are entering the field at a much younger point in their career journey. Deborah Lynn Blumberg cites recent research showing that successful startup founders’ average age is 45, and founders under 40 run more than 40% of all new firms in her article, “The Secrets of Highly Successful Young Entrepreneurs.” Consulting is no longer reserved for those who have spent decades in their field, presumably earning an opportunity to build wealth from their expertise. The digital economy has opened a gateway to entrepreneurship that allows entry regardless of age or years of experience. The goal is to focus on the value that one’s expertise can offer.
“The digital economy is taking shape and undermining conventional notions about how businesses are structured; how firms interact; and how consumers obtain services, information, and goods.” — Damian Heath and Ludwig Micallef, Deloitte Digital
Understanding the Changing Landscape of the Consulting Industry
These changes have shifted the landscape of opportunity for consultants. Now, younger experts can confidently enter the field and win lucrative contracts against seasoned competitors. In addition, the diversity of experts has expanded to reflect more of today’s society. And market access for solo consultants and small firms has grown tremendously. Finally, our new digital landscape connects people, unlike in our past. As a result, the rate at which we acquire business and build profitable businesses has also evolved with time.
Today, there is the opportunity to strategically create processes and systems that are less reliant on access through our network and the kindness of others. Although the referral process remains a piece of the puzzle, we have a greater ability to create businesses aligned with our vision and designed to generate purpose-filled outcomes instead of settling for the random mix of clients sent our way. The key is building a clear, integrated strategy beginning with your vision, centering around your thought leadership and frameworks, and embracing the benefits of this new digital age.
The Time is Now…
These advancements have been a game-changer for women in consulting, especially women of color. We are no longer limited by rules created without us in mind. It begins to level the playing field by providing access to those of us who are less well connected at the start or bootstrapping our businesses without the substantial financial backing to run traditional marketing campaigns.
If we can harness the opportunity at this moment, we can build substantial wealth that can shift the landscape of our industry and the world as we know it. But, it all begins with the belief that this opportunity is available to us and that we can utilize these new shifts in our society to our advantage. Cultivating this mindset is what I genuinely believe we need to nurture ourselves and rise to the challenge of achieving the level of success that we desire and, in all honesty, deserve.