Setting Up Your Consulting Practice

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Topic: Assess Your Core Network

To prioritize your business development efforts, identify and categorize your core network on two dimensions: each person’s influence and the strength of your relationship. This video draws on a framework developed by David A. Fields.

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As an independent consultant, not working with the name brand of a big consulting firm, the easiest clients to serve, particularly initially, are the clients who already know you and trust you.  So as you’re starting out thinking about the strategy for your firm and what type of clients you want to serve, you might want to think about serving clients who already know you. So, in this exercise, you want to identify your core network. So, here are the steps for doing that. 

Number one, create a spreadsheet of every single person that you know and so the ways to do, one way to do that is to take your LinkedIn contacts and export your LinkedIn contacts and some instructions on how to do that are in the notes of this episode.

You can also export your e-mail contacts if you’re using Gsuite, export all your Gsuite or your Gmail contacts. Put those in the spreadsheet as well. Think back, if you haven’t been connecting with people on LinkedIn, go through high school, college, grad school, firms that you’ve served in — all the colleagues. Create a complete and exhaustive list of all the people that you know. 

And I learned this approach from David A. Fields who gives more detail in his book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients. You want to classify each person on your list on two dimensions.  The first dimension is their level of decision-making power.

So, A’s are decision-makers. People who can actually sign a contract, sign a check for a consulting project with you.

The B’s are influencers. People that actually could, you know, bring up your name to a decision-maker. That could be an attorney. It could be an accountant.  It could be an analyst at an associate level in a consulting group or in a strategy group at a firm.

And the C’s are people with little influence and little connections to your business world.

On the second dimension is how well people know you. 

So, 1’s are close contacts of yours. Close friends, close family members and people that you worked with closely for an extended period of time. Someone who was your boss for three years.

The 2’s are weak ties. Those are people that know you, they know your name if you call them up and say your name. They’re not going to ask, “well who is this?” But it’s people that know you, that hopefully that will like you and trust you.

The 3’s are distant connections. Those are names of people that you met once at a convention. They’re people that were classmates of yours, but that didn’t know you well. 

So, once you’ve gone through all people and classified them in as an A, B, or C and a 1, 2, or 3, take out all the C’s and take out all the 3’s. And you’re left with decision-makers and influencers and strong ties and weak ties. 

Take a look at your A 1’s:  Decision-makers who know you well. Those are your most likely potential clients. Look at that list and think, and look at what industry they’re in what function they’re in and those are your initial target of clients that you might possibly serve. In the show notes for this episode, there is a template to help you get started with this exercise.