Podcast

Episode: 428 |
David A. Fields:
Business Advice for Consultants or Boutique Firms:
Episode
428

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

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David A. Fields

Business Advice for Consultants or Boutique Firms

Show Notes

David A. Fields spent nine years in marketing for GlaxoSmithKline before jumping into consulting with a boutique firm, where he became partner. He then co-founded Ascendant Consulting and focused the practice on helping large corporations enter new markets. He is the author of two books on consulting, and on this episode, he shares expert tips for solo consultants, boutique firms, and small to medium businesses.  David can be reached through LinkedIn or his website, https://www.davidafields.com.

Key points include:

  • 06:24: Structuring the discovery discussion
  • 15:14: Partners for consultants
  • 18:35: Big challenges for solo consultants
  • 31:43: The challenge of growth

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m so excited to be back here with David A. Fields who’s been on this show, I can’t even count how many times before on episode number one of this show. And on many of the most popular episodes, I’ll include links to previous episodes with David in the show notes, Episode 170, and 172 are super favourites of fans talking about how to make outbound calls and how to use a CRM system. David, welcome back. It’s always great to speak with you.

 

David Fields 00:34

Well, I’m so excited to be back, we haven’t had a chance to chat in a little bit. So I’m just happy to get a chance to talk with you again.

 

Will Bachman 00:41

Thank you. So previously, like I mentioned, we’ve done all sorts of topics with your advice on specific topics. Oh, and by the way, before I forget, let me just mention this everyone listening, you really, really definitely should go to David A. fields.com. and sign up for David’s blog, you can get it as an email newsletter, which is the first thing I read every Wednesday morning. And often, obviously, you should also get David’s book, The irresistible consultants guide to winning clients, I’ve given out a couple 100 copies. People always say it’s the best book they’ve read on how to generate consulting business. So we talked about a lot of topics before David, but we’ve never actually talked in detail about your practice and about how you work with consultants and boutique firms. So I thought we’d do that today. You know, people, occasionally I’ll get requests from consultants, like, Hey, I’m trying to grow my business, like Do you know someone that you recommend that could help me and I always point them your way. And now I can also point them to this to this episode we’re about to do. So. Give me the overview. What What do you do?

 

David Fields 01:48

So, um, let me jump in. But let me ask a quick question. Well, can we can we broaden this slightly, just because I want to make sure that there’s value for people listening beyond just, you know, hearing about my business, which is fine. You know, so let’s make this about the listeners, maybe here’s a thought you tell me this works or not works, which is, which is kind of almost more generally, what are the benefits you can enjoy? If you have the right partner, acting as an advisor as a guide and sounding board a contributor? You know, and what does it look like to actually work with someone like that, and we can use me as an example.

 

Will Bachman 02:27

I love. David is the first chapter of his book, his right side up thinking that he’s trying to make this valuable for Liz. Yeah, absolutely, that’s fine. But I do want to make sure that we talk about, like, what you do in particular, and some of the kind of situations that you’ll help advise consultants or boutique firms through, but I love your framing of it. So start, wherever you think is the best place to start. Tell him tell me a bit about what you do.

 

David Fields 02:54

Alright, so. So obviously, so my firm works, we’re very narrow focus, we work with small consulting firms, and a period, that’s all we work with. And we define small is anywhere from a solo shop that might be doing $150,000 in revenue a year, right? up to around $100 million, we have a couple clients that are larger, but the vast majority of our clients are, are below $10 million. And so we work only with that group. And really do it with with one idea in mind, help them create the business that they want, which is a little bit different from help them just grow. Though most folks want to grow their business, that’s not always the case. But But that is the I think the benefit of working with someone is they can help you get the business you want. We work with I’m just I’m gonna I’m gonna quickly scan internally, the some of our clients, we work with a bit small firm, a guy who was a solo, when we started with him. And he wrote to me yesterday, we just like comes to mind. And when we started, he was right around the $300,000 mark, which is very legitimate for solo business, right for a solo player. And he sent me an email yesterday to let me know that in June, they did 300,000. So he he’ll he’ll do 3 million this year. Now that’s 10x growth. So that’s pretty good. And, you know, did I create that for him? No, of course not. He created that. But we’ve been working together for it was about four years to get that 10x you know, that was an overnight. I’m trying to think of other folks that I talked with yesterday or today or or will be tomorrow. Another group they were about seven people so not a solo and maybe just over a million and a half is a group up in Toronto. They’re going to be around 7 million this year. So You know, those are kind of growth stories. That’s the kind of thing you can do. But it’s not always about growth. There’s a woman in the western part of the US who already was doing well x, you know, McKinsey, Bain, Booz that kind of, you know, talk to her, was legitimately doing half $1,600,000 wanting to grow. So we built her up to a million dollars. And she’s like, I do not like, this is not fun. It’s too much work. How do we create a business that’s smaller, but more enjoyable. And so that’s what we’ve been building for her. So, you know, it depends a little bit what you want. That’s what we try to build. I often tell folks that we are more interested, we mean, you, my company, me, I’m more interested in than the person running the business, then in the business. And so we want to build a practice that serves you as a person, that that’s what we’re trying to do. And, you know, the challenges are kind of consistent, but you know, that’s where we focus you were about to ask question, well, yes.

 

Will Bachman 06:08

So following on that, when you start working with someone, do you have some kind of process to really dive into? What is it that that person wants in life? And once enter their business? How do you structure that all discussion?

 

David Fields 06:24

Yeah. So yeah, and that’s a good question. Because you have to start there, not only you have to start with what they want. This is a very personal business, and having the right partner involved, because it’s so personal release some of the the personal stress that comes with the so yeah, we have a we have a process, we have a diagnostic that we run at the very beginning is called Spark, which stands for something so low practice, I don’t remember anymore. It’s a good acronym, but I don’t remember what it stands for. And it’s a little diagnostic geared specifically to to solo businesses. So folks run through that. And that spits out a really pretty radar chart, we have an onboarding process where we we spend a pretty fair amount of time just talking about, you know, what you want, and where you are, and what’s going on and what the stressors are, and what’s in the way. So that goes into the mix. And then, you know, typically, when we’re working with folks, the most common way we work with folks, at about six weeks or eight weeks in to working together, we create what we call a top priorities plan. And it would say, Okay, well, you know, based on the work we’ve done, and where you said, you’re trying to go, and you know, our read of what’s happening with you, here’s the two things, or three things or four things you need to focus on. And step by step. Here’s how to get you there. And it’s, you know, it’s it’s relatively detailed, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s at the 200 foot level, if you will, right. I mean, it’s not saying, I mean, actually, it may be below that, because it will say, every week, we want you to do this, or every week, you need to do this. But it doesn’t have for instance, the the list of contacts in that plan does not quite have that level of granularity. And we work through that plan, and adjust it and change things and keep the longer term in mind. But yeah, there’s there’s a whole process for, for understanding that and getting, you know, to the place where we are partners. And I think that’s where the real benefit comes in. Okay, so when you just have an expert, but when you have a partner

 

Will Bachman 08:52

are gone. So if there’s two or three or four different things on this top priorities plan, give me the list of like the 10 to 15 types of things that might might be on that plan. So the most common sort of priorities that you often see with people, is it you know, update building a new website? Or is it starting a content creation machine? Or what’s what sorts of things are we talking about?

 

David Fields 09:17

Yeah, so a lot of it depends on the size of business. Okay, so for because a lot of your listeners are solo practitioners. Yeah, let’s focus there will focus we can focus on that because of the work we do with the cheek. So folks that that are, you know, over a million and a half dollars and have employees does look different. Okay, they’re at a different stage in development. And so our work looks a little different. Yeah, speaking of staging that,

 

Will Bachman 09:43

I’ll interrupt here at basic stages. I loved your recent blog post about the 10 stages of consulting firms, and where the first stage is just I’ll do anything for pay. Like any project, I’ll do anything. I’m anybody. And then the 10 stages exit in your business. So wherever you are on that, that sort of staircase, there’s always kind of the next challenge the next inflection point. So it would be interesting to hear kind of about the more boutiques like what what they’re working on, but a lot of listeners are independent consultants listening to the show. So let’s, let’s talk about some of them.

 

David Fields 10:23

Yeah, so we dive in. And it’s funny you bring up that particular article, by the way, will that article received more kind of direct response? than almost any article I published? And I want to see maybe five years? Wow, it is it really you know, and you just, did you write stuff and and occasionally something hit that one really hit? We instantly received inquiries from many consulting firms saying, Hey, we’re stuck at stage four? Or can you help us? Like, sure. So that particular article, it’s maybe because it just clarified these different steps? Was, did particularly well? Yeah. So that the boutique process does look different. There we are, we have a day and a half long, firm growth lab, which is really intense, to understand what the owners want, what we’re trying to build, and what the opportunities are. And it’s a little different, for solo is not quite as intense and not quite as expensive. The things that pop up, if you are a solo practitioner, here’s what tends to be common. What’s common is first of all, just getting a handle on impact. What is it you do? consistently, that is attractive to the market? So who is your market? very precisely, what problem are you solving that is urgent, that is pervasive, that is expensive to leave unsolved? And how do you articulate that in a way that is quick, that’s memorable, that’s repeatable by others, were just critically important. So all of that kind of impact work tends to be very, very common, especially for for solos.

 

Will Bachman 12:18

Because many solos are still somewhere just beyond that stage one do anything for anyone who will pay. And we’ve added a new and listeners, I’d point you to the episode that David did on the fishing line, which which is recent will include that link in the show notes. And also this is this is kind of chapters, I think one and two of your book, right? covering off what’s what’s your impact?

 

David Fields 12:41

You I think you probably know better than I do. So I just I just write it well, I don’t I don’t remember the chapter numbers, the but I think you’re right. So that tends to be critically important. Also very common for for solos is putting together the various parts of a business development engine, that will create more consistency, that will create a little bit more predictability and reliability in terms of gaining leads and then clients. And so that might be a visibility building campaign. It’s it’s rarely a website, but sometimes a website update is on there. More often, it will be around sort of longer term visibility building, whether it’s sort of some sort of content generation, or often working, identifying with and working with partners. That type of activity tends to be very common, what type of solos. So partners, you’re a partner well of mine, the partner is our distribution channel, if you will, from a visibility building standpoint, is anyone who can give exposure give you exposure to people who you would not be able to reach otherwise? And so many solos, frankly, boutiques also think, well, they have to do all the work, you know that you know, you’ve got to kind of reach out and meet people and get introductions. And that is true. You do need to do that work, but not exclusively. And if you can use partners to expand your reach, then you should and everybody can. And for some boutique firms, will we actually partners are the primary driver of business. The first there’s a certain a certain class of boutique consultancy, where we actually use partners predominantly, we don’t try to get direct business we try to get business through partners because that’s the more efficient and better way to do it.

 

Will Bachman 14:50

Now in the independent consulting world, there’s clearly the variety of staffing firms. Umbrex is one of them. There’s some very Notable peers of ours that I have a lot of respect for and so forth. Outside of staffing firms, what kind of partners? Are you referring to? You’re talking about, like accountants and attorneys. Are you talking about like, you know, software firm?

 

David Fields 15:14

No, no. So that’s a good, a good, a good question. And interestingly, you are a partner for me, I would typically not view you, for the most part, as a partner for a solo consultant, you are us your staffing. And so you do, you are a source of swing demand. If someone needs that kind of, of work, and you know to be, that’s how I would view is true to your class, you personally will, I think you because of how you run your business, you are a partner to many, many consultants. And I think that’s really just testimony to you as an individual and what you were able to build the staffing firms in general, kind of on the border of partner. On the other hand, as an example, the editor in chief of consulting magazine, for me is a partner, because he is a, a conduit, to many, many prospects. And these a source of, you know, visibility. If I do webinars for consulting magazine, or if I publish an article in consulting magazine that goes to my target, so that’s a good partner for me. In it, where I grew up in consulting, we partnered with headhunters and I still find headhunters be useful. But we did a lot of organization design work. And so there was a natural partnership with headhunters, because they would bring us into an organization where maybe they just placed the new CEO. And they would say, Look, you’re gonna have to do some rebuilding here. And we need we know a consulting firm that can help you rebuild your organization, we would rebuild the organization in the course of rebuilding your organization, empty boxes occur, it’s sort of just a natural byproduct. And that creates more work for the headhunter. That’s a partnership.

 

Will Bachman 17:07

For independent consultants, what sort of partnerships should listeners of the show be thinking about going after?

 

David Fields 17:17

I think they should be thinking about, again, broadly speaking, anyone who has a tribe that contains prospects, you can’t get to already, which means it could be someone who runs a blog, who has a lot of readers, or a podcast that has a lot of listeners, and association director, who has quite a number of members, another consulting firm that is adjacent to yours, and has multiple clients that you don’t have or a whole contact list that you don’t have that those are all examples of potential partners.

 

Will Bachman 17:57

Okay, great. So I got us off track. So you were talking about some of you talking about some of the priorities that would go on this plan. So Oh, yeah, about visibility building partners. What are some of the other common things? I mean, when independence consultants come to me, asking for advice, it’s mostly not about how to run their firm and how to do bookkeeping, or, you know, they’ll have questions maybe about Oh, how do I get health insurance, business insurance? How do I, you know, find a PowerPoint production firm or something like that, but that’s not sort of most people, their biggest issue is the business development piece.

 

David Fields 18:35

Yeah, there are three big challenges for solos. The three big challenges are how do we win? Or how do I win more business more consistently? Right, right, just straight out business development. And so there, and there are just many, many pieces inside that. And those are almost always on the priority list, which is why often impact is is right there. Because that’s the first step in in winning business, after mindset. And so interestingly, there’s often a mindset component that we have to address as a top priority.

 

Will Bachman 19:08

Can you say more about that?

 

David Fields 19:10

Sure. The, the, I mean, what was the only difference between two consultants that are, you know, have kind of similar levels of expertise, and background, but one is crushing it and bringing in, let’s say, as a solo $600,000 and one is bring struggling to bring in 120. There, the only difference is, is between the rears. They both know plenty of people that are both able to talk to people so what what is causing the difference and, and the differences, how they’re thinking, how they think about themselves, how they envision themselves what they’re willing to, to try, what risks they’re willing to take, how they view sales, how they view reach out to people, whether they think they’re going to be a burden on someone and an interruption, or whether they view it as an opportunity to be of help, or to create a relationship. They all have that mindset. And it underpins the rest of the business. And since it’s, you know, the only difference between these two consultants that I just described is, is what’s between their ears? We have to work a lot on that.

 

Will Bachman 20:29

And how do you do that we all play exercises or,

 

David Fields 20:32

or how would you? Well, there are some, there are some specific exercises we have. It’s funny. Well, we talk a lot about this internally. We spent, no, I want to say an hour and a half, two hours just yesterday, once again, talking about what’s the difference between this consultant and that consultant, who we’re working with, one of whom we’re we’re on a very slow path to growth. And the other is, you know, five acts to business. We spend a lot of time thinking about that, so that we can help people see it. In terms of mindset, first of all, we have a process that we use, that we borrowed from adapted from Byron Katie. And I love Byron Katie’s work, I think she was brilliant, or is brilliant. And so we’ve adapted some of her mindset work. Because we, we deal with this all day, I mean, every day, we know the mindsets that are common the the challenging mindsets, that are common among consultants. And so we can also offer some alternative ways of looking at things and some evidence and perspective. So that helps. It also helps that there’s a principal in my firm who’s trained in psychology and was a practicing clinician, we do not do therapy, but it’s helpful to have that kind of resource that understands how to work with people at that level, and how to help them on a mindset basis. So I use all of that we, you know, use specific processes and exercises. And just having a person, you know, that’s good at this talk with talk with them. Yeah, when we do that all the time. So there’s someone, well, there’s someone in the Umbrex community, I’m sorry to interrupt you, who’s very successful has done great. And it’s been a client for a little while. We have a lot of Umbrex, folks, and the, you know, called One day a few months back and said, you know, David, I’m angry all the time. How do we keep it coming out in the business? I don’t want to be angry all the time. And we worked our way through that. Now, you know, is this particular consultant Zen master now? And always a piece? I don’t think so. But, but not angry all the time. And it’s not affecting the business.

 

Will Bachman 23:09

One example? Yeah. So one example of a mindset that comes to mind that just came to mind to me, while you were talking was what I often kind of encounter. People don’t articulate it to me, but I observe it, which is in a initial discussion with a client sort of a get to know you meeting where the client is considering the person, I observe this mindset that consultants seem to think the way to convince this client to hire me is to explain to them how qualified I am and describe all the past experiences, where usually that’s like super boring, and clients actually don’t care at all about your past experience, in my view, like, once you’re in the room, really, it’s the mindset is a different mindset is, the way I win business is by actually advancing the ball or helping to solve the problem like in this discussion, and if we can make progress in this discussion. So I often hear people like they’ll talk and talk and talk about their past experience, clients don’t really care. They don’t ask enough smart questions in that meeting, like in your book to do a context discussion, to really understand what the client’s situation is, and then they don’t get it, you know, the project? Yeah. I mean, it would that be an example of a of a mindset shift that you’re that you would hold

 

David Fields 24:29

  1. Absolutely, that that mindset below that is insecurity right below that what you just described is an unsureness of your own credibility, or that clients will believe it, because you do need to be a credible provider of a solution. And the concern is the mindset is people won’t believe that I can actually deliver the value. And so we can address that mindset. So that That is a fairly common mindset. And role play can help that. And, and again, just using some of these tools to address it, you know, which ultimately ends up with, you know, at some point, you have to just say, am I willing to act based on a different mindset? Whether I believe it or not. First, I can act that way. And so am I willing to give a shot at trying a different way of interacting with prospects? Where I don’t spend so much time showing them that I really do deserve to be brought in? Yeah. And instead, I spend time helping them achieve their goal. So that, yeah, so that would be an example. Okay. And by the way, I think I think we went off track because I went off track, I was gonna say what the common problems are, number one,

 

Will Bachman 25:59

you did number one, business development, and then I cut you off. So what’s two and three?

 

David Fields 26:02

It’s all good. As always, the the number two challenge, or one of the top challenges for solos is typically balancing working in the business, meaning like working on projects, could you win business, now you’re working it with working on the business and business development? So that how do I know I want to project I’m full time on the project? How am I supposed to do that, and also develop clients and do all the hard work and have long term business development and also think about building the business? So creating that balance? And, and streamlining becomes important? And and the third priority, which is related to that? is okay, how do I grow? How do I get more revenue, how I manage more revenue, without just working more hours, without working endless hours, and, and I would like some semblance of a personal life. And as since that’s often one of the key sort of challenges for a solo, we also do need to do work. Typically, there’s there are some priorities around infrastructure. And even though a solo might not be saying, hey, how do I do accounting, which we’re not going to spend time doing either, we are going to say, you need to have a dashboard in place that looks at cash flow and capacity and clients, just see you have a projection, you know what’s going on, you don’t waste any cycles, any mental cycles, figuring it out, it’s right there, you do need to have a virtual assistant. And if you don’t have a virtual assistant, let’s help you get one in place, which is harder than it seems. Yeah, here’s what that person can do for you. Alright, for a lot of solos, just getting a virtual assistant, now you can save yourself all sorts of money, you don’t need to hire me or anyone else, just do this get a virtual assistant is going to unlock countless hours. So and will you and I were just talking about that. Literally, I think before you hit record, each of us has added a little bit of, you know, assistance of infrastructure, and it just unlocks tons of hours.

 

Will Bachman 28:17

I’m a big, big believer in that I started getting support, probably too late myself. And I would say I think everybody even if you’re not bringing in, you know that much revenue yet you get someone for five hours a week, right? Or 10 hours a week to start out with, you know, find some advice. Well, how do you recommend to consultants find a virtual assistant what what are the places that you suggest people go? How do you do that?

 

David Fields 28:44

You must have a podcast on that. Somewhere in your we archive? We do?

 

Will Bachman 28:50

We do? I’ll include a link to it. But I’m only somebody but you know, you’ve helped people like a lot of people do it. So it’s really hard.

 

David Fields 29:02

Actually, before I say where I would almost put a, a kind of like a surgeon general’s warning on it. I equate finding an assistant to quitting smoking, where they they the experts say it takes something like 11 quit attempts to quit smoking. I think I remember that from my days working on smoking cessation, the finding an assistant takes multiple attempts. And so just go into it realizing you’re going to try someone ideally, he or she works out, but they might not. And then you’ll try someone else you get smarter about what you need about how you work about what kind of personality is going to work for you what requirements maybe you need the same time zone, maybe you don’t. And so part of it is actually not as much where it’s just being mentally prepared for the idea that’s going to take a few attempts. Yeah, and then last I look there are about 30 providers of virtual assistant that are you know, of some scale, there are common ones people use virtual i think is one and time etc. There are there are a few there are sources out of overseas, so you can offshore it, the Philippines is quite common. And all of that said, the first place I would look is inside your own network. You look, you ask your, your sibling, whether your you know, their kids, your nieces and nephews are looking for some work, or anything like that. The, that tends to work better. But, I mean, it took us we have a fairly robust infrastructure at this point. But from my first assistant, I think it took four tries, maybe five tries, you know, just to get the right person and personally would last more than six months.

 

Will Bachman 31:03

He talked about a common one of the top three questions is consultants asking, How do I grow? And what are some of the common pathways that you help people through? I mean, there’s, it’s, I mean, I think there’s only three correct me but it’s either you’re either going to raise your rate and raise your utilization, or you’re going to get, you know, leverage, get additional people that you’re getting a margin on, or I suppose you could say, well, we’re gonna sell some products or do something like that. But I mean, there’s not that many different directions you can go, but talk me through sort of how you help consultants, think think through that challenge?

 

David Fields 31:43

Well, it’s interesting how you just framed it. The so really, it mean, consulting itself is very simple, right? It’s an extremely simple business, the core of consulting is a is a two part cycle, you know, you draw a circle, and that circle is comprised of two arrows, you’re chasing each other. One arrow is winning engagements, and the other is profitably creating value for clients. And those that that’s consulting, that’s all we do, we win engagements, we create value for clients. And we just need to spin that cycle. And you can make that cycle bigger, if you will, or spin faster with, you know, good infrastructure. So you’re right, there’s a leverage truth inside that and and how do we profitably create more value with less effort? So that tends to be leveraged? And the other is, how do we is what I would call your revenue truth? And your revenue? Truth is, how do I make more dollars? How do I sell more dollars? And that in and of itself, will can be broken down into three pieces? So revenue, your revenue, truth is the number of clients you have times the number of projects you win per client, times the dollars per project? And the number of clients you have is that book you mentioned, the guide to winning clients, irresistible consultants guide to winning clients was designed to answer that question, how do I get more clients? So that’s one path to more revenue and more growth, just more clients. More projects per client is follow on his follow on business, I don’t have a sexy name for follow on business. And I haven’t written that book that that will be the last of the three that I on this subject that I write. And then the last piece which is okay, well, then how do I get more dollars per project? That is same rain bigger drops, which is my next book, which is overdue. And was actually I think the first presentation I did for you and your group, the same room? Bigger drops? Yeah, that’s right. It is, yeah, how do we take each win and make it bigger. And, and for most solos, we can do a little bit, all three of those are open, they’re all opportunities, and we can guide you as a solo through each of them. The easiest wins. It depends where you are, if you are already winning business with some consistency. We can do a lot on bigger drops. The the I mentioned this consultant who emailed me yesterday, who we connect right from basically 300k a year to 3 million a year. A lot of the initial work on that a lot of the early work was around fee structures, how he structured his fees, the actual fee levels, I don’t really wouldn’t say rates so much and the offerings so that his average project kind of doubled with that first year. And that’s a way to grow and and the project doubled in revenue. Without doubling in work. Now, he’s also added, you know, a lot of clients and we’ve added infrastructure there, that you know, all of that is open for growth, the learning how to create some leverage, as a solo is important. Bringing in swing capacity of some sort, or being able to use subcontractors that can be important that can be helpful. It’s not always required, though. Especially if you want to stay, if you’re really happy, call it sub half million dollars. In today’s terms and US dollars, you can absolutely have a business that produces that move basically using no subs other than, you know, maybe a little analytical support or something.

 

Will Bachman 35:49

Yeah. You know, and that’s, that’s, you know, very legitimate, happy positive income for probably most folks talked about the challenge of working in the business versus on the business. And I certainly, you know, have experienced that myself. Today, as well, since I started, it’s always challenging when you have your actual revenue and opportunities that you’re working on versus the longer term stuff. Yep. How do you help your clients work through that? Is it carving out some time and religiously observing it? Or scheduling it? or part of it? How do you? What’s the answer? What’s the secret sauce?

 

David Fields 36:34

Well, So interestingly, I actually think this is one of the key benefits to having a partner that’s outside the business, having a partner who’s not involved in delivery, who does not have an equity stake is truly transformative. I mean, I mean, I, I’ve always had a coach, a business coach, or business advisor, I have one now, where we’re meeting all day tomorrow. And one of the benefits of that, and the role, part of the roles we play is we are the keeper of the long term of the bigger picture. So if you’re a client well, and and we’re working together regularly, and we’re talking on a regular basis, a lot of our work is very, very in the weeds and tactical. Okay, how do you when you’re working on Kellogg, how do we land Kellogg, as a client? Can let’s work on that? It’s very near and and tactical? And you know, okay, and what do you need to do? You’re working on the project, and you’re just up to your ears in the project? Well, one of my roles is to keep an eye on what are we trying to do longer term. And I mean, little, literally, behind the scenes will, for every one of our clients, we have what we call a purple section. So named only because I happen to highlight that section in purple in our notes, that’s our kind of internal protocol. And that section has for each and every client, we have kind of the overall arc, the longer term threads, here’s what we think is going to help you achieve what you want to get to over the long term, I think we need to work on getting rid of some of your small clients and boosting larger client, maybe, you know, maybe that’s a longer term thread or or something else. So that while you’re focused on the the everyday stuff, then we have a conversation. You’re saying, Oh, well, David, also, you know what, I got this inquiry from Bob’s barbershop. I can say, you know, that sounds great. Well, but let’s remember, one of our long term objectives here is to raise the level of your client. And so my question to you right now is, do you think Bob’s barber shop is going to do that? Because I have some concerns. And we’re not shy about voicing concerns, at least I’m not. And, you know, so I can be the keeper, a little bit of this work on the business thinking and the end the longer term and keep some level of focus there and say, Okay, look, we’ll, you got to get an article out. This was part of what we decided when we were talking about your visibility building strategy. So can you do two hours of writing this week? You say, yes. Okay, let’s, let’s take a look at the calendar and let’s get that scheduled. And then send to me. The, the article. You’re just send me the draft. Yeah. And so, you know, a little bit of that accountability mechanism. The accountability mechanism, frankly, isn’t. I think it’s helpful. It’s important, but it’s not the, the core of the value. You know, but it helps. A lot of work gets done the night before meetings with me or with, you know, a principal on my team. You know,

 

Will Bachman 39:58

tell me about that cadence. of interacting with you or your team on just how you work with your clients. Is it your some regular thing? Is it ad hoc? When you do me like, what’s the interaction, like you have a checklist of things to talk about?

 

David Fields 40:15

Yeah. So we do all of that. So with us particularly. And anytime you work with an advisor there, their program may look a little different. So I’ll tell you just about us. And what seems to work on what we found, is the right cadence. So for most of our clients, we work on an every other week, a bi weekly conversation that’s pre scheduled. And, you know, you and I are going to talk and I’ll tell you there, there’s a flow for that conversation. We’re gonna talk every other week, the combination of a bi weekly cadence, and quarterly goals, and then long term goals, that combination long term quarterly, which is kind of like midterm not so close, that you have to be panicked, but close enough so that we’re accomplishing something. And then bi weekly, worked really nicely. So that we keep that cadence of bi weekly calls. And then on top of that, we offer unlimited access. So as a client, you can call five times in a day. And that happens. We get calls all day, every day, from books, and it can be anywhere from, hey, we helped me think through pricing on this project to a client, just send me this email, how would you respond to you know, I hired a subcontractor, and they’re flicking out now what can be anything to David, I’m angry all the time. Right? So and that’s unlimited. And because my firm’s number one value is our is extreme client responsiveness, we get back right away, we’re either pick up the phone, or we get back right away, and help out. So ad hoc, every other week, and the every other week does follow up, we have a pattern, we’re always going to start with something positive, we are going to deal with any burning issues. And sometimes that takes all the time something, there’s something that we need to address, we’ll usually look at the commitments from last time. So what did you say you were going to do? All that conversation around your burning issues about what you were supposed to do last time, we were able to what got in the way, if you weren’t able to, we have a little mechanism for tracking that. And if you make a commitment, and you don’t live up to it, and you make that same commitment again, and you don’t live up to it, then the third time, we’re gonna have a conversation about is it really a commitment? What do we need to do so that you either accomplish this, or was just set it aside, all of that’s going to create your commitments for the next time. So we’re going to go through that we always talk about, at the end what your key learning is, or takeaway, always going to talk about what you’re excited about, for the future. So we start on a positive and end on a positive. And there’s some good science reasons for that. And, and then, was this a value? Was this helpful? That’s kind of our, you know, how we go through it. And seems to work. people stay with us for a very long time. Now,

 

Will Bachman 43:24

you are kind of like the Hercules of content creation, and, you know, creating really useful frameworks. You’re, I mean, your blog alone, super helpful. But then I know that you also have created all sorts of, like libraries of email templates, and conversation templates, and so forth. A lot of that’s not available on your website. Is that material that you kind of pull from to, you know, support your clients, like, Oh, I here’s,

 

David Fields 43:59

oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, so constantly are getting tools. Also. You know, if we need to work on mindset, we have a mindset shift or exercise, if you’re need to work on impact, we have the problem and or we have some other things. We have exercises, we have templates, we have tools we have, you know, all of that and we just break it out as needed. When somebody needs something we say, here it is. Someone asked for something the other day that we didn’t have, like, oh, look a gap. And so now we’re creating a new asset. And that asset will be available for other clients to

 

Will Bachman 44:33

talk to me a little bit about your work with bowtique firms and how that’s different and the kind of challenges or issues that they’re facing as they’re hitting the different inflection point.

 

David Fields 44:47

Yeah, so boutiques are, the work with them is fairly different. And we transition people from from solo to boutique at a certain point. That’s kind of a commitment. If we get you To a certain level, you’re going to transition because the fees are substantially higher. And it’s much more work. The boutique firm is facing somewhat similar, but also different challenges. For a boutique firm, there’s also how do we make more rain? But the the tweak on the is also how do we make more rainmakers? Because at some point, as a boutique, you cannot be fully supported by the owner founder. Or by that first generation you have it, there’s just a limit. The limit can be quite high, there’s a firm and outwest, where the top person does about $20 million herself. Which is, that’s a pretty high level of revenue for a small firm. You know, but, you know, a typical solo, you know, an owner might do six, 7 million before kind of really tapping out, we have to create that next generation of rainmakers. And so that’s a big deal, not just how do we create more rain, but how do we create more rainmakers. And so for them, as opposed to solos, and we have a system, we have a program that we can install, and training for the next generation that we do, and it’s a couple of years will to build that next generation. So that’s one challenge, there is still a challenge around scaling, how do we scale this thing profitably? And there are all sorts of elements around that around systemization. And, you know, and those pieces, there’s the third challenge that boutiques have, which is again, quite acute right now, and we only help with indirectly is how do I find more talent? How do I keep in return, you know, finding retain talent, the labor market, and consulting is extraordinarily tight at the moment. And finding good talent is tough, we are not recruiters, what we will do is we will help a firm create a culture and environment that attracts people. And that makes them more likely to stay. And we’ll help with the comp design and all of that, those sorts of pieces. So, those are kind of the three big challenges on the batik side. And then many boutiques have an aspiration, which is to sell, or how do I get out? And yesterday, I was talking to CEO of a firm we work with they were right. I want to say 2 million when we started, yes. 2 million and change. And I talked with him yesterday, because he has an offer for $12 million. Yes. Which is great. So that aspiration of how do I get out is a boutique challenge. That is one. You know, it needs to be on the table and discussed.

 

Will Bachman 48:08

Fantastic. So David, for listeners who are now interested and want to learn more, and think about potentially engaging your support, where would you point them online? Where would you Where should they reach out to

 

David Fields 48:23

ask you a question? So first of all, if you’re interested at all, you should do it. I’m obviously by I’m obviously biased. But yeah, the well. I mean, I have a lot of passion for this one we do really works well. We enjoy it, I have a great team. And you know, the fact that our typical client, you know is around for three or four or five or six years is saying something. So So I think if you have any interest, it’s worth having a discussion, I would go to David A. Fields comm I think just Ford slash contact, and there’s a contact form. And we get back to everybody, we get a lot of inquiries, and we get back to everybody and have a discussion and I will tell folks if we’re not right for them or if we are right for them and what we can do and, and all of that.

 

Will Bachman 49:17

Fantastic. Well, David, it’s always a lot of fun having you on the show. Thank you so much for joining today.

 

David Fields 49:24

Thank you. Thank you for asking such smart questions and making it a fun discussion.

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