Episode: 8 |
Amanda Setili:
Strategic Agility:



Amanda Setili

Strategic Agility

Show Notes

Our guest today is my friend Amanda Setili, the author of two books:

The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World, was published in 2014. Her latest book is coming out in the fall of 2017, Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate your markets.

Amanda has an MBA from Harvard and started her consulting career at McKinsey & Co.

She has been running her own successful consulting firm, Setili & Associates, in Atlanta for nearly twenty years.

Her first book emerged out of something Amanda did which I think is pure genius: she created the Strategic Agility Think Tank, which brings together senior leaders from a blue-chip list of clients, several times per year for an in-person session that includes a panel discussion and then Q&A.

The Think Tank keeps Amanda top of mind with the clients she has served in the past and is a reason to reach out to new ones. It gives her fresh material and case studies for her writing. It positions her as the go-to thought leader on how to navigate turbulent markets.

It takes some real effort, long term dedication, and a willingness to invest to set up something like the Strategic Agility Think Tank – that’s why most people don’t do it. Those who do, like Amanda, are scarce and thus incredibly valuable.

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Will Bachman: Hey there, podcast listeners. Welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. I’m your host, Will Bachman. 

Our guest today is my friend, Amanda Setili. Amanda has an MBA from Harvard and started her consulting career at McKinsey and Company. She’s been running her own successful consulting firm, Setili and Associates, in Atlanta for nearly 20 years. She’s the author of two books, The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World, which was published in 2014, and her latest book is coming out in the fall of 2017, Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets.

Her first book emerged out of something Amanda did, which I think is pure genius. She created the Strategic Agility Think Tank, which brings together senior leaders from a blue chip list of clients several times per year for an in-person session that includes a panel discussion and then Q&A and networking among the participants. 

The Think Tank keeps Amanda top of mind with the client she served in the past and is a reason to reach out to new ones. It gives her fresh material and case studies for her writing. It positions her as the go-to thought leader on how to navigate turbulent markets. 

It takes real effort, long-term dedication, and a willingness to invest to set up something like the Strategic Agility Think Tank. That’s why most people don’t do it. Those who do, like Amanda, are scarce and, thus, incredibly valuable. What she did, any one of us could do. She gives some lessons on how practically to make it happen. I found my conversation with Amanda to be inspiring, and I hope you do as well. 

Amanda, I am so thrilled to have you on the show today. There’s so much to cover. We’d talk about your books, The Agility Advantage and your forthcoming book. We’ll get  to all of that, but, first, I’d love to hear a little bit about kiteboarding.

Amanda Setili: My husband and I have always loved catamaran racing and competitive water skiing and anything to do with water and boardsport type things. A couple of years ago, we got into kiteboarding; otherwise known as kite surfing. We are just totally fanatical about it and spend as much time on weekends as we can doing that. 

I think that it’s an interesting thread that’s carried through my life because I’ve always been very analytical, I’m an engineer and things like that, but I’ve also been fascinated by turbulence and adventure as a white water raft guide and things like that. I love playing in the waves now. I think that that’s carried over into my business expertise because I really like to deal with companies who are in the midst of market turbulence, to help them figure out how to navigate that and how to come out on top. 

Will Bachman: That’s really cool. What company today is not involved in some turbulence? 

Amanda Setili: Right.

Will Bachman: There’s so many areas that we can start exploring, but one that I thought was just such a genius idea was this was, I think, before your book came out, The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World. You came up with and created the Strategic Agility Think Tank. Some of the members were AT&T, Auto Trader, Best Buy, Bosch, Cisco, Cox Communications. That’s just the letters A through C. I would love to hear about how you created that, how you got such high-level companies involved, and what you did with the Think Tank. Tell us the story around it. 

Amanda Setili: We’ve been in business as a consulting firm for quite a long time, maybe longer than some of our listeners, since around 2000 or so. Over that time, you build up a lot of contacts, but you don’t always have time to see them all. Every once in a while, somebody will call you out of the blue and, hopefully, they want a consulting project, but more often they may need a new job or they may need to hire someone or they may need to just ask a question, “Who do you know?” I decided that it would really be better to get these people together proactively, to proactively get my network to know each other rather than waiting until they needed my help to connect to people. 

The other thing that I noticed was that more and more of my clients were asking for help when they were in the midst of a degree of market change that they were having trouble navigating, and they really felt like they needed strategic agility to be able to get through that and figure out what was going on in the market, how to capitalize on it, and how could they move fast to execute their plans. I thought what better than to get people together on the topic of strategic agility. 

Now I actually came up with that set of words “strategic agility” and immediately decided to trade market. One of the outcomes of that was that at least it caused me to stick with that idea for a number of years, which I think was really good for developing my intellectual property. The first one I called a few of the most interesting people that I knew to be on a panel on the topic of strategic agility. I think it was Cisco, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and maybe UPS at the first one that we did. We had panelists from four top companies all talking about this topic. 

One thing that I found really interesting is that when you ask people to speak, they generally will say yes because they knew that I could attract an interesting crowd that they would learn from as well as the crowd learning from them. But the other thing was that they typically don’t think that they’re agile. I mean most of these big companies actually feel very un-agile. But I’d say, “Well, just tell me what you’ve got going on, what you’re working on, what your challenges are, and things like that.” Usually there’s something in there that other people can learn from. That has been my objective, is to help companies learn from other companies outside of their industry. 

Will Bachman: That’s really cool. This sounds like this was a panel discussion. Can you describe for listeners and for me what was the think tank itself? Was it just key executives talking to each other with a small round table or with a big forum? What is the think tank? How did it work? 

Amanda Setili: It’s actually a fairly small group, maybe 30 people in the room, so that we can each be at a table of six or seven people. We typically have a panel discussion or a speaker for about 20 or 30 minutes to kick an idea off, a theme. After we let the speaker or panelists speak with me about that theme for 30 minutes or so, then we open it up for the group to either contribute their own ideas, their own challenges, their own things they tried that they’re not sure are working yet or not, or success stories, and to ask questions. 

It’s really become very interactive. There’s been a lot of relationships built between the attendees that have gone on to outside relationships. They’ve met there and then continue to work together in other ways. 

Will Bachman: Tell us some of the practical factors of this. What sort of venue, how often do you do this? Can you talk about some of the nitty-gritty? 

Amanda Setili: I only do it a couple times a year. I picked a hotel that was centrally located in Atlanta so that a large number of people could get to it. I do it from 7:15 to 9:00 a.m. so that people can get back to work.

Will Bachman: How does it work in terms of getting people to come in terms of lining up the date and getting people just to sign up? How about those practicalities?

Amanda Setili: Yes. The panelists, I usually just find a mutually available date. I tend to work out at least eight or 10 weeks ahead of time so that people’s schedules are clear. As far as getting attendees to come, I would say that the first time I did it, I would contact them via snail mail, email, phone call, because I find that two out of three of those don’t work for any given person. You have to try all three. 

We had a good turnout for the first one, and as time has gone on, I’ve got more of a loyal following, and so I don’t need to spend as much time drawing the attendees for subsequent ones. In other words, it’s gotten into a thing where people just, when I send out an email, to come. 

Will Bachman: Right. I mean do you admit new members now, or is it a closed group? How does that work?

Amanda Setili: Yes. What I do is the people that are there, I ask them to suggest other people that would benefit from the experience and would be able to contribute meaningfully. It’s really evolved to be a group of people who are very interested in strategic thinking, who want to help each other, who want to learn from each other. It’s grown by just two or three people per time. But, over time, that compounds and grows to be a pretty big thing. 

Will Bachman: That’s very cool. Do you cover the cost of this, or you charge a fee for it?

Amanda Setili: I do. I do, but it’s not that much. I mean I may spend $1500 twice a year.

Will Bachman: How do you go about picking the topics for the next session?

Amanda Setili: I actually pick the speakers before I pick the topics because my view is if someone’s interesting, people are going to be able to learn from them and we’ll figure out the topic once we have decided on speakers. Then I will listen to them and listen to what might be interesting about what they have to say, then shape the topic and then maybe add another speaker or two if I believe that another speaker or two would be valuable in the conversation.

Will Bachman: Is this still going on?

Amanda Setili: Yes. 

Will Bachman: What sort of topics have you covered recently?

Amanda Setili: The most recent one was Innovation Meets Reality. We’ll sometimes do them on Sensing Changes in Customer Behavior and How Do You Respond. We will do them on Strategy Execution: How to Execute A Major Change in Strategy When the World Is Still Changing. We had one on data analytics and things like that. The topics range, but they are all around this central theme of strategic agility, so how can you spot opportunities in the marketplace, make a decision about how to act on them, and then execute in a flexible way. 

Will Bachman: Talk to me a little bit about what’s resulted from doing this work and from bringing these people together?

Amanda Setili: Well, I think two or three different things. One is that people have taken these ideas back to their companies and tried new things that they wouldn’t have otherwise done. I mean you and I are consultants, so we get to meet with a lot of different companies all the time, and we’re constantly being peppered with new ideas and new thoughts and new ways of doing things. But most corporate executives are in one company doing one job for two or three years at a time and they have very limited ability to see what’s going on out there, other than the customers and suppliers and business partners that they directly deal with. I think we brought a tremendous amount of ideas, cross-fertilization across companies. 

The second thing that we’ve done is to help just develop stories that I’ve used in my books and stories that I’ve used other intellectual property outlets that I have, like blogging and things like that. Third, I think it’s just good, plain relationships, people who’ve gotten to know people that they enjoy knowing and they see each other at the think tank or they get together outside. It’s just fostered relationships among folks.

Will Bachman: I mean I’m sure there’ve been some benefits for your firm in terms of staying top of mind, but beyond that, what sort of stories have you heard about people that have met through your think tank and then gone on to somehow collaborate or have some kind of working relationship?

Amanda Setili: There’s probably been a couple of job opportunity. People have gotten new jobs through the connections. There’s been people who have established business partnerships because of meeting people at the think tank. Sometimes it’s just calling and asking somebody for advice. You meet somebody at the think tank and then it’s somebody that you can ask. I think there’s been a couple of examples where speakers at the think tank have subsequently come to one of the other companies and talked actually at one of their management team meetings or something like that. 

Will Bachman: That sounds like it really puts you on the map in your territory as a thought leader and someone who’s bringing companies together. 

Amanda Setili: Yeah, it’s been great that way.

Will Bachman: Let’s talk about your book a little bit, which it sounds like it grew out of this think tank and your work helping companies with strategic agility. One of the things you talk about the book is that you should observe a customer’s daily environment and the tools they use. What are some tips or practices that companies can use around that? I’m particularly interested in any tips that independent professionals can incorporate in their practice. 

Amanda Setili: Let’s just talk B2B for a minute. The relationships that a company has with its customer are usually with one or two key decision makers in that company. They may include a couple of operating type people. At any rate, they have a very narrow view of even who the customer is. What we’ll sometimes do is help them to take a more holistic and comprehensive view of who the customer is. Rather than just talking to the primary decision maker, we will  take a more broad-based observation of the company, more of an immersion in the customer company to see how are people thinking across that entire organization.

I did this with a relationship between a fintech company and a major bank that they were working with. What was fascinating was that not only did the supplier not have a holistic view of what the bank’s needs were, but the bank didn’t have that holistic view either. We talked to actually 25 different people at that bank. By doing that, we came up with a comprehensive view of what the bank’s needs were. That was news to both the bank and to the supplier. It really helped them to build a better partnership.

Will Bachman: I imagine the bank appreciated that work as much as your client did.

Amanda Setili: Maybe so, yeah.

Will Bachman: Could you expand on that, talk a little bit more about the range of projects that your firm does? It sounds like you really work cross-industry.

Amanda Setili: Yes, we work with all different kinds of companies in many different industries. I would say that the common thread is companies who are in the midst of market change and would like to develop a new strategy for capitalizing on the things that are going on in their market. We do a lot of work to help them think about what new product or service offerings they should be bringing to market, how are they going to do that? Do they have the capabilities within their wheelhouse now, or do they need to acquire those capabilities? How are they going to navigate that with their current organization?

Because what we find is that most organizations were set up for what we used to do or what we do now, not for what we need to do in the future. We may have the need to set up some cross-functional or cross-business unit teams to be able to attack a new opportunity. It often involves a business partnership as well. 

Will Bachman: This type of project, how do they typically arise? What level of the organization is bringing you in? What’s the catalyst that starts a project like this? 

Amanda Setili: The most common client contact or decision maker that we work with is usually a division president. The size of companies that I work with, usually multibillion dollar companies, are not directly CEO, it’s often a business unit president. The catalyst is often that they’re going after an opportunity that they’re just not set up to go after. It’s not just more of the same. They’re not trying to take their current business and grow it by 7% instead of 5%. They’re trying to do something new.

Will Bachman: When you get approached with that need, what are some of the first questions that you ask to understand the context in more detail, or how do you first start figuring out what the opportunities might be? 

Amanda Setili: It sometimes takes a few minutes of discussion before me and the prospect can even alight on what the opportunity is to work together. Often I’ll just start with, “What are you guys working on? What are your objectives in general?” and then we’ll zero in on one or two areas that may not be moving as fast as they would like or with as much clarity as they would like. If there’s an area within their general objectives that needs more clarity, more speed, more alignment, that would be an area that would be right for us to help with.

Will Bachman: Are there some typical phases of a project like this, where … Let’s say you find an area that needs more clarity. How would you think about chunking out the work?

Amanda Setili: I find that a lot of the value comes just from talking with the … Let’s say it’s a business unit president, just with them about what do they want to achieve. Sometimes the clarity partially comes through that conversation. We’ll also often do a range of executive interviews with that person’s peers or with their direct reports or potentially with some of their business partner or customer representatives, so interview is often a step. 

At some point, we may organize an offsite or a workshop of some type to get the folks into the room to make some key decisions together. We may have weekly check-in meetings as we move the ball along on an execution project to continue to evolve the execution plan as things change. Those are some of the most common elements, I guess.

Will Bachman: Could you pick one specific project and sanitize it as necessary? Walk us through what was the catalytic event, what were some of the success measures that you set for the project, some risks that were considered, how you went about building alignment, some of the roadblocks you faced. Walk us through a case example. 

Amanda Setili: Yeah. I had a client who wanted to start a new line of business, which built on many of the assets and capabilities that they had, but also required some new assets and capabilities. What was interesting about the business that they wanted to start is that it wasn’t housed within one business unit at their company. It spans two or three different business units. 

That made it difficult because there was nobody below the CEO who had all the decision rights over this new business [inaudible 00:19:36]. The CEO wasn’t interested in figuring this out. They’ve got bigger fish to fry. 

Much of the value that we created from a consulting perspective was to bring these business unit leaders together with their teams and say, “What is this opportunity? How can we tackle it together? What do we have that we can use and what do we need that we need to go and get in the way of capabilities, assets, and things like that?” That was the first step of where do we want to go together and what are the pieces that we’re going to need to put in place.

As the project went on, we did use a workshop such as I described a few minutes ago to get some of the key decision makers into the room together so that we can understand collectively what was the objective, how are we going to go about this, who is going to contribute what, who have what knowledge to bring to the table, what do we need to go find out, how are we going to find that out, what metrics do we want to use in that exploratory phase to deliver the right outcomes.

Will Bachman: Then beyond leading the workshop, that one-off event, what did the day-to-day support of the client look like in terms of helping them to get this to happen?

Amanda Setili: Yes. Planning a workshop, one of the first steps would be to just clarify who needs to be in the room, what are the objectives. Then I always try to do a lot of preparation ahead of time so that people can bring some of their work to the workshop, and so we’ll do a little homework and pre-work assignments beforehand. 

We’ll actually do a fair amount of coaching beforehand to bring the right knowledge into the workshop, so that by the time we get there, people are fairly prepared to present a point of view or to present some research that they’ve done on the market or to say, “I’ve talked to these three different customers and here’s what I heard,” or to say, “From a legal perspective, here’s the concerns that I have,” or, “From a marketing perspective, here’s the timeline that we need to be on.” 

If you think about all the different functional perspectives, each one of them may be very busy with a thousand other things not this project. You’ve got to get there, clear their mind space, and say, “Look, you’re on the docket for half an hour six weeks from now, and here’s the questions that we really need you to be able to answer at that time.” The prep work for the workshop, I think, adds a tremendous amount of value.

Will Bachman: I see that. Changing topics now to professional development and skill development, something that just fascinates me. As an independent professional or running a boutique firm, there’s no one watching over you, telling you, “Okay, here’s what you need to work on.” How do you think about assessing your own skillset and figuring out what you want to work on next and then figuring out how to develop those skills? Could you talk through that, about your own professional development over the long period of time that you been running your firm successfully?

Amanda Setili: I think that picking an area of expertise and forcing yourself to write a book does a lot of good on that front because, first, it forces you to  clarify who you are, what you want to do, what you love to think about, and the type of people that you want to work with. One of the most valuable things to me about writing a book has been that it enables me to attract the clients that I really get a kick out of working with, people who are forward-thinking or strategic, who are in the midst of market change and want to do something differently in the future, so I came up with this idea of strategic agility. 

Then everywhere you look, you see ideas that you need to add to that. When you read The Economist, you notice an article and you’re like, “Oh, this is it. I’m going to save this. I’m going to write about this,” or you’re having a conversation with a client, you think, “This is a great example. I’m going to put this into the book.” 

Part of my professional development has been to just take an idea and flesh it out in everything that I see, the clients that I talk to, things that I read in periodicals, things that I read in Harvard Business Review, things that I hear when I go to presentations at my HBS reunion. Everything you see can add to that in a way. It enables it to take shape and create a body of work.

Will Bachman: That’s fascinating. It’s not so much about doing something in a vacuum, but once you have the book project in mind, it clarifies and focuses your perception of the universe. You start noticing things more because you have a place to put them. 

Amanda Setili: Exactly. I’ve used that exact phrase. It’s a place to put my creativity to. Let’s say that I’m writing a chapter on uncertainty and how to manage uncertainty, and that’s my chapter for this week, things that I put in there might come directly from conversations that I’ve had this week. Just take it out of real life, put it in the book. That enables you to put shape around some of the things that you’re doing and feeling and seeing. 

Will Bachman: Yeah, that’s fascinating. You mentioned that you do a blog and I think you also do some speaking. Can you talk about the full range of investment that you make in building your visibility?

Amanda Setili: Well, blogging is good, the books have been valuable. Building my visibility, the Strategic Agility Think Tank has been valuable. I try to talk to clients at least two or three times a week, not just existing projects but to just stay out there, try to stay active on social media as much as I can.

My view is that every company, not just consulting firms, needs to open their borders and let ideas flow in and out. The more you put yourself out there and put ideas out there, the more ideas that are going to come to you. The more you put your intellectual property and thinking out there, the more ideas you have.

Years ago, I used to think, “Oh, I only have five good ideas. I better not use them up too fast.” Now I realize the faster you put them out there, the more ideas come in the back. It just accelerates. 

Will Bachman: It feeds on itself. For me, I don’t know for our listeners, but sometimes I find it tough to pick up the phone and call a client that I’m not actively serving. It’s just a little awkward, like what do you say? It sounds like you’re quite comfortable and have been this for a while. How do you pick up the phone? What are those conversations about? Talk to me a little about that, how you interact with clients when it’s not on a current project.

Amanda Setili: Well, I think that if you’re an interesting person, people want to hear from you for two reasons. One is they just want to hear from the outside world. What are people doing outside of my company that you can share with me that might help me today?

Secondly, it’s just a diversion from what they’re doing. You’re an interesting person, you’re out doing interesting things. Tell me about it. It’s a way of vicariously enjoying my lifestyle, which is a really good lifestyle. Then the third thing is how can we work together? 

It’s got to be the combination of all three. It’s not just, “I’m here to see how I can help you and how you can pay me money to help you.” I’m trying to bring ideas that can help them, whether or not they hire me to help them. 

Will Bachman: The mandate or commandment is be an interesting person that someone wants to talk to.

Amanda Setili: Yeah, and bring value, bring something interesting from the outside world that can help them. “Here’s something you need to know regardless of whether I work with you on it.” 

Will Bachman: If I were a client that you had served two or three years ago and you’re just calling me up, and I answer the phone, “Hello, this is Will,” what would you say? What would you ask me about?

Amanda Setili: Well, typically, I’m actually face-to-face-

Will Bachman: Oh, okay. Right.

Amanda Setili: … in these conversations. Sometimes it is over the phone. But, first, I want to hear what’s going on with them, what they’re struggling with, because I want anything that I say to be relevant to what they’re working on that they’re concerned about. Then when I hear what they’re concerned about and what they’re working on, I try to bring as much value in the conversation as I can, ideas that I’ve heard in other places, things that I’ve seen other companies doing, things that I may have read that could be valuable to them.

Just ideas that I have around how to shape their thinking, because you know how it is. When you are thinking in a vacuum, you tend to think of something one way, and then you have a conversation with someone else and they reframe it for you. That reframing is very valuable.

I’ll often have prospects say to me at the end of the conversation, “Boy, it’s been really helpful to talk to you these last 40 minutes because you really changed the way that I’ve been thinking about it.” If that’s all that happens, that’s fine. It could be two years before they have something that they really want to …

Will Bachman: Tell me a little bit about … You’ve got a forthcoming book, Fearless Growth. I’ve looked through an early draft. It looks awesome. You talk about it’s The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets. Tell me a little bit about how your thinking has evolved since your first book, The Agility Advantage. What’s new about Fearless Growth? Maybe talk a little bit about fear and how that plays a role in it.

Amanda Setili: Yeah. It’s interesting to me as I explore this idea, because I don’t know if executives really want to explicitly say, “I am fearful,” or, “I’m afraid,” but I think that that is actually behind a lot of the behavior that you see in companies. You’re afraid that you can’t make your numbers. You’re afraid you might have to lay someone off. You’re afraid that your customer might defect if you can’t get your act together and get a new product together in time. 

There actually are many sources of fear, and one of the greatest out there is we don’t know what’s coming at us competitively, we don’t know what’s coming at us in terms of new customer values and new customer behaviors. There’s a lot of market change that causes anxiety for people who are running companies. My aim in writing this book was to say how can we get past that? How can we develop real, true fearless growth?

Will Bachman: What are some tips that you’ve come up with, and after thinking hard about it for a while and working on this book about how to acknowledge and move past that fear, I don’t think you can ever maybe conquer fear, but how do live with that fear and work through it?

Amanda Setili: As I did research for the book, I had a big insight, which is you have to give up a degree of control to gain control. As the world is changing faster and you need to be more on your toes, you need to be more agile, and you need to be ready to change direction, you really need to give up a degree of control in order to get to a safer place on the other side.

An example is in the Old World, let’s say you would say, “Every couple of years, we’re going to come out with a big new product or a big new release,” and you would work hard on that release. When it came out, it would be a big bang and you would announce it to the marketplace and you would try to get customers to adopt to it and you would be on your way until the next couple of years. Well, in today’s world, you need to be evolving continuously. You actually need to bring customers in on that conversation much earlier and you need to have continuous upgrading of your products and continually putting new things out there.

It feels riskier because you’re putting something out there earlier in the process. You’re giving up a degree of control because you’re saying, “This isn’t going to be perfect. We’re going to put something out there that may not be perfect,” but we need that customer input as early as possible so that we don’t bring the wrong product to market. 

There’s countless examples like this in the new rules that have to do with giving up control to gain control. The same thing happens with empowering employees. It can be scary to empower employees. It used to be, in the old world, that we could make decisions at the top, define jobs, the people would do the jobs, and then we would continue to crank out the same widgets month after month.

Well, now you’ve got to be able to change faster. You need every single person in your company to be constantly viewing the horizon, watching for new customer behaviors, listening hard, watching hard and thinking hard about what do we need to do differently to be successful. You’ve got to release a lot of control to your employees to enable that thinking. 

Will Bachman: One of my favorite books, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, is all about fear and overcoming fear. He talks about it as the resistance. I think the insight for me from that book, which I reread every year is that everybody experiences this fear, and you never really conquer it. It’s going to be with you every day, even if you’re a successful novelist, top 10 bestseller, that fear is with you every day. You’re going to more have to just learn to live with it and acknowledge it and name it. 

That’s been helpful to me to think about overcoming the fear. What are some other tips that you have of how to acknowledge the fear, to move past it, and to be able to do things like you’re suggesting, of giving up some control, which is a scary thing?

Amanda Setili: The second chapter of the book is about uncertainty. I think that uncertainty is one of the things that causes people to stay doing what they’re doing rather than branching out into something new. They’re not sure what the future holds, and so they stay doing what they’re doing. They stay hunkered down, they know how to continue doing what they’re doing, and they hope, they cross their fingers, that nothing’s going to go wrong and they won’t lose their market over time. 

I think part of what can enable you to get over the fear is to realize that uncertainty is what creates opportunity. I mean if you’re in a certain market where everything is predictable, you’re basically going to be in a horse race where margins are going to decline over time. It’s a very commodity situation where everybody does okay, but nobody does well. 

Uncertainty is what creates these opportunities to break out of the pack and to stay ahead. If you can get really good at being agile and being on top of things and continually coming out with new offerings to stay ahead of the market, that’s a huge competitive advantage. Getting past the fear can be partly just due to accepting the fact that that fear means that there’s going to be opportunity in a way. If you can feel the fear, that means probably there’s something that you can capitalize on.

Will Bachman: That’s super helpful on addressing that. You’ve written two books now, and I know that you’re an avid reader. What are some books that you found particularly powerful in shaping your thinking?

Amanda Setili: Oh, gosh. There’s so many that shaped my thinking. I’m glad you mentioned the Pressfield one because the big takeaway for me from that particular book was stop researching, to start writing, because I think it’s so easy to get stuck in that research phase. I think that as consultants, it’s a real trap if we get stuck in the research phase with our clients, where we’re continually analyzing more and wanting more data to make a decision. If we can push our clients to be more action-oriented as opposed to research and analytics oriented, that can be very valuable. 

As far as books, I’m just going to mention one, which I just think is a great read. I don’t know that it necessarily fed directly into my work, but it’s such a good read. It’s Peter Drucker, who, of course, is a famous business writer, but he has a book that’s more of a memoir called Adventures of a Bystander. It’s one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Every paragraph has something amazing in it.

Will Bachman: Thank you. I’m familiar with Peter Drucker’s name. Obviously, I’ve read his work, but I hadn’t read that one. That’s a good title to add.

Amanda Setili: Order it today. You will really enjoy it.

Will Bachman: I will. Amanda, I wanted to ask you here before we wrap up, how can people find you best online? I don’t know if you want to give your website or your Twitter or other sites, but what’s the best way for people to find you?

Amanda Setili: Yes, so website is www.setili.com. @AmandaSetili on Twitter and you can find me on LinkedIn. Luckily, I have a unique last name so it’s very easy to find me. We also have a business Facebook page at setiliandassociates.com. I would love to connect with folks, so send me an email and we will find a way to collaborate.

Will Bachman: Fantastic. Well, Amanda, I’d love to keep talking, and maybe we have another session when your book is out. We can explore that one in more detail. This has been a fascinating discussion for me. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for joining. 

Amanda Setili: You’re welcome. It was fun.

Will Bachman: Thanks for listening to this episode of Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. The mission of Umbrex is to create opportunities for independent management consultants to meet, share lessons learned, and collaborate.

I’d love to get your feedback and hear any questions that you’d like to see us answer on this show. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. That’s umbrex.com. 

If you found anything on the show helpful, it would be a real gift if you would let a friend know about the show, and take a minute to leave a review on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. If you subscribe, our show will get delivered to your device every Monday. Our audio engineer is Dave Nelson, our theme song was composed by Gary Negbaur, and I’m your host, Will Bachman. Thanks for listening.

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