The Secret To Success in Your Consulting Business

Do you know the one thing that you can do to ensure the success of your consulting business?

It's really simple.

In fact, I've already told you it - in the subheading.

It's there, if you look hard enough. 

Give up?

Ok, here it is. 

Do one thing.

That's it.

Simple. 

Do one thing at a time. 

Most of you are probably disappointed by this.

Ready to click away from this article as though you’ve somehow been deceived. 

You see, when you opened this article you were expecting a silver bullet

A magical solution that you could quickly implement and then be immediately successful.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of people out there willing to sell you a silver bullet - that one thing or secret or trick, that few people know about, and that once you do it, you’ll become an immediate success.

Just go look at the bro-marketing ads in your Facebook feed. 

Your search is over!

The good news is, you don’t need to search anymore. You already have a silver bullet. 

It's within you. 

That silver bullet - the magical solution that you’ve been looking for - is to unleash your capability to do….just….one….thing. 

Use one marketing channel in your business. 

Offer one product or service.

Serve one audience.

Resolve one problem.

Charge one price.

Follow one training course.

Take in the advice of one advisor. 

Perhaps I'm over-simplifying things 

Surely there’s more to success in your consulting business than simply doing one thing, isn’t there?

Yet we often hear about the hyper-focus of individuals like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. They’ve taken the ‘one thing’ principle to the extremes by only wearing... one thing. One ‘outfit’ day in, day out

They don’t cloud their minds with decisions about what to wear. They wear just one thing. 

Personally, that's a bit extreme for me. I think, as the poet William Cowper said"

Variety’s the very spice of life.

But each to their own, and you can’t doubt the business success of Jobs or Zuckerberg.

What I will say, though, is that there’s something I’ve not yet told you. 

I’ve been holding back

I’ve been holding back until now because it’s only worth explaining to people like you. The few who have had the commitment in themselves to read this far. 

All of the people looking for, and wanting, overnight success will have already left this article.

They’re off searching for a guaranteed success formula elsewhere. Or they’re doing the lottery! 

Or maybe both.

You see, this thing I’ve not told you about - that I’ve not let on to - it’s another critically important key that's required to unlock your success. 

It’s foundational to making this whole 'one-thing' principle work. 

And it’s actually one of the most difficult things to learn. 

What is it?

It's another behaviour: 

You need to let go.

Let go of the arrogance, the impatience, the immaturity of assuming that when you try something new, it will work perfectly the first time around.

You see, for whatever reason - maybe it was the way we were schooled or parented, or our experiences as an employee - but whatever the reason, we’ve got confused. We now believe that we need to be perfect in everything we do. 

We don’t always realise we’re doing it, but it’s there. 

It might be a fear of failure. Of humiliation. 

Or the fear of success. That if things work out, you might somehow mess it up. Or the success will be fleeting. 

It’s not helped by that fact that, as a business owner, the need to be perfect is often because the situation is urgent.

  • You need that training course to work because you spent your last remaining revenue on it.
  • You need the prospect to accept the first draft of your consulting proposal because you need the revenue right now.
  • You need the client to accept the first draft of your report because you’ve spent so much time on it that you can’t afford to write a second draft. 
  • You need your blog article to be perfect. Or your ad. Or your free guide.

This ‘need’ is actually counterproductive and results in procrastination.

That thing that is urgent takes longer... and longer... and longer... whilst you ‘perfect’ it. 

But ask yourself, if someone knew how to be perfect - how to have a totally infallible system, a product or solution, or blueprint - then we’d have bought it already and we’d all be successful!

Whatever being successful means of course. 

We all have successes

Look, every day we have successes.

Although pop culture tells us that success is only measured in ostentatious material wealth (yet for most of consultants that I've coached, their key driver for running a consulting business is autonomy and freedom from the shackles of employment). 

When it comes to success, even if the biggest success you had this week was tiny in comparison to the next person’s, it’s still a success. Your success.

And, as the American General George S. Patton said:

The reality is that there is no one key to success 

No-one can, hand-on-heart, say:

If you follow this I guarantee you’ll succeed.

Success is found through implementing a series of behaviours, and applying them to proven strategies and tactics to see what works for your business. 

It’s not a comfortable reality.

We’re all seeking the answer to our biggest business challenges, and we’re all hoping that someone out there can just tell us what it is. Tell us what to do.  

But when it comes to building a successful consulting business, it doesn't work like that. Yet we load so much expectation onto the decisions we make.

We want them to work.

We need them to work. 

I'm not finished yet

There’s something else I need to tell you.

Another behaviour that you need to adopt.

We’ve already determined that to be successful, the first behaviour that you must follow is to do one thing at a time. 

And that the second behaviour you need is to be able to let go. To give up on the need to be perfect. To stop expecting that things will work perfectly the first time around.

This third behaviour is actually something you’ve been doing all your life. 

You knew how to do it from birth. However, as you’ve gotten older, and since you became an adult and took on responsibilities, you started to resist this crucial behaviour.

And now, as a consulting business owner, where the stakes have gotten even higher, you repel this behaviour even more. 

This third behaviour is:

To fail.

I want you to embrace failure. 

You need to embrace it because it’s inevitable.

You must expect it.

And you must plan for it. 

Now I’m not talking total and catastrophic business failure here. No one needs that to happen. 

But the key to success - the journey to success - is to have lots and lots of failures. 

Not in panicked way, but in an expectant way. 

I want you to think:

Oh that didn’t work. Never mind. Now we know it doesn’t work that way, how we can try it a little differently? How can we change what we did in the hope of better results?

It goes back to the oft quoted phrase from the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison:

So even if we go back and try something new, the results won't necessarily be better. 

They might even be worse. 

But it's ok. Failure is to be expected. Failure gives you the gift of learning. 

Treat everything as an experiment!

In our businesses - and probably our lives too - we should treat most everything as an experiment. 

A test.

Something from which we seek results, and to then make adaptions and improve. 

If we don't have this mindset, and instead we expect everything to work first time around, we’re more likely to end up in disappointment.

And when it come to starting, running and growing a consulting business, you’re going to face a lot of disappointment. 

You need to build up not only resilience to it, but the ability to enjoy it. To recognise that it's part of the journey to greatness. 

To know that failures give you data. Data that you use as information to inform your future decisions.

However, what often happens is that, instead of testing something, making adaptions, and moving on to the next test, we completely change direction.

We pick up the next shiny object in the hope that it is the thing that will work first time. 

I did this A LOT in the first years of running my consulting business. 

I was very naive about running a consulting business even though I'd been a consultant for nearly 20 years! 

[Read about: Why working in a consulting business doesn’t prepare you to run your own consulting firm]

I bought course, after course, after course. 

And when I didn't get instant success (in the first week) my interest started to wane, and frustration started to build. 

Come the fourth week of most of the things I'd bought, I'd given up!

I’m embarrassed to admit the amount of courses that I’ve bought and never got anywhere near to completion!

You lack accountability

A key cause of my impatience was a lack of accountability. And if you run your own business, especially when you only have yourself to answer to, accountability - or lack thereof - is a real problem.

If I think back to my days of being an employed consultant, at no point did I ever give up on writing a consulting report simply because it became hard. 

I was certainly late a few times (damn perfectionism!) but I never gave in.

I love writing reports. They're bloody hard work, and I’ve never had one where I thought:

That was easy.

They all took a pound of flesh, and they all had to be done.

Someone was expecting the results.

Someone had paid for the results.

And someone was going to act on the results. 

Yet, for whatever reason, we don't treat ourselves in the same way. With the same seriousness. 

We don’t treat ourselves in our consulting businesses as if we are the client. Yet we expect, and need the outcome even more so!

As Michael Gerber, author of the E-myth says:

To Recap

The purpose of this article is to appeal to you to adopt the three core behaviours that I’ve seen time and time again in my consulting and coaching career.

Three behaviours that dramatically increase the chances of success (remembering that no-one can guarantee you success!). 

To recap, those behaviours (in order) are:

  1. Do one thing
  2. Let it go - stop being a perfectionist
  3. Embrace failure

Finally, if you can, invest in getting a coach or mentor who provides real accountability. Or even team up with another consulting business owner as your accountability partner. 

With accountability you prevent yourself from the 'shiny object syndrome' and increase your chances of success even more. 



Images courtesy of TNW, Unsplash and following photographers:

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