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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #58: July, 2008

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC

What do you do when you have a great deal of work and still more requests? In other words, what do you do with an embarrassment of riches to ensure that you retain as much business as possible? Because you don't ever want to say, "Sorry, I'm too busy to handle your project at the moment."

  1. Use creative scheduling. You can start a new project with a simple interview or meeting, and then arrange your next step to be in three or four weeks once you "analyze, digest, and organize" the information you've received. Very few clients need resolutions that same afternoon.
  2. Combine your project work. Perhaps you're already using subcontractors to research consumer trends, and it would be relatively simple to have them include brand sensitivity for a second client.
  3. Create an "A-Team" of subcontractors. These are sort of project managers who can run 90% of a project for you, managing other subcontractors as needed. You simply retain the overall supervision and the relationship with the buyer.
  4. Offer the client an inducement to wait. Tell the buyer that you'll take 5% off the fee if they are willing to wait 60 or 90 days to begin.
  5. Justify to the client why waiting is in the client's best interest. In other words, you may want to wait for a slow client period, or a busy client period, or be closer to the new fiscal year, or be active around the time of the proposed merger, or whatever. If you sniff around you can usually find a reason.
  6. See if you can put a "hold" on a current project to make time. You may be ahead of schedule. Of you may be able to justify a pause based on the reasons contained in point #5.
  7. Eliminate things in the schedule that are low priority (never eliminate personal, family, or vacation time). These might include pro bono work, personal development, office administration, and so forth.
  8. Significantly raise your fees (this is the benefit of value based pricing). If you're very busy but an insistent new client comes along, charge twice what you otherwise might. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and you are apparently a very hot property. 
  9. Reduce your labor intensity. Successful people tend to fall into "success traps," which are insulated "boxes" which are seldom questioned or changed. Don't merely repeat your current model. Change your model so that it involves less time with fewer deliverables. 
  10. Transfer the majority of the work to the client. That provides extra value in the skills transfer, but also rearranges the work significantly. If the client is in a big hurry, simply say you can help get it done if the client provides most of the staff and manpower.

I've seen too many consultants who thought they were "rich" and turned their noses up at new business, only to have three projects disappear in 30 days and find that, suddenly, feast had turned to famine.

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