My company, Beyond Philosophy was named as one of the Best Management Consultancy firms in the UK by the Financial Times. I was surprised and honored.
Getting recognized from the outside feels fantastic. What’s more, this award was voted on by clients and peers. All the hard work by my team has paid off, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
When I started my global Customer Experience consultancy in 2002, I had not been a consultant. I was a corporate guy; the kind that was used to spending someone else’s money to make them even more, as well as having a company car, an assistant, and a lot of perks. I did not know what to expect out on my own.
Some of you readers might be in the same boat now. You have an idea, an excellent one, and you want to give it a shot. However, you haven’t done it before and, to put it bluntly, you are scared.
That’s good, by the way. Fear is an excellent motivator. I was scared when I went out on my own, too. However, it is also no excuse.
In a recent podcast, I gave my ten-step plan for how to create your award-winning consultancy. While the list is not exhaustive, I hope it can inspire some of you to take the leap into your own entrepreneurial venture—and to great success.
The 10-Step Plan for Creating Your Award-Winning Consultancy:
- Recognize that you are an expert in something, and then tell everyone you are. In 2002, when I started Beyond Philosophy, no one on the broader market knew I was an expert in Customer Experience (or, frankly, what Customer Experience was). So, I told them. I wrote my first book, Building Great Customer Experiences (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). I began speaking at conferences. Over the years, I built up a profile on social media. Eventually, I didn’t have to tell anyone anymore; other people started saying I was an expert. That holds a lot more credibility.
- Have an original idea. If you just say what everyone else says, or regurgitate somebody else’s ideas, you don’t bring much value to the marketplace. You need to have an intellectual property you are passionate about that is unique and useful.
- Be brave. You have to be brave. Years ago, I read the book Who Moved My Cheese? and it had quite an effect on me. One of the questions the book asked is, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” For me, the answer was, “Start my own consultancy.” So, that’s what I did—even though I had three kids at university at the time.
- Focus on your skills. We have a saying in England, “Stick to your knitting.” It means don’t get distracted and stay focused on what you set out to do. There are things that you are good at and things that you aren’t. Be clear about what those things are. The area of Customer Experience is large, and my team and I couldn’t be an expert in everything. We decided to focus on defining the strategy. We called our company Beyond Philosophy because a theory is nice, but if you can’t use it, it is only words. We named the company Beyond Philosophy because we meant to have people do something with their Customer Experience philosophy in a practical sense—and that is what we do still today.
- Give an opinion. As a consultant, you are paid for your insight, your point of view. If you employ a sycophantic approach and do whatever the client says, then you aren’t adding anything to the equation. Sometimes that means you need to have an unpopular opinion. We often have to tell our clients that their Customer Experience baby is ugly. Of course, how you put that opinion over is essential to your business, too. A direct “Your baby is ugly,” rarely leads to a great partnership. It needs finesse.
- Know what drives value for your customers. If you can’t produce ROI that justifies your employment, you are not doing your job. Ensure that you understand what your customers’ goals are and what they need to accomplish with your help.
- Accept when you make a mistake, fix it and don’t quit. A few years ago, I decided to try prospecting for new clients. I invested a lot of capital in our proactive approach. However, we quickly discovered that outbound calls were not working. We lost a lot of money on that effort. However, we didn’t quit our goal to be global Customer Experience consultants. We took the hit, learned from it, and moved on to the next idea.
- Appreciate the support you get from friends and family. Having people who believe in you is essential to your success. Be sure you understand and appreciate what they contribute. Often.
- Prepare for long hours. Don’t become an entrepreneur if you are afraid of working a lot. Striking out on your own is not only scary but also loads of hard work.
- Remember that consultants are the first to go in a recession. Two areas are routinely cut in times of recession: Training and Consultancy. Beyond Philosophy does both so you can imagine what that’s like. Prepare for the inevitable to insulate yourself from a crisis.
To hear more about these steps in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
There is a quote I like:
“IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”
― Lewis Carroll
Looking back with all we have achieved with our global Customer Experience consultancy, we can say with confidence that we had an excellent idea and it was worth it. If I had a time machine, I might go back to 2002-Colin and tell him so. Obviously, I can’t, so instead, I say it to the 2019-you: you have an excellent idea, and it is worth it to yourself to try.
Now, take my advice and get going because you don’t want to regret the chance you didn’t take by waiting too long to make a decision.
I wrap up with the question I learned from the mice all those years ago that I want you to consider:
What would you do if you were not afraid?
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Hear the rest of the conversation on “How to Create a Financial Times Award-Winning Consultancy from Scratch,” on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs and podcasts:
THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO CHANGE (Podcast)
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX