Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shirts and Prospects

I received some wonderful sports shirts last year for Christmas.  To this day, I am careful about where I wear some of them.  Exercising in them, in particular, would cause more strain than I want to put on these shirts I still perceive as nice and in good condition.  However, I also recall that last year at this time I felt the same about another batch of shirts which are now in the “anything goes” pile.  Those are shirts from Christmas 2009.  It seems once the new shirts came in, the older shirts looked a little less nice and candidates for soccer, basketball, yoga, the gym or something quick to put on for quick errands.

I notice the same thing about prospects.  Their status is often evident and we can tend to hang on too long to the hope of conversion.  The best remedy is new business.  I keep a list and recently got very liberal at removing prospects.  Why?  Incoming prospects with quick conversion and work I enjoy.  Rather than hold onto hope of conversion in vain, it behooves us all to develop new business.

Prospects are going to convert to clients regardless of the condition of the rest of our business.  However, it sure is easier to set them aside when something of higher value takes their place.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Are You in the Top 1%?

I know I'm usually helping pump up your consulting income here, but occassionally we need to look at the bigger pictures of happiness and true wealth.

With the Occupy Movement sweeping the country, a lot of attention has been given to the 99% vs. the 1%.  The movement is really about attitudes, values and policy and not income.  There are those in the 1% of money that identify with the movement and clearly many in the 99% that do not.  However, occassionally we see a media emphasis on a "top 1%" in terms of money, which in this consumptive society usually means income.  You may have heard the number $343,927 being used.  According to this article, and many others, $343,927 is the 99th percentile for adjusted gross income (AGI) on a tax return, as of 2009.

However, before you compare your AGI to this number, I suggest that AGI is not the true measure of comparative monetary wealth.  Net worth is.  After all, the word millionaire specifically refers to someone with over $1 million in net worth.  Net worth is highly misunderstood and largely uncalculated by the 99% (now using the term to mean top percentile of AGI).  The 1% know theirs and use it as the true measure of comparative wealth.

While income is obviously important in terms of growing a net worth, the spending side of a ledger is very important as well.  Books like "The Millionaire Next Door" and a recent read of mine, "Enough" by John Bogle speak to this.

So if your're comparing yourself this way, what is the threshold for top 1% net worth?  This is harder to find!  We are so geared to spending, not saving.  Below are some nuggets from the internet.  Naturally, some are in contradiction.

·         America's richest 1%, as surveyed by U.S. Trust have an individual net worth greater than $3.75 million.

·         The couple’s net worth of roughly $3.5 million places them in the top 2 percent of families in the United States

·         Mr. Kremen estimated his net worth at $10 million. That puts him firmly in the top half of 1 percent among Americans

·         Fewer than 1 percent of Americans are millionaires

·         A household with $1 million net worth, excluding primary residence, is in the top 6%

·         The number of American households with a net worth of $1 million or more… fell 27% to 6.7 million in 2008 (2007 estimate of households in the US: 111,162,259)
So, now you know some parameters of comparison.  Comparision may be fun, but it shouldn't define your happiness.  Let's drop the word "comparative" and when you just look at "wealth", know that it's personal and your primary goal is to stay above your happiness threshold.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Interview on Business Info Guide

Here is some Q&A with me about the book and consulting in general.  The rest of the interview can be found at

What is your book about?

It’s about how to be a great consultant and have a thriving consulting business.

What inspired you to write your book?

This is a “write what you know” book. I’ve been through a complete lifecycle of consulting. I’ve taken the bumps and bruises along the way, but I’ve also won several awards and been able to leave each client better, many times salvaging business-critical situations. I enjoy consulting and I’d like to see it pursued in the right way too, which will elevate the profession. There’s also more where the book came from, and obviously every situation is different and requires some personalization and I have some value-added services for that.

How did you come to do what you’re doing today?

About 13 or so years ago, when I took a position as an IT Vice President in a large company, I inherited dozens of consultants from a big profile consulting firm. Owning the budget, I came to understand what they were making and was astounded to understand it was more, sometimes way more, than I. I also knew what their real contribution was and knew I could do better. I furthermore was looking to leverage my abilities across multiple situations and consulting seemed to be the way to do that.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

There are multiple profiles to my days. I might be heads down with a single client or I might be working many client situations. Clients could be short-term, high-impact or they could be my primary client over multiple months for a project. I might be at client sites or at my office or both. I might be presenting live or in a webinar. I might be on the phone a lot or a little. It depends on client priorities, but I make my commitments and am always responsive. These clients I speak of could be local, domestic or international, which obviously impacts the day’s profile. Either way, I’ve been 100%+ as busy as I’ve wanted to be in all my years of consulting. I’m very time conscious and try to apply my time to productive and/or fun activities and not time wasting activities.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

I enjoy making a big difference to clients. What I do can have tremendous impact if done well. I enjoy stepping away knowing that people and the company will be on a different and better trajectory as a result. On a personal basis, I enjoy seeing people more engaged in their daily work and their life as a result of some direction I’ve helped with.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

There are so many. I’m always trying to learn more through reading, podcasts and audiobooks. Some of my favorite authors for business and success have been Tom Peters, Barry Posner (my MBA instructor), Peter Drucker, Dennis Waitley and Steven Covey. I’ve been inspired authors out of my field as well such as Jared Diamond, Ayaan Hirsi and George Orwell and noteworthy books In Cold Blood and The Black Swan.

I read a bunch of good blogs through my reader, as well as news online, daily. It’s an efficient way to take in the daily information I need.

And I’ve had several people who have believed in me including former bosses, clients and employees. They inspire me to continue to be the person they believed in.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It Seems Like the Basics

I'm often amazed at the degree to which otherwise smart people mess up on the basics over and over again, despite that fact that it is costing them serious business.  I know that many prefer the technical aspects of their field over the running of a business, be it their consulting business or their personal "business within" the corporation they work for.  However, doing some basics well is important in making the distinctions necessary to transcend the look of a potentially-outsourced skillset to one that is a competitive advantage for the company.  The company could be the company one works for or the clients they are working for.

It's almost true that "all I really need to know I learned in Kindergarden."  Different basics I've seen that need some work lately include:

1. Not responding to email the same business day
2. Not responsing to voicemail the same business day
3. Not being courteous and understanding of the other's situation, keeping the focus on their issues
4. Parading knowledge that's irrelevant or is about self-interest
5. Looking to partners to take care of you
6. Doing easy, low-risk, last-decade activities and calling it marketing
7. Fear to actually consult or take risks versus being directed by largely misinformed guidance
8. Fear to learn new methods for achieving client success
9. Spening inordinate time in comfortable relationships with those who cannot make things happen for you
10. Treating others as antiseptic barriers to your goal instead of the people they are

It seems like the basics, at least to me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Flight of the Bluebird

I just finished “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond for the second time. It talks about the real causal events in history. That, combined with some work I came to agreement on with a client this week, led me to think about some causal events in consulting and a term that sometimes gets thrown in with it – bluebird.

In consulting, the ‘bluebird’ term is used to refer to a nice piece of work falling from the sky onto your lap for you to sign and go. It’s a somewhat pejorative term used to indicate you did not do the necessary work to earn that business. I don’t use the term because the work that goes into coming to a consensus with a client over some business doesn’t have to have been yesterday or even this century, but there usually was work involved. This starts with the fact that you have to have taken the risk to start a business in order to win business.

Sure, some business comes easier when you have built the reputation. For those pieces of business that don’t come with a real sales cycle, I think back to starting in consulting 15 years ago where most everyone starts – with not much – and working pretty hard to build my knowledge, abilities and reputation. Unwinding the real causal events that led up to the business has always revealed a complicated cycle of awareness to contact to contract. Sometimes it’s years later when I get the call but I earned the awareness at some point.

What are the causal events of your business? Are you creating your ‘bluebirds’ of tomorrow?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Doing More With Less? Calendar Protocol

Are you being mandated, like so many, to do more with less? If not, do you realize that is always the unspoken assumption?

If you find yourself running a team or in a team with such a mandate, or ready to place one on yourself, it’s time to get more efficient rather than immediately resort to cutting heads and continuing with current inefficiencies and a “work longer” mentality. Some of the easy levers to look at are the basics - which account for a lot of inefficiency in team dynamics.

Team members need to meet. Frequently. If calling said meeting constitutes more time than is actually needed for the meeting, team meeting protocol needs to be reviewed.

Are central calendars kept up to date and shared? Are meetings accepted when realistically there is little chance of making it? Are there unspoken calendar blocks that aren’t reflected on the calendars? Do meeting invites sit for days without response?

If calendars are double-booked or meetings are frequently declined when calendars are open, the calendar is effectively useless since it is obvious it does not reflect reality and it is not being managed proactively.

I’m not advocating over-doing meetings. Meetings, their participants and their durations should constantly be monitored to ensure they are necessary. In a small-team world, ideally they are unnecessary and people just work together. But that is not the reality of the modern Fortune-level enterprise with people spread out, with consensus-building cultures and people seldom able to completely focus on one project.

Openly discussing and agreeing on calendaring and meeting protocol is required as one of those mandates for efficiency, whether it is for your project teams or your consulting team.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Knowing versus Doing

I was exiting my yoga class at the gym last week when someone struck up a conversation with me at the water fountain. He noticed I had just come from the class and he was curious about it. What style of yoga did we do? Did we do the chattamarangya (or something)? When we did said pose, did the instructor have us put our arm in front or behind our leg? Embarrassingly, I had no answers. I just “do” the yoga. I asked him about his yoga practice. He’s never done yoga. He’s been curious for years. He’s read up (obviously more than me) on the various styles and poses, even signed up for some classes, but just never was able to go through with one.

Now I ADMIRE his knowledge of yoga and he could certainly help me out there (actually he already has me scurrying to the books). I probably could not help him out primarily by talking ABOUT yoga with him. I could only help him by encouraging him to actually do what he knows to do.

And so it goes with a good consulting practice. How many consultants know stuff but don’t actually do it? And which is more helpful to a client – knowledge or results? It’s results. Are you observant enough to know when to pull back on the knowledge exhibition and ready to DO what it takes to make sure the client gets their end result? That is what it’s all about.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interview on AfterThoughts

This podcast is an hour long conversation with S. Denice Newton and Thaddeus.  We had a very spirited discussion about consulting and the domain I practice in - Information Management.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Interview on Biz Talk

This podcast is a 45 minute conversation with I. Vitt Argent, "Dr. Ande."

The abstract: An expert on the ever-growing consulting career option and subject author, “90 Days to Success in Consulting”. William McKnight will be joining us this week with some insight and tips on how to handle modern consulting and career trends.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Creeping Death of Productivity

What a year 2010 was when it came to optimizing your entertainment. Hitting mainstream was the fact that you can easily access most any movie, any YouTube video, any podcast, most any song, hundreds of games, service reviews, facebook updates and tweets on any reasonable medium (TV, computer, PDA, tablet) and you can do it anytime for very reasonable fees. Most of the aforementioned are used strictly for entertainment and not business.

Now I’d like to believe I put a business spin on a lot of these activities, but that only goes so far and the unproductive side of all these goodies can creep up on you. I’ve had to adopt a “Time Blocking” type of strategy, like what Chris Brogan discusses here in his blog. For me, this includes the business and the fun side of using the new technology.

I believe that there is a serious new element in determining success now. It’s something that has always been there, but is ever more important and that is avoiding procrastination and maintaining focus in a world where the distraction possibilities have exploded.

Stay focused on task. List your goals. Block your time, giving yourself ample time for fun. And when you feel like you’re falling victim to an unwanted distraction, recognize it and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mind the Gap

2 consultants of equal delivery ability in the eyes of the buyer.

Consultant 1 is independent or from a boutique consultancy and consultant 2 comes from a large, well-known, branded global consultancy. All too often, although happening less frequently, the buyer is willing to pay more, sometimes substantially more, for Consultant 2.

Little of the largess goes to the consultant herself. It goes to the consulting organization, specifically the management of that organization. The question is “Is the employment of the consultant by a large, well-known, branded global consultancy worth the gap?”.

Some of the anticipated additional benefits of hiring the large consultancy include access to an internal network of experts, ability to be replaced quickly from within the firm, and motivated consultants because they have a career with a big firm.

What if these were largely untrue or not valuable? I’m just saying.

What if the independent has a much richer network of experts? What if the client is better off re-sourcing any replacement that might be necessary than accepting who the firm provides? What if big firm layoffs and revenue distribution are causing consultants to re-think loyalties? Heck, what if the client knew that the consultant boarding process was essentially the same for both profiles – or even better for the independent profile? Or that independents were more motivated to attain client satisfaction than billing hours?

And then there’s the “no one ever got fired for hiring ____ (large, well-known, branded global consultancy)”. However, I see the consulting economy moving to “no one ever got fired for hiring results.” Keep delivering results, whatever consulting profile you are in.