Sunday, May 07, 2006

Tough Love for I.T. Consultants

Sprinkled in with everything else at SMB Nation, there was a bit of "tough love" for some consultantss.

Most people know intellectually what they need to do to be successful in their businesses. In fact, they can rattle off the "rules" of success all day long. But some people just don't sit down and DO what they know needs to be done.

I wish I could record every word I heard uttered at SMB Nation (Redmond, Amsterdam, and East) because there was just too much great advice for me to take in all at once.
  • Here is some of the advice that was spelled out in the formal sessions as well as the hallways and at the breakfast table:
  • Take control of your finances. If finances bore you or scare you, or you just don't have time, hire someone. Make that piece of your business go smoothly and everything else will go better as well.
  • Rethink your prices. Today. Whether that means considering increases or service agreements, managed services, flat rate, or whatever. Do Not just let the hodge-podge of prices in your business continue without some overall structure that makes sense. KISS: Keep it simple. If you can't explain your pricing to another consultant (or a client!) in one paragraph, you're in trouble. If you ever want to grow, this area will need regularity.
  • Rethink Growing. Growing doesn't have to mean that you hire ten people and become a fulltime administrator. You can grow by intentionally organizing your business around policies, procedures, and tools that allow you to provide higher quality service to your clients.
  • Hire carefully. Fire quickly. These are two major areas of pain. When you hire on a whim you'll probably lose a lot of money before you either train the person properly or send him to work for the competition. Remember Brian Tracy's simple advice: the best time to fire someone is the first time the thought crosses your mind. This is a hard one.
  • Rethink your clients. How can you weed out the ones that aren't good for you and find the ones you want?
  • Work on being professional.
  • --- Get your invoices out on time.
  • --- Dress professionally. You should be as well dressed as anyone you're going to do business with today. Our industry is terrible on this score. You don't have to wear a tie or a dress and high heals, but find something other than a t-shirt and jeans.
  • --- Make sure your "presentation" is professional. Buy printed envelopes, stationary, and business cards. With services like VistaPrint, the whole lot will be less than $100.
  • --- Standardize your practices. Write it down! Begin describing everything you do in terms of "We like to . . .." Think back to conversations at SMB Nation when we all sit around and ask what the others are doing about this or that or the other thing. Just as you have an elevator speech for your prospects, you should have an elevator speech for your marketing practices, your training practices, your documentation practices.

I've met people (not at SMB Nation) who say they're working toward success, but they spend all their spare time watching TV or playing video games. If you fill your time with TV and video games, you'll be good at watching TV and good at video games. If you spend your time reading and thinking about your business, you'll be good at the business side of your business.

Read the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.

Read Making it Big in Small Business by Beatrice Mulzer.

Don't just pore through the powerpoint slides from SMB Nation and copy someone else. Develop YOUR habits of success. In Bea's book we learn many paths to success. The fifteen people she profiles have some habits in common. But more importantly, they each have things they do CONSISTENTLY. You need to pick a path, make a plan, and develop your habits of success.
Treat your business like a business.

If you want some tough love, here it is: If you're not willing to work ON your business and become more professional, then your business will decay and you will find it tougher to compete every year. Tune up your radar and listen. If you keep getting the same advice over and over, TAKE IT!

No one thing will keep you from being successful. No one thing will make you successful. Success comes from focusing your attention and your intentions like a laser beam, and from establishing good habits and becoming their slave (thank you, Og Mandino).

If you just wake in the morning and do whatever seems like a good idea today, then you better work inside a pinball machine because that's the only place where that behavior can lead to success.

If I forgot any major topics, please post comments.

For more sage advice along these lines, check out

Have a prosperous day!