The excitement of being an entrepreneur…and the self-doubt of can I do it. It is easy to second guess ourselves. It takes more than an idea.

Today, Bob Lurz and I were at RochesterWorks to present “what it means to be a consultant” and to let the group know that the Rochester Professional Consultant’s Network (RPCN) is a place to 1) network, 2) learn and 3) find support.

The room is filled with about twenty people who are currently on the job market. Their choices are to find employment with a company or think about starting their own company.

We introduce ourselves and ask them to tell us who they are and what kind of business they are thinking of starting up.

The diversity of experience is amazing. The range of ideas we listen to include: retail store, digital imaging, gardening & landscaping, clothing store, regulatory affairs, digital video, fashion clothing line, music company, horse farm, administrative services and project management.

Bob shares the two things that are key qualities of a successful consultant: building relationships and trust.

It’s time to ask them what their greatest fear is in starting a business. Immediately, there are hands in the air. The list comes easily:


SWOT Analysis

Branding Your Business

It is important to ask “what sets me apart from my competition?” Do the research on your competitors. Conduct a SWOT analysis on your business and your competitors. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Use this information to elevate yourself from the competition. There is no reason to “bad mouth” them.  Talking your competition down will decrease your customer or client’s trust in you.

Know what your “niche” is and help people to equate you to this area of expertise. When someone has a problem, they want to find the expert, not the generalist to solve it.

If you are master of everything, no one will remember you for the one thing you really want to do.

Marketing Your Business

How do I get the message out? Visibility is important. The key ways consultants find customer/clients is through networking, speaking, writing and having a web site presence.

I share a story about when I started my first business ten years ago. I went on three marketing trips to visit people I had worked with in earlier companies.

My purpose was not to “get work”. It was to ask for feedback on my business plan and to raise awareness of my intent to work independently as a consultant.

Mike asked if I had a website. I did not. He told me that was a glaring omission. I listened to him.

Two years later, I landed a major client from my website because the company was looking for a certified HBDI practitioner and trainer to do sessions in their leadership development program.

If it was important then, it is essential now.

Networking Builds Relationships

“It is not my strength, is it necessary?” someone asks. Networking is at the crux of building relationships. It can be done virtually or in person. LinkedIn and this blog gives me access to people outside of Rochester, NY (that’s important if your business is global).

Networking is about the other person, not about you. When someone approaches you about what they do first, how receptive are you to them?

Overwhelmingly, the response from the group is “not at all”. There is a low degree of trustworthiness.

Consider the quality of your network over how big your network is.

Value Proposition

Can I sell my services for what I think I am worth? There are buyers at all price levels for similar services or products.

As an example, a car’s basic function is transportation. The range we are willing to pay for a car may vary because of brand, extras, service or any number of differentiations.

The gardener who doubts that someone will pay $25/hr. for her work simply has to show why someone wants to her to do the work and market it to the people who can afford it.

Would a website showing before and after pictures be an effective way to display her quality of work? If your clients talk about how they feel about their new gardens or the pride of ownership, will that inspire others to contact you?

When we tap into the emotional part of a decision, we can influence our buyer to act more quickly. Think about how you can engage their heart, soul and mind.

It ties Back to Relationships & Trust

Our relationships with our colleagues, clients or customers are built on trust. If they trust us, they will pay more if we can provide what they need.

They know they can count on us to be there or to back up our product or services. They know they will be treated fairly.

If trust is absent, it will not matter how inexpensive you are – the business will go to the competition and someone they trust.

I hope to see some of you at a future RPCN meeting with other consultants.