If you want to build a sustainable business, you need to ensure you get your work and life in balance. Leverage hold the key to success in this regard, so you can run your business not have it running you! In this article, adapted from the preface of my book I set out a roadmap for “leveraged living’ that is entirely achievable in the digital age we now all live and work in.
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Last episode, I wanted to get something off my chest about webinars, so it was a rather impromptu episode slotted into the schedule. Just because I’d been seeing so many people struggling with the whole webinar and workshop strategy and it was really annoying me – when I knew ways they set up a webinar strategy better or run it differently.
Can’t believe how much it resonated with folks!
Now today, I’m swinging back from tactics to strategics. I want to go broad again and look at the big picture, picking up on some of the philosophies and principles explored in my podcast interview with Dr Sunil and the entrepreneurial wellbeing theme of various other episodes.
And I’m taking a liberty with ‘leveraging’ content from the preface of my book – see what I did there? It’s not cannibalising book sales because you can read most of the preface in the ‘Look Inside’ thing on Amazon anyhow.
Obviously, I’m going to tell you, if you don’t have the book, get the book 😀 It’s very good, I think it’s great, a few other people think it’s great too – it’s earned me many contracts and partnerships since it was published, smack in the midst of pandemic lockdown which presented dilemmas as well as opportunities to us all.
Helping people move their business to an online or hybrid offer was pretty popular. It was popular anyway, but covid accelerated a few digital transformations that might have been put off until later.
So being in the business of digital transformation and online business education, both my consulting and coaching was focused on the right thing at the right time. And it continues to be the case, so the book’s still packing a decent punch in the rankings.
It sets out principles and frameworks, as well as a tonne of practical implementation guidance. Leveraged consulting is driven by the iSuccess flywheel Engage-Educate-Enrol and structured around my 7 dimensions for success, that I teach – strategies are all aligned with business growth..
Anyway, the book’s preface introduces you to the concept of Leveraged Living, and the reason you want to join the club. Because it’s one thing to build out and sell an offer, it’s another to have your business model work long term, so you’re building a sustainable business.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- Why Leveraging is So Vital to Service Business Growth
- How Leveraged Living Fits into the Business Roadmap
- Understanding the Mindset, Marketing and Money Model Equation
- What Makes Leveraged Consulting or Coaching Different
- Origins of the Leveraged Business in My Life and Career
- Leveraging Your Story to Find Your Niche
- Leveraging Your Expert System to Help Others
- What Does “Leveraging Living” and True Freedom Mean To You?
Why Leveraging is so Vital to Service Business Growth
The concept behind the book comes from the typical challenges that most consulting and coaching businesses find themselves with, finding and keeping clients, moving beyond the income ceiling of trading time for money, and building a sustainable business.
And with the tools and technologies at our disposal in the digital arena, it’s easier than ever to engage, educate and enrol clients and to grow our reach and revenue offering opportunities beyond or as well as our 1:1 in-person or done-for-you services.
Titled Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age – How to Build and Grow a Successful Service Business in an Increasingly Competitive Marketplace – my book offers both a strategic compass and practical playbook for professional experts looking to start, survive and thrive with their own independent business and who want a plan that balances meaningful work with living a life of true freedom.
Leveraged Consulting is your secret weapon and competitive advantage in the digital age in which we all now operate. We face many challenges in finding clients, keeping clients and sustaining growth. Some are age-old challenges for professional services and some are brand new for all businesses in what is an increasingly connected and competitive arena.
Achieving success with a service business, in both personal and financial terms, will require you to step outside your comfort zone (and indeed your failure zone) in order to take your business to a higher level. The book offers leveraged strategies for solo professionals and small consulting firms, which take on board the service-orientated values of your profession, the now inescapable commoditisation embedded in the industry, and the new opportunities open to you in today’s digital world.
In a career spanning professional development, educational development and business development, I’ve been teaching, consulting, coaching, marketing and innovating in technology enhanced practices for over two decades – in the trenches, learning the lessons, sifting out the hype and cutting to the chase.
And I believe in the value of passing on that expertise, because I think the freedom of “leveraged living” – which is possible when you earn more money while working less hours – is something we all seek as independent professionals, not only for steady state but also when we want to grow.
But how do we build that trajectory into our business architecture?
Building a sustainable business means building leverage into your business as you grow. Leverage means putting in the same effort but getting a much bigger result. For consultants and other professionals, in broad terms a leveraged business equates to utilising your unique expertise and your time to maximum advantage in terms of the influence and impact you can have and the income you can generate.
Leveraging your value and how you work with clients is easier today than ever before. In the digital age, you can save time, work more efficiently, impact more people and share your expertise in multiple and flexible ways. This is as true for your service delivery as it is for your marketing. When you integrate a clear message about what you do and what you offer with an efficient distribution and/or delivery system, you create a scalable way to influence and impact an unlimited and global audience.
Although digital has the power to transform your business, it’s not all about technology. And although both the consulting and coaching industries are still growing, globally, culturally, things have shifted. Firstly, our clientele is looking for outcomes that are more tangible; and secondly, competition in the industry is rife. Nowadays, that means you need to stand out with a clear message and compelling high-value offer or risk being just another commodity service provider left to compete on price in the marketplace. The aim is to be sufficiently unique as to make your competition irrelevant.
So how does …
How Leveraged Living Fits into the Business Roadmap
I wrote the book as a resource for the consultant, coach and professional services provider who is adept at performing in their area of expertise but struggling to achieve either the income, impact or work-life balance they desire. It’s for those of you who are overwhelmed and confused by the glut of marketing tools and growth tactics “out there” today, and who want a simple step-by-step approach to true success.
I’m using the terms “consultant” and “client” to designate the type of work we do and the type of consumer of our services. In your particular field, “consultant” may be more aptly termed service provider, expert, trainer, adviser, coach, mentor, designer, therapist, stylist, nutritionist, retail specialist and so on and so forth.
And rather than “client”, you may prefer to switch these out with terms like customer, participant, patient or student. Depending on your specific sector or audience, you may find pros and cons in how each term is used and received by your target market. You’re the best judge of what works in your industry and for your audience (including how they see themselves).
My aim has been to create an empowering guide for consulting professionals who want to lock into place an effective strategy for consistently bringing in good, high-end clients and scaling their business. By “high-end”, I mean clients you work with in a systematic way to produce a tangible outcome they desperately want and are willing to pay fees in the order of 5-10k to achieve.
Terminology aside, whether you’re currently failing to engage your ideal audience, win clients or gain a more consistent income, this book is for you. If you’re feeling stuck in a low-end “trading time for money” business model, undercharging on your value and working all hours, this book holds answers.
Across the core 7 chapters, I hope to help you understand where, when and how to use leverage, and show you a roadmap for implementing tangible solutions that create a workable model that’s right for you, i.e. building a sustainable business. We draw on the opportunities that digital platforms offer to position and promote yourself, as well as to systematise and scale both your marketing activity and your service delivery.
Of course, each stage in your business growth trajectory has its own set of challenges and constraints, so your strategic roadmap must take account of where you are now, what is the vision you have for your business and what success means to you in terms of your desired destination.
Understanding the Mindset, Marketing and Money Model Equation
The book is a kind of sense and sensibility for the solo professional or small firm with a big vision of success as an independent business. It provides solid thinking ground for those new to business planning as well as practical marketing guidance for people who have been in the game for a while yet are not achieving the growth they want.
Everyone needs a strategic reset from time to time in order to take things to the next level.
This is a lot to do with how I help people with in my coaching, mentoring and education programs. It’s also really helpful having someone who’s walking that journey alongside you where you can get out of your own way sooner rather than later. You can get to where you want to get to faster, and with a lot less stress!
When I think about my approach to business building and the kinds of books, courses and support I have invested in over the years to help me, one thing always jumps out. I notice there’s quite a gap between (what some might construe as) the soft “touchy-feely” coaching industry and the hard “mechanical” consulting world. Rarely have I found resources that integrate the different dimensions of business success.
This is reflected in the way each is marketed too. Coaching type support appears heavily aimed at intuitive “heart-centred” entrepreneurs (often female), and business consulting and training is aimed at business owners who think in more deductive technical terms (often male). I know that sounds like generalising or stereotyping, but there’s plenty of evidence out there in the marketplace to back this up.
Admittedly, there is coaching that has technical elements and there is business training that covers personal development. But there is a definite skew. By its own definition, coaching is typically non-directive while consulting tends to be more directive in nature. Since I see coaching as a subset of consulting, I run my business across both dimensions.
Like most of my own clients, I need help with both the mental and mechanical sides of running a business – and not always at the same time. I need help to carve out an accurate picture of my business ethos as well as to evaluate end-to-end operational processes, to identify blockages and bottlenecks and help me see clearly what are the most pressing barriers and should be resolved first. I’m sure it’s the same for your own clients, it’s hard to see solutions if they’re in your blind spots.
Some people are convinced they have a marketing problem when at the heart of it they actually have a mindset or money model problem.
With my book, I wanted to show you a cross-dimensional picture and work at the interfaces to find the right blend as a solution for you. The book offers you a strategic framework for looking at things across multiple dimensions – things about you, your purpose and positioning, and things about your business, its design and its operating system. At the intersection is where your strongest brand message and service model will emerge.
I see far too many consultants and coaches drained from the intensity of constantly chasing after clients and going to uncomfortable sales meetings. If you hate prospecting, pitching and selling, wouldn’t you prefer to be the hunted not the hunter?
And those of you that have a good flow of clients are exhaustively working personally with them day in and day out, tailoring and customising every project to each one. If you want the freedom that working for yourself should provide, wouldn’t it be less stressful and more rewarding to be the best at doing one thing really well and charging what you’re worth?
To beat the cycle of unpredictable client flow and income, you need to commit to making changes in how you think about marketing, selling and business growth. If you can do that, then my book is really going to help you. Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age shows you how to strike a perfect balance between your purpose, profits and preference (for how you wish to work). I believe this is what business success is really all about.
What Makes Leveraged Consulting or Coaching Different
I’m often asked what makes leveraged consulting or coaching or any service business different to any other consulting, coaching or service business model. And aside from providing a way to grow beyond traditional models of trading time for money or bringing in partners or associates, building a sustainable business is about understanding the key leverage points or pillars in a consulting or coaching business.
Writing this book, I appreciated I was going against the grain of how consulting firms conventionally market and deliver services or grow their capacity; and indeed how “success” is measured in the corporate world if not only in profit and loss terms. Many firms have yet to understand the subtle yet profound benefits of moving from a cost-based, sales-focused business development strategy to one that is value-driven and client-centric.
In an industry where consulting and coaching are increasingly seen as indistinguishable commodities, first and foremost you need to stand out to gain competitive advantage. You need to have a clear and compelling message that resonates strongly with your target audience. You need to demonstrate value and credibility. And you need to build authentic connections.
A digital strategy where positioning, marketing, sales and delivery are driven by high-quality educational content can achieve this. First, because it helps increase your reach and revenue, second, it shortens the time needed to build trust to win contracts, and third, it means some of the work you do teaching core elements can be done without you needed to be there ‘hands-on’.
Along the entire end-to-end customer journey, you’re bringing value and achieving mini-wins in the clients’ eyes. Sharing useful content on the front-end helps gel the relationship with a potential client that leads more gracefully to a “sale” and seamlessly to continuing to add value in how you help and serve them as a client.
Building a sustainable business means putting in systems and teams at these key leverage points, where you can grow both your marketing and sales force, and your delivery capacity.
Origins of the Leveraged Business in My Life and Career
First in teaching and learning, and latterly in business and marketing, I’ve spent most of my career helping people to use technology to improve performance by doing something familiar differently. With this book, I wanted to offer new “rules” – perspectives, strategies and best practices – for what is possible in the digital age for the professional service provider who wants to maximise their reach and revenue.
I could argue that the book’s life actually began back in 2004 when I started out on my solo voyage into entrepreneur territory – new to business, new to sales and new to internet marketing. Whilst working in a full-time career managing educational development and e-learning at a leading UK university, I hopped on board a “work from home” direct sales opportunity as a fun, little side-line.
I had quite low expectations of “making it big” with my new business, despite having a more serious intent of building a plan B in case my young daughter’s epilepsy and disabilities meant eventually I couldn’t hold down a 9-5 job. When I did eventually leave my job three years later, I earned way more from the consulting business I set up than from my networking marketing business. In fact, I earned almost twice the “salary” working half the hours of my university job.
My mindset may well have had something to do with this – you tend to put less into something that’s not working and more into something that is! But frankly, I think it was because networking and sales were never things that came naturally to me, so back in those days, I ducked it. It’s surprising to people who know me as a bubbly and energetic person that I’m actually rather a social introvert – happy to be at the party but rarely the life and soul of it. (Given 95% of people never make more than they spend in network marketing, I don’t think I’m alone in this!)
Network marketing seems a very different endeavour to networking in professional situations so this never affected the consulting or coaching side of my business. Doing presentations or teaching in front of huge audiences – no problem; small group seminars or webinars – love them; one-to-one coaching – in my element; writing and developing courses – totally my zone. But selling – uncomfortable as hell
For this reason, I turned that first “direct sales” business into an online, coaching-based retail business and other education-focused internet marketing ventures swiftly followed. And yes, for a while I actually matched my consulting income and was “living the dream”. To say it’s been an adventure in enterprise would be over-glamorising it, although I had some amazing trips to exotic locations and met some pretty incredible people along the way!
My journey is far from a straight path to success. Right through my first ten years in business, while I was busy, making good money and doing all kinds of interesting work, I never felt I was working in my genius zone or following my true calling. I wanted my work to impact more people, and in more meaningful ways.
Deep down, I always believed I could do bigger, better things if I could just focus in on the “one thing” that makes a difference to people. I reached the point when I said enough is enough and changed my game plan in order to drive forward the bigger vision. That meant making cognisant choices about my business model, taking a leap of faith to reinvent my professional brand and rebuild my digital platforms.
Leveraging Your Story to Find Your Niche
All of us are on a journey: in life, in our careers and with our business, there are twists and turns. In fact, it’s been a bit like that game “snakes and ladders”, a rather convoluted path of ups and downs. Still, this is what shapes us.
Your unique story is what sets you apart from everyone else in your industry. As well as influencing a whole new side to my business, for me, my journey to date has culminated in the writing of this book and the insights contained within for what’s working in the digital arena, even for those who services are largely face-to-face.
The ideas and approaches I share in the book, and now the podcast, stem from both study and practice, and are deliberately intertwined with my personal learning experiences and the work that I do with clients. This is not to bore you with every avenue of my ups and down or career development, but to emphasise that for you too, there will be common themes as well as plot twists in your story that you may notice only through structured reflection. Put another way: what drives us in one or other direction is not always obvious at the time.
In your career, perhaps you have a similar story to me, one of chasing dreams and a little voice that has been nagging away at you saying you’re worth more than you’re earning. Do any of the following resonate for you?
- You have a bigger vision for your success than your current consulting or coaching work is delivering for you.
- You know that something isn’t right with your strategy for how you’re marketing yourself or to whom.
- You need more clarity in your professional identity, brand messaging and/or business plan.
- You’re overwhelmed with being busy building your business and want to learn ways to work smarter not harder.
- You want to repackage what you offer, and learn how to do digital marketing that actually generates good clients, consistently.
- You know that today’s digital and global audience offers an opportunity to leverage your time and expertise, and you’re looking for ideas and guidance.
- You want to make a bigger impact and earn what you’re worth.
If any of the above applies to you, then the book will provide you with vital insights and exercises to help steer your thinking and planning in the right direction. Over the hundreds of business reviews that I’ve undertaken – whether in the private or non-profit sector – similar frustrations and problems come to light that have reasonably straightforward remedies with the right strategy, systems and support in place.
Leveraging Your Expert System to Help Others
My mentoring work has focused on helping consultants, coaches and other service-orientated businesses to surface the root causes of these common frustrations and problems. We dive into aspects of their business design or revenue model that are potentially limiting their momentum or growth. In some cases, the weak link was a lack of clarity around what they do (even people in business for years who feel the market has shifted because it’s harder to get clients). For others, the bottleneck was a poor sales process or inflexible service delivery model.
To support this work and systematise what I was doing with each client, a while back I created a 7-dimensional diagnostic framework – called iSuccess. After years of writing articles and running workshops around the iSuccess principles and practices, I finally moved everything into a membership-based online education platform – which accordingly I named the iSuccess Business Academy.
I never thought I would find myself writing an actual book. I originally created a 40-page workbook to go alongside a course I was developing. As an education and e-learning specialist by background, it seemed a natural way to add value to my consulting work.
Next thing I knew that 40-page document had mushroomed into a 400-page book. After much soul searching, expanding, tinkering, tweaking and polishing – perfectionists are terrible procrastinators – I eventually finalised the compilation of insights and leverage strategies you have in front of your eyes right now.
Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age was written to provide guidance to professionals like myself who want more from the expertise and capability they have built over their career. The book offers a self-directed roadmap not a prescriptive model. It acts as a compass to help you review your current business (or business plan), establish where you want to go in terms of lifestyle goals, and guide you towards the right path in terms of what you need to do to get you there.
There are many paths one can take along the journey to business success, and what we need is a compass we can use to create our own best roadmap.
The Book, the Podcast and the Academy represent the culmination of an evolving body of thinking, study, lessons learned that I’ve acquired in building my own high-end client business, as well as the ongoing work I’m doing supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The leveraged business model has enabled me to grow a successful – purposeful, sustainable and fulfilling – consulting, coaching and online education business and to stay profitable and competitive in the marketplace.
My business is now very different to what it was a decade ago or even three years ago. For me, business success is not about mansions, yachts, fancy holidays, or crazy expensive cars – I’ve gone past much of that.
The question becomes:
What Does “Leveraging Living” and True Freedom Mean To You?
Personally, independent success – if you hadn’t noticed that’s where I landed now with what “iSuccess” is all about – is about how you choose to spend your time – having the freedom to choose.
For me, it’s about the little things. Leveraged consulting means I get to do meaningful professional work in a way that fits my personal lifestyle preferences. I get to work when I want, with whom I want, and where I want. Yes, I like to drive a nice car, but more importantly, I can live pretty much anywhere and be happy.
I’m grateful every day for that freedom to choose: to take time off when I want, go for a walk in the middle of the day, not be forced to shop evenings or weekends, spend time with friends, and be available for family when they need me.
If you don’t wish to remain on the rollercoaster of unpredictable income and unleveraged growth and are committed to making changes in how you market and deliver your consulting services, finding ways to create leverage is the way to go.
I love helping people develop the strategy, plan and implement their leveraged business roadmap that frees you to build, market, grow and scale according to what you want in life, be that freedom, impact or wealth, and what your business trajectory and timeline needs to be. It’s about deciding on what’s the right balance for you, personally and financially, between your purpose, your preferences and your profitability.
From reading the book, I want three outcomes to transpire for you:
- To think differently about how you market and deliver your professional expertise – with regards to your brand message, business model, packaging, and revenue streams – so you can see the opportunities for a more leveraged consulting practice.
- To identify the critical elements that are most likely holding back your business growth – in terms of aligning, targeting, positioning, branding, pricing, systematising and scaling – so you can break through current barriers.
- To create an action plan for transforming your marketing and business growth towards an approach that is steadfast and scalable so you can achieve the work-life freedom you desire.
The downloadable companion workbook is a resource to help you be proactive with implementing the ideas you get from the book. Print out the workbook and put pen to paper or just edit your ideas and action plans into the digital document. Either way I urge you to make sure that, as you go through the book, you are actively reflecting and recording the actions you will take.
Everyone’s starting point and skill set is different, and success means different things to us as individuals. My aims are that the book enlightens you on the possibilities for more leverage in your business and supports you to implement your vision of leveraged living.
I’d like to finish up with a couple of quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson – I love his quotes:
Nothing good ever was achieved without enthusiasm. That’s me all over!
The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
Thanks everyone – I wish you all you all success!
And if you want some help, someone to walk alongside you, support you through the challenges, as mentor, coach and friend, reach out and let’s talk.
Go to contact me or find me on LinkedIn or in our FB group, The Leveraged Living Club. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheLeveragedLivingClub