Billable hours and building a sustainable consultancy

Subject: Billable hours and building a sustainable consultancy
From: "Michael L. Wyland" <michael -at- sumptionandwyland -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 2010 11:06:56 -0500

To all:

The recent thread on billable hours sparked a visceral response from
this 20-year consultant.

When my partner (now wife) and I started our consulting practice in
1990, we focused on being the best grant writers and consultants we
could be to our clients. We *did not* spend much time at all
focusing on how to best build our own business.

We went to SBA/SCORE workshops and applied our combined experience to
our billing practices, etc. We worked with a CPA to set up tax and
accounting structures. Not much more than that.

My advice to all new consultants and those wishing to build their
practice is to pay attention to a few books on consulting. At the
top of the list is "Million Dollar Consulting" by Alan Weiss, closely
followed by Peter Block's "Flawless Consulting." Alan Weiss is the
guru for helping a consultant: 1) recognize; and 2) maximize the
value and compensation for their work. The discussion of the
distinction between "contractor" and "consultant" alone is worth more
than the price of the book! Peter Block's book is great for
deconstructing and explaining the process of getting a prospect to
become a client. Working with a client in such a way that the
client's "Yes!" becomes a natural, even inevitable, step is great.

I had to overcome my prejudice against consulting books before I
could really learn from them. My prejudice was on two
fronts. First, I was a consultant to nonprofits, and the authors
seemed to speak to having Fortune 500 clients. I thought they had
little in common with my practice. Second, they all seemed so
money-grubbing, when what I wanted was to make a decent living doing
something I enjoyed.

What I realized, of course, was that I don't have to take all the
advice as given. I don't have to aspire to *be* them in order to
learn from them. I can use my own imagination to extrapolate and
apply their lessons to my own practice using my own goals and
aspirations for guidance. To some, this will seem embarrassingly
obvious. However, I have met many intelligent people who seem to
have a binary and literal reaction to advice and counsel, rather than
a nuanced and adaptive one.

BTW, if I ever write a book about becoming a consultant, my first
chapter will include treatments on consultant personality type and on
personal finance. There are "accidental consultants" out there, but
I prefer an intentional approach that begins with introspection and
self-inventory on factors unrelated to skill sets and target markets.

Michael L. Wyland
Sumption & Wyland
818 South Hawthorne Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD 57104-4537
(605) 336-0244
(605) 336-0275 (FAX)
(888) 4-SUMPTION (toll-free)
michael -at- sumptionandwyland -dot- com

Since 1990
Strategic Planning * Executive Coaching * Training & Facilitation *

-- Web site:
-- Sumption & Wyland blog :
-- LinkedIn Profile --


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