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Tips on What To Do (And What Not To Do) When Opening Your Own Financial and Legal Consulting Practice
Whether you are still new to the game willing to take the risk of being a small fish in a big pond, or an old hand who has decided to strike out on his own, one thing is for sure: taking your first step into the larger world of private consulting can be a daunting task. To aid you in your goal, we have compiled a list of diverse tips from those who have started their own small businesses.
1. Start at the End
At first, this may seem counterproductive- after all, you don’t start a book by reading the last page (unless you’re a psychopath). However, when it comes to starting a small business—especially one as complex as private consulting—it’s exactly the right starting move.
Brad, the owner of Colorstone Marketing, hit this point home in a particularly poignant manner:
“First, start with your goal and plan backward. This lets you establish your processes starting closest to the money-generating tasks and helps you stay organized right out of the gate. For example, in my agency we know that something that onboarding takes a tremendous amount of time but its critical to a seamless experience and retention. So we developed a process that’s as automated as possible. This means less time spent by staff with back and forth calls, finding passwords, etc.”
Brad is right: planning is key. Going into building a consulting business with a “Well we’ll see how it goes!” attitude is a one-way ticket to crashing and burning out. After all, no one starts off building a skyscraper by just starting to dig. Instead, you start off with a blueprint, an image of the final product. Once you have the blueprints of your small business, you can see what it will take to make it come to life.
2. Put Your Back Into It
The one problem with planning everything out is that sometimes folks will get overconfident once they have done so. They will see their business plan and think it looks unimpeachable, unstoppable, and unsinkable. But just like the captain of the Titanic discovered, icebergs can lie in wait.
So how do you avoid ending up on the floor of the ocean? Take it from Chane of Crediful, a personal finance company:
“If you aren’t ready to put in intensive amounts of work into your business, then you’re probably not ready for a business.”
The fact of the matter is that building a business is a ton of work. Getting the necessary capital, finding the right employees, getting the word out, convincing others to love your business as much as you do- that takes time and energy. Think long and hard about the work necessary to create a small business. Like any other large responsibility, it isn’t something to take lightly (and unlike the responsibility accrued by buying a pet bird, if your small business ends up flying south for the winter, it might take you with it).
3. Hire the Right People
This one may seem straightforward, but a lot of people make common mistakes in this department. Why? Because figuring out who the right people are is actually sort of difficult.
Let’s say you’re the old hand we mentioned earlier, striking out on your own. You have worked in the business for some time, and over the years you’ve made some good friends. When you go off on your own and you start thinking about a team, their names are the first to cross your mind.
But have you actually thought if those individuals would be right for your small financial consulting business? For your legal firm? When you worked with them in a big team, you may not have relied on them for your literal well-being. But when it comes to your own small business, there’s no one above you; if it goes down, as we discussed earlier, it might end up taking you down with it.
Maybe your friends actually will make a GREAT fit! Or maybe they’re just a great fit for a day on the links. The only way you can know is talking to them honestly, and talking to yourself honestly. If you have a formal hiring process worked out, offer them to interview like any other applicant (after all, if they are going to be working for you, they can’t expect to be treated any differently from other future employees). If they are responsible, they’ll understand.
4. Know Your Limits
Last but not least: know what you can do, and what you cannot do. You are starting a small business because you see some sort of gap in the market that others do not see. Take it from Russell, from the Law Office of Russell D. Knight:
“Trying to have everything perfect is the biggest mistake you can make. A business solves a problem. Just solve the problem and be honest about what you can and cannot do. Customers will understand and appreciate you.”
Especially when starting off, you may find yourself trying to go overboard to please all of your new customers. After all, word of mouth is everything, right? You can’t afford to start off seeming weak. And that’s true to a degree: word of mouth is definitely important.
But you know what’s really bad? Having people hear that you overpromise and under-deliver. People are unlikely to complain to their friends that a business could not cover their specific needs while offering other services. They are much, much more likely to complain to their friends that the new business down the street promised a ton of things that they couldn’t end up doing.
Don’t waste people’s time – including your own. Be up front and proud of what you can offer.
Starting a new business is daunting. It’s tough. It can be a slog. But it is also exciting – it’s the opportunity to take control of your own life and destiny. Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to coming out on top in no time.