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Rebuild Your Consulting Business with Purpose

a story about business relationships



You never know when the phone will ting ‘til it rings. Nor do you ever know why a prospective new client calls ‘til either they tell you outright or you learn through dialogue with them. Both of these statements rang true for me when Leonard called. He wanted to involve me in rebuilding his business more than two years after we’d last met.

fellowship first
Leonard (not his real name) and I had met through our involvement in a group that had met monthly for a few years. About twenty-five people would get together in outdoor, out-of-city places for activities involving parents, their children, and volunteers whose support facilitated the parents and their children safely enjoying the all of the day’s activities together.

Getting the most out of each parent-child day in a nature setting each month happened to provide opportunities to witness and to interact with others doing the same. A friendly acquaintance between the parents and between the children developed over time as a by-product.

mutual awareness
In time, I learned that Leonard had a PhD from a respected US university in a specialty that intrigued me as a possible source of valuable understanding about business relationships. He was an expert in trust: how to develop and maintain it, and how the trusting and the trusted can make the most of it. In the past, his network had provided a decent amount of lucrative work. Recently, none at all.

In turn, Leonard learned of my expertise facilitating understanding through words. He appreciated that my work as a marketing-communications consultant involves serving people with missions to accomplish who invest time, money, and attention involving me and my associates to facilitate their success.

people move on
After a few years, the family-activities-in-nature group stopped meeting. More and more of the children had become teens or approached adulthood. They’d gone hiking and kayaking with their parents enough. Some got jobs and preferred weekends for work. In my own weekday work, curiosity about Leonard’s perspective on matters of trust never faded away.

reconnected with reason
Leave a question unanswered long enough or a riddle unsolved long enough, I find, and in time the question’s answer or the riddle’s solution will simply come to your attention.

When Leonard contacted me, at least two years after we’d last met outdoors with our children, maybe it exemplified that principle. His consultancy had shrunk to just himself with much more availability than clientele to serve. He wanted to involve me in stoking demand for his expertise so that he could get right back to well-paid work as a speaker and consultant. Apparently, the trust expert found me trustworthy enough to show me these cards.

informed observation
After exploratory discussion and investigative research, I committed to document Leonard’s situation and how I would approach it: his strengths, his needs, and what I could do to empower him to facilitate rebuilding his business serving organizations that need his expertise to succeed.

I noted that, like the cobbler whose children wear no shoes, this expert in trust could not provide any example of a key message: a mission statement, vision statement, motto, or claim of value.

trust in decision-making
When the day came for me to present my findings to Leonard, he had agreed that anybody else with decision-making power in the matter of signing a purchase agreement for what I’d propose would attend.

The woman who attended reportedly had more budgetary control than Leonard. Yet, her decision-making approach focused more on his perception of the value I offered than on her own.

hitting the mark
During my summary of Leonard’s situation – his strengths, his needs, and how I could enable fulfilment of his business potential – he and the woman with the money expressed delight at the depth of my understanding and validation from my acknowledgment of current and expected difficulties.

In the summary, I mentioned the importance to Leonard of qualifying each prospective new client as a good mutual fit as early as possible. To reinforce the point, I summarized how risky it can be to enter a business relationship with a client or supplier who wouild not qualify as a good mutual fit. Mutual responsibility requires avoiding the risks of committing to dealings that cannot benefit both parties.

entrepreneur, captain, navigator
To underscore the importance of purposeful market relations, I invoked an image of sailing ships over the centuries. A ship’s navigator must keep a watchful eye on the moving stars; on the formation, direction, and dissipation of clouds; and on shifting tides and currents. The navigator thus informed, sails would be set for the ship to remain on course at all times. A ship must arrive at its destination on time with no goods spoiled or supplies exhausted; the crew still living on full rations.

If you just want more business, then you must be careful not to go adrift, not to run aground, not to sail unprofitable missions, and not to get tangled in others’ nets.

I continued: A clear and definite purpose before leaving port makes it possible for a ship’s captain to sleep well each night and to lead decisively each day. To enjoy smooth sailing to ports where you and your clients can profit, the ship’s captain must know precisely the mission to be accomplished.

purposeful drive required
To reinforce the meaning of the nautical analogy to Leonard’s hopes, I said: To build or to rebuild a business, you must demonstrate always that you have the certainty of purpose required. If you want to sleep well each night and to lead decisively each day, then you must know and believe in the purpose of your business in terms of benefit to all involved. If you can express it in a vision statement and mission statement supported by a statement of core values and at least one ideal client profile, then you have it.

Getting that into words typically involves a process. That process calibrates the compass and focuses the telescope by which you can effectively navigate the journey of rebuilding your business.

decisive moments
Leonard paused, turned to the woman with the budget, paused again, then said to me, “I don’t have the time and money for a heart-stirring mission statement. I just need clients.”

My self-trust not fazed, I let go. The purchase agreement still in my portfolio returned to my office unsigned.

have what it takes
I continue to ponder the relationship between need and trust. I also continue to witness company founders who, like parents who invest whole days kayaking with their children, make their success in business look easy. Rebuilding a business should not include unnecessary difficulties.

If the purpose of your business feels as simple and as right as the innate drive to love and nurture your child, then that can enable you to succeed. Success at rebuilding a consulting practice also involves making good qualify/disqualify decisions about formative business relationships early. This requires the same clarity: a purposeful mind and stout heart that can express it all succinctly.

- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.


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