Lee: Lee Kantor here with Stone Payton in another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. Stone, how are you doing? It’s the beginning of the most important week of the year, Thanksgiving. Where we appreciate everything we have and are grateful for all of the treasures that have come our way.
Stone: We do have so much to be thankful for and I can begin that with family. This week we’re going to work a little bit today and tomorrow and then me and my family, mom, dad, brothers, nephews, nieces; we’re all headed to Disney world to go to faux camping. Not real camping.
Stone: We’re going flamping.
Lee: What did they call it? There was a word for this.
Stone: Kevin knows it. No, but I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to have a little country boil as opposed to the traditional Thanksgiving…
Lee: You’re boiling up a turkey?
Stone: No, I forget that you’re from the North really. Anything South of Lake City is the North I guess. No, low country boil involves seafood and corn and potatoes and sausage…
Lee: No turkey?
Stone: …and onions. I’m sure we’ll find some turkey but that’s not the main- our guest today, he knows very well what low country boil is about. We are more than thankful to have our guest today. We have back with us in the Business Radio studio today, Dr. Jack Phillips. He’s accomplished a thing or two in his arena including- he’s done a thing or two in the world of consulting. He’s got a book out, How to Build a Successful Consulting Practice and that’s the topic of today’s very special segment. It’s all about the consulting profession. Welcome to the show, Jack.
Jack: Well, thank you. I’m glad to be here. This is my favorite topic here.
Stone: I understand not only are you just out trying to support people that you’ve come to know over the years and share some of your insight and wisdom. But you’ve actually built a very concerted effort towards doing something structured and to apply some rigor to this business of even deciding if you should even be a consultant all the way through how to be a good one.
Jack: That’s true. Now, here’s the problem. About 80 percent of new consultants, independent consultants, fail in the first two years. It’s the highest failure rate of any professional occupation. We try to help people prevent that. We know there’s a lot of concerns and issues and there’s a lot of myths about consulting so we just try to help people clarify that. We actually apply that to our own business as well. Our business is made up of about a hundred consultants, those by far the vast majority, those are independent consultants and so we wrote our first book in consulting in 2006 and we’ve written several others since. We did that also to help our own team to become great top quality and high paid consultants.
Lee: Before we get really far into this can we just define some terms? For me, a consultant, I’m not clear on what that means. There’s a lot of people who were corporate executives and they’re unemployed now, they’re like I’m not unemployed I’m a consultant. Can we define what a consultant is and why someone would want to be one?
Jack: Yes, we can probably put the actual activities into three different boxes but sometimes people define a consultant as a person who will borrow your watch and tell you what time it is. It does have some stigma and maybe stereotyping around it but sometimes a consultant is there just to give advice. They’ve got lots of experience and they can help people with issues that they’re so familiar with. That’s probably a classic kind of consultant.
Another consultant would actually go in and conduct a study of project to do something for you. It’s maybe solving a problem or to do a market study, or do something as a consulting group maybe would do or team. And then the third, it’s a combination of maybe teaching and advice together. Sometimes just teaching, sometimes trainers call themselves consultants because they like to think that what they’re teaching you is something that you need through some kind of needs assessment, needs analysis. They’re delivering that and they’re perhaps staying with you to make sure it works. Sometimes trainers call themselves consultants.
Lee: What about coach?
Jack: Coaching is very similar but a coach is someone who would probably be there more for advice. They’re not going to projects on their own. So the advice portion of a consultant is very similar to a coach, but coach is usually not as involved in their business as much as a consultant. A consultant is probably a person who would be doing a one off project for the most part. A coach may be with you for some time and it’s also getting into the behavioral issues for the most part and understanding your weaknesses and try to overcome those weaknesses and keep building on your strengths. There’s certainly some overlap for those two.
Stone: You were talking earlier about independent consultants and you had this big network of independent consultants. What strikes me is that in addition to being good at your craft you have to have the ability to market yourself. You’ve got to get somebody to buy your services even if you are really good at what you do.
Jack: Yes, that’s probably one major reason that consultants fail, is how to market what I do. First, it has to start from having a particular niche. You have to know something or how to do something quite well otherwise you wouldn’t want to be offering your services. But the key is to find the niche, something you have a passion about. Something you really like to do and want to do. That’s so critical to be a consultant. Just have a passion about what you’re doing. But that’s not enough. You got to have something that people really want and are willing to buy, and have some understanding of how we might get to them in the market.
And third, how do we plan to actually develop that into a profitable business? That’s part of your question. I’d like to put that into this context. We call it client development. We think a consultant, in addition to providing consulting services, is out to do four things.
One is they should teach. That is if it’s feasible and practical and most consulting practices would be in this category. That something that you can teach people what you do. That is you actually conduct workshops showing people what is it you do. Sometimes a consultant is hesitant to do that because if I’m teaching them what I do they won’t call me. But if you’re good enough at it, if you’re only teaching them a little bit of what you know, and there’s much, much more if you come with far more services, consulting connects to teaching.
The second thing we want to do besides consulting and teaching, the second thing besides teaching is to speak. You got to speak to groups. Business groups, professional groups, chapters, national conferences, speak. Get out there. That’s your best development is making these appearances. Sometimes they don’t pay for that, sometimes they do. But get out there and speak. Now it’s teaching and speaking.
Also, and this is uncomfortable for some and that’s writing. You got to write a book. The best consultants are usually somebody who have documented what they do in a book. It’s not that difficult to write a book even if you self-publish it. But ideally, to get publishers that are well respected and well known and it’ not that difficult. We actually try to help people write the books because we’ve written a lot of them ourselves. Writing not just a book, an article, a case study, maybe a blog or something, but writing is critical.
We suggest one more thing. That would be the fourth thing and that’s research in what you’re doing. You want to understand this market so well that you’re in that you’d collect all kinds of benchmarking and research data to show what are the issues. You’re really making a case to use you and you’re organization to maybe address some of the issues that you’re finding out in the research. In summary, in addition to consulting we want to teach, speak, write and do research.
Lee: Now, of your day, what percentage of your day should be done in each of those elements?
Jack: Well, we almost have to force ourselves to do all five them. That’s a good question. I would just take my situation and I’d look at it this way. Probably, 50 percent of my day is consulting. We have some consultants that we suggest should be as high as 60 percent. Then I spend probably, I got to get my numbers to add up here, maybe 20 percent teaching, doing workshops, even doing a five day ROA certification, because our business is basically about ROY. And then maybe ten percent on the other three things. Ten percent writing and ten percent speaking.
Lee: And researching.
Jack: And researching. Thank you.
Stone: Well, in the researching what strikes me and this may be true on all four categories but what strikes me with this researching, your clients and even your prospects and even your colleagues, they’ll help you with that work if you let them because they’ll want to participate just in elevating the knowledge base around the topic. You can make a lot of friends conducting research if you go about it right, can’t you?
Jack: Yes. It’s a great business development tool. It not only gives you information about what you should do for planning your own business and the gaps that you see to the issues you should address but you’re bringing in clients. One of the best ways to collect the data is to go to the audience, collect the data, and promise to give them a copy of the report. You can also sell the report if you want to but many consulting firms give away those research papers, white papers they may call them, because of just that. They’re building clients. They’re keeping their own clients but they’re also finding new clients and they’re willing to help you with this.
Lee: Now is consulting, is that a team sport or is that an individual sport?
Jack: It can go both ways. Now, it’s a good question because so many people want to be a consultant and they’re quite good at what they do and they have expertise and they start working and they get a client base and they’re quite busy but they say, “Hey, I’m doing well but if I had a team of maybe ten of these just like me we could really do well.” Now, that’s a transition that’s tough for an independent.
Lee: Because that’s a different business now, right?
Jack: It is. Just because you’re quite good doesn’t mean that they’re going to be just the same and they want to do it the same way. You really have to have standards and then you have to develop them to do things the way you want them to do and be as brilliant and great and good as you are. That takes so much time away from what you’re doing so you can see the dilemma. You’re losing your own revenues working with these consultants only to be disappointed sometimes because they don’t do it so well and when they get quite good they leave you and compete with you.
Lee: Now, in the premise of your book, How to Build the Successful Consulting Practice, does that mean for an individual and just build a robust practice for themselves as an individual or is it to put that team around them and it’s kind of a whole eco-system onto itself?
Jack: This book actually covers the gammon. The first is someone’s thinking about consulting the first chapter in this book tries to talk them out of it.
Lee: You want them to self-select out. Right?
Jack: Exactly because-
Lee: Because the failure rate is so high, right?
Jack: It is. There are some misunderstandings about the consultant business. They think, “Hey, you make a lot of money. You can be your own boss. You set your own schedule and you can play golf whenever you want to.” Those are all myths obviously. We try to talk them out of it. But if you go into it says, “Here’s what you need to make it work.” Start with a business plan, have the niche, and fall right on through for the financial and client development and so forth. But it’s written primarily for those who want to do this who are not there yet.
It also is very helpful with people already in the business and it helps them fine tune what they have. We’ve put our information out in different ways with different books but there’s a particular chapter on building blocks for client development. Basically, takes those five things that we do: consulting, writing, speaking, teaching, and doing research. It shows how you can apply that and build your business around those building blocks.
The reaction to that to get back to your point, a lot of existing consultants says we’ve been able to really ramp up our business with those ideas and so it helps both current businesses. What it doesn’t address necessary is very large consulting businesses. They’re probably not going to pick this book up and go with it. They pretty well developed already.
We do have some books that can help them. For example, one of our books with McGraw Hill, same publisher, it’s called The Consultant Scorecard. It’s a book that tracks the return on investment and impact of consulting projects. It’s developed for both the consultants who want to make other projects accountable to executives and clients, and it’s a client guide to make sure that your consultant isn’t…
Lee: I can see why a client would want that book.
Stone: I can see why a person selling consulting services would want to be able to bring that into the conversation when they’re responding to an RFP or even if they’re in the boardroom. That would be very helpful to have, right?
Lee: That’s going to hold them accountable.
Jack: It is.
Lee: Consultants, do they like to held accountable typically?
Jack: No. For the most part, no. Particularly, the big ones. They will talk about it but not really deliver it. In terms, that the typical CEO and CFO would want to see. They work off relationships, they work off of chemistry, they work off their reputation and they don’t want to have an ROI equation get in their way.
But a smaller consulting firm and a growing consulting firm, this is your best business development. It’s to show that you drive value and deliver value. When we talk about delivering value it’s not just an ROI calculation but it’s showing how well this is working in your organization and the impact that it’s delivering and then to find financial ROI, and then the intangible. You’re getting a range of measures of value. That’s a huge strategic advantage. We’ve worked with some small and medium sized consulting firms and helped them make a difference in how they grow their business because they grow on value add. Value add, in terms, that a Chief Financial Officer would appreciate.
Lee: Now, new consultants do they typically struggle with how to set their fees? I would think that could be a bit of a challenge not even knowing where to begin with fee structure.
Jack: Yes, that’s probably one of the toughest issues. We’ve actually laid out some schedules in this book to give you some suggestions. They’re notoriously, well, you’ve got some issues but notoriously a new consultant would be underpaid because they are new, they don’t have a reputation yet, and there are some pretty low fees that sometimes they’re asked to work with.
We like to put it into three categories. First we suggest you wouldn’t be consulting unless you’ve experienced it, something. Whatever it is you are delivering. It’s kind of an entry level fee. We like to put a thousand dollars a day on that consulting. We know some people would take less than that to get started but that’s a good fair rate for someone who’s got some expertise who can deliver that.
Lee: That’s based upon you have been in this business for a long time and seeing what people pay.
Lee: Right? This isn’t just a number out of the thin air.
Jack: No, this is our own network as well.
Jack: Then move it to the next level and that’s a level of you’ve been experienced, you’ve got several years of consulting maybe five years, you can probably push that up around two thousand dollars a day for the consulting. We want most of our consultants to be in that range. Then it’s another category and that’s what we call the expert. You really have a following. You’ve got great projects behind you; you’ve got a great history. Those expert rates are usually four to five thousand dollars a day. Then there is another one that we can sometimes charge, at least some of us, if you’re considered the one of the best if not the best in your profession, that’s after you got a couple of books maybe and you’ve spoke in large conferences and you write lots of articles, there you won’t…
Lee: And you’ve been on Atlanta Business Radio. You’ve got to check boxes like that.
Jack: At least three times. This is my third time so there you can charge ten thousand and up. Some of the real gurus charge a hundred thousand dollars. But that’s on you too.
Stone: Do you tie the rate to what other people charge or do you tie the rate to what value you’re imparting on the organization?
Jack: Well, that’s a great question. First, we try to look at market. Market data is hard to come by sometimes for independent consulting. Now, can’t be too much out of the market. Particularly, if you’re early in this process, you’ve got to be conscious of that. We know in some countries, we work in sixty countries where there are consultants. In some countries that rate is quite low because the exchange rate between the dollar and their particular currency. It’s just not in the market; the market doesn’t bear this quite well. Doesn’t justify it. We like to go with market averages but a unique approach, and we encourage it, we still see some people doing it is to put your fee at risk. If I can meet some goals, if I can get you some results that you appreciate, then you pay this rate, if I can exceed that, you’re going to pay a portion of the money that I’m generating for you so it’s a bonus on top of my rate, but if I don’t meet that pay…
Lee: Then you’re getting a below market rate.
Jack: Or you are getting zero.
Lee: Oh, zero. Wow.
Lee: You got to be pretty confident to pull that off, right?
Jack: Hey, that’s the trend. One of our books it’s called Consultant’s Guide to Results Based Business Proposals and its subtitle of How to Forecast the Impact in ROI. That’s another McGraw Hill book. We work with McGraw Hill in the consulting business as a publisher. In that book we advocate one of the chapters, Success Guarantees from Consulting. We work with several firms to do that. One of those was SAP, the world’s largest business software company, they were facing this issue of when they put a large enterprise wide system in place, they always forecasted the ROI and that’s how they sell it. But then during the recession some of their clients were saying-
Lee: We didn’t make our numbers.
Jack: That’s right. We don’t think we should pay you. They wanted a guarantee going in. If you don’t have the forecast that you give me we don’t pay you. Obviously, that’s a frightening proposition there when you’ve got several million dollars fees at stake. What they had to do is make sure that their guarantee was designed around certain conditions. They basically defined what does a perfect implementation look like?
Jack: We put this in with very measurable things at each point. If you violate any of those conditions, the guarantee is void now. That’s not a bad process because you can see the client then wants to not void the guarantee. They step up and do the things they need to do, have the right people in place, the support that’s needed and so forth. It’s really a great process and I would recommend it. It’s frightening for some but if you structure it properly you can get there.
Lee: On one side you’re betting on your methodology, right? If you follow my plan, all ten steps, you’re going to achieve a certain level of success. But then the consultant is relying on that company to number one, follow all ten steps, but also to execute them in the manner that the consultant envisions. Right?
Lee: There has to be a level of trust there because the consultant is trusting that the company is going to execute properly and the company is betting that the consultant is giving them a good roadmap to follow.
Jack: Right. Now to protect the consultant you want to define that execution very precisely. For a proper execution it means these things would be done, these people would be involved, and it must have support from the right group and we define that support on a scale of one to five that we actually survey.
Lee: It’s a trust but verify plan here?
Jack: That’s right. We trust each other but let’s have some data to make that decision.
Stone: Well, I tell you what after hearing you explain it, it sounds much less risky than not doing that type of arrangement because what I think is incredibly risky is if you go into a situation, you’re providing consulting services, and you don’t have that human contract with the sponsor, the person who can pull the purse strings and allocate all the resources, if you don’t have some kind of very clear arrangement with them about them doing their part, that’s risky. Isn’t it?
Jack: It is. It does make a better situation.
Jack: If we can get consultants to really think about delivering that value, forecasting that value, and guaranteeing that value, you’ve really got to market. A few have done that. Not many. That’s really an opportunity there.
Lee: Don’t you find that in some organizations you get theoretical buy in at a high level and then quickly the relationship turns almost adversarial? That they’re almost against you and you’re not really working as partners once the thing gets going even though initially everyone is all I guess in a honeymoon stage where they all, it sounds good, everything sounds good, but then it dissolves into this kind of adversarial relationship at some point.
Jack: Yes, that’s very common. What we have to do is to go from the excitement and enthusiasm and try to keep it during the project. One way to do that is have a real great plan in our own work. When we’re doing an evaluation of a particular project or a better program, we plan it very precisely with a data collection plan, an ROI analysis plan, and a project plan of when things will be done. We define, make all those great decisions, we get the bio from the client and it clearly defines who is doing what at what time. We keep the enthusiasm going by routine follow up, routine communication, showing where we are, what we need to do.
When we see bad news coming we give early indicators saying, hey be prepared. We know what’s going to happen if this thing is not working out so well, we’re uncovering some things that you need to know about. We prepare them instead of surprise them. Sometimes it goes sour because you don’t do those things I just described. You don’t plan so carefully, you don’t stay in touch with them, you deliver bad news and it becomes a surprise. Then they don’t like you anymore. They shoot the messenger. We want to make sure we manage that bad news and manage the whole process, try to keep that enthusiasm there.
Lee: Consulting is a lot more work I think then maybe a lot of folks realize which brings me back to something that was mentioned at the very top of the conversation. You actually invest some genuine energy in maybe at first trying to talk folks out of even pursuing this path, right?
Lee: What kinds of things do you say or even talk about just to sort of vet them early on like that?
Jack: Yes, we have a little assessment to what’s your perception of consulting. We have them go through this and it gets into these things we talked about in terms of the compensation and the freedom and that I no longer have a boss and now I can set my hours.
Stone: Aren’t they trading like one boss for like lots of bosses? The clients your boss, right?
Jack: The clients your boss, yes. You’ve just changed from one boss to many bosses, so yes. We go through this assessment and we see if they really see it and often they don’t. Now, we say here’s the reality. But just in the image of consulting, it’s not a very good image. If you look at the Dilbert cartoon character, I mean he goes after consulting and consultants probably more than any particular group of people and in a very harsh way. Sometimes just the consultant profession doesn’t have a very good image so we go through this assessment then we paint the picture.
What’s the reality? The reality is that you will probably work harder than you ever have. By the way, the good news there is that it’s for your benefit and not someone else’s that’s one way of justifying that. You do have many bosses now. Your time schedule is not set by you necessarily but is by projects you’re working on, the deadlines you have, your client needs and when they need it.
Patty and I both have canceled so many key trips that we wanted to take or vacations or holidays because there’s something big going on with a client that we had to be there. Sometimes even in other countries. The reality is that you really are, you’re work life balance can really suffer. You can build it up to the point where you can ease off from that later but for the first few years it’s going to be completely different from what you perceive it to be.
Now, that in itself sometimes turns people off. They say, “Well, maybe I don’t want this.” We say good because don’t do it. Because you just stopped something that would probably fail. But when we have people say, “Yes, but I want to go, I can do it. I understand. I see the reality. I accept reality.” Now, we help them. We first look at what are their success factors of consulting. What’s going to make a successful consultant? We work through about 10 or 12 of these and now let’s translate that into a document. That’s your business plan. You got to have a business plan.
But it all starts from having that right niche. The passion. You’ve got to be doing something that you love to do and want to do and you’ve got then to translate that into they’re willing to pay for it and pay well for it. Then you can think about the market to get to that.
Lee: Part of that business plan, is as you said, defining that niche that makes you different and special?
Lee: Is that hard for people typically or do they start out as generalists? I don’t want to miss any opportunity and then maybe it’s better if there were more specialists.
Stone: Don’t they walk in and say, “Oh, yes! This is for everybody!” Then you have to get them kind of dialed in?
Jack: Firstly, I want to be creative. Well, let’s narrow that down a little bit. You got them doing what? We look at the work that you’ve done, the work that you do, the experiences that you’ve had, the things that you want to do. Trying to understand what about those things really energize you? Keep you excited about it? You want to do those things. It’s usually more than one. Almost all of us have a range that we like to do and there’s a range of things that we don’t like to do. We can sort that out. Those things you do, we like to take it another level. If you think about the classic life is good products that you see in the malls?
Jack: They have like, “Like what you do. Do what you like.” I think it’s the other way around. Do what you like or like what you do. Now, we add to that. Profit from what you do. Do good with your profits. In other words, you got to do consulting that’s going to give you a livelihood of what you need. There’s some consulting that you can provide but it’s for non-profits maybe and they just don’t pay as much. You can do that somewhere else and then get more money and then help the non-profits. That’s where we say do good with your profits. It’s basically not only looking at something you like to do but there’s a good market for it and it’s a good profitable market for it.
Lee: Now, how do you find out if there is a market for it? Like say, what I like to do is watch college football. How do I know that someone is going to pay me to really enjoy college football?
Jack: When you watch it and you know so much then you can write a blog, you can write an article, write a column, eventually get on the business radio show and give the scores and insight. You can work your way up. I’m sure there are some people who probably know so much that they would make a great caller analysts in a broadcast or even at a local-
Lee: You kind of got to look at what you do and the strengths and the value and try to match it up with where there’s money?
Jack: Exactly. Yes.
Stone: And to the earlier point you might even be well advised to not be a consultant on college football but only the SCC. Right? There’s some magic to look this is what I do, I’m the best in the world at it, or I’m one of the best. Like if we were hiring a consultant we might explore the idea of hiring a media consultant but we’re more likely to hire a business radio consultant, right? Just the more narrowed the better.
Jack: Give you an example on that. The announcer for the University of Alabama football game and basketball is Eli Gold. He’s a fixture in Alabama with that team but he’s so good that he actually does NASCAR and he does hockey games as well. But his passion started from when he was a teenager he wanted to be an announcer on a hockey game. This is a minor league hockey team in New York where he was and he volunteered and said, “If you let me do this, you won’t have to pay me.” He did some announcing there at a very low level hockey team and at the end of the season they paid him 120 dollars. Which is not much but it grew from there.
He really got into announcing. He’s so good. If you ever listen to the University of Alabama broadcast sometimes they’re on ESPN radio. Again, they pick up. He is so clear. He is so precise. He remembers all those names and the details and he just creates a story and he’s always got this going on. He does that with his NASCAR work and his basketball and the hockey as well, He’s making millions a year because he’s got books and restaurants now and he does all of these announcing, great marvelous contracts. He started from, “Hey, this is something I want to do.” He knew it would turn into money but he’s got to get the experience first.
Lee: Right, so he aligned his passion and he aligned it with marketplace and he went deep with it and lots of opportunities bubbled up in ways he couldn’t of imagined when he first started but he was willing to pay the price in terms of I’m not going to get top dollar today as I’m learning. He knew that and he kind of did the deep dive and he kind of became an expert in that. Do you believe that ten thousand hours, like you need so many hours of doing something in order to master it?
Jack: I do. I really think you can do a lot of things well but you cannot be a master at everything, arts of many. You’re going to have to really take the time and this has been something that we practice in our own organization. We’re celebrating our twentieth year now and in the very beginning we had some opportunities to maybe do some other things other than what we do because some clients were very impressed with us. We resisted that. We said, “We’re going to develop the expertise and be the world’s best at what we do. We are. There’s no organization that can help you show the value of any of your projects or program any better than we do.”
Lee: Because you decided to go all in on this. You wanted to be the best in the world. By being heads down in this area that meant that you had to choose not to do lots of other things.
Jack: Exactly, and it was painful early on because-
Lee: Right? Because there’s opportunity, revenue, you’re like I’m passing up revenue because I want to be the best here because if I put some of my energy over here then I’m not spending 24/7 in this ROI area.
Jack: Yes. We still get those kinds of diversion opportunities.
Jack: Temptation. We have to say, “No, this is not our business. Just don’t do it.” Our consultants say, look I can go develop a leadership development program. This organization wants me to do that. Now, if its’ a consultant or a team that isn’t on our payroll we say, “I’m sorry. Yes, you could do it and yes, that would be revenue and your client would love you and then you will do more of that and you’re taking time away from this.” There’s a struggle but you got to do it I think to become that master that you need to be.
Lee: When you got here this morning and we were getting ready to go on air in a few minutes before you must have taken a couple half a dozen books out of your briefcase. This whole writing thing, you guys have cracked the code on writing books. Speak more of that if you will. Both your experience and what counsel you might have for someone who may not have written a book yet.
Jack: Yes. Well, we do. We have over a hundred books now. We work with the major publishers that dates back to 1983, our first book, and now we’re celebrating our thirtieth year as it goes into the fourth edition. We write eight or ten books a year. We’ll come on and show sometime in the future about how to write a book but let me just look at that now as an issue.
Again, you work off your expertise and you want to check the market and see if there’s something already written about it. It could be that there is and there’s no need to do it or maybe there is but you got a different twist or turn. You don’t want to go into write a book if there’s something already written and there’s easier ways to do that. I think if nothing else just go to Amazon.com, you can go to books.com, or booksinprint.com, and find out if there’s a book in this area.
If not, you can begin to write the book and we suggest this. Write in detail outline. What would you include in this book? Keep working on that line to get it to the point where you think it might be doable and presentable. Then you write a book proposal. A proposal depends on the publisher but basically, the description of the book with the need for the book, how this book meets that need, order the competing books and how this book competes, actually is different from the competing books, and how you will market that book. These days your publisher wants you to be a co-marketing person or be the principle marketing person for the book.
A best seller doesn’t get there these days unless the author gets behind it in a variety of ways. Then you go to the bookstore and you find out who is publishing this kind of book. Who is actually in this space? Then you go to their website, get their guidelines, and…
Lee: Because they have their niches too, right?
Jack: Yes, they do.
Lee: For different publishers, for some of the different genres.
Jack: That’s right. You’re more likely to get ahead if you go to someone who has already published in the space and then follow their guidelines, tune your proposal, go for it. It helps to have someone you know publishing there if you happen to know that. We help a lot of people go into their publishers because we work with the largest publishers. John Wiley, McGraw Hill, and Elsevier. Three large publishers. We’re in all three of those in a big way. But we also work through some associations, ASTD as you guys support quite well. We have forty three books with ASTD.
Jack: We’ve got three contracts for three more. One is, we’ll be delivering this one here. We expect to have fifty books with them in about a couple years. That’s a huge milestone for one publisher. But they have been a good partner. The first one of those was 1994. We’d be happy if any listeners want to know more about how to write a book, we’ve got some materials we can send to them, following the outlines that we just talked about.
There’s often, it’s the middle issue here, the writer’s block. Facing the blank page, what would I put on that blank page? It’s really starting with what you know and start making it some outline, looking at other books that are similar and get some great ideas. It is not that difficult. You have to look at it on a peace mill basis that is you might write a page a day. But if you write a page a day, it takes less than a year and you’ve got it done. We work off of detail outlines, we actually dictate books and tell someone to transcribe them and we edit them. This is where we get eight or ten out per year. That’s not a principle business.
Lee: It’s really to help but it does fuel, it helps your business right?
Jack: Yes. That’s right.
Lee: Supporting your consultants.
Jack: Exactly. It’s the best business development we can do. We get so much business off our books. Particularly in other countries. Our books are now in thirty eight languages so you can get there. We’d like to encourage anyone to give it a try. The good thing about publishing, the business peeked out in terms of sales in 2007. We haven’t gone back to that level, we won’t. But the number of books published has gone up four faux since 2007 and the reason is a lot of self-publishing individuals publishing them on the internet and a lot of small business practices are still cracking out books. The market is there you just got to go for it and make it work.
The odds of having a huge seller, a million copies are pretty slim but that still available. You got to start somewhere. Start with one that’s going to help your consulting business. And look at it as a lost leader for your consulting business because it will be.
Lee: Well, it would certainly add credibility I think before because more so than ever before you’re beginning to act with a perspective client long before you meet them face to face. Right? They’re on the internet. They’re looking at your book. They’re looking at to maybe talk with you, maybe even radio interviews. They’re vetting you before you ever show up face to face so I’ve got to think that would be particularly powerful. If I’m a consultant for instance in your network, it certainly can’t hurt to say Jack and I wrote a book.
Lee: There is some of that with you and your network, right?
Jack: Exactly. We write articles and we write books with our own team. Co-authoring. We also write them with some of our key clients. You got a client for life if you can co-author a book with them. Unless you have a real disagreement during the book.
Stone: That’s the peril right there.
Stone: Client for life if you go through a book with them. That’s worth a ticket for admission right there.
Lee: Now if someone, let’s get to that person that’s just thinking about starting this. They read the book, they say, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” Is their first client the person they maybe just left the company of or like how do they get that first client? Do you help them with that?
Jack: Yes. Ideally, if you can leverage off your previous relationships, some actually try to consult back with their same organization they used to work with and that works sometimes because these days…
Lee: You already have relationships so you don’t have to kind of, it’s not a brand new, meet new for the first time.
Jack: Right. We see some people who say, “Look, I need propose something to their employer, why don’t I take out a severance package because you’re reducing your workforce and I can continue to work someone on a contract basis with you, it’s cheaper for you and it helps me get started with consulting. That’s a good arrangement. Otherwise, you can work with some colleagues sometimes and that helps.
But get out there. You got to start marketing and I’d say this transition, this is a key point here, the transition from corporate work to consulting should begin years before you start the consulting. This message would be for people who are thinking about it. Start writing articles. Write your book now. Now is the time to write the book before you actually do this. Write articles, write blogs, speak, getting out, and so that when you do launch the consulting business you’ve got some pent up demand.
Now, I’m a very conservative low risk taking individual. I had already written three or four books before I started consulting, I got the PhD at the University of Alabama because I thought that would help me. We had written maybe close to a hundred articles, different magazines, and even took a three week leave of absence as I was president of a banking network. I took a three week leave to go to South Africa to do some consulting because I was invited because of one of our books. I did all of that.
But even then I still went into a larger bank, came along and bought our bank and they didn’t need me anymore. That took the risk out of it but I was prepared. We had some pent up demand, we could hit the ground running quickly and we did.
My point is prepare for that transition. The transition from corporate life to consulting. Don’t wait till it happens to you or don’t wait till you get to that, when I retire I’ll start looking around for this because it will take you so long. You get disappointed and perhaps depressed and may be out of money.
Stone: That’s great advice. If you’re interested in buying the book How to Build a Successful Consulting Practice don’t wait until you’re severance check arrives. A couple years before is when you get the book. Is that right?
Lee: It should be going to this boot camp. Tell us a little bit about this boot camp.
Jack: Yes, we do a boot camp. We do it now with the University of Southern Mississippi on the gulf coast. It’s actually in Long Beach, Mississippi. We do it there; it’s a three day program. It’s actually July the 10th, 11th, and 12th. It basically in this three days we either talk you out of consulting or you leave saying, “I’m going to do it,’ and you leave with a detailed business plan. A very detailed plan covering eight or ten, twelve different items even down to what’s my exit strategy coming out of my business? Because sometimes you don’t think about that.
When you start something you don’t want to think about how do I get out of this but eventually you will be out of it. You want to plan that. Some people make a mistake by saying, I want to be Jack Phillips an associate. If your exit strategy is to sell it to another company, you’ve really limited what you can do.
Lee: Unless their name is Jack Phillips. It limits the buyers.
Jack: You got to find a whole team of Jack Phillips. Call it something else. The Atlanta Consulting Company.
Lee: Right, because that person is like, “Well, that’s great but I want Jack Phillips.” You don’t want them to say they want Jack Phillips you want them to say they want somebody that’s’ an ROI institute.
Stone: With that methodology and the structure, the rigor that comes with all that.
Lee: It’s bigger than Jack Phillips.
Stone: What comes with all that research?
Jack: Exactly. We have them decide on their exit strategy as part of the business plan. That’s the point we’re making. We needed to build our first consulting company; our exit strategy was to sell it to a larger company or to turn it into a public trading company through an IPO, Initial Public Offering. That was our goal. With that in mind we could plan for that. We did sell it. The business that we started in 1992 or 1993 we sold in 1999 for several million dollars and that was what we had planned. Then we started the one we have now.
In the boot camp, the point is that we really get you prepared for this journey. Particularly, this transition. If you understood you could come to me directly and that’s email@example.com and we’ll give you some more information on the boot camp if you’re interested. Again, that’s the Coast of Mississippi. That’s in July. We’d love to have you there.
Lee: There’s probably going to be one of those low country boils.
Jack: There is.
Stone: There you go.
Jack: I’ll explain that to him. It’s the shrimp, the oysters, and the seafood probably in the low country area and you boil that, and that’s the low country boiler. Not a turkey.
Stone: And it’s absolutely delicious and it has application for any festive occasion including…
Lee: I did not realize that.
Stone: …the day of thanks. But in this boot camp you’re going to be covering all kinds of topics. Everything from considering these issues and listen, you have been successful, I think if you go and you participate in this boot camp and you come out of it saying, “You know, what? This is not for me. I don’t want to be a consultant after all.” That has been worth the time and energy.
Jack: It is. It’s probably the best thing financially we could do for you and the stress of the family. We’ve seen too many people even mortgaging their homes start the consulting business only later to have their home foreclosed because they failed at the consulting. That’s the worst case.
Planning it properly, financially, we get into the financial arrangements, we get into the legal structure, we get into the lot of the marketing, how you develop the business, it’s an important part. It’s a topic and a reporting step.
We have a guaranteed success here. That is at the end of that three days, if you’re not satisfied with the weekend, you pay nothing. You don’t pay anything. We try to guarantee the success of that. But we’ve had people walk away and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be a consultant,” and you just say, “Made a lot of money. Thank you.” Not asking for a refund but if anyone gets through that they can certainly get a refund if they’re not happy. So far no one has asked for that.
Stone: That is fantastic. It has been absolute delight having you come visit with us. I knew it would be. We had so much fun last time and yes, we do want to have you come back and maybe spend investing the entire segment and do maybe a deeper dive on this train because all of these things that you mentioned at the top of the teaching, the speaking, the research, but also the writing. All of these things are so important in developing your consulting practice and ultimately in serving your client. This was fun, man.
Jack: Yes, my pleasure.
Lee: Now if they go to your website www.royinstitute.net, what will they find there?
Jack: Well, it basically talks about our organization and what we do. It’s interesting point to bring up there because you have to dig deep into the website to know that we actually provide consulting services. It looks like we’re selling certification which is our way of developing capability of what we’re doing or that we’re selling books as our books.
Consulting is really our main business. We do that and it’s our main source of revenue. That’s, we kind of do that in a direct way, instead of saying, “Hey, come here, we want to help you. We want to help you.” We’re basically telling people look you don’t have to hire a consultant to do what we do and we’ll show you how. We’ll teach you how. When you come to our certification, you come to certification you don’t really need to hire someone to do what we’re teaching you. You can do it yourself and that’s the way we develop capability.
But from that group we still get lots of offers, lots of consulting. It really becomes our best market generator. That is probably 98 percent of the people probably go through a five day certification become our clients in the consulting arena.
Jack: It helps us. Yes, you can see what we do there in the website. The website is obviously a very important part of the consultants marketing tools these days. You can see that. You probably won’t have much on the consultant’s boot camp because it’s a small part of what we do and probably just come to me and I can send that to you. There’s probably something on the website but it would be buried so much it would be difficult. Come to me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you something about this boot camp or about our publications in the consulting arena or anything else related to that.
Stone: I’m delighted to report that 95 percent of our guests buy us lunch.
Jack: That’s how it works. I would be delighted to do that.
Lee: We appreciate you being our guest here today. Jack Phillips again, royinstitute.net is the website and there you’ll find lots of information about the good work Jack does every single day. Thank you so much for being part of this show today. This is Lee Kantor with Stone Payton and for all of the Business Radio X family; we will see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.