On Being Client Led or Client Focused

I’ve had my own company for almost 12 years now. Landing clients and meeting obligations has been all on me. Before then, I was a partner in a small firm. I’ve made  a good living and I’ve kept a lot of long-term clients.

As I wrote back in December, we’re working on building some “made to measure” or “off the rack” solutions. Working on this, I realized how much I’ve tailored my business to play to my strengths. If these solutions are going to work, it will require some changes in my personal behavior.

My key strength: I learn new systems stuff very, very quickly. (As I’ve noted with swimming and piano, that’s not true of everything in my life. And I’m not going to even touch on my learning curve for personal relationships). Over the years, as my clients need different things, I’ve been able to pick up new skills quickly and then apply them to client systems.

In many ways, this is great. Clients keep me around because I know not just finance but also procurement and HR. And I can figure out how to program stuff in multiple languages. (This also makes it hard to hire permanent employees. I rely mostly on contractors because the variety of work I can figure out is more than most people ever want to touch.)

I’ve known for a while that this strength helps cover my less robust selling skills. But as I’ve worked on this new product line, I realize my strength has been covering other weaknesses as well. Because clients present me with the problem, the boundaries are set. As a result:

  • I don’t have to wrestle with scope. The client sets the boundaries.
  • I don’t have to wonder if the problem really needs to be solved. The client tells me it does.

So my consulting work gives me the freedom to explore while also keeping me on track.

I rarely delved into areas where I operate without these “client controls.” I posted a video on how to create a sales spreadsheet in Excel that garnered 25,000 hits – and that was something I did on my own without being client led. But I don’t know if this is something people would be willing to pay for. And I don’t know if I could ultimately get any profit out of it.

So, developing a line of made to measure and off the rack solutions means stepping away from the security of my consulting work and building something people may not even want. It means moving from being client led to being client focused. And it means uncovering my weaknesses and finding a way to overcome them.


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