Consulting is a great profession to be in. You learn and grow all the time, work with exciting clients and do work that you look to have a positive impact with.
Winning work in a consulting practice is fundamental to short, medium and long term success. Without work you aren’t able to pay the bills. This first order need around winning work is important but there is also the fact that the work you win shapes your consulting practice, staff you employ and the capability you deliver to your clients.
Too many consulting practices work on the assumption that winning any work is good for their business. I don’t subscribe to this view. The mix of this work is critical to how your consulting practice grows and develops and significantly shapes everything you do. A reactive approach to building capability and work will lead to a consulting practice that does not operate effectively long term or is not enjoyable to work in. It also becomes a consulting practice that is not aligned to a strategy or culture that focusses on the industries, clients and services that you enjoy being a part or want to deliver work to.
To explore this further, this is akin to you are what you eat. To expand on this, there are some key considerations to consider that shape the work you target:
- Short term v long term work – are you looking for work that is short in duration or long term engagements? This affects areas in your consulting practice around the level of support, how many proposals you write, invoicing and finance support along with other key areas;
- Strategic v operational work – Strategy work tends to be high value, unique but low volume work, Operational work tends to be repetitive, high volume but repeatable. A balance of both is important for the long term success of your consulting practice;
- Clients and industries you target – the clients you work with and industries you work in shape significantly the culture of your consulting practice. Government clients can tend to be bureaucratic. Infrastructure clients focus on doing and actions. All these nuances around each industry cannot help but shape who you are and how you work. This is important in targeting work that aligns with the culture you want to build and the work and people you enjoy working with;
- Mix of staff – whether you have juniors, mid-level or senior staff, this affects the type of work you undertake and the way you delegate work within the consulting practice; and
- Strategic partnerships – working with strategic partners makes an enormous difference to the type of work you target to win or deliver. They may add additional capability or offerings to your clients which also may change your consulting practice and how it is structured.
A strategic approach to winning your work should be front of mind for any consulting practice. Focus on what you win and be purposeful around this and see how this shapes a culture that aligns to your strategy and culture you aspire towards.