It's rewarding to think that 15 years ago I opened the doors to my Hobart based consultancy, Inspired by Marketing. Over 100 successful projects across 15 industries later I'm proudly still running with flying colours in Cairns as Evolve Tourism. At this years Tasmanian Tourism Awards I was lucky enough to share this occasion with some of the people that have trusted and supported me through the journey.
Thank you. Thank you, Thank you.
In recognition of your support I have written a poem, shared through this animation (a nod to Dr, Seuss). Please enjoy.
I am often asked by clients working for larger businesses, how could they make the transition into consulting. In this article I share the 10 key success factors that have guided and empowered me to live the life of one very fulfilled consultant.
My 10 Key Success Factors to Starting and Sustaining a Consulting Business
1. Find your true north.
Before you start detailing products and services, business names or structures, you must have absolute clarity on WHY you seek to become a consultant. WHY a business owner instead of employee. WHY this move will fuel your passion, empower your lifestyle, fullfil your professional aspirations. A statement of 'WHY' is your guiding light and should be an emotive and passionate rant about WHY this move is a MUST for you. I promise, your resolve will be tested and your WHY will keep you focused and energised. My first 'WHY' moment was the decision to move from banking to travel. Why.... because I love everything about exploring new places and cultures. I decided I MUST have a life that is closer to my passion. So in 1998 I found my way from banking into Wrest Point Casino commenced my tourism career. My next WHY moment was deciding I MUST take complete control of my time to shape my life balance. I decided operating my own single people (no staff) consultancy was a MUST to fulfil this goal.
2. Make a move.
Once you've captured your WHY, make a commitment to yourself that moves you towards your new future. To gain momentum I i) registered my business name ii) designed my logo iii) printed and framed one business card iv) prepared a 1 page Business Plan. I was on my way. Momentum is everything.
3. You need a plan.
It's time to dive into the detail. Why didn't I suggest writing a full Business Plan earlier. Because the detail will overwhelm and paralyse your quest before you get started. Your Business Plan must capture a vision and purpose, a clear view of target customers, identify a gap in the market and overview year 1-3 financials. Remember, a Plan without clarity on your true north will be heavy going. If you're not feeling it head back to go.
When you resign they will come for you. Nobody wants to loose a star and you must be ready to resist. You will be showered with praise, cash and work flexibility to retain you. A powerful WHY will anchor your resolve and resistance, so remember WHY you're making this move and have conviction in your decision.
5. Success is about relationships.
As you activate your Business Plan, seek out and invest in genuine relationships. My father Ken Inches gave me some advice when I started. He said "i) be a good guy ii) do as you promise and a little bit more iii) invest in people and iv) have faith that all tides rise with the incoming tide. You need to be a people person to succeed in this business and if you are, it will be the most rewarding part of your new future.
6. Invest in partnerships.
You can't do this alone and why would you want to. The people I partner with make my business possible. I have shaped myself as the conductor, harmonising the orchestra of champions. Researchers, architects, graphic designers and web builders, economists and financial analysis, social media and digital advertising specialists, video and photographers, copywriters and PR experts. Your team is everything so hunt down and look after the best there is.
7. Be the specialist in the room.
You don't need to know everything, but you must be a subject matter expert In your direct field. For my first 13 years I was a multi industry marketing expert. Over the years I have purposefully shifted a tourism specialist. This was my plan from day 1, to become 100% tourism specialised... 13 years later my goal was realised. Investing in your skills through podcasts, reading, mentors, other consultants and business partners is another key success factor to your consulting business. Investing in patience and perseverance is another.
8. What do you stand for?
To win business and deliver premium outcomes you must be more than smart and experienced, more than good and trustworthy, you must show a logical and informed pathway that will add significant value to a business, organisation or destination . Unfortunately, some consultants have a bad name for waffle, reports that dance around outcomes and regurgitate old findings. Not me and it can't be you. You must be clear about what you stand for and how you will approach projects. Your detailed methodologies must show a client i) what you seek to achieve ii) what tasks will be undertaken with hourly allocations iii) the output and outcomes from their investment. Each project is also unique and there should be nothing generic about your project proposals. Every opportunity is different so take the time to think it through and respond specifically.
9. Peter Drucker said “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation”.
It's a common error to mistake marketing with sales or advertising. Evolve Tourism marketing is activated through i) forming new and fostering existing partnerships, ii) being proactive to capture online reviews, iii) looking for speaking opportunities, iv) hosting events, v) presenting an impressive, current and search optimised website vi) staying active on social media with inspiring and useful content, vii) building and engaging with my contact list every few months. I've tried many forms of promotions and advertising, always learning and refining, but this approach works for me.
... and innovation".
Since 1998 I have moved my operation from Hobart to Cairns; shifted my expertise from marketing to tourism development; walked away from 15 industries to become a tourism specialist; set-up and operated an advertising agency using off-shore workforce; and created my own online tourism marketing planning course Tourism Tune-Up. Your business should always be working through its next transformation - avoid getting comfortable by continuously pushing yourself to evolve.
10. Put your reputation on the line every day.
Always be prepared to speak your mind and present ideas, strategies and actions that push the limits. I test every tourism concept with potential travellers. If they dislike our concepts and experiences we‘re in strife. We back ourselves with teamwork, knowledge, process and dedication to get the job done.
So that‘s my top ten key success factors to starting and operating a fulfilling and meaningful consulting business. I hope these tips assist you and your true north into the future.