Clients For Life?

Having clients for life—at least in theory—can feel like the Holy Grail. No worries about selling your services and constantly filling up a pipeline.

But as you transition up the food chain, away from execution-style activities and into strategy/advisory, client cycles are usually shorter. Much more lucrative, but less long-term.

Jonathan and I explore this transition and why a “clients for life” mentality doesn’t serve everyone:

How the retainer execution model rewards a clients for life strategy, but can keep you on the gilded hamster wheel.

The required mindset shift as you move away from strictly execution to higher value consulting.

How to think about dandelion projects where you stay in touch with client team members as they scatter to new companies (and which business models can easily leverage this).

The altitude shift from “hands” consulting to advisory work and why that tends to down-shift client longevity.


“Think of a retainer as charging a periodic amount…for a given set of deliverables. An advisory retainer is not that. An advisory retainer is where you are not executing—you are giving strategic advice.”—RM

“The thing about the sort of hands-on retainer…it’s a job. It’s predictable and safe and probably can be a lot longer term than an advisory retainer.”—JS

“When you start that transition (to advisory)…it feels like ‘wait a minute, I’m not doing enough for this money. I need I need to be busier.’ You have to make a mindset shift.”—RM

“Think about a dandelion project—where a buyer brings you in and you do good work for them…and then that team from that company disperses and they go to five other companies.”—JS

“It’s different working with the CEO than it is with the director level of a function. Your impact is bigger. Your potential influence is larger. And the price of failure is higher. That’s why you don’t come out of school and go coach the CEO.”—RM

“The easiest sale is new stuff to old clients, because you’ve already got trust. They already know you’re legit. They already know that you deliver results.”—JS

“Growing your altitude…allows you to operate at a much higher level. And by the way, that level is exceedingly lucrative.”—RM

“I’ve got a number of students who’ve done internal systems for gigantic brand names—like names you’d recognize—and they’ve just oozed from department to department.”—JS

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