One of the first questions I ask new clients is about their business model: how do you make money right now?
Answers run the gamut—services, products, books, speaking, retainers, project fees, hourly/daily rates, leveraged services by team members.
But it’s the rare consultant who is 100% happy with their business model as it stands today.
Some of that may be that we are wired to always be looking for improvement. But more than a little comes from choosing the wrong business model up-front.
Take “Todd”. When I first met him, he was running a boutique, project-based web design firm specializing in financial clients. He initially saw web design as the ticket to steady project work that would allow him to grow his cadre of people and create a profitable niche for himself.
The only problem? Todd is literally a genius at technical digital marketing. The web design work wasn’t tapping into his deepest talent and he found himself dedicating more and more time to something he liked less and less.
And, 90% of the firm’s work was project-based, giving it a feast or famine aspect that made managing resources and keeping clients happy a constant challenge.
After some extended gnashing of teeth and number crunching, Todd made the decision to morph his business model away from one-off web design projects and into retainer-based digital marketing. Was it easy? No—he had a significant investment in the status quo. But was it essential for his vision, his bottom-line and his sanity? Absolutely.
Whether you’re just starting up or are deep in the thick of your business, here are a few questions to consider to structure (or tweak) the right business model for you.
- What’s the core business you most want? Do you want to build a team—a business—with a like-minded set of compadres? Or are you weary of running teams of people and want a you-only practice? How big do you want to get or how small do you want to stay? Consider your best role and design your business around that.
- How do you like to work? Being candid about your strengths and limitations will only pay off. Do you take great pride in your extensive research and analysis and prefer limited client interaction? Or do you need the stimulation that only face-to-face interactions can provide? Are you at your best with a team of people at your side or do you prefer to fly solo?
- What do you most want to create? Are you about creating content—say products and service offerings designed around a tribe—but not so much interested in one-to-one client contact? Or are you about creating bespoke solutions each time (think web design and high-impact consulting)?
- What income do you want to take home? Are you looking to generate low six figures or do you have your eye on a bigger goal? What’s your personal best path to get there? Are there adjustments you’re willing to make in HOW you work to get what you want?
- What impact do you want to have? Would you rather go wide or deep? Are you best on a platform—perhaps as a teacher or motivational speaker? Or does giving a very personal and/or transformational one-on-one experience mean more to you?
There is no one “right” business model.
Instead, think of it like this: what’s your best business model to reach the biggest dream you have for yourself?
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