When You Need Expiration Dates In Your Consulting Business

  • Category: MarketingRunning Your Business

Political campaigns have built in expiration dates, like the one for the U.S. presidency that ends—at least in theory—today.

But your consulting business probably has few actual expiration dates.

The onus is on you to periodically evaluate and decide whether (and when) it’s time to retire services, products, ideas, even pricing models.

When I ran a multi-employee firm, I built a review process into every quarter to evaluate both the qualitative and quantitative outcomes of everything we did. It’s why we quickly tanked a service offering that ate up cash flow 3X faster than our usual projects, but produced only 25% of the margin.

But when you’re running a smaller—especially solo—business, the lack of expiration dates tends to make you hang on to losing propositions longer than you might otherwise.

And by losing propositions, I mean products, services and business or pricing models that just aren’t performing the way you need them to.

So in addition to building in some regular review time for your business, it pays to be on the lookout for the triggers that signal it’s time to consider setting an expiration date.

The time you’re putting into “it” is dwarfed by its financial and emotional return. You can be running a mission-driven practice and get huge feel-goods, but consistently have an overdrawn bank account to show for it.

The opposite is just as bad—your profit is off the charts but you can barely drag yourself to open your laptop (of course in this case, you may have an asset you can sell off to focus on something else).

Not every line item of your revenue will take off at the same pace. Some ideas need more nurturing than others—and you’ll want to be prepared to give them time before pulling the plug. But an idea that is giving you nothing probably needs to die.

You’re the only one who thinks your “baby” is beautiful. You’ve got what feels like a brilliant on-line course. You put dozens of hours into it and yet—crickets. This is a clear sign to probe deeper.

Maybe it’s too short/too long/not targeted enough/too targeted for your usual audience. Or maybe how you launched and marketed it needs work. Don’t wait to figure out what’s going on. The sooner you overhaul or tweak it (ore re-launch), the faster you’ll know if this is a keeper or a non-starter.

It feels like the end of an era. Something is telling you that it’s time for deep, perhaps profound change. This may come from the inside first (“I’m about done serving Fortune 500s”), but can also arise from external events, like say COVID shutting down your livelihood.

Pay attention when that voice first starts speaking. Initially, it may be simply one bad experience, but it may also signal deeper discomfort with where your business is headed or how it works with your life and values.

Yes, it’s hard to retire something you’ve poured your effort and cash into. But it’s far better to slap an expiration date on a dud than to keep a bad thing going.

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