Nearly every leadership development practitioner experiences the same challenge: Managing client demands while growing their book of business.
How do the best consultancies balance these responsibilities?
We’ve got answers.
We’ve been connecting with the best small leadership consultancies in North America, whose firm’s revenues range from $100K to 2.5M a year.
Here are 5 best practices we’ve pulled from our conversations that distinguish firms that are growth-oriented from those struggling to survive.
1. They Think “Program,” Not “Event.”
The best leadership development practitioners consult with their clients to ensure they’re promoting services that help employees develop their leadership capabilities.
Leadership development isn’t an event – it’s a process, best supported through a development program. A program is a series of learning activities that makes leadership development possible.
If a client calls and requests a one-day leadership workshop, this should be a red flag to any learning professional – as a practitioner, use this as an opportunity to discuss the leadership development process and advocate how a long-term relationship can best benefit their business and their employees.
The benefit to this practice is that learning programs are not only priced appropriately, which helps ensure cash flow, but they also are far more effective than one-day events.
2. They Right-Price Their Services.
We all joined this profession because we’re passionate about helping professionals grow and develop as leaders. Sometimes we take our commitment to our profession a little too far, such as by not billing for our time or underestimating how “easy” it will be to deliver a service (therefore not pricing it correctly).
Also, leadership development is a specialty service – it’s not a commodity. If your firm is seeking to compete on price, be cautious. It’s diminishing the real value of your firm’s services.
The most stable leadership development firms approach their services with eyes wide open. Before pricing, they benchmark their services and pricing to understand the competitive landscape. They also seek to understand the value of their services – if they perform service “X” for a client, it will result in “Y.”
“Y” has a financial outcome to it. The best firms understand that value, so they consider a value-based approach to program pricing.
3. They Seek to Expand Offerings.
Some leadership development consultancies are firm with what services they offer and what they don’t. For example, some consultants only want to work in the strategy space, so they don’t touch training and development. Some coaches only want to work 1:1 with clients, so they don’t facilitate small group learning.
The best consultancies have expertise in a specific aspect of leadership development, but don’t overlook opportunities to expand into other areas. This openness allows them to extend the value they can offer their clients, all the while expanding their contract with their clients.
4. They Establish Partnership Relationships.
The best small, independent leadership consultancies understand their business cycle – there are surge periods, and there are downtimes. To help them plan appropriately for each period, they rely on their network to staff up and staff down.
A solid peer network allows any practitioner the opportunity to depend upon a trusted, vetted group of professionals to support them when they’re in a bind and need to deliver quality consulting/training/coaching on a specific client project. Not only can a network be easier to manage than a large team, during those downtimes it’s helpful not to be weighed down by the additional payroll expense.
5. They Hunt and Farm.
Most leadership development practitioners didn’t start their firms so they could focus a majority of their time on business development. Yet, BD is a necessary function of firm management.
Client acquisition requires initiative, effort and consistent activity. The most successful leadership development practitioners are always hunting and farming:
Hunting requires actively marketing services to new client prospects.
Farming requires growing existing client accounts.
A real risk to any firm is when BD occurs when business is needed (desperately). As a firm manager, it’s critical to develop hunting and farming tactics that align with your firm’s strategy and can be implemented on a routine basis. Not only does this help ensure long-term stability, but it also allows firms to keep raising their game by promoting new services and resources to their current and prospective accounts.
Any – and all – of these 5 keys can be implemented with the right focus and attention to them.
When you’re able to insert disciplines into your firm management that positions you for growth, you’re better able to dedicate more time towards the work you enjoy the most: Delivering exceptional services to clients.
Are you interested in how CCL can help you grow your leadership consulting business? Learn more about the CCL Partner Network – a unique offering for independent leadership development consultants, trainers, and coaches.
About the Authors:
Angie Morgan has acquired thousands of hours as a professional speaker and trainer, executive coach and curriculum designer for leading companies and organizations around the globe, including Facebook, ESPN, DTE Energy, Boston Scientific, and Best Buy. After learning how to lead as a Marine Corps officer, she dedicated her career to helping others develop their leadership skills in order to achieve greater results. Angie has partnered with prominent companies and organizations to develop custom programs that drive business outcomes. She’s a recognized thought leader in her field. Clients routinely seek her guidance to help them translate leadership theory into actions that create impact and results.
As Director of the CCL Partner Network, she enjoys providing her consulting peers’ one-on-one coaching sessions that allow Network Members to establish growth goals and identify strengths and gaps as they work towards greater success as business owners and practitioners. Having built Lead Star from a start-up to a thriving enterprise, she is most focused on how consultants can scale their reach and best monetize their service offerings.
- Best-selling author, Leading from the Front, McGraw-Hill
- Director, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation
- Profiled leadership expert, AOL
- Honor Graduate, the University of Michigan’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Battalion
- MBA – University of Michigan
- BA – University of Michigan
Courtney Lynch has extensive experience designing and delivering leadership development solutions for diverse clients. As Director of CCL’s Partner Network, she is focused on facilitating the transfer of proven practices that allow Network Members to grow their businesses and impact. Through Lead Star, she has a built a multi-million dollar consultancy. Courtney enjoys exchanging lessons learned with her peers to leverage collective intelligence and meet market needs.
Courtney’s foundational leadership development experience occurred during her time as a Marine Corps officer. After leaving active duty, she spent her professional career in leadership roles, bringing nearly two decades of performance and expertise as a leader, scholar and development professional to her consulting work. Courtney’s efforts to spark a national dialogue on the topic of leadership have been featured by CNN, Inc. Magazine, The New York Times and many other media outlets.
- Best-selling Author, Leading from the Front, McGraw-Hill
- Recipient, National Stevie Award for Best Female Entrepreneur
- Profiled leadership expert, BusinessWeek
- JD – William & Mary School of Law
- BA – North Carolina State University