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Trimming the Fat

January 9, 2011 15 comments

There are hundreds of blog posts written on the value of networking, but people don’t talk as much about the downside of networking; like spreading yourself too thin. The past two years have been transformative for me all around, but the best thing I learned was how to “trim the fat”. To cut out anyone in my life that does not add value, does not help me to grow, learn, and does not treat me as I treat others – I treat everyone as if they’re my most important client. When I wrote “30 things I’ve Learned in Thirty Years”, the most commented on item was,

Cut the fat. In your personal life, cut out people who don’t add value. In your professional life, do the same. No one should ride your wave unless they’ve helped to create it.

In my professional life, I made this black and white. I developed a list of traits that people I associated with in business needed to have. Those that didn’t encompass that ‘criteria’ were slowly moved to more of an acquaintance. Those that met the criteria below were and are the people I surround myself with. I suggest you look over this criteria and engage in the introspective process of developing your own. It will likely be very different from mine; but sort through your business relationships and ask yourself – do these associates fulfill me? My criteria is as follows:

1. Must be brutally honest (notice the word “brutal”). I want to know when I do something wrong and I don’t want to “corporate/politically correct” statement, I want the hard truth. Tough Love is crucial for me to move forward.

2. Must be able to ‘look in the mirror’ honestly. I want people who know themselves, their strengths, and weaknesses, and most importantly – “know what they don’t know” and not be afraid to admit it and ask for help.

3. Must hold themselves and those around them accountable. I’ve been in many situations where people ‘move up the corporate ladder’ by playing the game; not necessarily contributing to the bottom line of the company. Results oriented with an understanding of process is what I need.

4. Must not “work to live”, but “live to work” or at least be individuals that work because they love it, not because it’s forced on them.

5. Must have an understanding of the importance of communication skills and ‘treat everyone as if they’re the most important client’. Nothing irks me more than people not showing up for meetings, phone calls, etc. If you’re unable to attend, it happens – but communicate as soon as you realize.

6. Set Expectations

7. Be real – be the same person personally and professionally. One thing that I’ve found constant is people’s values and ethics. If someone is phenomenal professionally, but cheats on their spouse ( for example ), how could that person ever be loyal to you?

8. Push others to better themselves. The smarter and more ambitious those around you are, the better you will be. Bring out the best in one another.

I had always done a decent job of doing this in my professional life, but not in my personal life. I’m an extrovert and dive head first into conversations, meetings, and new friendships with the mindset that everyone can add something to my life; we can learn from each person you meet. I also committed to myself that I would be an open book; what you see is what you get. What that turned into was hundreds, maybe thousands of people who were ‘friends’ or people who expected me to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. A couple years ago I realized – I would have to make changes. It was okay to have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of “friends” as inevitably the ones that really DID matter to me – my closest friends – were not receiving the treatment I wanted solely for them; not for everyone else. I was too busy.

So I trimmed the fat. I looked over my group of friends and I asked myself, “who could I not live without?” It sounds a bit dramatic, but when I look over the people I surround myself with, my life wouldn’t be the same without them. This doesn’t mean I speak with them everyday – some I do, some I don’t – depending on how we’ve communicated to one another how we expect our friendships to work; but bottom line – I DO treat them as if they’re my most important client.

So ask yourself – are you spread too thin? Or are you able to treat the people who are most important the way you would want to be treated. If you’re not, take a moment and decide; who is worth the time and how do you trim the fat of your friendships and business relationships.

The Recipe to Become a Sought After Consultant

May 16, 2010 9 comments

50% Track Record
50% Relationship Builder / Networker

Is it really so simple?

Under each of these areas are several bullet points / advice on how to mazimize each bullet point; but once you hear my story, I have proved this is the recipe for a thriving ‘restaurant’.

While I was working in the corporate world, I always did projects on the side; pro bono. Sometimes they were internal, sometimes helping partners I was working with (relationship building), but always seeking to build 1) my knowledge base 2) My network. I also always wanted to prove to myself that I couldn’t “only do” what was needed in my day to day jobs; I wanted ‘practice’ with other industries and the experience of working with different executives.

When I left my most recent company (about 5 months ago), I was going to take a few month “break”, as I’ve been working 80 hour weeks for about 8 years now, but didn’t have the chance. As soon as “word got out” that I had left a company, my phone was ringing; my email was flowing. Companies that I had ‘partnered’ with in the past, prior colleagues, they all had projects for me. I certainly wasn’t going to say “no”, but I did need to learn the consultancy market in about 3 days…which of course, I did. I was truthful with the people I called and asked how they ‘normally’ pay consultants. The same 4 or 5 options were out there, so I adopted each to diffferent projects and was on my way. Here is where and how I’ve found success and clientelle – with no direct response or branding marketing. As sad as this is…I haven’t even had time to put together a website. Go figure.

Part One: Track Record

Under this category lies several things that companies love to see.

1. Obviously the successes in each of your positions or endeavors. While this is important to put on your resume or linkedin page, what I’ve found is that my track record of MISTAKES (when speaking to companies) has worked equally as well in my favor. My explanation – “I succeeded in ‘X’, but would not have done so had I not made these mistakes…which I learned from and constantly adopt in my new endeavors”.

2. TYPES of companies worked for:

one suggestion I have for anyone who is entrepreneurial, ambitious in business, and wanting to really learn how to build a company is to work for a start up company. This shows executives at companies several things (dependent on your role and in what type of company). Just to be sure we’re on the same page; when I say, “start up company”, I am referring to a company that is IN THE RED with minimal employees.

First, it shows that you are willing to take RISK. Important for someone hiring a consultant for 2 reasons: 1) The company will not be ‘afraid’ to give you something as a project 2) The company and consultant can create different deal types that puts the onus on the consultant to get work done. It’s allows the consultant to take on a ‘pay per performance’ model, which companies love.

Second, it shows that you have likely worked in an environment where you have had to wear a myriad of professional ‘hats’. For example: while you may have held a “biz dev” role, the likelihood is you also probably had to learn the ‘sales operations’, developed the sales process, the documents, even the ‘creative’ to send out to clients. That is three other skillsets other than biz dev: Operations, BPI, and marketing / creative development.

Third, it shows you are tenacious with a phenomenal work ethic.

Fourth, The “best” type of start up you can work at…one that is “doing something that has never been done before”. If you can work for that company in a managerial role and move up to an executive role while there; AND be there while the company is successful, going from the “red” to a “black” going concern…you’re a golden child.

Another great type of company to work for is one that offers continuing professional and management development courses. While there are some “large” Fortune 100 companies that put you in a position, teach you about that position, and ‘call it a day’; there are others that invest heavily into bettering their employees. You’re looking for a company that seeks promotion from within as well as one that values the education of their employees.

A third company that will help what others view in your ‘track record’ is one that may not be a start up, BUT is constantly building out new smaller businesses, departments, concepts, products, etc. If you can become part of that “new” team, fantastic experience as well.

Start up businesses seem to be the place where most consultants are sought out, so let’s talk about the type of person you have to be to not only enjoy this role, but be successful in it. This takes a particular type of individual, so before you jump on that, let me explain attributes needed. Start ups are NOT for everyone.

1. The vision to identify the “right” start up. Don’t kid yourself; this is a gift and a skill set. As 95% of start up companies fail, you need to learn how to identify the ones that “have a high chance of success based on the market, product or service, and executive team. If any one of these components are not at 100%, your business will fail.

2. The “NO FEAR” attitude. You are going to be placed outside your comfort zone 75% of the time. That’s the FUN of the start up! You cannot be scared to do something you’ve never done before, you cannot be scared to share your opinions even if everyone else is countering it, you cannot be scared to work 100 hours / week, and you certainly cannot be ‘scared’ of success or failure.

3. Passion; you must be passionate about the mission of the company. If you are a person who is typically not ’emotional’ or does not get “attached” to their job or feel loyalty for their product, service, or team members; this may be a tough transition for you.

To Be Continued This Eve

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