I had a really good discussion with Jack & Nigel in the Watershed a couple nights back. Jack’s launching a new venture and wanted some advice. Nigel and I pitched in our thoughts, as did Micheal when he turned up a bit later.
Jack’s key question was around the business model. How much of his know-how did he give away on the website and how what did he charge for?
Essentially, Jack is building a personal brand as so many of us are.
In many ways Jack and I (and most consultancy businesses) are in similar positions, we’re trading on our expertise and ability to do stuff that’s really important to a business at specific moments in time. We also really enjoy what we do, which makes it easy to have a discussion with someone about how they could develop new ideas for their product / service, or how they could structure their business for growth, or find funding.
The challenge is when to do this over a pint in the Watershed (other pubs & coffee shops are available but good food, beer and free wifi is a tough act to beat) and when to sit down in a closed room and start billing. For me, the test is if we’re discussing specific costed solutions for your business, or if we’re having an advisory chat about business models, sources of funding, networks of finance, etc.
Jack also had a question over scalability, this was a question for Chris Garrett at OpenCoffee Demo where he presented a thriving agency with lots of work and skills, but no core IP. That’s changing for good reason, and they’re developing a system for location based alerts and friend finding but with an interesting difference (more when it’s launched). For the rest of us, once you’re billing 24/7 at the maximum rate the market will stand, you’re maxed out. The solution usually is to hire more mini-me‘s.
But people are paying for your insight, not the intern’s.
So what can you do?
- Keep building your tribes, they are your evangelist marketeers, global ideas pool, potential clients, and probably friends
- Keep building your know-how, your secret sauce (this is what people are paying for); read widely, participate in conversations, innovate up the food chain
- Look out for scalability: collect your stories / experiences /ideas, if you’re a coder write some code that you regularly re-use and license it as a development tool, if you’re a designer/creative put some designs on T-shirts / mugs / etc (traditionally it’s called merchandising, bands have done this for ages),
- Rinse & repeat
Don’t get stuck in a rut of securing clients, delivering, billing, securing clients, delivering, billing without any scalability or building any know-how; someone will come along that is faster / smarter / cheaper / cooler than you and you need a defensible position.
How are you building know-how and scalability?