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Effective Leaders Decide About Deciding


Every leader should design and communicate how they want to make decisions. Making it clear what you care about, what you need to know about, and what you’re tasking others to move on will help minimize confusion about who should be making which decisions. It also helps clarify when you as the leader can be kept out of a decision, when you should be pulled in, and how requests for your feedback should be communicated.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Because I’m passionate about multiple facets of my company, my executives were getting confused at times about why I was inserting myself into a conversation. Sometimes, it was simply my excitement, and other times, it was from a place of concern. Sometimes, I didn’t see how their execution of a strategy lined up with what I saw in my mind’s eye. This made my executives blurry about what they had the power to act on and when they needed to loop me in — in part because I wasn’t clear on those things myself. Decisions would stall. Frustrations would run high.

Convoluted decision-making processes waste time. Respondents to a 2018 McKinsey survey, for instance, said they spent 37% of their time making decisions, on average — and they estimated that more than half that time was spent ineffectively. On the other hand, delegating decisions and trusting the people you’ve handed them to isn’t always easy.

But we’re fans of models and visual representations of processes at Duarte Inc., and after talking through the problem and the confusion, the executive team cocreated a new model. In this two-by-two matrix, decisions are categorized into four boxes along axes representing how urgent the decision is and how high or low the stakes are. Each box has a correlating expectation about whether I should be involved, ranging from “Decide without me” and “Inform on progress” to “Propose for approval” and “Escalate immediately.” (See “Help Your Team Make Faster Decisions.”)

Once we landed on the framework, each executive populated a matrix for their own business unit. They piled up all the topics for decisions that needed to be made regularly into the four quadrants. We talked through the choices, and they then had a clear idea of when and to what extent I should (or wanted to) be involved. Each leader could cascade this model as far into their organization as they chose to.

Yes, there are other models about how leaders and managers communicate decisions, like RACI (an acronym for “responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed”), but those are for decisions at the project level, not the executive table. Once we aligned around this model, it became clearer to all of us what I should let go of — while also giving me permission to poke my head in if something was derailing that they thought they had handled.

Here are the kinds of decisions we chose to put into each category.

Decide without me: Your direct reports should have most of their responsibilities piled under this item. This would include successfully executing the agreed-to strategy, fulfilling the duties of their role, hiring, spending, solving personnel issues, and managing the departments through their dashboard. A leader’s job is to help establish missions, not to micromanage how each person gets there.

Inform on progress: A leader may want to “watch” some matters as they unfold. These include initiatives that have risk, general budget creep, or employee issues that might escalate. Sometimes I ask execs to use the channels of their choice to inform me on projects they are working on that I have personal passion for. This way, I stay informed and don’t need to ask about it but still get the joy of watching it develop. We found that before, when I would proactively ask questions, executives thought I was questioning their performance. In reality, I simply wanted to be informed along the way without taking any action.

Propose for approval: Things that come up during the year that fall outside of our planned strategy or approved funding belong in this category. Most approvals can be addressed in our quarterly planning meetings, but sometimes unexpected issues need faster feedback — like spending money over the approved budget, making major policy changes, or quickly deciding on a large opportunity that has popped up. Depending on the scale of risk, the team might send me a handful of slides making a case for the proposal, which I can simply approve over email. Other topics are meatier and need the input and approval of the whole executive team.

Escalate immediately: This category mostly evolves around high-risk or high-reward areas. These include scenarios where there are major risks to the strategic plan, changes in governance, shifts in the market, threats to data security or physical security, or even an unexpected acquisition opportunity.

Probably the hardest category for me as a company leader is “Inform on progress.” It takes a lot of self-control to remember that being informed is not the same thing as being asked to weigh in. Using the matrix has given my staff a polite way of telling me, “Just informing! You said you’d keep your nose out of it, remember? I’ve got this.”

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Sincerely, Leaders of Color: Onboarding isn’t just for early career staff

Here’s how you can help new BIPOC managers and experienced hires succeed.

By Jahna Berry Posted on:

About this series: Sincerely, Leaders of Color is written for everyone in the journalism industry who cares about creating a more supportive environment for journalists of color to do their best work. Have a question for the team? Drop it here and watch for it in a future column. This column is proudly sponsored by the Executive Program and the Tow Knight Center at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and our guest writers budget is sponsored by The American Press Institute.

It’s been electrifying for me to see so many brilliant people of color step into powerful leadership roles in the two industries I work in, the nonprofit world and the media world, and it’s made me think more deeply about how to best support those BIPOC leaders and other more experienced hires during their first year of joining a new organization.

As chief operating officer at Mother Jones, it’s my job to hire and support managers. Plus, I’ve experienced this transition personally – I know what it’s like to be a new leader at a new organization, and I also know what it’s like to be promoted from within.

There are a lot of articles that talk about thoughtful onboarding practices (here, Amaris Castillo writes about onboarding challenges during the pandemic), especially for people who are early in their career. But, I’ve seen few that talk about how to support new managers who are BIPOC or experienced hires during their first months on the job. In my experience, they may have a few specific needs.

For example, I’ve found that newly hired senior level workers may get invited to more get-to-know-you meetings, but may experience an overall less robust onboarding process than people early in their careers. Why? In past jobs I’ve had onboarding teams say they didn’t want to insult me by going over something that seems like a “101” issue, like workplace conduct norms or basic workflows they assume I’ve seen before. In other situations, a new hire’s supervisor might assume a more experienced hire or someone promoted from within might not require much guidance. If a new hire is joining a small organization or startup, their boss may not have experience onboarding other supervisors.

Here are some things you may want to consider when you onboard an experienced BIPOC employee or a person of color who is a manager.

Create a formal, modified onboarding plan for internal promotions. This doesn’t have to have all of the bells and whistles of a new employee welcome, but consider creating a framework with goals and details about key transitions, like the one below. This is helpful for BIPOC employees who are further along in their careers or taking on new leadership roles, because they may feel additional pressures, which I will talk about in more detail in a bit.

Collaborate on a flexible 30/60/90 day plan, and ruthlessly prioritize. New BIPOC managers and experienced hires often step into their role after a long search, (it’s not uncommon for senior level management searches to take months or more than a year) so right away there are a lot of urgent tasks. Having a 30/60/90 conversation (or series of talks) will help prioritize, especially if it includes what they are expected to master within the first 30, 60 and 90 days. This framework (especially the 30 day goals) will help them prioritize as they are inevitably hit with competing requests. Expect to revisit this 30/60/90 plan often, because they may need more than one assurance it’s OK to deprioritize something. An ambitious new hire may set up their own 90-day plan, but if their manager helps draft it, then it’s easy for the new hire and manager to refine and update it together as things change.

Instead of shortening or skipping parts of the usual orientation when you onboard an experienced hire, try this: After you send an initial orientation schedule, ask the new hire what parts of the organization or their role they want to prioritize briefings on or they think they need to learn more about.

If the job includes any DEI work, help the new employee establish and communicate boundaries around those tasks. If a BIPOC manager works in a predominantly white department, they may feel unspoken pressure – from front line staff, leadership team, or themselves – to help fix or diagnose pre-existing diversity issues in the organization, whether that is explicitly part of their role or not. If the role is involved in DEI, the new hire and that person’s manager should help define the boundaries of that work and, together, proactively message that to the staff.

For example: sending out an email that explicitly states: “Eric leads the task force tracking diverse experts who appear in our news stories. DEI questions about hiring are owned by the CEO and Human Resources.” My boss is great at this and I try to remember to do it whenever I can.

Consider giving the new hire a business briefing. Does business reporting generate the most sponsorships? Does a project’s funding come from a grant with key deliverables? Explaining the nuances of the core business is a really helpful context for senior level hires, even if that information is not crucial right away. This is especially important for editorial hires and promotions. Help folks who have previously worked in silos gain a more holistic understanding of the organization and its revenue model.

Think about power dynamics during orientation. Orientation buddies are great. Don’t forget to give the new hire more than one go-to person for their questions. If possible, give the new hire at least one orientation buddy who is at their level – not a subordinate or their supervisor – so they can ask frank questions and get candid answers. In an ideal situation, at least one orientation buddy is a BIPOC person at their level within the new hire’s department or similar department. Some organizations might be too small or have too few employees to accomplish this, and that’s okay. If you do everything else on this list, that will still be great onboarding.

Ask thoughtful questions about tech needs. Set aside a block of time at the beginning, and perhaps a month after their first day, so the new hire can get answers to a batch of tech questions all at once. It’s my experience that seasoned hires who are BIPOC are often so focused on supporting their new team, they often backburner their own personal tech needs, which may make their jobs harder. For example, I’ve seen experienced hires delay requesting job-specific hardware, ordering ergonomics gear needed for working from home, or seeking training for hard-to-understand systems that they use on a regular basis.

Consider making a user manual about your work style or exchanging one with each other. I have not tried this yet, but I am obsessed with the examples I’ve seen on blogs like this one and this one. At the very least, make sure you have one one-on-one dedicated to this discussion.

Give them the insider’s tour of the org chart about a month in. This is a great opportunity to answer questions they may be pondering after their first few weeks whiz by. Discuss any people, teams, or projects they need to prioritize.

If their predecessor is available, ask them to have a coffee meeting with the new hire about six months after they start their new job. This is a terrific idea I saw from Race Forward’s Maria Smith Dautruche.

Consider offering management training designed for BIPOC managers during the first year on the job. There are some great training programs tailored to support leaders of color like Maynard 200 and Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Diversity in Media. I’ve found that getting management training during the first year at a new job often inspires me to try things in my new role and to shed old management habits that don’t work. Also these programs offer a community for BIPOC leaders, which is helpful because their roles can feel isolating at times. If this kind of training isn’t an option, look at more general training programs that have a DEI lens, like The Management Center, which specializes in training nonprofit leaders. Offer to connect your new hire to a peer who is BIPOC who does similar work at another organization.


Keep an eye on their workload. New BIPOC employees who are more experienced or who are supervisors often project confidence, yet have the same instincts and feelings as other new employees. They want to make a good impression. They hope that people will like them. They might be perfectionists. They could be battling imposter syndrome. BIPOC experienced hires may not have spaces at work where they can be vulnerable about this, especially in the early days at a new job. If you are the new hire’s manager, factor in how these very human impulses may play into dynamics at work, including how many projects they voluntarily take on.

Jahna Berry
Chief Operating Officer, Mother Jones

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How to Instill an Entrepreneurial Spirit Across Your Entire Team

Let’s face it — instilling an entrepreneurial spirit across your team doesn’t happen by accident. Stale ideas won’t help a business thrive, especially when there’s no entrepreneurial spirit. Competition is…

Let’s face it — instilling an entrepreneurial spirit across your team doesn’t happen by accident. Stale ideas won’t help a business thrive, especially when there’s no entrepreneurial spirit. Competition is so keen in so many industries that you must separate your business from others. Keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive the way others have been doing it won’t make you stand out from the pack.

Because of technology — even industries with the same basic precepts are wildly different now. For example, consider the news industry; It might still be about reporters who can ask questions, gather facts, and fashion them into a story.

Watch for information, like podcasts you can share with your team that show the entrepreneurial spirit.

Instead of calling people on the phone, banging out a story on a typewriter, and seeing the final product in a front-page headline, reporters can ask those questions via text or email. And those stories that might have lived in newsprint even a generation ago are now being shared on websites, videos, and podcasts.

The changes happening in the world, fueled by technological advances and people’s expectations around those advances, mean your business needs to be iterating and ideating new ideas on the regular. It’s not enough to be merely good anymore.


People up and down the org chart in a company need to think with an entrepreneurial spirit and anticipate what their customers might want, especially with companies like Amazon actively transforming how we experience our interactions with businesses and, indeed, the world.

We have some tips on instilling the entrepreneurial spirit across your entire team, so everyone can contribute to helping your business thrive.


1. Empower people to share new ideas

Even businesses convinced that there are no new ideas possible in their industries should still take time at least a couple of times a year to think differently. As a result, they could develop fresh, new ideas that might drive the innovation the company needs.

Creative brainstorming sessions can even be more frequently needed if you’re in an industry where new ideas are your lifeblood. So, a company that makes apps might want monthly meetings to generate new ideas.

Conversely, a warehouse business might be surprised with how a process embarked on every six months can unlock incredible innovations.

Like Professor Victor Poirier said in a recent Calendar article, almost everyone possesses innovative traits. While they lie dormant for some, a brainstorming meeting with a skilled facilitator (or even an inviting format) can be the key to getting some really unique ideas to the table.

2. Make sure management listens to every employee

The best way to get great ideas from your employees, and make the entrepreneurial spirit thrive is to make sure each team member feels like they’re heard. Empowering people to share ideas is one thing, but employees will be less motivated to share new ones if management doesn’t show they’re at least considering the ideas.


Listening means that there should be time and space set aside to get employee feedback, but it doesn’t need to be traditional meetings — that’s especially true given the last two years where Zoom screens have added a whole new dynamic to meetings.

As Calendar noted in an article on thinking about how teams should coordinate at this moment, “We need to discover new working methods not to spend all our time in meetings and our weekends and nights on ‘serious work.’” If there’s a tool like Slack that connects an office, that can be a tool for “listening” to what employees have to say.

3. Hire the right people (who won’t be okay with the status quo)

Complacency often happens in office settings because the people within them are complacent. Change can be disruptive and even scary. And as such, many people just want their workplaces to be predictable, reliable, and unchanging. But complacency is the enemy of innovation, as it’s hard for people who want things to stay the same to embrace change.

So, from the outset, when you’re in the hiring process, you want to make sure that you’re thinking about the workplace culture that you want to foster. You should design interview questions that gauge how willing candidates are to embrace change and ensure that your workplace culture encourages that change.

This doesn’t just mean putting systems in place that generate new, actionable ideas and then charting the course for change. It also means rewarding employees who have successfully navigated implementing innovation. And it means acknowledging the mental effort that it takes to execute that.


It means checking in along the way and ensuring that employees are doing well to keep their bearings while putting the change into motion. It also means checking in along the way with all team members to make sure they’re “playing well in the sandbox.”

Of course, managers need to keep an eye on the prize and keep perspective on everything going on. But, they should ensure that employees are genuinely navigating the disruption that might occur when making changes, whether that’s adding new team members or new technology.

Additionally, checking in will help them feel taken care of and will help them to stay invested, even when it’s at its most unsettling.


4. Get different perspectives to instill the entrepreneurial spirit

Part of hiring the right people is hiring a diverse group of people. In doing so, you’re getting a number of different perspectives on the status quo and how it needs to be changed. Of course, there are some obvious markers of different perspectives in our society: race, gender, age, and sexual orientation. But, other kinds of diversity can also be sought after and brought into a team.

Where people grew up and the life experiences they’ve had can shape their worldviews considerably. Consequently, it can be helpful to the composition of a workplace team to have those views in the mix.

Dhristi Shah noted, “Engagement means instilling a sense of welcoming and ownership to the employees. When employees are effectively engaged within their organization, they care more about it. They are involved and focused on the well-being of the organization and to help it grow rather than just a monthly paycheck.”

That means as you’re assembling a team, you not only want diversity — but considerable diversity, as opposed to just seeking a single person representing a particular group of people to tick a diversity box. Think about who you’re bringing on. Consider how the new employees will be able to relate to the existing team. And think about how they’ll help each other feel engaged and bring forth their ideas.

5. Encourage and reward good ideas

Employees might be highly invested in a company and its culture. But, they’re going to respond better in a culture where there are tangible rewards for what they do and accomplish. For example, companies offer performance bonuses as incentives for the work employees do. Reward those who innovate in a way that instills and keeps the entrepreneurial spirit alive — and well — in your business.

So, if you’re seeking good ideas from your employees, it stands to reason that you should offer some sort of reward for ideas that will drive the company forward.


In his employee engagement article, Shah also pointed out, “No matter how much you’re paying to your employees, if they do not feel valued and recognized within the company, they won’t stick beside the company. So every company needs to follow a proper recognition structure where the employees’ hard work is brought out in front of everyone.”

So, it’s not just about an employee feeling acknowledged by the management team; It’s also about an acknowledgment that engenders peer recognition. What that reward actually consists of is for you to determine. However, the recognition that comes with it is an essential component of the reward that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive

An entrepreneur is only as good as the team they work with. If you have a solid group of people working towards your shared goal, you have a chance of succeeding.

But when businesses start and fail every day, you need to ensure you’re instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in your employees. This way, they incorporate it into everything they do to truly help your company succeed.

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Don’t Hire for Culture Fit

Hiring for culture fit is among the most widespread and exclusionary hiring practices today. Leaders must concentrate on culture add to be inclusive.

By Ruchika Tulshyan


Tiffany Tate was eagerly awaiting the phone call informing her that she had gotten the job as career center director at a recognized college.

Not only was she qualified—overqualified, in fact—as a college career development expert with two degrees, her interviews with the university’s hiring team had gone exceptionally well. The team was selling the role to her; she had spent ample hours in the interview process including having dinner with the team that she was sure she would be working with.

Tate was excited to move to a beautiful part of North Carolina with her then two-year-old daughter. The role would give her a growth opportunity, she would manage a significant budget, and the person she would be reporting to had bonded with her over the fact that they graduated from the same college.

It was all laughs and smiles. The fact that the 12 people who had interviewed her were all white was par for the course in Tate’s experience in North Carolina. As a Black woman, she had learned to navigate being the only at work.

When the hiring manager called back, she had all but packed her bags. She was ready. “Tiffany, I really hate to call you with this. It was such a tough decision. The search committee struggled with it, and it came down to you and one other person. And they just felt like the other candidate was a better fit. I’m sorry,” he said.

The blood drummed in her ears. Did she hear correctly? But she quickly collected herself, dusting off the disappointment.

“OK, well, can you offer any feedback?” she inquired. “Can you share what would make me a better fit for this role?”

He responded, “No, I just want you to know you asked all the right questions. I don’t have any feedback, I want you to keep being who you are. I love your transparency. You are obviously very skilled at what you do.”

It’s been five years since that day, but Tate remembers those words perfectly.

She wonders, “Weird! I’m not a good fit, but they’re telling me to continue being the way that I am. That doesn’t make any sense.”

When a hiring manager can’t offer constructive feedback, despite a candidate having all the experience and certifications, despite them being able to demonstrate skill in navigating institutional leadership and customers—students in Tate’s case—it’s a red flag. Considering that she had all the pedigree and all the best references, but was then told she wouldn’t fit the culture of the institution, she couldn’t ignore the only noticeable difference she had with everyone on the selection committee and eventually the person they hired: her identity as a Black woman.

“I felt defeated,” she says.

Culture Fit Is Exclusionary

Hiring for culture fit is among the most widespread and exclusionary hiring practices today. When you’re hiring for a fit—given that most companies in Western countries are led by white men—by default, you’re hiring for sameness. “Culture fit” is an unspoken code that people have around what’s acceptable and what’s not within an organization, or even in society.

It reminds me of when I first moved to the United States as an adult in my twenties. When people encountered my unfamiliar name, they frequently asked if there was an easier or shorter way to say it. Depending on the situation, I would come up with an Anglo-Saxon nickname (like Rachel). If I had to interact with them often, say at work, I’d let them call me Ria, removing most of my name to make it easier for them to write or read it.

As I grew older, I got more comfortable with telling people I didn’t have a shorter name and that Ruchika was the only version I would respond to. But even then, for years later, I wouldn’t correct them if they mispronounced it. A common mispronunciation still is for Westerners to call me “Roo-sheek-ah” instead of “Roo-cheek-ah” (like it’s spelled). Now I’ll correct people and remind them until they get it right. In the past, I was so eager to fit into the culture—both what I considered U.S. culture as well as assimilating into the workplace culture. Now I see that my biggest asset is the difference that I add to the culture.

Focus on Culture Add

Rather than focusing on culture fit, organization leaders must concentrate on culture add to be inclusive. A plethora of research shows that harnessing the power of diverse teams leads to better outcomes, such as less groupthink, more innovative solutions, and overall more profitability. My favorite data point, though, is how culture add can lead to justice and fairness.

Tufts University psychologist Samuel Sommers created a mock jury experiment with 200 adults. Some juries were racially mixed with white and Black jurors, and some were all white. After watching a video trial of a Black defendant facing charges of sexual assault, the juries were first to submit their own verdict of guilty or not guilty, and then deliberate as a group. Even prior to deliberation, the mixed juries were nearly 10 percent less likely to presume that the defendant was guilty, compared with the all-white juries. During deliberation, the racially diverse juries had a more thorough consideration of the evidence and deliberated on average for longer, making less factual errors and being more open to discussing the role of racism in the process. In general, even though there may be more debate, or what psychologists call “interpersonal conflict,” when teams are diverse, the benefits of better outcomes far outweigh the drawbacks.

When teams prioritize hiring a candidate who would be a culture add rather than a culture fit, they’re more likely to benefit from out-of-the-box thinking and better outcomes.

Culture Fit Persists

Yet the language of who is a culture fit persists—and one survey of global organization found 84 percent of recruiters look for it in their selection process.

Think back to the last time that you talked about someone being a fit or not. The more trouble you have articulating why a candidate is not a culture fit, the more likely your judgment is biased. Instead, seek to hire people you don’t already have represented, whether by race and gender, educational background and experience, country of origin and languages spoken, or other identities.

Tate, whom we met earlier, is a hiring expert with over a decade of career development experience. She advises her clients to move away from an outdated model of assessing how much you “like” a candidate to how well could they do their jobs.

“The old culture fit model relied on deciding whether to hire someone if you thought you could be stuck in an airport or blizzard with them. It’s a bizarre metric—and riddled with biases, because you would likely choose to be stuck in an airport in a blizzard with someone who looks like you,” she says. But that isn’t the best assessment of who would best perform a job on your team.

Hiring practices that revolve around assessing for culture fit result in bias. One such example? Black women are earning college degrees at record numbers, but remain underrepresented and underpaid in corporate workplaces, with low access to leadership opportunities, as most workplaces still hire for a fit with Eurocentric culture norms.

Structural racism cannot be dismantled overnight, but declaring that your workplace is no longer seeking a culture fit for new roles and disrupting peers when they reject a candidate for not being a culture fit is a quick win. So is creating a workplace environment where diversity and inclusion are valued, and culture add is celebrated.

Ensure that your organization prioritizes the hiring of a diverse range of employees, especially women of color. This is not just HR’s job; it is every manager’s responsibility.

As for Tate? She’s since founded a company where she coaches clients to navigate the recruiting process and advises countless leadership teams and boards on hiring and retention best practices.

During these interactions, she advises her clients to inquire of interviewees, “How will you add to the culture on our team?”

Excerpted from Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work by Ruchika Tulshyan. Reprinted with permission from the MIT Press. Copyright 2022.

Ruchika Tulshyan is an inclusion strategist, CEO of Candour and author of Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work (MIT Press).




How to Start a Consulting Business: Get Ready to Launch

Every day when I walk to my office in Brooklyn, the majority of people are walking in the other direction towards the subway. I assume many of them are heading to their jobs in Manhattan, and by the looks on their faces, that a good number of them are completely miserable. Mind you, it’s 8 am and they’re about to get on a crowded subway train, but I’m sure it runs deeper than that for some people.

It is my assumption and my experience that they’re marching towards a job that doesn’t inspire them or doesn’t pay them enough or doesn’t express who they are beyond what they do. This is one reason why we’re seeing so many professionals consider starting a consulting business. They want to operate in their zone of genius and do so on their own terms. 

I daydream about standing near the subway entrance yelling, “Turn around, come to my office, let me help you!” However, ignoring all the insane things you encounter on a daily basis is a base level coping mechanism for most people who live in NYC, so I don’t think that would work too well. This series of articles will have to do the trick. 

I help consultants monetize their knowledge so they can grow their business without sacrificing their health, family or personal interests. But it all starts with them knowing what they want to do. I know there are all sorts of tests you can take to find your true calling, but I’ll assume you already have an idea of the services you can offer based on your previous experiences. Besides, I took one of those “ideal career” tests in junior high and it said I should be a forest ranger. Ever since then, I’ve somewhat lost faith in a standardized test being able to determine your career. 

Assuming you have a general idea of what you’d like to do or are already offering consulting services, I’m going to detail how you can start or scale your business over a series of articles. Here are the first two steps. 

Do deep research on your target audience

I’m sure you have a target audience in mind, but you’ll need to perform extensive research to make sure you fully understand who they are and how you can help them. This goes beyond a user persona — you’ll need to develop a deep understanding of their psychographics as well.  I strongly suggest creating an Empathy Map. As per HubSpot, “Empathy maps visualize customer needs, condense customer data into a brief chat, and help you consider what customers want — not what you think they want.” You can view an example and a complete guide on how to build one on their website. If this sounds hard, that’s a good thing. Most people will skip this step so it provides you with an opportunity to separate yourself from the pack. 

As the name suggests, an empathy map will help you better connect with your audience. For example, let’s say you’re a sleep consultant. Sure, you know your target audience includes people who have trouble sleeping. You may even have some other basic demographics. Creating an empathy map will allow you to uncover how their lack of sleep impacts their life, how they’ve already tried to solve the problem, where they get information and other nuggets of valuable information. You can then say “I understand what it’s like when people think you’re moody or withdrawn, but the truth is, you’re just under-recovered. I’ll assess your sleep challenges and design a custom plan to help you get a sufficient night’s rest, so you can be the best version of yourself the next day.” That sounds a heck of a lot better than “I’ll help you get more sleep.”

When you do this research, it’s beneficial to focus on people who have already paid money to address the challenges or aspirations you help with. You want to take your cues from people who see the value in the services you offer. This is your audience, not just people who have a need for what you provide. 

If at all possible, you’ll want to get this information directly from these individuals through surveys and individuals. I understand this may not be an option for everyone, so I suggest performing social listening as well. As per Sprout Social: “Social listening refers to analyzing the conversations and trends happening not just around your brand, but around your industry as a whole, and using those insights to make better marketing decisions.” Let’s go back to the sleep consultant. She could follow #insomnia on Twitter and Instagram to research her target audience. For you, it might be #newparent or #relocating. Just find the hashtags that make sense for your audience. is a free tool that will help you discover popular hashtags based on the keywords you enter.  

Define their problems and develop a solution

Now that you have a better understanding of your audience, you can craft a solution that addresses their specific challenges or aspirations. This is where being an expert can actually hinder you. It’s vitally important to craft this solution from your audience’s perspective. Minor details that seem obvious to you may be a critical step on their journey. If you fail to mention it, they may not think you understand them or are capable of helping them. 

Since I’m not a sleep consultant, I’ll talk about the clients that I do help: other consultants. 

Although every situation is unique, there are general themes I hear in regard to their challenges.

  • How much should I charge?
  • How do I get more clients?
  • How do I present myself?
  • How do I create proposals and contracts?

The questions you hear will inform the solution you create. When creating this solution it’s extremely beneficial to map things out in a way that is easy for your audience to understand, while also deploying empathy. This is the solution I offer clients in my consultant training program

Clarity: We’ll nail down the services you offer, how much to charge, who you offer them to, and why you’re their obvious choice

Process: Focus on doing what you love by implementing routines, apps and services to streamline your business process

Branding and marketing: You’ll learn how to position yourself, provide value to your audience and perform “passive prospecting” through in-person events, media mentions and podcasts

Pitching and proposals: I’ll supply you with training and templates to make this part simple, pain-free and predictable

Fulfillment: From onboarding to relationship management, I’ll teach you how to deliver on the promises you’ve made with a systematic approach

My goal is to demonstrate an understanding of their challenges, and a defined path towards resolution. Often, a prospect will say “I don’t need help with that, but I really need help with this part you mentioned.” That’s totally fine, my goal is to reflect the journey then refine it based on their needs. 

Back to you. What journey will you take your clients on? Developing this narrative is extremely important. Unfortunately, I see many consultants exhaust themselves trying to develop and reinforce a unique differentiator. Your audience doesn’t want unique, they want to be understood. Once you prove you understand their challenges, they’ll want to hear about your plan to solve them. That’s it.

Packaging your solution in a concise and understandable way also makes it much easier to navigate sales or prospecting calls. You won’t say, “Um well, it kinda depends on, let’s see here…” You’ll simply say, “I have a process to address your situation. Now, I know every situation is unique, but this process is aligned with the outcomes you’re seeking. So long as we follow the process, we can be as creative as we’d like while still reaching the goals we’ve established.” From there, you can walk through your process and address their unique situation as you go along. 


Next Steps:

Perform audience research. If possible, connect with people who have paid for the service you offer, or something similar in the past. As a bonus, this will also help you determine pricing, which we’ll address in the next article.

Develop your solution. Based on your research, and your area of expertise, determine how you can help. It’s perfectly fine if you can’t address every challenge they have. You want to operate in your zone of genius and not overstate what you’re capable of.

A Consultant’s View On Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable!

Between two trapezes – The Transition Zone!

Don’t you feel like life is a series of trapeze swings? You either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in life, hurtling across space in between trapeze bars, hanging on for dear life to the trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. Today the moment is Covid-19. Six months into the pandemic, it’s carrying us along at a certain steady rate of swing with the feeling that ‘I’m in control of my life.’ I now think I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

As I move from one point to another, it’s that in-between, uncertain time of letting go and waiting to grab the next thing – a new trapeze bar, that’s the most challenging at the best of times and for some, even debilitating.

I know that this new trapeze is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar or old world and move to the new one, the world ahead.

We really do not like change, so part of me hopes that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. In that transition, the uncertainty & unknown, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in the past, I have previously made it. I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks between bars. I do it anyway and leap ahead. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I have noticed that this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming toward me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives. But we can only experience it by being fully present in it!

We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore.


True transformation is about giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, allows ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. In the transition, we just may learn how to fly. 

As Covid’s dizzying spin starts to slow, leaders steel themselves for the long road to recovery. An essential early step will be effectively addressing the anxieties of millions of workers worried about the future of their work and their health. Given the pain of this moment, leaders are urged to handle the journey’s challenges mindfully with resilience, authenticity, and connection.

With the ringing injunction to “normalize the new” and get back on the treadmill.  If leaders want to use this moment to do more than return worried, distracted employees to old jobs they once knew, we need to still the maelstrom in our minds; most of all, we need to break the semi-automated responses that continue to chain us to the old trapeze. If we don’t, we will find ourselves frantically doing the same things yet expecting a different result. We must become comfortable with the uncomfortable and embrace the suck.

To embrace the suck means to have discipline. Having that mental toughness to see the hard work through to the end. You continue with the hard-charging attitude of being able to keep moving forward and never give up.

We are wired for survival and staying in comfort – every fiber in our being wants to hold on to the old trapeze and not let go, but nothing will come of staying put; we have to keep moving. “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you are not going to stay where you are,” JP Morgan

According to a Green Beret, Jason Van Camp, there are 7 ways to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

1. Start.

The first step is always the most uncomfortable. All you have to do is show up. The battle is half won if you just show up.

2. Don’t quit.

You’ve decided to start. You do not see the results. It’s difficult. You want to quit. It’s OK. Just keep pushing forward. That voice in your head is going to make you think of a way out. Don’t do it. Don’t give yourself an out.

3. Push yourself past your comfort zone.

At some point, you are going to say to yourself, “I’ve never done this before” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.” We’ve all been there. Here’s a trick: Just pretend to be confident. Fake it till you make it.

4. Embrace “the suck.”

The situation is bad–deal with it. And don’t just deal with it–open your arms and welcome it as you would an old friend. You know him well. You are building your mental and physical toughness.

5. Be around like-minded people.

Create a support network. Talk about your experiences. The worse the experience it is to you, the better the story it is to everyone else.

6. Recognize your improvements.

Track your progress. Revel in it. You are now a changed person. You know it because you see it. Build your confidence by going back to what before was uncomfortable and go through the experience again.

7. Rinse. Repeat.

“repetition is the mother of learning.”

The more you perform the same activity, the more confident you become. Confidence is a tangible thing–it comes from practice and repetition.


Perhaps the most difficult part of this pandemic is the uncertainty we are all facing.  Uncertainty about how contagious and deadly Coronavirus is.  Uncertainty about the travel that we have planned.  Uncertainty about the economy. Uncertainty about our jobs. But the real world is highly uncertain, and that can be uncomfortable. So, to succeed, we must keep moving, take that next step in faith, and welcome in the discomfort of the transition zone as you reach for your new trapeze of growth.


-Priyal Ramdass

How to Use Your Expertise to Start a Consulting Business

We all reach a point in our careers when we start getting questions about our experience or expertise. Perhaps you’ve been asked if you can do someone a favor and “look something over.” Or maybe someone has even asked if they can pay you for a consulting session. Perhaps you tapped into a new way to create marketing campaigns or conduct market research that you know other people would want to know about. Whatever your expertise is, it’s likely you’ve felt the tug at one time or another to offer consulting services

Here’s how to get started marketing your expertise to do just that.

1. Understand your unique expertise, then offer it for free.

Of course, the first step to starting a consulting side hustle is to know what it is you have to offer. This could be based on experiences you’ve had or an area of specialty you’ve studied at length. Depending on your reputation in your industry, you could go out there and immediately start selling sessions. But, you’ll have more luck on sales calls and in marketing yourself if you have clear deliverables on what you’ve done for companies and individuals in the past. 

So, commit to working for 2-3 companies for free at first. This will give you a good sense of your consulting style, and there’s a clear difference between being able to say, “I can help you increase your profit margin” and “I helped two companies triple their profit margin.” Potential clients want to hear about clients you’ve worked in the past. The Ambition Plan writes that offering to work for free is also a great way to “meet and spend time with influential people in your industry.” Get out there and show them what you have to offer!

2. Craft an offer and a payment plan. 

Once you get some experience under your belt, craft an offer that makes sense. Choosing a price is also why it’s so important to know what exactly you can do for companies or individuals. If you help companies hit six figures in their first six months, it’s reasonable to charge at a higher price tag than if you just “help companies become profitable quickly.” Cory Jean, a credit and receivables consultant, noted to this end that, “Clients respond well to numbers. Telling potential clients exact percentages in sales growth helps them understand the full picture of what their investment in you is, and what it will reward them with.” 

Then, figure out if you’ll offer consulting on a retainer or just on one-off sessions. Both serve different purposes. If you have one core branding strategy session for startups, perhaps it will just be a two-hour immersive meeting at one set price. But, if you help with a longer-term strategy and go into the trenches with them, a retainer would be more appropriate. Consulting services usually go on retainer.

3. Create materials promoting your consulting business. 

It’s important that all numbers associated with your consulting promises are listed somewhere; ideally on a funnel or a landing page. Create the exact specifications of what your consulting services entail, including hours spent in 1:1 meetings, materials included, and what the potential client can expect to learn and get from you. The more specific you can be, the better. Make sure to write to their pain points and rely heavily on past experiences for credibility.

Then, brand strategist Erin Feree recommends marketing through a blog, a newsletter, and a small website. Create more succinct versions of your sales script, such as small paragraphs that can be used as a bio on blogs or in the “about” section on a newsletter.

4. Engage in content marketing.

Finally, remember that the best way to demonstrate your expertise to your audiences online is to release content associated with what you consult on. This type of content is often referred to as “top of the funnel content,” and will give potential clients a taste for your style and insights, thus establishing trust. They need to be able to see your obvious expertise in order to want to hire you. 

Do you offer social media consulting? Post a few social media tips a week. Do you offer HR consulting? Post a few HR tips or stories a week. Over time, this will begin to equate with your brand and appeal to your audience. If you feel like you’re running out of content, Tsavo Neil recommends asking your audience what they’re struggling with. The more you can start to solve their problems, the more they’ll see you as the industry leader. 

Over time, as you continue to land clients and help them, you’ll have enough case studies and numerical evidence to expand your consulting business beyond a side hustle. You have something to share and a way to help entrepreneurs or businesses; get out there and show them!

4 Things You Should Change About Your Email Marketing

More than 306 billion. That’s how many emails were expected to be sent and received each day in 2020, according to Statista. With millions of companies switching to remote work and brands sending more emails, the number may well exceed Statista’s prediction this year.

 is performing better than it has in a long time. There’s been a spike of 200 percent in engagement since March, writes Ray Schultz of MediaPost, a clear sign that people are spending a lot more time in their inboxes.

What are they looking for, and how can your respond? Moreover, how can you anticipate your customers’ needs and expectations? Being quick to adapt is vital. Let’s take a look at four things you should consider changing in using email for marketing.

1. Prune your lists more often

If you used to clean your email lists of bad contacts every quarter, email hygiene involves more initiative right now. Think about the massive loss of jobs across almost all continents and industries. In the U.S., the unemployment rate is 11.1 percent. Although that’s a decline compared to March and April, millions of business-to-business () email addresses are now invalid.

“We’ve gotten feedback from customers that many of their B2B email addresses are bouncing,” ZeroBounce COO Brian Minick told me. No surprise there. Many businesses have had to reduce their staff or shut down permanently. That’s awful for the people involved, and it also poses a risk to email marketers. “To avoid deliverability issues, we recommend keeping an eye on your bounce rate,” Minick added. “If it’s above the industry benchmark of 2 percent, you know it’s time to validate your contacts again.”

2. Be empathetic and offer practical help

Your message and the way you convey it can make the difference between choosing your business or cutting you out of their lives for good. “People can be very sensitive, especially during a crisis. Some of your customers may be facing countless challenges right now,” says InvoiceBerry founder and CEO Uwe Dreissigacker. How is your business there for them?

“You don’t have to mention the pandemic in every email you send,” Dreissigacker elaborates. “Rather, ask yourself: Is this helpful to my audience? How can I show more clearly that I care? Make sure to run your content by your PR department and all the executives/ There may be nuances you fail to catch. More eyeballs looking at your emails means fewer risks.”

Expressing  during difficult times is common sense, but words are not enough. Back them up with practical, immediate assistance. Make the crisis easier to bear with offers that help your customers the most. Can’t figure out what that is? Use email to encourage conversations and run a survey if you can. The sooner you get to the bottom of your customers’ problems, the more prompt and relevant your response will be.

3. Be more aware of spam complaints

Here’s a cliché. No matter how good your intentions are, someone is going to be unhappy. It applies to email, too.

It could be that your newsletter or marketing offer came at a bad time. Or perhaps the person feels you shouldn’t be running any promotions during the crisis. By labeling you as spam, these subscribers are telling inbox providers that your content is bothering them.

More than one spam complaint about every 1,000 emails is worrisome. Abuse emails — accounts that belong to frequent complainers — will taint your sender reputation and cause your future campaigns to land in spam or be blocked altogether. You can’t afford that, especially if you’re hardly keeping your business afloat. To secure your spot in the inbox, be more diligent about removing complainers.

Apart from weeding them out from your list, you can also prevent them from getting there in the first place. An email verification API checks every subscriber’s email address in real-time and rejects the bad ones — including abuse emails.

4. Stick to a consistent sending schedule

Speaking of spam complaints, a simple way to keep them under control is by following a consistent sending schedule. Being punctual fosters familiarity, so your subscribers are less likely to feel your messages are spam.

Emily Ryan, an email strategist and co-founder of Westfield Creative, confirms, “When you stay consistent, your readers stay engaged. If you send one email and then don’t show up for two months, you risk getting unsubscribers the next time you email.”

Nervous about emailing people too often? “Just remember they want and expect to hear from you,” Ryan continues. “Whether you send something once a month or once a week, showing up for your subscribers is so important. One of the biggest things we do for our clients is to help them stay consistent with their email campaigns. After determining a frequency that aligns with their overall marketing goals, we make sure to stick to an email campaign calendar. A simple spreadsheet works. Also, we constantly monitor the need to increase or decrease the consistency if there are too many unsubscribes happening.”

So, create your own calendar, fill it up with content ideas, and stick to it. “Even if it’s a short, simple email,” Ryan concludes, “show up for your people.”

5 Questions Every Consultant Must Ask During a Sales Call

What’s the easiest way for a consultant to completely flop on a sales call? Talking about yourself the whole time. I help consultants efficiently scale their business, and this is one of the most common mistakes I see them make. I know it can be challenging. You may have been taught to perfect your elevator pitch or to speak about some magical proprietary process you developed. Unfortunately, your prospects don’t want to hear your sales pitch or about your unique approach — they want to be understood. And once you prove you understand their challenges, they’ll want to hear about your plan to solve them. That’s it.

You shouldn’t even think of it as a sales call, it’s an enrollment conversation. At the end, you want them to be excited about the potential of partnering with you. You never want to feel like you talked them into doing something they didn’t fully understand, or aren’t completely committed to. 

That dreaded “sales-y” feeling

If you’re not overly “sales-y,” the selling part of your consulting business can be terrifying. Fortunately, you don’t need to be sales-y. You just need to have a genuine desire to help your clients. Beyond that, with the right process in place, you’ll most likely never need to do any cold calling. Instead, you can connect with prospects through referrals or a lead magnet on your website.

A lead magnet is content you provide in exchange for a prospect’s contact information such as a guide or checklist. A good lead magnet solves a real problem and is specific to your intended audience. Mine is an eBook “The 10 Biggest Mistakes Entrepreneurs make on Social Media and What You Should Do Instead”. If you don’t already have something like this in place, you should make a plan to do so. These conversations go much easier when you’ve already proven your value and expertise. 

When chatting with a prospect you should be listening more than you talk, but you’ll need to make sure you’re receiving the right information. These are the five questions you must ask during any enrollment conversation.

1. What’s going on and how is it affecting your business/personal life?


You most likely have some information before entering this conversation. You can use that to tee things up, but you’ll still want them to essentially start from scratch. The more information you can get about their specific need, the better you’ll be able to explain how you can help them, assuming that you can. If you can’t help them, this is the time to make that known. Maybe you have a colleague who can, or you have some resources that might help, but the whole “fake it till you make it” approach is a good way to damage your reputation and it’s not right to waste someone’s time and money. Hopefully, you’re still in a position to help them, and you can continue asking probing questions. 

If you’re able to quantify revenue impact, this will make it easier for you to explain your fees later on. You’ll be able to show them a clear ROI from the partnership. If you can help someone make $80,000 and your fee is $10,000, it’s clearly a good investment. However, some challenges aren’t associated with revenue, such as the inability to get a sufficient night’s sleep. In this case, you’ll want to better understand how this problem is affecting their personal life. 

Take notes, and ask them to pause if necessary. It’s not rude, you’re proving that you have a genuine need to understand their challenge. 

2. What have you already tried to address this problem?

Again, you don’t want to start talking about yourself until you have a better understanding of their challenge. Their response will help you in a few ways:

  • You won’t recommend solutions that have already failed for a legitimate reason.
  • You’ll be able to course-correct solutions that could have been successful with the proper guidance.

Beyond that, you’ll get a better insight into how important it is for them to solve for this challenge, and the pain associated with this resolution. This is also your time to show genuine empathy by paraphrasing and hypothesizing.

For example: “It sounds like you’ve been working on this for a while, I imagine it’s been a drain on morale and productivity implementing one solution after another.”

3. What are some approaches or resources you haven’t explored yet?

This can easily be one of the most unselfish questions you ask. Together, you may both determine there’s another internal resource or someone they could hire full-time to solve this challenge. You may be able to assist or reengage if the problem persists after they attempt to solve it on their own. Your goal is to help them resolve their problem, even if they don’t need you to do it. 

Again, this is an unselfish approach, but it will go a long way in boosting your reputation for being trustworthy and solutions-oriented. I’ve consulted myself out of job opportunity during this phase, only to receive a referral from the same prospect months later. 

4. What would need to happen in order for you to feel good about our results? What outcomes are you looking for?

This is a paraphrased version of an approach developed by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach. Get ready to take notes on their response. They’ll tell you exactly what they want from you, and — inadvertently — exactly what would earn you a referral or testimonial. You’ll also hear more about their vision. Just talking about this vision will make it more tangible for them, and you can position yourself as the person who will help them get there.

Paraphrase this response back to them, reinforce any poignant or mission-critical aspects of what they said. Once this part is complete, you can start talking more about how you can help achieve this vision. Again, only move forward if you’re certain you can help them achieve their goals. 

5. Would you like my help?

This is a simple but powerful question I began using based on the advice by Mike Koenigs, Advisor and CEO of

Always ask this question during the conversation, overtly. This can lead to a no, yes or they’ll ask more probing questions. Don’t say, “Well, I can send you some more information.” Or ”Would you like to think about it and set up another time to call?” Just ask. If they want more information or to think about it, they’ll tell you. 

Of course, you should only ask this question if you actually want to work with the client. You want to be a friend of their future, not just a service provider. 

This can be a challenging question, but you’ll have a more immediate understanding of how things are going and can start planning any necessary next steps. Hopefully, things go well. If not, you’ll be able to better focus on the next opportunity. 

Final thoughts on consulting sales calls

It’s important to remember that the prospect wants this call to go well. They have a problem and believe you may be able to assist. This isn’t a contentious situation, so you should be relaxed. Focus on being who you are, listening to their needs and enjoying the conversation. The best version of yourself is all you need to be, and you can’t do that if you’re trying to be someone you’re not.

Memo to Expert Service Providers: Carve Yourself a Unique Niche

When you ask an average business audience to name the first person to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic, most people know it was Charles Lindbergh. Most can also name Amelia Earhart as the first woman to achieve that feat.

But silence usually prevails when people are asked to name the second or third aviator to do it. The fact that the third person was Earhart reveals an important facet of human psychology, namely that we tend to remember people and things based on their category rather than as part of the broader whole. If you are the first or the best, that tends to stick.

Consultants and professional service providers would do well to heed this lesson at a time when they’re swimming in an ever-expanding pond of similar firms. There are an estimated 700,000 business consulting firms globally, and many of their services are fast becoming commodities.

Whether it’s getting help on an audit or installing Salesforce, customers know they’re going to get similar types of people and services from the industry.

Figure out what makes you special

Rather than keep fishing in these vast waters, expert service providers need to shrink their pond by honing in on what they do best. So you can’t be the best barbecue restaurant in town? Fine. But maybe instead of being the second or third best maybe you can position yourself as the premier dry-rib joint.

Carving out a niche for your practice — whether you are self-employed or running a practice inside a bigger company — takes on even greater importance when you consider how technology has dispersed an industry’s clientele across the globe. It’s harder for these far-flung clients to differentiate between one provider and another. The way to cut through this absence of signal is to be the worldwide expert at one particular thing.

The simplest way to position yourself as a niche expert is to focus on your most successful case studies. Where have you achieved the best results and added the most value to clients?

Build on your successes to create a niche


Your practice may have the ability to help any kind of management team, but perhaps, for instance, it’s worked closely with several mining companies and achieved strong improvements to their supply chain. Backed by this record, maybe you should try to build a niche as the world’s only practice that helps mining sector COOs to drive down costs and control their supply chains.

I know one law firm with a regulatory practice that was maybe good enough to make the top 200 firms in the country based on reputation. But it happened to be based in Colorado and California where those states have legalized cannabis and hemp in recent years.

The firm has leveraged that geographical advantage to build a practice around helping cannabis and hemp companies navigate regulations and is now fast on its way to becoming the number-one law firm in the country in that niche.

Create channels to put your expertise on display

After deciding what pond you want to dominate, you can start taking steps to cement your ownership of it. You might publish articles on it or create a regular newsletter highlighting recent trends in order to achieve name recognition among those who matter.

You might seek speaking engagements or fund cocktail parties at relevant events. The aim is to narrowcast, not broadcast. We know that it only takes a small collection of select clients to build a successful practice so focus on the 200-300 executives globally who can make this happen.

Once you’ve dominated a niche, you can extend that success by entering adjacent niches. You’ve done great work with North American mining companies, so maybe an expansion to South American mining firms would work. Or perhaps you could expand into supply-chain solutions for agricultural commodities and hire people accordingly.

Resist the urge to be multi-faceted

None of this is rocket science but there can be hurdles. Perhaps the most common objection heard from providers is not wanting to downplay or give up on all the other wonderful things they can do. This misses the point. It can be fine to do other things, as long as you have a clean, crisp go-to-market strategy in your chosen niche.

Your niche practice should have its own microsite that occupies a relevant URL and features 2 to 3 illustrated case studies explaining how you helped people. If you’re part of a larger family of companies, it’s fine to point that out on the site; just don’t throw everything on this particular website with drop-down menus for each specialty.

If your mining sector expertise, for instance, is displayed alongside your achievements in crypto-currency accounting, it’s going to dilute your credibility as a specialist and erode your target customer’s trust in your ability to get the job done.

Keep things simple and direct and that focus can bring surprising results.