The Consultant’s Dilemma – Marketing or Consulting?

It was April 1st, 1986.  After a brief stint at Bank of Boston (now part of Bank of America), I decided to leave to start a new company — Lewtan Technologies.  I had no money, very little experience, and only a general idea about what I wanted to do (something to do with “bridging the gap between technology and complex finance”).  In those days, 23 year-old startup founders did not get showered with love nor startup money the way they sometimes are today.  It was not going to be easy.

To bootstrap the company,  I dropped $4,000 on a Compaq “luggable” computer (30 pounds with a 20Mb hard drive), setup a desk at my kitchen table, and hung out my shingle as an independent consultant.  I was young and optimistic.

Several weeks thereafter, I had a lucky break.  My former boss from the Bank hired me as a consultant for a three week project that would eventually last a year and a half and put Lewtan Technologies on the map.   I was working hard and making money.  Things were looking up.

But throughout the entire Bank of Boston project I felt uneasy and exposed.  I was working 80 hours a week on the project, so I did not have enough time to build a pipeline of new clients.  The unsettled feeling was so pronounced, I even gave it a name “The Consultant’s Dilemma”. 

“When I was consulting, I was not marketing.  When I was marketing, I was not consulting.”

When the project came to an end I had to scramble to find new clients.  Fortunately, I was successful in landing a few, but these projects were smaller, required more client management and had different types of deliverables than the bank project.  To address this growth (a good problem), I had to add staff.  Now I had to manage staff, work on projects, AND try to invest time and money in marketing.  This was not an easy period.  Adding employees was downright scary  because the consultant’s dilemma continued to create headwinds until we grew to about 20 employees.  At one point, I had to dig into the money my wife (who worked with and believed in what we were doing) and I received at our wedding in order to cover a cash shortfall and meet our swelling payroll.

Fortunately, the gamble paid off and the company was able to escape from the dilemma’s gravitational pull.  With the help of an experienced management team, top notch sales force, and substantial marketing budget, Lewtan Technologies grew into a 100+ person company with offices in Waltham and London.  At the end of 2004, Lewtan Technologies was sold to DMG Information (a subsidiary of the London-based Daily Mail Group).

Even though the story had a happy ending, those painful memories stay with me.  The reason I wanted to share them is because I know that a lot of the experts on the Zintro platform are independent consultants or work for  small consultancies.  They are faced with the consultant’s dilemma every day.  Although these consultants may be very knowledgeable about their specific areas of expertise, many do not have a lot of experience with (or simply do not enjoy) marketing.

Zintro, Inc

The good news is that the Internet has made services like Zintro possible – which can make marketing for independent consultants or small consultancies much more affordable and less time consuming.  Over the coming weeks and months, I will share a series of posts with tips about ways to break through the consultant’s dilemma.  These tips are based on both my own experiences as well as best practices shared by other Zintro Experts.

Zintro Experts, do you have your own experiences to share?  If so, please share your best stories and practices (click here) or post a comment below.  If they are included in a blog post, you will be prominently cited with a link to your profile (this is good marketing!).  Also, I am eventually planning on weaving these posts together into an eBook and perhaps even a print book.  If included, you would also be cited in those publications.

My next post (click here) discusses the differences between marketing within your personal (business colleagues, friends of friends, etc.) network and outside (advertising, online marketing, services like Zintro, etc.) of it.  The differences are constantly changing, very real and require very different strategies and tactics.

Stuart Lewtan

Founder & CEO, Zintro Inc.

 

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