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Business Development

Build Consulting Referral Network

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Beginning consultants schedule endless breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings to talk about how they're going to make referrals to one another. And nothing ever comes of it. If you can't make referrals to someone, don't expect them magically to make referrals to you. It must be a two-way street. [I know . . . I know. Sometimes there are exceptions.]

In this case, I sat down with an employment attorney who was in a position to send me substantial business because he worked for major corporations. I could also make strong referrals to him. These are the notes we exchanged after a breakfast meeting.

From: Phillip Ashley
To: Bill Frank
Sent: October 15, 20— 11:27 AM
Subject: Thanks

It was great to see you this morning.  You look terrific and it sounds as though you have a lot of neat projects going.  As I mentioned, I will certainly do what I can to promote you and your organization to clients.  I hope that you will think of me if one of your clients is in the need for labor and/or employment law assistance.

Again, thanks for breakfast.  Let's not wait so long to do it again.
Next time, I'll buy!

From: Bill Frank
To: Phillip Ashley
Sent: October 15, 20— 02:12 PM
Subject: Phil, Great breakfast meeting . . .

Thank you, Phil. You beat me to the "thank you" card, but I was planning a similar note to you. It's always fun to see you and learn about life in your world.

As we left the breakfast table, you said you'd like to find out what we're doing, so you could make referrals. Here are three offerings to consider:

  1. Executive Coaching. When companies are pulling their hair out over senior management "people issues," we can achieve performance improvement and turnaround—or else quietly guide the executive(s) to the door and into a new career elsewhere.
  2. Mentoring. We're establishing a company-wide mentoring program for KPMG, where we train senior partners to mentor up-and-comers. This is transferable into any company, and it would work very well in law firms.
  3. Outplacement. Any company laying off one person, or 6,000 (as in the case of Coca Cola), is a potential prospect for us. My personal comfort level is with senior executives with complicated lives and careers.
Phil, I'd like to ask you to do the same for me. Please send me three ideas I can market for you. I'll pass them onto the staff, as well, and we'll direct some business your way.  

Best wishes, always,

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William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.