Achieving real consulting success starts with your discipline, your conversations, and your commitment to making positive change.
In today’s episode, I’m joined by Jon DeWaal, a life transition specialist who helps people work through the personal side effects of making major life transitions. He describes his work as counseling, coaching, career counseling, and spiritual direction, all rolled into one. Jon has joined me today to discuss the questions you can ask yourself about your level of discipline, commitment to success, and ability to affect meaningful change in your growing consulting business. We examine the need to make changes in your business before you hit the bottom, the importance of discipline and conversations, and the difference between consultants who wish they could get things done and the ones who are willing to put in the work to make things happen, all on this episode of The Consulting Success Podcast with Jon DeWaal.
Writing The Best Story For Your Life
It took falling off a roof to make Jon realize that he wasn’t living the life he wanted.
Fresh out of college, Jon had spent four years building up a business as an independent contractor when his life suddenly — and unexpectedly — started down a new path. After the fall, Jon found himself lying in a hospital bed examining his life situation. He reluctantly and painfully admitting that he no longer wanted to do the same work he had been doing, and a new chapter began. He started exploring different options with a close friend and mentor, and after realizing that he was part of a story that he no longer wanted to be in, Jon knew that change was on the horizon.
Once he started contemplating the stories that he did want to see in his future, Jon realized that what he wanted more than anything was to make a meaningful impact on the world. More so than his potential house or salary size, Jon wondered what it would look like to leave a mark on a person. To use his gifts and strengths on their behalf, and to become a force that provoked with really good questions, a strong sense of presence, and a source of invitation — to help others see a different story for their personal and professional future.
There is a good chance that you became a consultant because you have found yourself at a similar crossroads in your career. Taking the leap into consultancy might have meant a major shift in your life story, as well. If so, you’ll want to listen on to hear more about the success that Jon found once he began pursuing his new life dream.
Main Challenges of Business Owners
Every business owner is faced with a barrage of challenges, questions, and problems. The first challenge that Jon admits to dealing with, even with his own work, is the feeling of never spending enough time working on your business. Instead, business owners often find themselves down in the trenches doing work for the business. Too often, business owners haven’t built boundaries for themselves. They don’t have a clear focus on the direction that they want their business to go, and that can cause major problems with the growth of a company.
Jon shares an example of a small company in Seattle that quickly grew from $250,000 to over $1 million in revenue. Because they weren’t adequately prepared for this growth, too much of their time was spent in reactive mode — putting out fires — and they needed the guidance of someone like Jon to help them refocus and move forward with their work. He asks deep and meaningful questions while helping businesses through this significant growth transition, including,
“Who are you now as a business?”
“What does it mean to create space and time to lead this organization differently?”
These are not questions that can be answered, or acted upon, easily, but they are questions that you need to ask yourself. Examining your company’s weaknesses and identifying areas of needed growth is essential to the health of your business. There has to be dedicated space within each week, month, and year in order to effectively lead an organization rather than just stay in it day after day. Some of these ideas may seem new and overwhelming as your business starts to grow up, but taking the time to answer these questions and effect meaningful change in your business will offer you tremendous rewards.
Many of Jon’s clients feel bombarded with the daily work, projects, and emergencies that every consultant faces — delivering on client projects, handling personal and professional situations and balancing a busy work schedule. There never seems to be enough time to dedicate productive time to work on the business, rather than just working in it. Does this sound familiar to you?
The Number One Reason You Aren’t Focused
So many clients that I talk to have the same problem — they aren’t spending enough time working on their business. Even though they know deep down that they need to spend more focused time growing and developing their business, they just can’t seem to find a way to make it happen. Jon has seen the same thing in his work, and he has an explanation for it. Jon shares what he believes is the number one reason for not getting the most important things done, and that is an overall lack of discipline.
A lack of discipline creates so many problems in businesses, in particular with getting things done. Disciplines are essential to the success and health of your company, and they are so valuable because they help contain the creative places. Jon ask his clients some hard questions here as well —
“What does it mean to actually own your schedule?”
“Do you know where the value-adding activities are as you work to distinguish yourself in the marketplace?”
“What do you need to become more of in your role as a business owner?”
Asking yourself these kinds of questions can help you develop a core language and real sense of identity for your business as it grows. Once you understand the beliefs that are driving your behaviors, it becomes easier to form new habits that will help to drive your business forward and help you reach the milestones you’ve set for your consultancy.
The Key Role of Commitment
I see a lot of consultants that will tell you that they want to grow their business — on the surface. But there is a big difference between those who are truly committed and those who are simply interested in making growth changes. Too many consultants spend their time talking about their plans for change, but when it actually comes time for taking action, they find reasons and excuses to not put in the work that is required to get it done.
You can wish for things to happen in your business, but it’s only when you really want to put in the work that things will really start to happen. It’s usually only when the pain has grown to a point that you decide you’re willing to do the hard work of creating new disciplines tied to the commitments that you want for your business that change starts to happen.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for you! You don’t have to get to the point of pain to set goals and make change happen in your consultancy. You need to listen to my conversation with Jon to find out how you can avoid hitting that low point before taking your business to a higher level. There will have to be trade-offs in order to achieve the higher level of consulting success that you have been seeking, but it will be worth it.
Change is a natural and essential part of growing your business, and you don’t need to fear it. Change does not mean that things are going wrong. If you can embrace change and the uncertainty that can come with it, you may just find that even better things are about to happen for your business. You need to consider how you can apply the advice that Jon shares during our conversation in a very honest way and you may find that it will provide an even greater value for you.
Building A Network and Securing New Clients
For the past eight years, Jon has made a dedicated effort to expand his network in every way possible. In addition to his work with clients, he also teaches at a local educational institution, has weekly meetings with his network in BNI (Business Network International), and is a member of his local Chamber of Commerce. Each of these steps to build his network requires a measure of discipline and builds awareness around the work that he does.
When he was about four years into his work, Jon reached the point that he was able to choose the kinds of clients that he wanted to work with. This is a milestone that every consultant wants to reach, and for Jon, it took years of disciplined work to achieve. There were moments of disappointment and setbacks, but Jon surrounded himself with people that encouraged him to keep moving forward, and the payoff has made it all worth it.
Jon shares two words of advice for any consultant that wants to meet the milestones of success as soon as possible. First, there is great value in writing — sharing your content through newsletters, blog posts, and articles has the power to increase your credibility substantially. Trust in yourself and don’t be afraid to put your content out there for the world to learn from. It does require discipline, but the benefits it brings to your company will quickly become apparent.
The second piece of advice he shares is to have the discipline to maintain positive and encouraging relationships no matter how busy your work and life become. For some, that may come through personal friendships, others it will be with a mentor or coach. Whatever it is for you, make sure that you take time to maintain the relationships that will help support you on your road to success.
If you’ve been listening to The Consulting Success Podcast for any amount of time, you will recognize some of these same themes popping up, posing the need to ask yourself some hard and honest questions about your commitment to the success of your consultancy —
“Are you disciplined enough to have continual conversations within your network?”
“Are you committed to making meaningful and necessary changes for your consulting business?”
If you’re unsure of your answers to these questions, along with the questions Jon posed earlier, then you need to listen to this episode. I know you will gain great insight into ways that you can increase your discipline and commit to real change as you listen to my conversation with Jon DeWaal on this episode of The Consulting Success Podcast.
[:17] Introducing Jon DeWaal — life transition specialist, fall survivor, and asker of hard questions.
[8:37] The most common challenge that business owners face is their busy-ness.
[10:23] The need for real discipline and a lasting commitment to growing your business.
[16:14] The benefits of embracing change as it comes to your consultancy.
[21:04] Jon’s advice for building a business and securing new clients.
[24:29] The value of sharing your content and maintaining your relationships.
[29:48] How you can connect with Jon.