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power of vulnerability for consultants

Be Vulnerable: A Consultant’s Perspective On The Power of Vulnerability

By Michael Zipursky
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When should you be vulnerable in your business? 

On a chilly April afternoon in Chicago, Sam and I were speaking with Perry Marshall.

We were in the boardroom, brainstorming ideas on how to create a stronger bond with our community and build the Consulting Success® brand.

We wanted to tell our story in a more effective way — but we were stuck.

Then, Perry said…

“Tell your community what makes you tick. Tell them about your ups and downs. Tell them where you came from, where you’re at, and why you do what you do…”

Then it hit us.

We decided to make a documentary to share the inside story of Consulting Success®.

But not just any documentary…one where we let our guard down and go deeper into our personal lives.

It was time to drop the professional façade — and just be vulnerable.

Now, well over a year after sharing the documentary, I can say with confidence that it’s one of the best things we’ve done for our business.

Our clients, who come from countries around the world, talk about how the short film resonated with them.

Everyone business owner I’ve spoken to who has mustered up the courage to be vulnerable and share their story says the same thing:

It’s had a profound impact on their professional life.

Watch the video below to learn about the power of being vulnerable as a consultant:

By the end of this post, you’ll learn why it’s important to be vulnerable and share your story — and how to do it.

I’ll share with you two more stories from my life, and a story from one of our top clients.

Consulting Is About People

Have you ever felt like you made a huge mistake — only to have things work out in your favor in the end because you did the right thing?

15 years ago, I was beginning my consulting career in Japan.

One day I received a call. It was from the managing director of one of Japan’s largest advertising agencies. We’d partnered on several projects, but I could tell something was wrong…

“Hello, Michael-san?”

“Yes? Moriya-san, how are you?”

“We have a problem. Omron is livid.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I just got a call from Tokyo. They found a problem with one of the ads your team created. I need you to come in right away so we can figure this out….”

I gulped.

Omron was one of our biggest clients, a billion-dollar manufacturing company.

My heartbeat started to race — and so did the thoughts in my head.

I sprinted down to the lobby of my apartment building and caught a taxi to Moriya-san’s office located in downtown Osaka.

We spent an hour exploring our options to fix the situation. Finally, Moriya-san looked at me and said “We have to go to Tokyo.”

Next thing I knew we were in a taxi heading for Shin-Osaka station to catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. And off we went…

bullet train

My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. My stomach was twisted and I felt ill…

If we lost Omron as a client not only would it be a massive blow to our small company, it would likely mean we’d lose Moriya-san’s trust and feature business together…

A little voice in my head started to tell me everything I’d done wrong…play games…

  • “You’re just 21, Michael, you don’t deserve to be doing business with these big companies, never mind working with guys in their 50s and 60s!”
  • “You’re a foreigner, your Japanese isn’t good enough, you’ll never really be accepted….”
  • “You were lucky to this point…but that’s about to end…”

“I’m not going to give up!” I told myself quickly shutting down those voices in my head.

As the Shinkansen rolled into Tokyo gleaming skyscrapers surrounded us. Masses of people on the streets below were moving to and fro.

But I didn’t have time to sit back and admire the city — I was headed to the lion’s den.

I arrived at Omron’s Tokyo office and checked in with the receptionist. I sat down in the lobby for what felt like an eternity.

Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Finally, the receptionist took me to the conference room.

Time froze. The magnitude of the moment hit me all at once. These powerful executives could send me back with my tail between my legs.

Then, my instincts took over.

I didn’t have to resort to any tactics. There were no secrets that would save me now.

This is a relationship business. I would come clean, explain what happened, and then provide guidance on how to fix it.

It took four hours. But my client didn’t chew me out. Instead, they listened. And they respected and appreciated that Moriya-san and I had come right away from Osaka to resolve the situation.

It showed we cared. That we appreciated Omron’s business.

I could have hidden behind technology. I could have called them. I could have begged my ad partners to handle it without me.

But instead, we went straight to the client.

We put the relationship first. And they deeply appreciated that.

You don’t spend two decades and counting as a consultant without making mistakes.

So, instead of hiding how I felt, I share this story often.

Practice What You Preach

Have you ever invested in something that didn’t turn out the way you hoped?

A few years ago, I had signed up for some consulting with a well known “guru.”

The price tag? $45,000.

Sam and I are no strangers to investing big bucks into our business.

We know how important it is to invest in yourself — both personally and professionally. So we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in coaching and consulting.

We were beaming with excitement to begin working with the guru.

As soon as we signed-up, we dove right into the material and started implementing.

We got off to a good start and had some early wins.

Then, progress came to a halt.

We were stumped, but desperate to proceed. We needed some help from our guru to move forward.

So, we sent them an email.

4 days later, they sent a vague response. It didn’t help.

We responded asking for clarification.

4 more days go by…crickets.

This was not the service I’d been expecting. Where was the hands-on help? Where was the easy access?

A few days later, I finally got an email.

“Check the Facebook Group and see if you can find your answer there.”

I could feel my temperature rising. Sam and I sent several more emails and received similarly vague and non-helpful responses.

For $4000 per month, we were getting $49 service.

We couldn’t help but sit there and scratch our heads.

Investing in coaching and consulting is a big part of why we got to where we were. But this particular coach did not live up to our standards.

What went wrong?

We figured it out shortly after: we had violated one of our most important principles: culture-fit.

Culture and family is one of our biggest values. We emphasize the importance of relationships above all else.

Consulting Success family

And this guru was focused on transactions, not relationships.

If we couldn’t get the guru on the phone to talk about the problem, we made the wrong choice.

Did we feel a little burned from this investment?

Sure. But we learned our lesson.

We’re happy to invest tens of thousands of dollars in coaches and consultants. How could we not? We offer these services ourselves. And it’s important to practice what you preach.

But now, we always review our values before hiring or working with anybody. If they’re not a fit, then we move forward without them.

Family first.

Bet On Yourself

Have you ever felt tired, stressed, or bored in your 9-5 job — daydreaming about the bigger and better things you know you’re capable of?

Here’s one of my favorite business stories from Elliot, an elite consultant and advisor in our Clarity Coaching program.

He was bored, burnt out, and flat-out tired of living the corporate life.

He was offered a new opportunity: to leave the company he was with, move back to Northern California, and be a part of turning the company around.

Elliot thought that this change of scenery would give him the boost he needed.

But it made him less happy.

One night after another dull day, he dragged himself home — miserable, stressed, and angry about the new move.

He sat down in the kitchen and lost it.

His wife, Julie, sat there and listened to him rant. Elliot got years of frustration off his chest.

Then, she said something that changed everything:

“Elliot, you’ve spent all these years betting on other people. It’s time to bet on yourself.”

Elliot had been pondering starting his own consulting business for years now. But he had bills to pay. He was sending his 2 kids through college and had just purchased a new home in Northern California.

But he decided that it was time to make the move.

Fast forward to today…

Elliot’s founded TIG Brands, a highly successful consulting firm.

elliot begoun clarity coaching advisor

He’s thrilled to walk into the office every single day: working on interesting projects for clients he loves working with.

He makes way more money and has experiences he never thought possible: from traveling with clients to Australia to networking in Spain for mastermind groups and dining with celebrities in the Hollywood Hills.

He looks back at his corporate life and wonders how he lasted so long.

And Julie prefers this new version of Elliot much more.

Elliot could just share his success story.

But instead, he shares the emotional, vulnerable truth.

And that makes his story much more impactful — and real.

Imperfect Action

Now, it’s your turn to start being vulnerable.

Think about and answer the questions below — openly and honestly.

In your career or business…

  • What have you struggled with?
  • What mistakes have you made?
  • What lessons did you learn the hard way?

You can’t tell a complete story without conflict.

Use the answers to these questions to tell a more complete story about you, your skills, and your business.

You’re not perfect, and your clients don’t expect you to be.

When you share your ups and downs, your story will be more believable and resonate far more.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, watch our short documentary — The Truth Behind Creating Consulting Success® — below:

By sharing your true, authentic story, you’ll attract the type of people you want to attract: the people attracted to you.

Turn Your Consulting Story Into A Success Story

In our Clarity Coaching Program, we’ll walk you through what it takes to run a consulting business where you can live life on your terms: work on interesting projects with great clients and get paid what you’re worth.

Learn more about our coaching program here — or, schedule your FREE Consulting Success® Growth Session where we’ll talk about you, your business, and your next steps to grow your consulting business.

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