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Consultants Building Syndrome – How to Avoid It

By Michael Zipursky

Most consultants have what I call ‘Build Syndrome.’

They keep busy building things for their business that deliver them little to no results.

They stay home and create a new business card, brochure, website, or a fancy consultants marketing plan.

It might take them days, weeks or months to get these materials done.

The problem is they don’t do anything with them.

People, this is a big problem! Build Syndrome is dangerous…

Here’s how it usually occurs and why it’s so nasty:

  1. You spend a great deal of time creating materials you’ll rarely implement.
  2. If you do implement them, you’ll do a half-ass job of it.
  3. You’ll do a half-ass job of implementing because implementing is 10x harder than building.
  4. You trick yourself into thinking that you’re busy doing important work – while really you’re busy doing work that won’t help grow your business (because you won’t implement).
  5. You repeat the cycle all over again.

How consultants can avoid these mistakes

Evaluate what really matters – Here’s where Paretto’s Principle comes in. Also known as the 80/20 rule, this wise Italian suggested that 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. With that in mind, take a long hard look at what 20% of your actions are delivering the majority of your results. Cut out the excess 80% of work you’re doing that’s giving you little to no return and put your focus where it matters most.

Get out of the building – Commit to taking action. If you’re going to write a report and plan to send it to 100 local businesses – do it! Success doesn’t come to those that don’t follow through.

Don’t fool yourself – Toss the idea out that keeping busy means you’re on the right track. Before you start on an internal project think hard about whether it’s really going to help you build your business. If it doesn’t directly help you get closer to your goals, put it on the back burner and leave room for more meaningful work.

Leave your comfort zone – the number one reason for Build Syndrome is comfort. It’s easy to stay at home or in the office and work away at building something. We don’t have to deal with customers and the outside world. There’s no rejection. It’s easy. Yet it’s not reality. The more you get out of your comfort zone the more success you’ll see.

Have you encountered Build Syndrome? If so, what tips can you share to deal with it?

22 thoughts on “Consultants Building Syndrome – How to Avoid It

  1. Pat Keys says:

    Wow! This is sooo true. I have had this and was just talking with a friend how he needs to get out of his office and in front of more companies.

    • Pat – thanks for the comment. I'm glad I'm not the only one that believes this to be a problem that many face.

  2. Michael – the “building syndrome” impacts not only building a business but other aspects of our lives as well. It is so easy to justify our actions when in fact they are not helping us achieve the results we desire.

    I spent not only time but money creating letterhead, envelopes and note cards. I still have 95% of the print job and kick myself whenever I see the remaining boxes.

    As I read your post it occurred to me that a job hunting idea I picked up from What Color is Your Parachute might work well to move out of our comfort zone: the informational interview. It served me well in landing a job. Identify people who work in companies where you would like to provide a service. When you contact them offer coffee, lunch or just ask for 20 minutes of their time. Have a short list of questions that will help to you qualify the company as a client and identify the decision maker. What helped me when I used this approach is the relationship it helped me establish. Not only did I have information but a contact and often an internal advocate. Just be sure to build a relationship not ask forty questions and end the conversation!

    Now I have to get back to work – I have goals to achieve and results to produce!

    All the best,

    • Claudia – Nice one! Thanks for sharing your experience and that tip. That's a great approach to take!

  3. This is so true. I actually keep drawing up fantastic plans. One after the other. Solution? I am all ears! Most importantly i agree with don’t fool yourself. I have since grown since i learnt to get out of my comfort zone.

    • Omu – glad you enjoyed the post. Once you have your plans it's important to find a way to 'force' yourself to implement them. That can be a note on your computer screen, in your bathroom, having someone call to ensure you're getting things done, or even tying your own holidays or spending to the actions you take.

      Different approaches work for different people. Just figure out what would motivate you the most and then stick with it for a solid month – the results are usually positive.

  4. Ian Bailey says:

    You have to meet the people….if you cant do that, then you will be struggling. If the phone feels like its weighing 100 tonnes and you cant pick it up…think whats the worst that can happen??? they can say not interested…ok then lets try the next…Someone saying NO doesnt kill you!!!…their loss I reckon if you are any good…. just have to get over your ego. Funny though just had a meeting with a high ranking local government official…..who suggested that as I am trying to get into a new area geographically that I spend some time reviewing my business plan and target audience……sure buddy…..who pays the mortgage from this activity….whilst review and planning are good and with my partners I will take his advice…without action….waste of time and potential earnings!!! Great post Michael….

    • Ian – right on! Great points and examples. I don't want to discourage people from planning (it is critical to your business) – just don't spend too much time planning and not enough executing and implementing.

  5. I am not new to consulting but new to building my own company and brand. I appreciate this because I had convinced myself that this "building" was necessary to lay a solid foundation for business to come. I am challenged to move out from my castle of comfort and I look forward to getting better results. I believe I have to learn to do both more effectively.

    • John – welcome! Getting out of an area of comfort opens a whole realm of new possibilities. It's a step many don't take…which means when you do, you'll have an edge on the others that don't.

  6. Steve Johnson-Stott says:

    You are absolutely right – I have a real ‘planning’ disease, do lots of vital research, have many wonderful ideas, carry out endless analysis and review, without actually getting to the execution stage.

    Trying to put some of this into action and failing actually educates you a lot more than not taking any action at all. So I have recently allowed myself the luxury of failing a lot more.

    • Seth Godin, the business writer, says to SHIP SOMETHING. Don't be afraid to fail. We can all get bogged down in planning, reworking numbers – but until we either decide to stop a project or jump into it and produce something and sell it, time might be better off spent on other areas of our business and our lives.

      • Robert – I've seen and heard Seth say that many times and he's right on the money.

        This concept is put to practice well by the new breed of web startups. They launch quick (after some validation) and iterate continuously to improve their product – to get it better and better.

    • Steve – I'd agree. Every person that I've met with that has 'made it big' in business has had some failures along the way. Most people are too scared to fail, give up and call it a day. There's nothing wrong with educated failing – as long as we learn from the process and it helps us get towards our ultimate goals in life and business.

  7. Elizabeth Wilson says:

    Great post. It's all so true. I worked with a financial advisor who identified four major "types" in business:
    A. risk taker
    B. manager
    C. detail person
    D. blithe spirit.

    Here's a sample question from her quiz:

    When I'm working on a problem I:
    A. tend to forget to eat or sleep
    B. make sure I eat and sleep so I can get things done
    C. have trouble eating and sleeping
    D. stop when it's time to eat or sleep

    All of these types can be smart, savvy, and accomplished, but not all can start a business. The risk takers (A) and the managers (B) are the ones who don't tend to get bogged down in details — they just put something out there. They can fix it later. The other two types are likely to get all caught up in the minutiae or be distracted entirely by some other fun thing and chase after that.

    All of these types are useful in business, so if you want to start a business it's good to know which type you are and hire others in the different categories. They'll support you by doing the stuff that you don't have an instinct for.

    You can probably find this quiz by looking at her book on Amazon and going to Chapter 10:…. Parts of the book are a bit out of date by now, but the ideas about entrepreneurship are still sound.

    • Elizabeth – glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for sharing that info. I've read about a variation of these categories and have been involved in some profiling tests. Have found some of them very interesting and others not so. Definitely interesting.

    • Thanks Bill. Not sure how I missed your comment but wanted to let you know I got it!

  8. You must be looking over my shoulder. I'm just starting the process of figuring out what the heck I'm doing with all my time. And it looks like I've spent a lot of time building things. I'm spending some time today going through my list of 'things' I'm doing and drawing a line through some of them.

    What make me feel less annoyed with myself is the knowledge that corporations do that all the time too.

    Great post.

  9. Chitha Noel Msowoya says:

    Nice article. But adding to response one ‘evaluatig what really matters’ ther is also need to discover gaps, disconnects, value adding and non value adding activities within our operations. These have to be eliminated as well so as to enhence efficiency.

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