Failure means a lesson has been learned. What are you going to do with your new knowledge?
How to Turn Today’s Proposal Failure into Tomorrow’s Consulting Success with JT Badiani
I’m very excited to have JT Badiani joining us. JT, it’s a real pleasure to have you.
Thank you very much for having me, Michael.
You’ve accomplished a lot over your career. For those that don’t know you, who is JT Badiani? Tell us a little bit about you and your area of focus.
I’m a chemical engineer with an MBA. I started off working in the design field with a couple of larger companies like Imperial Oil and GE, and then hopped into the operations side roughly about six years into my career. That’s where I had tremendous growth in my career and I learned a lot about Lean Six Sigma, manufacturing, purchasing, the whole set of roles that are in the operations side of the business. Throughout my career, I took a number of roles. I moved up, joined a number of different companies, so I grew my sector knowledge. I’ve worked in aerospace, durable goods, repetitive manufacturing. I’ve done engineering services, engineering, to manufactured goods. More recently over the last four years, I’ve been in consulting, with the focus of helping companies improve their bottom line through the execution of their strategy and implementing Lean Six Sigma in particular on their shop floor.
You have established yourself as an expert in this area. You’ve been consulting now for four years. What were you doing right before you transitioned into becoming a consultant?
I was a vice president of a company here in the GTA and was seeking to take a senior leadership role with a stake on ownership into that company eventually. Things didn’t work out, and I started looking for a company to buy. I kicked the tires for about six to twelve months, trying to find the right business. I came close a couple of times and went into due diligence and we couldn’t come to a deal. As I was going through these small and medium-sized companies, it became extremely apparent that they needed some support, either operationally or on the execution side of their strategy. That’s how I came into this business. I was not a consultant by trade. I grew up in the corporate world, and then did transition into consulting at that point.
You also did work for one of the larger consulting firms?
I did a lot of work with PwC. I was with them for almost two years and helped to organize and lead their Lean practice here in the Toronto office.
The transition that you made into consulting, was that a hard decision for you?
Extremely hard, for a couple of reasons. I’ve had consultants come into my workplace in the various places that I’ve worked. I found that they were great on the theoretical side but they lack some of the skills to do the implementation. When I went into consulting, I had that mindset of helping companies execute better, but the flip side of this was often, people want to know your ideas and they’ll go away and do the execution. You never get to see the fruits of your labor. The way I’ve worked my consulting business is I want to be involved as much as I can from start to finish to help clients be successful and give them that five to ten to fifteen times return on investments.
What was one of the hardest parts for you when you started your business, in terms of getting started and growing the business? What stands out for you as a challenge that you remember?
I’ve never been in the consulting side of sales, leading a service-based organization and trying to sell that to companies, so I really found that difficult. I could not master the ability to walk in and sell a particular service, and then get that clinginess that you want, that stickiness, and that trust developed very quickly. I had to learn that piece really fast really quickly. The second part of that is getting yourself known. How do you get out into the industry and get yourself in front of people, taking those risks so that people understand who you are and establishing yourself as an expert?
What helped you the most in those areas? How have you overcome some of those challenges? What’s been helpful for you?
There are a couple of key things. Number one was my network. I network with a core group of senior folks. As I ventured out, I reached out to them. There was a fellow in Vancouver who used to work for me and was in consulting at that point, so I went and talked to him. I talked to a couple of folks here in the GTA. Most importantly, it was the family support. It was my wife supporting me and making me understand some of the challenges that we’re facing and talk through it with her, and then we would make a decision. Whether it be right or wrong, we did it. If we go back to some of the things that I learned through reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, I found some of those principles really helpful in getting that knowledge base as quickly as I could.
How do you handle conversations with family, in this case your wife, and business? Is that something that you guys talk about every day? Is it something that you selectively choose what to talk about? What’s your approach to that?
Over the last three or four years, we have established a rhythm. Early on, it was, “How do we get in front of this client? What should we do?”It’s all that startup phase. My wife comes from a tremendous entrepreneurial background, so she was grateful and provided me with advice. I added some of the elements that I learned in my MBA at Ivey, and I brought those two together and formulated a plan. We would always talk about financials. That was the one thing that we kept regularly looking at and that would be every two weeks. We would talk through things and make sure that our long-term plans are being achieved, and then focus on the short term so we can hit month over month, the numbers that we had set up for ourselves.
As we’ve been working together, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how your business is growing very nicely. When you’re growing a business, things aren’t always good. Everyone knows that’s the reality. A little while ago you said that there were some proposals that were out and in one day, you got some news that a bunch of them didn’t go through, but very quickly after that things turned around. Could you talk a little bit about handling those setbacks or occurrences and how you’ve been able to ensure that your mindset stays strong and you’re able to then keep taking action in growing your business?
There was about four proposals that have gone out. A couple of them were high dollar values. I thought we’re in a great position to win at least three of the four proposals. There was one that was iffy. Within about a one to two-hour period, the emails started coming in, and it was lost, lost, and lost. I had fingers crossed on the fourth one, which is the one I didn’t want or didn’t think we’re going to get, and that one came in as a no. I was driving home and I called my wife and I said, “0 for four, not a good day.”
You and I talked later that evening. It was your advice and reflection that the conversation that my wife and I had was, “It’s tough. You’re going to have these losses. Always keep looking forward and reflect back and find out why you didn’t win those items and those proposals.” We’ve got feedback from the prospective clients and said, “Why didn’t we get those?”and then revisited the value proposition to make sure that the future clients understand that part of what we missed or develop that skill so that we can win it next time.
Within a week of that you had three new projects?
Yes, within about a week and a half. It was one day after another. It was a win, a win, and a win. Some of it was being insightful, restructuring the presentations that we were doing so that people could gain the insights of the value that we brought. Another part of it was leveraging my network so that I had the right references. Trust was established through our network through that group that I worked with all the time so the clients get a really good comfort level of what we do and how we do it.
This is something that every single consultant and entrepreneur encounters. You can choose to look at what people call failure. You lose a piece of business, or in this case multiple pieces of business. You can spend a lot of time dwelling on that and thinking what’s not working, you start questioning whether you should be even doing what you’re doing. There are a lot of different directions that people can take that, but you can also choose to say as you did, “This sucks, this is a bad day, but there’s going to be a better day to come. What can I learn here?”Rather than calling it a failure, just call it a learning. Call it a lesson. You take something from it, you become stronger. What all successful people do is they just keep taking steps forward as you did, and have continued to reap the rewards from that.
There are two really good lessons that came out of this. You can have success, you can plan to have 100%, but there’s going to be weeks or months that you’re not going to get that. Aim for 100%. If you hit 80%, that’s great. If it’s 50%, find a way to get to 80%.The second part of it is always learn. You always need to self-reflect and take a look at what you’re doing right and what you need to improve on. When I was younger, I used to golf a lot. I was a horrible golfer. My average score was 130, 128, in that range. What I ended up doing was I ended up buying a book written by this young fellow named Tiger Woods. I would read it every night after I played around of golf. I was in a golf league so I was playing once or twice a week. Every time I golfed around, I would come back and reflect as to what went right and what went wrong.
Over about a three to four-year period, I saw my scores drop significantly. I was down in the low 100s, which for a guy that started playing golf a year or two before that, I thought I was doing really well. I’ve taken that mentality into my business and into my career. If things get me down, I always ground myself and go, “What do I got to listen to? What do I have to watch? What do I have to read to remember the things that are really important?”Ground yourself, build that base back up, and then go forward. I look at Eric Ries’ book often. There are a couple of Lean books that I read quite a bit over and over again. I read The Goal. Some of the literature that you have on your website, I’ll go back and look at how to hold that conversation with a client, or how to write a proposal so that you really know that you shared the value of proposition and you can communicate it effectively.
It’s the study, the sharpening of the craft and not just staying and becoming complacent. That’s a really important point. If you were looking backward, just getting started with your consulting business, knowing what you know now, if you didn’t have a network already established, what would you suggest? What do you think would be the best path in your experience to drum up business to be able to start winning projects and clients?
The first thing is to really understand the value that you want to give to clients. Understand that without delivering that value, you’re not going to get business. You’ve said it on your calls often that I hear, the client that you’re serving right now or helping is the number one client that you have to focus in on. That would be the other thing. If you’re chasing, then you’re not helping your clients be successful. You got to really be careful and manage that time effectively, so time management. Around getting yourself out there, I’ve done a number of conferences now. I have attended and/or delivered information at a number of conferences. What I’ve done more recently is do small 20 to 30-people groups around the Toronto area. If you deliver really good content in a one to two-hour time period, you will get those leads and you will be successful. I wish I would’ve done that four years ago and done a lot more of those to develop that base. I’m getting that base developed right now.
What about people that say you shouldn’t give away too much information, too much valuable content because the buyers take that and then not want to use your services. How do you respond to that?
The short answer is they’re not the people you want to work with. The reason being is the people you want to work with are the ones that are going to value the skills and your knowledge that you have. The ones that think they can do it themselves, they’re going to find a way to do it themselves anyways, whether they go buy that book or they get it online, they find a way to get it done. The clients I work with, I really test myself and ask, “Are these people that I want to work with?”I look for certain values that are important to me which is trust, the ability to grow and listen. They are seeking for advice, so you know that they’re looking for help. If you can deliver value, then you take them on. I do a litmus test with each of my clients. If they pass those hurdles, I’m going to move forward with them.
How do you do that? Is that just through a conversation, or do you have a document that you use? What’s your approach to that?
It’s through a series of conversations. If you’re lucky, you get the sale in the first conversation, which I’ve found does not happen often. It’s rare. Through the series of conversations that you’re having with those folks, you test certain elements along the way. If the responses are positive, then you go through it. I don’t keep up a checklist, I keep it more on my mind. I’ll reflect back after the meeting’s done, to say, “Is this the right level of trust? Is this the right type of advice they’re looking for? Can I deliver value?”
Asking yourself can you deliver value and ensuring that you’re able to communicate that value back to the buyers is something that you’ve found to be very important.
Our goal is to help businesses be successful. If we’re not doing that, then why are we in this business?
Why are you doing this? For you, what gets you up every day? What’s your mission here, being a consultant? What’s driving you?
I get great satisfaction out of seeing companies be successful. There’s a company in the States that I’ve have been working with for about a year and a bit now, maybe a little bit longer. We have been doing a number of projects to improve various elements of their business. We’ve generated, across the past couple of years, roughly $30 million to $40 million in savings. I look back and go, “I had a hand in making that successful.” We’re delivering Lean Six Sigma classes. We’ve helped them do projects. We’ve done coaching. We’ve done Kaizen events. We’ve done a number of things. I get a newsletter from one of the senior folks at the company saying, “Six Sigma is going to be on an e-letter blast to all their employees. In 2016, we saved almost $20 million.” That’s phenomenal. You look at that and you go, “Although my name is not in lights, it’s the folks that I helped and they’re successful. That’s a larger company.
If you look at a smaller company, there’s a small company that I have been working with for about three years now off and on. They’ve gone from roughly about a $10 million in sales to four times as it was when it started with them. They’re in the $30 million to $40 million range. We’ve taken this company through a series of improvements, expanded their horizon, and helped them develop the strategy that they can execute on. The ownership group is really happy with the progress that they’ve made. They were stifling at that $10 million range for the previous four or five years. You look at them now, they’re flourishing. They’ve added a 20 to 30 people in the last couple years. We have done an acquisition for them now, and we’re looking for another one. You look back and go, “Look at what we’ve done.” I would’ve never been able to do this with another company if I was in a manufacturing role making widgets somewhere.
What’s the best way for people to learn more about you and your work? Where should they go?
You can go to my website at FocusedImprovement.ca. I’m also on LinkedIn, so you can look me up on LinkedIn at JT Badiani and you can find me there. Give me a call. I’m open to discussions. For any situation that you’d think you’ll require assistance, give me a shout out and I’ll give you half an hour of my time. We can talk through things and see if there’s a fit.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing with us your story.
Thank you very much for having me, Michael. Good luck to you and your business too.