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Onboarding Consulting Clients And Projects The Right Way With Kristen Gallagher: Podcast #113

Onboarding your clients is the first step in their journey with your product or service. In this episode, host Michael Zipursky talks with Kristen Gallagher about onboarding consulting clients and projects the right way. Having worked with companies like SurveyMonkey, AWS Elemental, Puppet, and many other technology companies and helping them with technical onboarding, Kristen gives the true definition of technical onboarding. She gets into how she got started in the industry, finding opportunities for her consulting business, the importance of follow-up, and adding a member to her team and the hiring process. She also shares her go-to systems and processes that she uses on a daily basis in her consulting business.

Listen to the podcast here:

Onboarding Consulting Clients And Projects The Right Way With Kristen Gallagher

I’m excited to have Kristen Gallagher join us. Kristen, welcome.

Thank you, Michael. I’m so excited to be here.

Kristen, you’ve worked with companies like SurveyMonkey, AWS, Amazon Web Services Elemental, Puppet, many other technology companies, helping them with technical onboarding. Let’s get into that. First of all, what is technical onboarding? What does that mean?

When people think about onboarding, they most often think about a welcome to the company culture, HR, getting your paperwork settled, benefits, and things like that. The reality is that what you need is functional onboarding. It’s an onboarding that is related to your job, your department, the area of the company that you’re working in. For technical onboarding, we’re referring to software engineering, product management, DevOps, things like that. Technical onboarding is relevant to the technical organization.

How did you get into that? We’ve known each other for a little while now. One of our client events in LA, you shared with me something I didn’t know, which is that you have a background in art. How does someone with a background in art get into technical onboard? Take us back in the early days of how did you get into consulting? What were you doing before that?

I should say I have a background in art history and museum education. The way that my Museum Education degree went was a third business, a third museum in history and a third anything else I wanted like Anthropology or anything like that. I was interested in education in adult learning and so I was diving into the neuroscience of learning and how to apply that specifically for adults in non-traditional environments, not classrooms. That led me to work in museums. It led me to work in non-profits. Eventually, it led me to work for a web development company and doing business development and writing proposals. Unfortunately, it was a great job, great experience but a toxic working environment. I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore.

I had gotten to the point where I didn’t think I could work for anybody else at the time either. I had already started my business. I was using PTO and all of that sick time even to have meetings and try to figure out what I was even doing with my company. That was in the latter half of 2014. When I quit that job at the beginning of 2015, I started taking what I could get. People called me for succession planning, they called me for manager training, all kinds of different learning and development things. Eventually, some of my friends in the technology world here in Portland told me, “We’re starting new jobs and the onboarding is bad. We don’t understand what we’re supposed to do. It’s frustrating.” We would talk through this over dinner or something.

I started to think, “This is a problem that I could solve.” I did a little googling and a little reading and started pitching in. Honestly, I didn’t have experience building onboarding programs a few years ago and tried to see who would buy it. I tried to leverage the Leadership Development Training that I had, Conflict Resolution, all of the other skills and it turns out I was pretty good at it. Over those years, probably the first two years, I was doing onboarding and all kinds of different capacities for all kinds of different companies, then eventually narrowed into technology companies. Then after that, I do technical and engineering onboarding.

There’s so much in what you said that I want to unpack and break it down. You start off mentioning that you worked in this toxic environment where you were an employee. You recognized, “Maybe this is not for me. I should be doing something on my own.” Then slowly you started to venture in that direction. You mentioned that you started to take on opportunities that came to you. Tell us a little bit more about that. Were you going out and letting the world know that you’re open for business? How are you getting these initial clients and opportunities for your consulting business?

I was thinking about breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings at least four days a week while I had that job, buying a lot of coffee for people.

How did you get those? Were you emailing people? Are you calling people? How did you set that stuff up?

I was going on Twitter, LinkedIn. I was going to networking events and just getting cards. That’s my lesson from a few years ago is never give someone your card. You always get their card because they’re never going to email you back, despite the great conversation that you had. I was meeting anybody in education technology, the business world. The first probably a few months of doing that, they weren’t the right meetings to have, but I also didn’t know what the meetings I shouldn’t be having were. I was trying to trip my way into figuring out who I should be meeting with and what kinds of companies would be interested in the work that could do. Eventually, when I started telling people in December of 2014 that I was quitting my job, somehow opportunities started showing up. People would say like, “I need a facilitator for this workshop. Would $2,500 be okay for that?” I’m like, “It would be okay.” I didn’t know any better. There was a little bit of magical thinking. When you put in the work too for meeting people and hustling for the first part of it and trying to get out there and tell people what you’re doing, things do start to show up.

People never remember what you tell them on the first day. Click To Tweet

We see this a lot with clients. It’s the idea of planting those seeds earlier on, you didn’t necessarily see the fruits of your labors right or things sprouting just yet. The roots were taking in effect or they were making their way into the ground. Then when you decide to make that leap, all of a sudden, all the work that you’d put in earlier start to bear some fruit for you. Would you say that’s how it felt?

Totally. I think it’s also a good metaphor to apply to the rest of your business. I know a lot of consultants who are just getting started and they feel like, “This is going to turn around in a week.” “I had a great meeting with them and it’s probably going to turn around in six to nine to twelve months. I hate to break it to you.” That was tough for me to learn at the beginning too, which was why it was so nice honestly to have six months with a job to be doing these meetings. It’s exhausting and it was a lot of hard work. It gave me that buffer so that things could mature.

Talk a little bit more about the sales cycles. I wanted to get back to your path here, but you mentioned something important for people, which is the expectations. Very often, consultants go into meetings, they even put proposals to different clients and they think, “I’ve got this in the bag. I’ve just won.” They’re feeling all excited about it then the inevitable happens, which is that it doesn’t move forward or there’s a delay or you think you’ve got it but all of a sudden, you weren’t talking to the right person or Tom and Sue also need to take a look at this and they’re away for the next month. What’s your experience been with that? How do you now think about it? What’s your mindset around those same situations since you’ve now been in the business for a few years?

All of the things that you said have happened to me at least once, probably twice or three times. I can think of so many examples where I thought we were ready to go, so I thought I was proactive. We had proposals ready two days later. The reality is this person doesn’t make the decision or I didn’t ask the right pain point questions and I didn’t get their budget right. I wasn’t solving the problem that they had because I didn’t ask the right questions to get at that problem, so it didn’t go through. There’s a difference in losing business versus the business that’s not matured yet. That’s something I’ve learned to try to sniff out over time especially for my clients.

The type of clients that I work with are acquiring companies. They’re getting acquired. They’re hiring a ton of people. It’s not an easy day in the office any day. It’s constantly busy. They want what I have, but they don’t want to deal with it. I’ve had to learn how to make what I do as digestible and easy to understand and easy to buy as possible. I think that’s still a journey. I’m constantly learning. I’m working on an opportunity right now that I’ve been working since May 2019. It felt like a real sure-fire thing that was going to close in July. That doesn’t always happen. New people join the team and suddenly we need another director to review this proposal, “We’ve got to meet with you again.”

My habit has been not to get too excited. You don’t count chickens. Then you have a pipeline. You’re constantly putting things into your pipeline. I use HubSpot for my CRM. Having that visual, “Here’s what’s in first conversation, here’s what’s in the conversations I’ve had on LinkedIn. Here’s what has been. I’ve been on the phone with them once. I’ve been on the phone with them twice and watching that move through.” I want to see a heavy left-end at the early stages because that means that I have more work to do to get them through. When I see it lopsided, that’s when I get worried a little bit.

CSP 113 | Onboarding Consulting Clients

For everyone in the audience, we’re talking about the pipeline. Left is you’re putting new people into your pipeline. On the right side would be someone that you’ve either engage with and you have a deal that’s done or they’ve decided not to move forward or are you’re nurturing them. That’s what we’re talking about in terms of the pipeline here. How about your expectations and thoughts around the importance of follow-up? You know that the type of work that you’re doing has longer sales cycles and you’re trying to push maybe a discovery offer or something to try and get in there sooner. Sometimes it does take five months and it still has not yet closed. The business has not been won just yet. That’s the important thing first of fall. What are you doing and what are some best practices that you can maybe share around follow-up that you found to be helpful?

This has evolved for me over time. I can say that calling people is something that moves things forward way faster. That’s something I had got from you and Sam for sure. I tried to mix up the follow-up that I do. Sometimes it’s a call, and sometimes it’s an email. Depending on the relationship I have, I might check in on that with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. It depends on the relationship and the formality level with that potential client. I try not to let more than seven to eight days go by without checking in and seeing how things are. When somebody doesn’t reply for quite some time, then I leave it for a while and then maybe a month later I’ll check in again. Eventually, you need to get stuff off of your table because you need to put new things in there.

We talk a lot about the importance of making sure that you’re following up with clients but also that you’re not neglecting in bringing new people in. It’s a fine balance between the two of those. Let’s talk a little bit about team building. A lot of consultants shy away from this idea of building their team or adding new people. It’s like something that they don’t want to do, but they feel like they need to and they can’t justify the cost in their mind. They see it as an expense and they see it as money coming out of their pockets instead of money going into their pocket. 

I view your approach to this a little bit different. You’ve always been very open to the idea, or at least since we’ve been working together, open to the idea of building your team and having team members. Talk a little bit about your experience. You’re a few years now into your consulting business. You’ve grown a nice business. Things are going well, always looking to improve. At what stage did you decide to add a team member and what role did that person have?

I would say even in 2015, I was subcontracting parts of projects out to other consultants and I wouldn’t necessarily call that them being part of my team, but I was trying to get practice. I’m letting things go and delegating a little bit. In 2017, I hired my first ten-hour a week dedicated person. That was an admin job. It was scheduling because I was honestly getting so overwhelmed with requests and different things, both from a business development standpoint and a community relationship management standpoint. That person did some scheduling. She also did operations stuff, she did invoice, things like that. I certainly believe in hiring on quasi team members, like your lawyer and your accountant and your bookkeeper way early on. Even if you think you’re pretty good at that stuff, get it off your plate.

You should never be doing that. If you’re spending time trying to figure out what to deduct and all that stuff, you’re losing money because you don’t have that expertise. You’re also losing money because you’re spending time on that when you choose to spend time on your business. What was the experience though like for you when you brought in that first admin person to help you with all those things? Was that a hard process? A lot of people don’t want to give up that stuff. They feel that they need to hold onto it and they’re not getting that off or delegated early enough. You did. What was the experience like for you? Was it tough? Did you have to do a lot of training?

Calling people is something that moves things forward way faster. Click To Tweet

I did do a fair bit of training. I would be remiss to say if I didn’t have an onboarding plan, so I did have an onboarding plan for her. That onboarding plan was me in screen-share videos explaining how to do certain processes. Sometimes it was a voice recording of me in my car explaining this is what needs to happen. Then I would ask her to formalize those into standard operating procedures, which made it easier for later on down the road in 2018 when I hired a full-time employee, then more contractors after that. That ten-hour a week person made those things into standard procedures.

The other thing that made it easier for me at the time was using a tool called Asana. We don’t use that anymore. It’s being clear about expectations and saying, “This is when something needs to be done. This is the level of success or this is what success looks like. These are the objectives.” I’ll be honest. There were things that I didn’t think about that tripped me up a little bit. As an example, I prepare client onboarding kits for when we go onsite to a client. It’s a little halfway gift, halfway tool that they need to use in the project. It’s a way to welcome our clients into working with us. Sometimes if we’re working with clients outside of the Portland area, we’ve got to mail them before we get there. This person, my ten-hour a week admin was frustrated because she couldn’t find the addresses of our clients.

I was frustrated because there were at least three places you could have found the addresses. One is Google, two is QuickBooks and three was the contract. She didn’t think to look in any of those places. She just asked me a couple of times and that tripped to me up because I was like, “You need to think about this. Think about where this is.” That’s where I started to realize that it’s not necessarily anybody’s fault. Some people are more entrepreneurial and some people are going to be a little more self-motivated and think, “What little rabbit holes can I look at before I go ask my boss this?” That adjusted the way that I hired. In the future, I took that experience and changed the language a little bit and said, “I need people who will try to figure out the problem first and then come to me.”

Let’s talk a little bit about that because you’ve not only gone through the hiring process multiple times within your company. You’ve also been a part of a lot of other organizations that are bringing on a lot of people. In one instance, you were a part of the whole onboarding and transition of 200 people coming on in a pretty short period of time into an organization or after an acquisition. What are some of the best practices that you’ve seen or things that you look for or that you even counsel your clients when it comes to hiring? Especially through the lens of another consulting business owner who wants to add whether an admin person or a salesperson or another consultant, what are maybe some things that you think about that these are important to be thinking about? 

I’ll start first in the search phase. What can happen with consultants, I see this time after time, is they know someone. They have a friend or a friend of a friend. That’s not always, it’s not outright going to be the worst thing that you ever do, but it’s not always the best choice. You have rose-colored glasses on and you’re not able to be as objective about their skillset. Number two, is always make sure that you have a job description and that takes time to develop. I tell people, “If you don’t have time to develop the job description, you do not have time to onboard somebody.” That means that you’re going to pay them and they’re not going to be working as much as you need them to. People don’t realize that you pay somebody at the 100% level and they usually work at the 70% to 60% level. There’s this buffer time where they’re logging into their computer and they’re doing all these random things. If you haven’t illuminated what the job is, then that 60% to 70% is going to go down to 40% or 50%. You’re paying a premium when you don’t need to.

Is there a way to get someone to go from that 60% or 70% to 100%?

CSP 113 | Onboarding Consulting Clients

I think so. I’ve done it in my team or I learned how to do it over time.

How do you do that for someone who’s going like, “I have other team members and I don’t know if I’m getting the full highest level of performance out of them?” What should they be thinking about or looking at it that situation?

I look at calibrating your expectations of how long something should take to how much time it does take the person that you hired. Most business owners, most consultants, you’re going to work very quickly. That’s one of the things that makes you good at what you do. You think quickly as well. You have to realize that’s not always going to be the case with the team members that you have because they’re not business owners. It’s not a judgment. It’s just a different way of thinking and being. You have to calibrate your expectations to what is reality. Then you have to do performance management. You have to coach. Don’t come to your team member, whether it’s a contractor or a full-time person and say, “You’re not doing this right,” if you have never talked them through what the process is and what your expectations are.

Going back to that expectation of success, explaining what the objectives are and what do I hope to achieve out of this and why do I need this to happen the way that it needs to happen? You might give them a task and they don’t understand the context of where that test sits in the business. As an example, I have a marketing team member I’ve had for about a year and she does all of my social media. She writes blog posts. She transcribes videos that I write and writes blog posts from that or videos I do. I remember early on, I don’t think she understood the importance of the video and that it needed to get posted at a certain time every week. I didn’t explain that to her but it did need to get done because the professionals in my network are looking at LinkedIn at a certain time. In order for me to show up in their feed, I needed to do it at a certain time. When I realized she was posting things at 7:00 PM Eastern time, we had to have a conversation about that. It is not her fault. I didn’t tell her that anywhere in the job description.

This is a good point because regardless of whether it’s a full-time person, part-time or contractor, as business owners, the responsibility always is on us. Our expectations often of other people are just expectations. If we haven’t communicated, then we can hope that someone or believe that someone’s going to act without that. The communication part is so important. The other thing I know that you’re big on is systems, processes. We had a conversation about that at the LA Event and it made a few of us laugh. I’m going to hearing about Kristen’s approach to all this and how well-structured it was. I think it would be interesting to have you share what are your go-to systems or processes that you use on a daily or regular basis that you think maybe could benefit others as well in their own consulting businesses?

Referencing to the thing that made everyone laugh, I do have a pretty specific color-coded calendar. I have found for me it makes my life a lot easier to block time. There’s not a lot of white on my calendar and that’s by design, so that I know what I’m doing throughout the day. The other system is old school, but I write my agenda for the next day in the paper. I have a planner that I write out, what are tomorrow’s top three tasks? I do that the night before as I’m closing up work. That is a huge part of my system and my processes. It’s knowing what it is that I’m going to do tomorrow.

Sometimes people want something that's outside of the scope of work, and they don't always communicate that. Click To Tweet

The other systems, I’ve used Asana, we use Quip now for our team. We also use Slack. I think a small team can struggle with, “Where does something go? Is it in Google Docs? Is it in Dropbox? Is it Microsoft Word?” We have very specific rules for what goes in what system. I don’t think it matters what tool you use per se. You need a reason that you use this tool. For example, for us, Quip is for all of our internal documentation about clients. It’s for our notes. It’s for what’s happening in the project. The actual deliverables live in Google Drive because we share that with our clients just as an example.

Talk a little more about your calendar and the color-coding. I’m interested in having you explain that to everyone. I’m also interested in diving into the blank space that you mentioned, not leaving that. Why is that so important to you? What do you mean specifically about not having that blank or white space?

Every year toward November, usually it’s in November, I have a strategic planning retreat with my business accountability partner. We’ve been doing that. We make model calendars for the next year. A model calendar is how I would like to spend my time in the business. It’s the idea that, “If I don’t want to start working until 9:00 AM and I want to end at 5:00 PM, and I want an hour-and-a-half lunch and I want to go to the gym. That only six hours a day. What do I do in those six hours?” That’s the philosophy behind it. Then in actuality, I give every client a color and I typically am not working with more than five or six clients at a time, so it’s not overwhelming.

When I see orange, that means such and such client. My mind is primed to know what I’m going to be working on even without looking at the actual item. Then I have a specific color for anything that is internal business work. If I’m meeting with my team, it’s all teal. If it’s CEO day, it’s on Monday. That’s another key component of my schedule here in my system. Mondays are CEO days. I might have coaching calls on Monday. With my business coach, I might have accountability calls with my accountability partner, all of that stuff. Clients don’t get to be on Mondays unless it’s an extreme emergency, which hasn’t happened for a long time.

That color coding allows me to see at a glance, “I think I have a couple of things here.” The other thing that I’ve gotten better at over time and continue to improve on is about gear shifting. How many times a day do I have to shift my mind into a different gear? I don’t like shifting into too many gears. If I look and I see four different colors on a day or five or six different colors, something is wrong with my calendar. I don’t have anybody who does my scheduling anymore. I’ve decided to use other tools, like ScheduleOnce to manage some of that. Sometimes I’m not that great at managing my calendar. When I see those colors, I know I need to change something or reschedule or back off the way that I’m doing something.

A lot of what you said there resonates. I do the same thing. I’m in the office right now and when I leave the office, like before I leave each evening or in the afternoon, I make sure to have on the table behind a booklet and that’s my to-do list for the next day. Even though I have everything in Google Calendar, which means that it’s on my phone, it’s on the different devices in the office or outside of the office. I still like to write a written list. In that way when I’m working each day, I’m able to cross it off. For me, it’s important to have both of those. The other thing that I do, which I think is very similar is I prioritize. When I have my list, it’s not just, “Here’s what needs to happen today.” It’s, “Here’s the order of these things that need to happen in.” It’s important for everyone. Just as a question for the audience, how are you approaching your schedule? Very often what we see with clients who come into our coaching programs or we have conversations with is if they’re not getting the results they want, often it’s because they’re not working on the right things. 

CSP 113 | Onboarding Consulting Clients

If you’re not managing your time and if you’re not maybe spending enough time on your business or marketing because you’re too busy doing delivery or you’re too busy working on a whole bunch of things that aren’t necessarily that critical for the real progress in your business and taking control in the way that Kristen is suggesting, even if you don’t use all the colors of the rainbow. Being able to take control of your calendar and how you prioritize it can make a big difference. We all have the same amount of time on any given day, but some people can be significantly more productive while others struggle and feel like they’re not making that progress. I think that’s a big good piece of advice for people. Let’s talk about onboarding. For a consultant who might either be an independent solo consultant or a small firm owner with five or ten employees, something along those lines. Where can onboarding help them? What are some of the best practices or ideas of onboarding that they could use with clients? Let’s make it very specific. When a consultant engages with a new client, what are some best practices that they can implement that can help them to start off that project more successfully?

This is the cool thing about onboarding is you can use the same principles for your employees as you can for your clients. I think about, what is the arc of our relationship as client and consultant? What are the expectations, the norms? How do I want them to interact with me? We usually have a kick-off event or a meeting and sometimes that’s in person, sometimes it’s not. We have our welcome gifts, things like that. We go through, “Let’s make sure we’re all clear on what the scope of work is.” We go through that. We talk about the big goals and the outcomes of the project. We get any changes if people are concerned about something and they’ve got questions.

We talk about norms and communication norms. I tell them, “These are the times that I answer emails. These are the times that we can be on calls.” I have an SLA, like a Service Level Agreement, “This is how quickly I’m going to respond to something.” We talk about if you should need to pause the project, “Here’s the way that works, the process for that.” We start to talk about all of that. What I think is critical to remember is, and this is going to be the same for any employee, people never remember what you tell them on the first day. You’ve got to work through continually onboarding people and your clients over time. I think of onboarding new clients as a way to show expertise and care for my client too. I want this to be a good experience for them. I want them to enjoy working with me. Enjoying working with someone means that they know what to expect from you and they know how you’re going to interact with them.

I think that’s such good advice because it’s so true. I think a lot of the things that you described are things that many people like consultants think about and then they expect but they don’t communicate with their clients. What I’m hearing you say here that I think is a big lesson is that communication is verbal, but it’s also written. You have this stuff documented and that’s what separates someone who has a good structure, a good process, and a good system in place and someone that doesn’t. If you’re only communicating verbally, it’s very easy for someone to be thinking about something else while you’re speaking to them. As you said, we all don’t necessarily remember everything that we hear. Being able to have some documentation or a process that puts that, those expectations that are written, defined consistently in front of the client, make sure that everyone’s on board.

I took my mom and my kids and wife and we went to a nice little resort by a beautiful lake. I was thinking about when you check-in at hotels, it would be the same as if you checked in and someone said, “Thank you. Here’s your key,” and let you go off. In the experience, you get to a nice place where they tell you, “At 4:00, there are going to be cookies and coffee and tea over here. Down the hall, you can enter the pools over here.” They show you on a map. It’s very specific. They tell you all the information. If you feel much better about that experience, you get a lot more value from it. It’s a much more pleasant and also more effective way of doing things. This parallels to that image or that experience or story to consultants. That’s good. Anything else that stands out to you? Do you use any other tools or do you drip emails or do you schedule certain calls? What else might you offer or that you see as being an important best practice for people to implement?

We do try to schedule everything out in advance as much as possible, “This is the check-in for this month, next month.” Almost all of our bigger clients that are multi-month projects, we have a weekly twenty-minute stand-up, which is designed just to say, “Here’s the blocker, here’s what I need you to move, here’s the status of the project.” That’s us trying to know and understand our clients. I say this with as much respect for my own business as possible. They don’t care about onboarding. They want the pain points solved. The pain point for them is, “My team isn’t getting up to productivity fast enough or they’re leaving too soon and it’s too expensive for me, or it’s friction on the team that I don’t want.” The way in which we solve that problem does not matter to them.

The cool thing about onboarding is you can use the same principles for your employees as you can for your clients. Click To Tweet

We need to be as frictionless as possible. If that means I only show up on their calendar once a week for twenty minutes and then two emails, then that’s the best case scenario for them. That has worked for the last few years I’ve been doing technical onboarding. I think that’s not a specific tool, but that’s a process. I think constantly checking in with your client, not constantly but every now and then and seeing, how are you doing with this project? How are you feeling? People don’t always tell you what’s going on. Sometimes you’re going off in the other direction when they wanted you to go here.

Sometimes people want something that’s outside of the scope of work and they don’t always communicate that either. That can affect the way that they like working with you or the outcome of the project. I’ve learned from projects where I did everything to a tee and sometimes over the scope of work, and the client still was concerned or frustrated about something or a component of that project because we did not check on expectations. We didn’t calibrate as constantly as we needed to.

That’s a powerful advice. I was speaking to clients in the coaching program who felt they might have done things even more efficiently, like in projects with clients. What we’re able to draw the core reason back to is that they didn’t implement those clear sets of expectations and the engagement path or the project path in the way that you’ve suggested. I see that as being so important for consultants. If you want to avoid scope read, if you want to avoid misunderstandings if you want to be able to deliver product profitably on time, on schedule and also have a good experience for clients, everything that Kristen is sharing here are super important. Two more important questions here for you, Kristen. Number one is when you think about everything that you’ve learned and implemented over the last year or so, what would you say has been the biggest impact for you on your business?

There’s more than one for sure.

Anything that comes to mind, like the top of mind stuff. 

There was some pretty huge shift for me in realizing that I was seriously underpricing at the end of 2018. Getting some advice from you and other members of the group and trying to separate my own issues or concerns with that pricing or that number from what the market’s asking for and will bear. That was a pretty huge shift in something that I’ve learned. I learned how to speak more confidently about that because I tie it better to the ROI. That’s a pretty huge one. Another big one, I think many people are familiar with the 80/20 concept. It’s trying to nail down how that shows up in my business and how I’m using that. I’ve always been somebody who is like, “What’s the minimum viable product that I can get out into the market and figure out what the feedback is?” I have found myself overworking or over-indexing on a component of my business that doesn’t matter. Getting it to 80% sometimes is all I need to do.

CSP 113 | Onboarding Consulting Clients

Those are good points and very common ones as opportunities for people to improve. When we talk about 80/20, you can take a product of 80% to deliver for a client and then people are spending a lot of additional time to complete that last 20%. If 80% is enough, then you don’t need to spend an extra 20% of time. Probably that 20% is a lot more than 20% of time to deliver that full outcome. Clients don’t always need 100%. If what you’re delivering aligns in 80% or even 70% with the results they want, then you don’t need to spend extra time. The other part of 80/20 is the identification of what is the 20% or so, it could be 30%, and it could be 15%, of things that you can do that are going to have the 80% impact or the greater impact. That’s always a good exercise for people to go through to look at how are you currently spending your time right now and what are the things that you could do that maybe they’re the minority, you might have a list of fifteen different things. I spoke to a client who had fifteen different things.

He posted to a forum fifteen different things or something like that. Then we jumped on a call and we were able to narrow it down only three things that he needs to do that are going to have exponential benefit for his business. That’s applicable to all of us. The interesting thing about 80/20 is it doesn’t apply just to business. It applies to life and relationships. Oftentimes, we find that we spend time with people that maybe we don’t enjoy the most or the people that we enjoy spending time with the most were not spending as much time as we could be. These are interesting applications of all this. Kristen, I want to thank you so much for coming on here, sharing a bit of your journey and experiences and best practices. I want to make sure they can learn more about you and your work. Tell everyone where the best place for them to go is.

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me. It’s been great. If you want to learn more about Edify, you can go to EdifyEdu.com. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. I would love to talk to anybody.

Kristen is amazing at what she does. I highly recommend that you reach out. If you decide to let her know what you found most valuable or beneficial from this conversation and if you have any questions, out to us as well. We’re always happy to help. Kristen, thanks again so much.

Thanks, Michael.

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