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Scaling a 7-Figure Consulting Business with Scott Eastin: Podcast #57

When you’re selling yourself, a project, or a technology, at least from a technical perspective, firms want to find a technical implementer that can talk the tech talk but even more importantly be able to relate to those that write the checks. That’s what Scott Eastin, owner of Eastin IT Security, would say is his big advantage. Scott can do the technical work, but more importantly, he can get up in front of people, tell some jokes, and try to make things fun when talking about technology or at least not put people to sleep. He says having those types of skills makes it a lot easier to close business. At the end of the day, Scott says if you put on your buyer’s hat, that person wants to know if they can trust you to implement this particular technology or if you are someone that they trust and can do business with. Scott says that’s how he’s been able to scale a seven-figure consulting business and what helps him get lots of repeat customers.

Listen to the podcast here:

Scaling a 7-Figure Consulting Business with Scott Eastin

I’m excited to have Scott Eastin joining us. Scott, welcome.

Thank you so much for having me, Michael.

Scott, for those who don’t know you, aren’t familiar with your work, take a moment and explain what you do.

I am the owner and principal of Eastin IT Security. We are a specialty Microsoft security firm that specializes in implementing a number of Microsoft security packages at the enterprise, the large customer level. We work with lots of different Microsoft regional business partners and a lot of their end clients implementing those security tools and platforms.

What’s your background in terms of getting into IT security?

It was not one of those where I had had a lot of forethought about it or whatnot. I had way back when had gotten into information technology when I was first out of grad school. I did not have a technical background but was always interested in it. The first place that I worked when I graduated from grad school, I was in the accounting group, that was in the ‘90s. Technology was hitting the mainstream. I had an aptitude for that and I became IT director for that company and then ultimately went to work in consulting for a larger firm. That’s where I got my IT chops.

Fast forward a few years later, I’m a partner at a smaller firm. We’re doing a lot of application development and we worked with a lot of large multinational firms. I had a specific background working with large beverage company here in Atlanta. I worked there for several years and ended up moving on to greener pastures for more challenging projects. Lo and behold, one of their subsidiaries one day was having a technical problem. The rep and our channel partner happened to know me and asked if I would be willing to go back in the environment and help them out tuning some databases. I told them, “I only want to be there for a week or two.”

Fast forward, that project and customer engagement lasted almost five years. That’s where I got into learning the security tools and was fortunate where I was a decent technology problem solver. They had different tools that would come into that group. I would get a crack at doing it because they didn’t have anyone, at least at that time, with the aptitude to solve those technical problems. As a consultant, I got to play with all the new toys and that was beneficial when I ended up leaving there and moving on to other things. That’s in a nutshell. In some ways, I happened into it and I guess in life that’s almost better than it being planned so it works out the way that it’s supposed to.

I know that you have a seven-figure consulting business and it wasn’t always like this. Take us back to the early days, did you find it easy to start consulting and getting clients or was that a real challenge for you?

CSP 57 | 7-Figure Consulting Business

I’ve been a partner in several smaller 25-person firms, a little bit larger here and there. I’ve always been involved in a group. I would imagine for many on the audience here, those that are going into consulting either on their own or working in larger firms and thinking about stepping out on their own. I reached a place where it made a lot more sense for me to go out on my own and focus on the technical work. That’s initially how I stepped out and got moving along. I was that heads down, focused technician because I reached a point where I didn’t necessarily want to manage people at least at that time and to be completely upfront. There were some business dealings that didn’t quite go the way that I wanted and I decided that I didn’t want to have partners and I wanted to do my own thing. For the first several years, I would say being technically focused and having a lot of contacts, it was fairly easy to land consulting gigs.

What made it easy for you?

When you’re selling yourself, a project or a technology, at least from a technical perspective, firms want to find a technical implementer that can talk the tech talk, but even more importantly, be able to relate to those that write the checks. That’s what I would say is my big advantage. I can do the technical work, but more importantly, I can get up in front of people, tell some jokes, and try to make things fun when talking about technology or at least not put people to sleep. Having those types of two skills, that makes it a lot easier to close business. At the end of the day, if you put on your buyer’s hat, that person wants to know that, “Can I trust this person to implement this particular technology? Is this someone that I trust and that I can do business with?” That’s how I’ve tried to present myself. That’s how I go about it. It helps me close business and it helps me get lots of repeat customers.

That’s a great lesson, an insight for people, the importance of ensuring that you look at things through the lens of the buyer. That feeds and connects into many different aspects of our business from the conversations and the approach that you have to clients, to your messaging and marketing materials, and what your offerings are. The things that you’re mentioning here sound rosy. They sound great, like things have been going pretty good from the start. I’m sure that you’ve encountered some challenges along the way. What stands out for you as some key challenges that you faced early on in your business?

I would say early on in the business perspective, since it was just me, it was fairly easy. I could essentially take care of myself. Over the last few years, I had gone through your Consulting Success program. I feel that that and some other personal development things that I did help me make a decision to grow my business and not just make it me. Over the last several years, I’ve made a push of leveraging my relationships and bringing in more subcontractors to help expand the business.

That’s what has driven most of the growth is that number one, knowing who those target customers are and then number two, trying to find the right technical resources or contractors to be able to work with me on those projects. That’s been where the growth has come from and also the challenges. Over the last year, I would say the personnel side of the business has been by far the biggest challenge. Trying to manage contractors, trying to manage the relationship between contractors and the customers, this has over the last year ebbs and flows. That’s by far the biggest challenge that I have is that personnel management side.

Let’s come back there because I definitely want to explore the model and structure that you’ve been using for growth. One thing that you mentioned that got my interest and I’d like to explore it. You came into our coaching program and you said that that helped you, but even more importantly in my mind, you said that you could control yourself. You talked about it just being you as an advantage at that time. Whereas many people would look at that and say, “I’m just by myself.” They would use that as an excuse almost for being overwhelmed, or not making the progress that they want. You positioned that in a way where it sounded it was a positive. Clearly, you have a mindset of success. I’m wondering where does that come from? How do you support that mindset or how have you created it so you feel like, “I’m in control and I’m going to make happen what I want to make happen?”

One important thing is to always have a schedule. Click To Tweet

I always joke with people that I have too much German in my background, that’s why the trains have to run on time with me. It’s one of those where that’s just always the way that I’ve been. I’m not one of those people that are willing to stay up that late. What I try to do is maximize every moment that I have during the day. My method is I have a pad and I divide that pad up into quadrants. On my upper right hand corner, my top six items I need to accomplish every day. The other three quadrants are my sales items, my standard operating stuff, and then the personal items. I go through that list every day. That’s how I attack it. That’s how I’ve done it for several years.

The other important thing is to always have a schedule. Most of my business is run out of my house. I run what I would consider for most people that work at home, a fairly regimented at home schedule where I get up at the same time every day. I do the same thing from a bit of reflection, a strong cup of coffee, some reading, the shower, walk the dog, and then I’m at work. I’m attacking that list and that I know at a certain time when I have to knock off for the kids or whatnot, I switch over to that. The real key is knowing exactly what you need to try to get accomplished during the day and attacking that list. It’s not anything scientific, but that’s how I manage my day. I don’t have fancy software or anything like that. It is literally four quadrants on a piece of paper on my pad. I fill that out and I attack that list.

Simple in many cases is best. I see the exact same thing, Scott, where so many people are spending more time trying to find a technology or a tool to help them to automate or speed something up. That essentially can be done very quickly if you take out a pad of paper. I’m the same way. Yes, I have my calendar online, Google calendar. I can access it from my phone, from my laptop or my desktop. I can access it when I’m in Japan or in Europe. It doesn’t matter where I am.

I also always carry a booklet where every night, before I leave the office, I will write down what I need to have done tomorrow, what the priorities are. When I come into the office tomorrow, I know exactly what I need to do in exactly the order. While it’s all online, I also keep it in paper because it allows me to cross it off. I refer to both throughout the day. It’s amazing how sometimes the simple old school approach can help you to be much more productive, rather than trying to use a complicated technology or online tool that in many cases you can spend more time trying to figure out and use. If you apply the same amount of time, you get more done in your business.

I would imagine most of your consultants are either independent consultants or people with smaller firms. I would imagine for the most part, that to-do list is not terribly complicated. At the end of the day, you know what needs to be taken care of. Writing it down on a pad and staring at it helps focus the mind. I find that when I am in the weeds or overwhelmed, going back to that pad and looking at, “What is something simple on this list that I can knock out to make progress and scratch that off,” is a big boost and knowing that I’m making some progress.

How has your approach to marketing changed in your consulting business over the years?

That is certainly the biggest change with the business and is continuing to evolve. As we talked about, I know that that’s one thing that you hammer home in your program is finding out who your ideal target market or customer is. That was a focus for me thinking about that with your program and even after. I probably took a different slant than what most consultants would do or probably even your program, where I would imagine most people are spending a lot of time trying to reach the direct end customers. Sometimes that is certainly good depending upon your business. For instance a coach like yourself, you obviously want to contact lots of different individuals and whatnot. It’s an easy conversation to have. Whereas our target customers are large multinational firms interested in implementing these specific technology.

CSP 57 | 7-Figure Consulting Business

What I found in trying to reach those end customers is that it’s a very crowded channel. Everybody wants to do business with the Fortune 500 or the Fortune 50. For the most part, their procurement systems are set up to say no or only let certain people in. What I found is that if you were to go lower in the distribution channel of those technologies and technology services, lots of these large firms like Cisco or Oracle, they all have business partners that spend lots of money going out, doing sales and marketing trying to reach these folks. What our strategy ended up morphing into was going after that second tier of service providers. What we found is that it was a very uncrowded channel, especially if you have specific niche technical skills that not a lot of people have.

Is that because the market is so crowded by trying to reach the end client directly, that by connecting with these second tier suppliers to the Fortune 500 client, they already have the relationship with them.

That’s how we’re making contact with a lot of these folks. We also get referrals where someone has blown something up with one of the technologies that we specialize in, and were asked to come in and rescue the ship. That’s often how a lot of our relationships start.

How does that work? Some consultants will hear that. This is not necessarily an approach that is foreign. There are consultants using this approach and it’s one that I know I’ve had many conversations with people about it, but I know that one of the concerns that come up for people is that there’ll be an erosion of your margin. That if you’re working with a supplier and they’re connecting you to, in this case the Fortune 500 company, maybe your rates are X but they’re going to charge the client Y, or they’re going to take a percentage of what you would charge. How have you found it best to structure your fees to ensure that you’re still receiving the level of compensation that is very profitable for you?

Here’s the calculus of why I decided to go with this marketing program versus the direct side. Someone in my position could literally spend months, years, maybe more trying to get in at a Home Depot or a Coca-Cola. Those firms are all crowded channels. Trying to do direct business and get the CIO on the phone is nearly impossible. You have that opportunity cost of sitting around waiting for the Home Depot CIO to take your call versus, “I can go to this particular regional business partner.” I may not be getting the full boat rate that this partner might be getting from that customer, but I’m getting the business quicker. I’m doing business with these types of firms, I’m establishing my relationships with them, working in those types of environments. I’m also getting the opportunity to do other projects with those particular business partners.

What we find is that we get in and start working with those business partners and they may say, “This is going great. We have another project. Could you help us out on this? Do you have someone that could do this? That could do that?” We’ve had some projects or some of these business partners that we have made contact through what we call disaster marketing, where we know that they’re looking for help on a particular technology. We may do a small $50,000, $60,000 deal with them, but the lifetime value of that particular partner, because of all the different stuff that they bring us in on, we’ve got some that are millions of dollars of revenue that they brought in over the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars of billable hours or revenue for us.

Make sure that your buyer is comfortable with your background, that you can be trusted and that you can do the work. Click To Tweet

That’s the calculation is that you can either wait as a small consulting firm or an independent consultant, and wait for that Fortune 10 or 50 CIO to take your call or attack the distribution channel, get the revenue and then you’re doing the work in those firms. Ultimately, when they do take your call, hopefully you can say, “We’re doing business with this group now,” or “We’ve done business at this particular company. We’re familiar with those types of environments.” It establishes your bonafides, your credential. When that call does come, it goes back to my opening comments about making sure that your buyer is comfortable with your background. That you can A, be trusted and B, do the work. That’s how our strategy has evolved and moves along.

For people to maximize the strategy you’ve implemented into your business, because if you are giving up on margin in order to be introduced to work with this end client through the supplier or this agency you are being introduced through, you need to be able to scale. If not then you could be given more and more hours, but that’s going to fill up, as an independent consultant, a lot of your own time. You’ll end up with a full schedule of full capacity, but not earning the level of revenue or income that you’d like to per hour, per day and so forth.

To maximize the benefit of this, it’s about having more leverage and being able to put more resources and more people into an organization so that you can increase your overall billables, which is the structure and approach that you’ve taken here, Scott. Can you share what does the structure of your business look like and how have you, formed it so that you have more leverage and you’re able to scale your consulting business.

The way that we’re structured is that it’s obviously me and then I have a number of subcontractors, either independents or specialty firms that I pull in for given projects. That’s the way that I operate. I’ve got some sub-vendors, smaller companies that I’ve worked with for eight or nine years where we’re doing work together. I may leverage those folks that perhaps are a little bit more or are higher cost. I’m leveraging them to get us into a given account so we can expand out and try to get additional resources onto those projects that are perhaps pure independents or lower cost folks.

That’s how we operate is that it’s a nexus of individual independent contractors or specialty firms that we may bring in to help open the door if we have an opportunity. That’s the strategy. The tools that we’re using on that, a lot of LinkedIn, a lot of LinkedIn Recruiter and then Upwork is another area that I utilize. For those that are reading and want to use that strategy, using something like LinkedIn Premium, LinkedIn Recruiter is how I at least initially identify contractors that I want to work with who have the technical skills and are perhaps in the geographic area that I’m most interested in.

CSP 57 | 7-Figure Consulting Business

I always say to consultants spend time building your bench before you even need it, because you want to have the ability to take on projects and fulfill on high-value opportunities. You’ve done a good job at that, Scott. You mentioned disaster marketing. There’s a way where you can identify which organizations, which suppliers or second tier companies you can connect with and get into.

They then are the ones that introduce you and bring you in to serve the end client called the Fortune 500 company. How do you do that? For people reading, this is a great strategy. I could see this working for me. I like the idea of building a team and managing it to fulfill in this capacity. What do they need to do? How do they identify these, as we’re calling the second-tier companies, and what should their outreach to them look like? How do they get meetings?

I’ll give you the exact template of one that we did. This is a low tech solution, but I found it to be effective when something does hit. On one of my browser pages on Yahoo, I have all RSS feeds looking at various jobs for certain technologies that we work in. Even RSS feeds for some of the regional partners that we might be interested in doing business with. I’ll review those every now and then. If there’s something that looks interesting, I will try to find somebody on LinkedIn that works at that firm and looks like they might be in charge of that particular area.

I go through on LinkedIn and I write them a note saying, “I noticed that you’re looking for help with this particular technology. I know that you’re trying to hire someone.”I say, “While you’re looking for that perfect new hire, I’d like to offer my firm’s services. If you need help in these particular technologies, let us know. We’d certainly love to talk with you.”We’ve gotten several responses from that. Those turned into six figure streams of revenue and have had turned into some great relationships. That’s a simple type of model that I have used, just looking at something like that.

To fast forward, what we’re in the process of doing is implementing more account-based marketing. I’ve got a great marketing resource off of Upwork’s and we’ve been working on a good market strategy where we’re doing more direct outreach, showcasing some of these technologies that we work with and trying to make contact that way with some of these customers and being more proactive that way. That is an email that made me $400,000 through LinkedIn. It was doing something simple like that. I’m not calling them on the phone constantly but just saying, “Notice you need some help while you’re looking for that perfect new hire. If you need immediate assistance, please feel free to call up on me.”

The biggest change with any business is continuing to evolve. Click To Tweet

Scott, I remember from the work that we did together before on your business that health was very important to you. What do you do to stay on top of your game? I know you mentioned part of your routine is you’re up at the same time every day. You’re doing some reflection. You’re taking the dog for a walk. I remember that you certainly spent time on thinking about health. What is your daily routine and habits look like?

Typically at lunch, I’m fortunate that the gym that I go to, it’s what I’ll say a CrossFit lifestyle gym is very close to my house. I will go there at lunch and workout, but now, I’m going in the evenings. I’ll probably go in the next hour here, but I go probably three or four times a week. I have historically been a distance runner and was injured last year, but I’ve been coming back from those injuries and hoping to do more this year. The CrossFit style stuff has been my primary thing that I’ve been doing, then trying to run on the weekends and being active with the kids.

Definitely having the weightlifting component is big. The endurance component. If anyone has done anything with CrossFit, you certainly know how intense that can be. As we were talking about in the pre-show, knowing that if you can get through something like that and knowing I only have to push a little bit more to the end. It’s amazing how that translates into the business day of, “Can I work on this problem a bit more? Can I make a little bit more progress?” and see if it’ll crack open.

All of you weren’t on the pre-show obviously, but what Scott and I were discussing is his kids, his schedules, health and sports. Scott was mentioning about his kids playing soccer and all that. I was saying for me as well that resonates because when I was growing up, I spent all of my youth-focused on sports. I was very competitive. One of the things that it taught me was the mindset of if there’s something that I want to get done, it’s not a question of whether or not it’s going to happen.

It will, as long as I’m committed to it. I’ve certainly brought that to all of the businesses that we’ve built, that we’ve sold, that we continue to work on and the work that we do with our clients. Scott, you’ve benefited from that. I know I have and many others that have in terms of developing that mindset of success, of consistency, of work a little bit more. Have good work ethic and put in a little bit more. Done the right way, it compounds a good investment. You see a much greater overall result from that.

For everyone, even if you’re not physically active now, even just walking 30 minutes, even just doing some type of exercise, it pays incredible dividends. It’s a huge competitive advantage. If you’re not exercising at least an hour a day or even 30 minutes a day, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re tired, you have no energy, you’re not going to do your best work.

Leverage your relationships to help expand the business. Click To Tweet

We can all find ways to fit it in. I know some people will tell themselves, “I can’t do it. I need to put it off. I’m too busy, “but that is a short-term mindset. That’s thinking how busy you are and not recognizing what’s going to happen to you potentially from a health perspective, a mindset perspective down the road if you continue doing that. You’re probably not going to end up reaching your goals, you’re not going to feel that good about yourself and you look back and you’re going to regret it. Setting up that habit is important.

It would be the same as people that are running a business, not doing any marketing because they’re too busy on projects. You’ve got to make time to do those things.

Scott, thank you so much for coming on here and sharing a bit of your story with us. I do appreciate it. It’s been an honor and pleasure for me to watch the growth of your business over some time here. I’m excited to see your continued growth and success. I want to make sure that people can learn more about you and your work. What’s the best place for them to go to find out about you and your company?

You can go to our homepage, EastinITSecurity.com and you can find out all about us there.

Scott, thanks again so much.

Michael, thank you again. It’s been a pleasure.

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