Steve Shu on How to Earn $100,000 to $200,000 For Each Consulting Project

Start small and sell the end vision — how consultants can construct a valuable partnership with anyone from small startups to $2 billion companies.


Steve Shu is a management consultant who has worked and consulted for Vodafone, Allianz, Nortel, Lucent and Wolters Kluwer, as well as taught courses in the business school at Irvine University. He helps incubate technology-oriented startup initiatives within other companies, including new business units, innovation areas, and new product development.  In this episode, Steve shares key tactics for securing high-figure consulting projects, the value of workshops and networking, and the benefits of making regular investments of increased knowledge within your area of consulting expertise.

Breaking down a $100,000 project.

At the beginning of this podcast, Steve details the different phases that can make up a high value project. Beginning with the business definition and leading up to the acquisition of new clients and staffing the organization, several phases can contribute to the total project, including funding, organization, and prospecting.  Each of these phases contributes value to the overall project.  Consultants often need to bring in their own elements of structure to business planning, and Steve shares what he has seen companies need most from consultants.

How can you sell a $200,000 project?

Sell the vision!  Steve has great insights on how to help companies see the outcome of their investment.  Consultants can also sell starter engagements, and you’ll want to hear how workshops can create the vision for the company that will lead to larger value projects.  Steve is also careful to point out that while chat is free, starter workshops still require a fair amount of prep work to be considered worth their value.  Rather than viewing workshops as a one-time engagement, you should approach them as the first step to a long-term investment with each company.

The Balancing Act of Setting Fees

All consultants know that setting fees can be a difficult path to navigate.  In our conversation, Steve has several suggestions to help ease this process.  The process of setting fees can be made easier by looking at the trajectory of each business, then aiming for value-size projects and retainer fees, rather than hourly rates.  You won’t want to miss his take on how to easily calculate appropriate fees.

Finding the Sweet Spot- Identifying Your Target Company Size

For Steve, the right sized company is somewhere between $200 million and $1 to$ 2 billion. Start ups are another one of his desirable target markets.  You can identify what size is right for you based on your marketable skills.  Steve found that his background in working with startups as both a consultant and an operating manager was advantageous in attracting larger companies, while his knowledge of how to get things done appealed more to startup companies.  Networking is another major key to finding the right fit- you need to hear our conversation about how and why strategic relationships are essential to successful company targeting.

Why should you make intellectual capital investments?

You may currently feel very comfortable in your particular niche of consulting and not see the benefit to expanding your range of knowledge, but Steve argues that investing in intellectual capital provides increased market stability.  Consultants need to make regular investments in their expertise to keep themselves relevant in an ever-changing market.  In this segment you’ll learn how making methodical knowledge investments can be one of the most beneficial moves you can make.  If you have ever considered improving and increasing your area of expertise in order to secure your marketability in the future, you need to listen to Steve’s approach to remaining an authority in your market segment.

Key Takeaways:

[1:15] Steve details the phases of a recent start-up project.
[4:50] To win a $200,000 project, start small — a $40,000 workshop can sell the end vision of a high value project.
[11:15] How Steve approaches to the process of setting fees.
[14:20] An appetite for variety was the driving reason that Steve focuses on start-ups within larger companies.
[19:10] Networking is a key strategy in finding referrals and new partnerships.
[22:00] Steve identifies two of the major benefits of independent consulting.
[23:50] Successful consultants need to make periodic knowledge investments.
[28:30] Knowlege investments are meant to create a new kind of thinking within the existing space of each consultant’s expertise.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Steve Shu
Blue Ocean Strategy
Michael Porter


“You have to sell the bigger picture.” — Steve Shu “You have to rely on the network to get an idea of where opportunities might be.” — Steve Shu “If you want to have market stability, you have to invest in intellectual capital.” — Steve Shu

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