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strategic growth from solo consultant to team

Strategic Growth – From Solo Consultant to Building a Team: Bonus Podcast

By Michael Zipursky
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One of the greatest challenges that solo consultants face is building a team.

In fact, many consultants are uncomfortable with the mere idea of building a team.

In this guide, we demystify the team-building process for solo consultants.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand why building a team is important, when you should do it, and how to do it strategically.

Let’s dive in.

(Listen to the audio version of this post below)


 

The Early Stages Of A Solo Consulting Business

Here’s how it typically happens.

You start off wanting less complexity. That’s why many consultants leave the corporate world.

reasons to become a consultant statistic

(The #1 Reason People Become Consultants — taken from our How To Become A Consultant Study)

You leave your job because you want to realize your potential. And you feel stuck: like there’s an income ceiling that is holding you back from reaching greater heights.

You’re also being held back from making a bigger impact.

You have bosses breathing down your neck.

You aren’t able to pick and choose the projects or clients you’re working with.

When you add all of that up, what most people want, and what drives them to leave their JOB and become a consultant is the desire for greater freedom, more flexibility, and to realize your potential.

And that’s why so many people will strike out on their own and start their own consulting business.

But I hear from many consultants that one of the main reasons they want to become an independent consultant (working solo) is because they don’t want to manage people. They don’t want to have complexity in their business.

When you start off as a solo consultant, you’ll enjoy…

  • Your newfound sense of freedom and flexibility
  • Getting to pick and choose your clients
  • Not having to worry about managing a team
  • Not having to manage systems and process

…and that’s okay at the early stages because you’re busy — but you’re not too busy.

You’re delivering projects for clients. You’re working on building the business.

Things at the early stages of your consulting business will feel quite manageable. And that can continue on for a period of time.

When Your Consulting Business Begins To Grow

Eventually, you’ll start seeing greater growth. You’re going to be landing more business.

As the pace of your business picks up, as you make a greater impact in the marketplace and your visibility increases, more clients start to seek you out.

You’re starting to get business from different sources. You have a marketing system that is working for you.

You’re receiving more referrals. Your networking is kicking in. Your content creation is helping.

Whatever it is is that you’re doing, it’s starting to make a bigger impact.

You’re reaching that tipping point.

You’re going to start to feel a lot busier.

You’re going to start to feel a bit overwhelmed.

You’re going to feel like you’re being stretched in multiple different directions: that you’re treading water and trying desperately to keep your head above it.

You’re trying your best to keep all these different moving pieces going in the right direction. And at times, not only can it be overwhelming, but it can feel downright exhausting.

And that’s where people will start to experience burnout: of being exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling anxiety kicking in.

Common Misconceptions About Building A Team

At this point, the idea of building a team should seriously enter your mind.

However, you’ll still very likely feel hesitant about getting started. You might view building a team as more work — or as unnecessary.

The typical comments that I hear will be, “Yeah, I don’t want to bring more people in because it’s going to cost more money. It’s going to take money out of my pocket.”

And an even more common concern is, “Well, if I bring someone in, I have to teach them how to do all these different things. I have to train them. I can just do it faster myself.”

These are real concerns. You’ll have to make an investment to bring people on. And it is true that you will have to train them.

But this is the time where it should be clear that if you want to continue growing, if you want to be able to enjoy your business in a way where you don’t feel…

  • Overwhelmed
  • Anxiety
  • Like you’re being stretched in many different directions

If you want to continue growing and not have these feelings — or at least not the degree you feel them now — you’ll have to accept the reality that if you want to make a bigger impact, you can’t do it all yourself.

You might say, “Well Michael, I know this one person who is able to run a solo business and is very, very successful.”

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are always people on the fringe.

But the vast majority of consultants will not be able to continue growing — to higher and higher levels of revenue, greater impact and success — if they continue on trying to do everything themselves.

Why Consultants Should Build A Team

We work with many consultants who are going through this transition in our Clarity Coaching Program.

I remember one client who had a pretty successful executive career working at high levels within multiple organizations. When he struck out on his own, he was convinced that he didn’t want to build a team.

Here’s what he told me:

“I want more freedom. I want more flexibility. I want more time with my wife to spend a bit more time with my kids. I want to be more present and not be as scattered and busy as I was before when I was an executive and dealing with managing other people.”

Shortly after joining Clarity Coaching, he started seeing rapid success in his business. He really wanted to remain solo but he also recognized he couldn’t make the bigger impact he wanted all by himself.

He was starting to feel stretched and overwhelmed.

We supported him and worked with him to put the right systems in place to help him to grow his team and his business.

The reason that he finally became open to the idea of building a team and adding additional people is that he wanted to achieve more.

He wanted to create more. He wanted to enjoy more freedom.

And he recognized that initially, he thought he wanted to do everything by himself. If he wanted to avoid bringing people on, it wasn’t realistic to achieve greater growth or make a bigger impact.

Now, he has a great team in place and his business has never been as successful as it is today.

I speak with many clients who at first say, “I can do everything by myself, I want to remain solo. I don’t want to bring people on. I don’t want to have to deal with training them and hiring them and all the management and coaching that goes into it.”

But I’ve never encountered a client who has actually hired a virtual assistant or an administrator (or other hires) who have said, “Michael, I wish I didn’t do this.”

In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

Every single client who has built a team — even if it’s one person or two people or five people or 10 people — every single client says the exact same thing…

“I wish I did this sooner.”

It’s because it frees them up.

It allows them to really conquer bigger mountains, to make a bigger impact, to achieve more than they ever could as just one person.

When you have a team and the right people in place, you’ll feel excited because you’re going to be able to…

  • see greater and bigger possibilities
  • achieve more
  • accelerate your progress
  • accelerate your growth
  • do it all without just being you

The other benefit is that your business can start to run in certain ways without your direct involvement.

And it doesn’t mean that your expertise will no longer be needed.

There’ll be certain areas you won’t be needed at all. Whether that’s…

  • delivery
  • administration
  • operations
  • marketing
  • sales
  • technology

…or other different areas of your consulting business that you’ll be able to outsource, to delegate, to build a team around.

Now, these things can actually move forward without your direct involvement.

And that is what leads to accelerated growth.

You Don’t Need Full-Time Employees

Now, building a team isn’t about having a bunch of full-time people. That’s one of the misconceptions that make consultants hesitant about building a team.

They think building a team requires a lot of full-time people, which is a big investment. It feels like a lot of risk.

The truth is that you can build a great team with contractors, freelancers, and other part-time people. You don’t need full-time employees. And you don’t need to make a massive commitment upfront.

What I often recommend to clients is to start small — and then expand.

Identify one or two tasks that you can delegate. The first tasks you delegate should be ones that aren’t the best use of your time.

Identify these areas that are lower-value tasks you shouldn’t be doing so that you can delegate them to somebody else.

Delegating these tasks will create time for you to work on higher-value tasks that will create greater value for your business.

Identify areas that you don’t enjoy doing and delegate them to people who will enjoy doing them.

Doing this will help you make greater progress.

You’ll make a greater impact on those that you’re serving — and it also will make you happier.

It will allow you to enjoy your business more because you’ll be spending your time doing the things you love.

Building A Team Is An Investment, Not An Expense

Next, I want to encourage you to view this as an investment.

I know a lot of consultants will look at building a team and they’ll hesitate to do it. They’ll hesitate to even begin the process because they look at it like money coming out of their pocket.

But that’s short-term thinking.

You can easily tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll wait until I achieve this next level of revenue.” Or, “I’ll wait until I get one more client.”

And I certainly remember that back in the day in my first consulting business, that’s what I told myself.

I always kept putting it off.

But, if you keep putting it off, you’re going to always keep “kicking the can down the road.” You’ll never get started.

Identify areas right now where you shouldn’t be spending your time. You can find great people who will do what you’re looking to do for $10, $15, $25, even $50 an hour.

And you might say $50 an hour sounds like a lot — but what is your value?

If you know your hourly value — and I’m not suggesting to use hourly fees, because that’s typically something that we recommend against — but if you just identified what your value is roughly per hour, you might say my value is $150 an hour, or $250 an hour, or $500 an hour, whatever it might be.

Let’s just use the example that you are valued on an hourly basis. And based on the revenue that you want to create is $250 per hour. Right now, that means you’re actually losing $200 every hour that you’re working on a low-value task.

Why?

Because even if you’ve got somebody who’s exceptionally talented — and for $50 an hour you can find really talented people — you could pay that person $50 an hour to take over that task that you’re currently doing yourself because your value is $250.

So if they can do it for $50 an hour you’re actually losing $200 an hour by you doing it yourself.

Now, when somebody takes it off your plate and you delegate it, now you have that hour back.

And it’s not just about one hour.

It’s about you spending an hour or two or three every single day on these things. And they compound. They become bigger and bigger and bigger. And they actually become quite substantial over the weeks and months throughout the year.

Well, now you freed that time up. Now you can invest that time back into higher-value tasks or more meaningful activities, whether it’s…

  • spending time with a spouse or loved ones
  • working more on your marketing
  • developing intellectual property
  • content development

…whatever it might be.

But now you’re able to say, “This hour can actually be used to create $250 an hour — or more.”

Whereas you’re only paying somebody $15, $25, $50 an hour to do those same tasks.

That’s the shift in mindset from looking at building a team as a cost to seeing it as an investment. And when you make that shift, you’ll unlock significantly greater potential.

Buying Back Your Time With Strategic Growth

That’s just one side of the coin. That’s what we would call the revenue side of value.

When we talk about building a team, there are typically two parts of value that are connected right away.

The first is revenue generation. You’re able to accelerate the results of your business because you have more people. You have people helping to move things forward. You’re making greater progress. You can see greater results. Well, that’s going to help you to generate greater revenue and grow the business.

But the other side of the coin is that by delegating — and I’ve mentioned this a little bit earlier — you’re buying back your time. The investment in your team is creating more freedom and flexibility for you.

And you can invest that time back into your business to grow it even more. Or you can invest that time into other things that you enjoy: your physical health, your mental health, your relationships, etc.

It can be anything.

At the end of the day, it’s not about how much money we make, right? It’s about how we spend our time.

You’ll never hear somebody on their deathbed saying, “I wish I had more money.”

They’ll say things like, “I wish I spent more time with my kids. I wish I spent more time with my parents or a spouse or on my hobbies.”

When you buy back your time, not only will your business continue to grow if you have the right systems and structures in place, but now you’ll have more time to spend it in a meaningful way or in a way that resonates or creates more fulfillment for you.

Yes, you will need to hire people. You’ll need to train them. You’ll need to coach them. You’ll need to manage them.

But the benefit you’ll get from that — over the long-term — is worth it.

You’ll face short-term pain or short-term challenges. But you’re going to get long-term benefits from it.

Your profit margins may take a little bit of a hit in the short term. But in the long-term, your revenue growth will more than make up for the increase in costs. And you’re going to make your business itself significantly more valuable.

Action Step: Activity Inventory

So yes, it takes work. Yes. It’s venturing into maybe a new area.

You may think right now, “That’s not something that you need to do.”

But I can tell you from working with hundreds of consultants, that this is one area that people tend to struggle with.

They tend to think, “I don’t need to do that.”

But if you want to…

  • grow beyond where you are
  • make a bigger impact
  • create more freedom

…then think about how you can go from just being solo to building a team.

And remember: your team doesn’t need to be full-time people.

It can be contractors, freelancers, or part-time people.

But think of how you can surround yourself with a team: with people who can help you to achieve more and to make a greater impact.

Inside of our Clarity Coaching Program, we teach the Team Activity List exercise.

strategic growth with the team activity list exercise

This is where you make a list of all the tasks you do in your business.

By starting with a list of tasks, you’ll understand what you can delegate.

Create that list, and then make your first hire to take some tasks that you shouldn’t be doing.

The more you do it, the easier it will get. And before you know it, you’ll have a thriving team: and you’ll be doing the work that is most valuable to you and for your business.

If you’d like some help with this, get in touch here. We’d love to hear from you.

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