Taking Greater Risks to Enjoy Greater Rewards with David Baker: Podcast #14

Consulting success will be yours when you start taking greater risks and stop reinventing the wheel with every new client that comes along.


David Baker is a consultant who has been working with marketing firms and advertising agencies since the late 1980s. He is an author, a speaker, and an adviser who helps companies make high-quality business decisions. David focuses on finances, benchmarking, performance, and positioning of firms, as well as PR, advertising, and more. Having spent the majority of his childhood living in a Mayan Indian tribe, David didn’t attend formal school until he was nearly 18 years old. It was during graduate school where he was studying theology and language that he (somewhat naively) decided that he could produce better ads than the ones he was seeing in newspapers. He began consulting peers on the side and realized that he wanted to pursue consulting as a full-time career.

Once he discovered that he had the skills he needed for success, his career took off and hasn’t stopped since. In our conversation, David shares the mistakes he made in the early days of his career, how he has achieved the perfect work-life balance, and the number one error that he wishes consultants would stop making. With over three decades of experience under his belt, he is definitely a consulting and business expert, and you won’t want to miss the insights he shares on this on this episode of the Consulting Success Podcast.

Don’t Compromise Just to Keep Feeding the Machine

For many of today’s successful consultants, taking the leap from a secure paycheck to an independent consulting business can be a very scary one. David knew all about that reality — and the potential unreliability of consulting gigs — when he first started out. He decided to take on a second full-time job to help buffer his potential risk while getting his consulting business up and running. By doing this he was guaranteed a way to still feed his family without having to deal with potential pressure from the economy to lower his consulting work. It only took him a few months, but the security that the second job offered him was priceless as he was starting out. By having an extra stream of income, David was able to only take on consulting clients that he really wanted to work with, and he didn’t have to compromise his pricing, either.

You may find yourself in a similar situation where you are considering negotiating on your pricing so that you can secure more work, but David says, don’t! There are endless opportunities for growth within the consulting field, and that growth can be used to your advantage. When business slows, you may be tempted to lower your prices or take on work from a less-than-ideal client, but that will undoubtedly lead to a constant stream of compromises.

In our conversation, David shares several tips to help you avoid making these kinds of detrimental compromises. First, you have to decide how big you want your firm to be. Don’t let the marketplace decide that for you, and don’t grow or shrink based on the marketplace either. Second, you have to size your firm in proportion to how many opportunities you regularly encounter. You should position yourself in such a way that you can routinely turn down work, and be more selective about the kind of work that you are willing to take on. This will put you in a position to make the best choices for your firm. You’ll want to listen as David explains why this approach will give you greater success over the long run.

A Successful Business Isn’t Just a Hobby

Too many entrepreneurs approach their business as a side job. While it’s true that some people are simply more success-minded than others, if you possess the number one qualities that David outlines in our conversation, you will be more successful than your peers and competitors. But first, you can determine if your business is headed toward success by truthfully examining your income levels. A successful entrepreneurial enterprise yields profit consistently, while those who find that they are constantly having cash flow problems are, in reality, the ones that are having legitimate business problems.

Taking Risks Means Securing Success

In David’s fifth and newest book The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Conver Insight to Impact + Wealth, David conducted a series of surveys with over 1,000 entrepreneurs and found that they all had only one major characteristic in common — their willingness to take risks. In our conversation, we discuss the payoff that comes with taking risks as your consulting business grows.

Many consultants are afraid to make decisions, but you can’t let this happen to you. By looking at the negatives before the positives in the risks that you may encounter, you are only going to paralyze your progress. David recognizes that the only safe way to never make any mistakes is to never make any decisions, but that will hardly create a thriving consulting business. Although the potential for taking risks may compound as your company grows, so will the rewards. Your employees will surely be forgiving of the bad decisions you make, but they won’t be forgiving if you never make any decisions at all. Anytime you are faced with a decision to make — whether it be to add a partner or take on a new client — weigh your options quickly, pull the trigger, and don’t look back.

Making Mistakes Means Becoming a Better Consultant

If you’re like David, you may not remember the good choices that you’ve made nearly as well as you remember the mistakes you’ve made along the way. But don’t worry — that is a good thing. The lessons you learn from your poor choices are the ones that are going to teach you how to be a better consultant. David shares several of the mistakes that he made — some of which prompted the writing of his fourth book Managing (Right) for the First Time — and those that have allowed him to achieve the level of consulting success that he enjoys today.

Finding the Right Size Business for You

Every entrepreneur and consultant dream of achieving the right size business that also allows for perfect work-life balance. Despite years of pressure to grow larger, David resisted this pressure and instead found ways to make his one-person company work harder for him. He details the formula that he uses to grow his business, starting with his weekly content-filled email, which reaches an audience of 30,000 readers and potential clients. His decision to produce content consistently has been the biggest contributor to his company’s success. He admits that he’s not much of an extrovert or a networker, but he has still managed to find a very successful way to reach his clients that fits his personality perfectly.

Avoid These Common Mistakes to Find Greater Success

David has been in the marketing and consulting industry since the late ’80s, and he has seen consultants make plenty of mistakes along the way. The biggest mistake is watching consultants consistently solve clients problems on an individual basis. When a client approaches you with what seems to be a unique problem, you have to take a step back and recognize that this is a problem that many consultants have experienced before and that many more will face in the future. If you can find a way to solve a client’s problem on a greater scale, you can increase the demand for your expertise and also reduce your future workload. David also shares the easy fix to the second biggest problem he has seen in the consulting world, and it starts with increasing your confidence level and perfecting your positioning in your marketplace. A successful consultant doesn’t spin his wheels — he learns from his mistakes and propels himself from there to success. You can hear all about David’s tips and advice for starting out right and achieving greater success on this episode of the Consulting Success Podcast.

Key Takeaways:

[:19] Introduction of David Baker — current consultant, former Mayan Indian tribe dweller.
[6:45] Why you can’t afford to compromise your standard of work.
[10:07] Successful entrepreneurs have these key qualities in common.
[12:31] Taking risks will compound your consulting success.
[16:37] The lessons learned that allow David now to serve his clients so well.
[20:27] Finding the right sized business means resisting pressure and producing content.
[24:27] David’s earliest steps to consulting success.
[26:20] Avoid these common consulting mistakes, starting with increasing your confidence level.
[31:14] How you can connect with David Baker.

Mentioned in This Episode:

The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth, by David Baker
Managing (Right) for the First Time, by David Baker


“The difference between a firm that thrives and one that doesn’t is the quality of their business decisions.” — David Baker


“Decide how big a firm you want to be, and don’t let the marketplace determine that for you.” — David Baker


“Too many people in business treat it like a hobby.” — Michael Zipursky


“An entrepreneurial enterprise yields profit consistently.” — David Baker


“At some point, you should just stop listening to other people.” — David Baker

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