A little patience and a lot of value are all it takes to prove your high-dollar consulting worth.
The Secret to Landing Six-Figure Consulting Projects with Dauwn Parker
I’m very excited to have Dauwn Parker joining us. Dauwn, welcome.
Thank you, Michael. I’m glad to be here.
I’m really excited to have you come on here, Dauwn, and just share with us your journey and experience along the consulting path. Why don’t we start off and just have you tell everyone who don’t know you and what you’re up to what it is that you do?
My name is Dauwn Parker and I started Precision Partners consulting firm back in 2013. Our focus is really in the areas of healthcare and higher education, and really looking to take them to the next level with their fundraising. We do that with taking a hard look at their operations, helping them streamline, optimize and choose the right technology to support those operations.
What were you doing before that?
Before that, I’ve been really in and out of consulting, obviously working for other consulting firms pretty much most of my career with the focus being in the area of customer relationship management software that really boomed on to the scene in the 90s. With that, I worked with a lot of private sector companies, financial industry, high tech and all sorts of companies. It just really got to a point where I didn’t see this growth in the non-profit sector. Where are universities? How were they taking advantage of this concept of building relationships using information to strengthen your relationships with your constituents in the nonprofit sector? I made the transition in the early 2000s to UCLA and was trying to work within that and see what about the private sector that I gained from structure, from the methods, how I could apply that in the university space. I had quite a bit of success in streamlining some processes with UCLA. They’re known as a public university with some of the largest fundraising goals out there. After that, I made a transition to healthcare with City of Hope as well, a huge cause in terms of cancer research but really looking to push that further, push the envelope on being able to do more by leveraging their fundraising arm to do that and bringing in more revenue. I was able to make an impact there as well. In the process of that, I got to meet a lot of other organizations. I was on quite a few advisory boards and things like that. I found that some of the methods that I was applying at the institutions where I worked, people wanted to know more about it, other universities, other healthcare organizations, other nonprofits. That’s when I made the decision in 2013 that, “I want to make a bigger impact and spread this information and these vital tools across more organizations.” I set out then and that’s where Precision Partners came onto the scene.
Before you actually went out on your own and started to build the consulting business, it sounds like you really identified a market that wasn’t being served. There was opportunity to bring in new strategies and new approach to the healthcare and education market, specifically around the area of fundraising. I’m just wondering, what really pulled you to that? Some people might look and say, “There are markets that aren’t really being tapped right now, but maybe that’s for a good reason. Maybe there isn’t enough opportunity, or maybe the non-profits don’t have enough money.” What actually pushed you over the edge or just even pulled you in that direction to say, “I want to take a position and start working with UCLA or City of Hope on this and explore it further?”
I think it was my interest in providing what I saw, a gap in the market. That was one aspect of it. An additional catalyst was more of a pull. Essentially, to the latter part of 2013, I actually had done quite a few presentations. This is before I went full-time into the consulting arena. People started to see me out in the industry and really caught on to some of the concepts that I was putting out there and some of the tools and techniques that were being used. I received a call towards the latter part of 2013 from who would become my first client and said, “We’re implementing a brand new system. We really want to do it correctly. We have a budget that we fought for and we don’t want to waste it. Can you help us?” With the combination of that confirmation that, “I was right. There is a gap in the industry,” and then there was the pull from an ideal client with that phone call. I think it was the perfect combination of the two, seeing it and getting the confirmation or someone calling you because how often does that happen where you actually get a call out of the blue right when you’re thinking of, “There’s a need out there.” That was confirmation for me and I went full steam ahead with that.
Especially at the early stages, those calls are not as common. You guys have gone on to win multiple six-figure projects, so I want to talk about that as well. Before we get there, you made the decision to step out on your own and to leave the corporate space, the career and really venture into starting your own consulting business. Was that a hard decision or did that come natural to you?
It was a tough decision. I am a conservative person by nature. While I’m willing to take risks, it’s definitely calculated risks. It wasn’t an easy decision but I think that along the same time is when I found your material also out searching on the web, trying to put things together. The first thing, trying to figure out pricing from a consulting standpoint, because I’ve done it from a big firm, so I know what can be charged to the client. In this specific market and with the structure of an independent consulting firm, I wasn’t quite sure. I think having conversations with you, being exposed to the overall consulting success groups, I think what helped me make that leap was to know that there are other people out here doing this successfully. I’m confident that I’m a pretty intelligent person and I can do this too with a repeatable marketing strategy roadmap and guidance. With the passion, with my confidence and knowing the market, the industry as well as having the comfort of using some of your proven methods, I was able to check all the boxes for me that, “This is a calculated risk. This can be done.”
You took a leap. I’m so glad you did. I can’t believe it’s almost going on five years now. What do you do, Dauwn, to really stay focused on success and growing revenue? Just in the day-to-day, week-to-week, what do you do to ensure that things are moving forward with your business?
The biggest thing that has been successful for me is really staying committed to having those conversations. Having conversations with existing clients just to continue to understand the value that they’re receiving from our services to further build out our story and to share with new ideal clients. I think those conversations as well as not being scared to pick up the phone and continue to have those conversations with organizations who have never heard of us. To continue to have conversations throughout our partner organizations. To continue to have conversations with others in our industry, even other consulting firms. I’ve been able to reach out and brainstorm with other consulting firms. All of those conversations, I find, continue to get Precision Partner’s name out there in the marketplace. My name, my expertise continues to become more well-known among folks in our industry. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had where I think I’m calling a stranger and they’ve heard of me already through a conversation with another mutual acquaintance.
For everyone, there are lots of hype out there online these days especially, but what Dauwn just shared right now, if there is a secret to growing your consulting business, that was it. It’s all about conversations. Everything that you should be focused on, it always comes back to having a conversation. I’m really glad that you brought that up, Dauwn, because certainly that is what I would say is the most important key to growing your business. Knowing what you know now, is there something that you wish that you would have done more of or maybe differently early on in your business?
I would have jumped out there sooner. I had no idea it would take off this quickly. I knew I would enjoy it but I had no idea I would enjoy it this much. In the level of freedom and to be able to get back to being creative, I didn’t know I missed that in more of the corporate structure. I think the biggest thing is doing it sooner and I would think as we’ve hit a growth pattern with Precision Partners, being more diligent about how to let go.
What do you mean by that?
When you start any consulting firm as a single individual, you’re a one-person show. Everything that has been created came from me. There was a certain attachment to all of the services that I created, all the services that I deliver but in order to grow, it was necessary to start to bring others into that process in a strategic manner. I had no idea that I was so attached to some of the things that I created. I really had a hard time letting that go, letting others in where they did have the expertise to provide portions of our services. That has definitely been a struggle for me. I wish I would have had that ability maybe a little sooner than later, which is taking place now but that’s been a longer road than I anticipated.
It’s the evolution of your business, the fact that you are able to benefit from that now, and for everyone who are maybe at the early stages, can even benefit earlier. It’s all part of it. Let’s switch over now to talking about some of the projects that you’ve worked on. I know that you’ve landed some very large projects, including a multiple six-figure consulting deal. I think people would be interested to explore that a little bit. What went into that? I don’t know how specific you want to get here in terms of sharing numbers, but let’s just say a large multiple six-figure consulting project that you’ve landed. What do people need to do from a mindset perspective and also from a tactical approach and application perspective to create that?
It started with a conversation and I think the most important element was patience in landing what accumulated to the six figures. The first one was around $250,000. The next one was almost double that. That doesn’t happen overnight. It was persistence in continuing to have conversations that were valuable to the university and the healthcare organization that we were engaged with. It was a lot of listening to where they were struggling and what challenges they were coming up against and if I could provide something of value, something that can make it easier right now. Not a service but just words of wisdom or, “Let me connect you with another institution that I know that’s having a similar challenge,” for you to have a conversation, to know you’re not by yourself and this is not unusual. By becoming a resource in some instances, for connecting them and having conversations, I moved from, “This person is pretty knowledgeable,” to “I trust this individual.” I became a trusted advisor even before we laid out any contracts. The sale at that point becomes a lot easier when I was already the trusted advisor.
I think that’s such great advice and that share there because a lot of people have more of a transactional mindset. They’re thinking about landing a deal or making more money, growing sales and revenue. All those things are important but in the consulting business, it’s not about a transaction. It’s about a relationship. What you just laid out there, Dauwn, I think is a really great example of patience, focus and commitment to serving clients. As you do that, you provide more value and that positions you in a place where there’s a lot more trust and you build on a relationship and who people want to buy from. They want to buy from people who they like, that they enjoy spending time with or at minimum that they feel they can trust and someone who can get that job done. You have done that just exceptionally well. Clearly, it shows by the types of projects that you have been landing. I want to flip this a little bit now because I think we’re talking about your success but things aren’t always just nice and everyone’s smelling roses and happy. As consultants, we all encounter situations that are tough as well. Maybe it’s when we’re dealing with clients or just simply something’s happening and we lose a project or we’re having a bad day, whatever it might be. How do you respond to that? What’s your coping mechanism or when something challenging comes up, what do you do?
I’m lucky enough to have some really good people around me. After the Precision Partners started to grow after a year, my husband, Mario, actually made the decision to make a career switch and come on board with me and try to take care of the operations aspects of the company, to free me up to focus on developing those products and services. It was to really keep me out there with the client and not necessarily bogged down with some of the backend elements. What that also gave me is a great sounding board. For the last ten years, Mario pretty much had his own business but in a different industry. He had some of the experience and the toughness that I was developing. Being able to have those conversations with a very close partner in my life and get that encouragement just from that standpoint and just unrelenting support, I think has been very key. Also my willingness to share when I’m having a tough time because I think naturally, as individuals and even as successful individuals, we don’t always want to share when things are going wrong. Being able to come to the Facebook group or now having developed individual relationships by attending the mastermind events, I can call people up and I can put things out there. Recently, I had to cancel a vacation because of the workload for the consulting firm. I was really upset about that because I had taken it to a place, “What did I do wrong to not organize my time, not really manage this well in order to have to give up a vacation?” I went and put that out there in the group. I got a lot of uplifting encouragement, a lot of ways to look at it in terms of the focus. This is right now that you gave up a vacation but to continue with the commitment to the growth of the business, and also in order to reward myself to quickly create another vacation, which I did, something else I can I could look forward to. That allowed me to move through those situations. It’s just being willing to share what’s going on when it’s not going well and to have a support system to get that feedback and sounding board to move through it.
I think that’s really important, whatever it is that people are using, finding someone or a group of people that they can get some support from. Growing a business especially as an independent or a small consulting firm, a lot of people can feel lonely along the way and there are lots of challenges that come up. Whatever that might be and whoever it’s from, find some support because that can really, really help. We’ve seen this in so many instances. You, Dauwn, have Mario as well and Mario is such a phenomenal guy. What else do you do when you’re not consulting? How do you balance the whole work-life thing?
We are avid tennis players. We both have athletic backgrounds in general. That’s really what drew us together as a couple. That aspect for us is non-negotiable. We continue playing tennis. Mario has actually expanded into beach tennis and I’ve dabbled into that. We’re traveling to play tournaments at this point. Whether it’s beach tennis or whether it’s hardcourt tennis, we’ve identified for us tennis as the non-negotiable outlet to relieve stress. We have some great friendships and relationships through tennis. We go to professional tennis tournaments together. That’s really been our outlet and balance. Also, our family life, we have two children who are both in high school. We are open with them about the business, the ups and downs of it. We see not only building Precision Partners obviously as a love of ours and a way to provide for our family, but we also look at it as our children are front row and center to the experience of being an entrepreneur. They already know what that is. Family conversations are interesting around here and we’re very open. They actually provide that levity sometimes from their fresh young perspective like, “What’s the big deal? Why is this really bothering you?” Sometimes our children give us a reset as well.
Tell me more about that. Why have you chosen to be open with them about your business? I think there are a lot of people out there who have this mindset of a separation between work and business. They come back from the office or even if they’re working from home, they leave that room and all of a sudden it’s like, “I’m not going to talk to my family about what’s going on, good or bad. Maybe a little bit of the good stuff because I want to share that but not the bad,” and they really keep closed. For you, do you not even think about it or was it just a natural thing like, “We’re going to talk about it,” or was there a time that you actually discussed and made it an intentional decision to include your children?
I think for us, the pull was from both sides. I thought it was important for our children to know beyond the traditional careers that they see out there, especially given their ages, and the competition that they’re already up against in high school. All of the boxes you have to check to get into a good college or a really high-performing University, they’re already starting to feel that pressure and already starting to ask questions within themselves, “What career path do I want to take?” With that coming up already, it seemed to me a responsibility of ours to open their eyes to something that’s not always talked about in your traditional school settings. Being an entrepreneur, understanding what consulting is. On top of that, they were inquisitive. They knew there was some success going on, “Mom and Dad are doing well. I’m not quite sure what they’re doing.” Some of that came from exposing them. They had very pointed questions. They wanted to understand what Precision Partners was, what we did, how we contribute to the overall business world. What started to happen is a certain pride. They have a certain pride about our consulting firm. It has become a family bonding element for us. I wanted them to have a real picture. That’s why I chose to not just share the successes but I said, “Tonight, I’m up pretty late. This is how it goes. We’re trying to either present a deliverable or we’re trying to provide a scope of work by a deadline. Deadlines are important. Your commitment to your clients are important.” I wanted them to see that firsthand.
I think it’s wonderful that you are doing that. It’s such a great opportunity for just really anyone, but especially kids to see that firsthand and the way that you’re being open about not only the good but the bad. I think it’s just such a wonderful opportunity. The other thing here I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned in terms of tennis that it’s a non-negotiable. Tell me more about that. What does that actually mean? When you say it’s non-negotiable, is it specifically you block out times in your calendar? What’s the mindset around that?
There are standing days when we are in town. Tuesday evenings are beach tennis. The weekend, either Friday evenings, Saturday morning and Sunday morning are blocked out for hardcourt tennis. Our commitment is to get at least a couple of days a week. There are also certain tournaments we play every year. With those tournaments, it’s one thing to go out socially and play but we find committing to our standard three tournaments a year, you don’t want to show up in the tournament and be embarrassed, so it also encourages us to have that commitment of practicing and being prepared up to that tournament day.
That’s a great example that people can apply. Not that everyone is going to be playing tennis but just in all aspects of life. I talked with a lot of people and it seems like many people these days are feeling overwhelmed. There’s so much going on. They can’t find time to do certain things that they want. I always believe that you can always find time. It’s all about just making that commitment and prioritizing and that’s exactly what you have done here. You found something that’s important to you and it’s blocked in or it goes in your calendar. It’s not something that you just think about. It’s in there and that then gives you the opportunity to say no to other things that may come up and may want to take those slots because it’s planned. That’s really such a key to productivity that I think many people can benefit from here. If you want to get more done, just really prioritize what’s important to you both on the business front as well as the personal front, and then get it in your calendar so that you know what you’re working with. Then you can work around it. You have done that. You find time for what’s important for you on the family front, on the health and wellness, the fun side of tennis and tournaments, and your business is still growing. It’s a job very well done. I’m really excited to continue watching as you and Mario and Precision Partners grows. Dauwn, thank you so much for coming on here. What’s the best way for people to learn more about your work and to connect with you?
Dauwn, thank you so much for coming on and sharing with us here.
I really enjoyed it, Michael.