What is it that I do?
One of the toughest questions that I struggle to succinctly answer is: What do I do? The reason for this is that I am a generalist. Unlike many of my peers, I don’t have a detailed, specific practitioner level knowledge or certifications in accounting, finance, law, supply chain, marketing, project management, technology or human resources.
As the Managing Partner, principal consultant and the guy who makes the coffee at The Meaford Group, my role is pretty diverse. In half my practice, I work primarily with start-up and early stage software company founders, CEOs and executives as a coach, business advisor or Corporate Director. These activities are pretty focussed on software or professional services companies with less than $50 million in annual revenue.
The other half of my practice is much more diverse. After a twenty-seven year career with IBM & PeopleSoft, I am comfortable working within the context of large multinational organizations so I also consult and train for big software companies.
I have also been fortunate to have worked in client facing roles so am knowledgeable about a wide range of industry sectors beyond high tech and occasionally take assignments outside of the software industry.
In addition to my advisory role, I deliver training workshops focused on leadership and soft skills for consulting, service professionals and leaders of software or professional services companies. While clients of my advisory services are generally part of the Canadian tech scene, my Consulting Skills Workshops are delivered to companies around the world. For example, I recently completed workshops in Manila and Bucharest for a global software company.
Adjacent to my work at the Meaford Group, I also serve as an Executive-in-Residence at the Innovation Factory in Hamilton, a regional not-for-profit innovation centre. In this role, I mentor and advise early stage founders who are just starting their companies. This allows me to work with companies that are often pre-first round investment and at the incubation and development stage of their business.
This leads me back to my opening question, what do I do, and more importantly, what is the value proposition that my diverse service offer brings to these varied businesses. The latter is easier to answer than the former. Primarily, what I bring to my clients is the knowledge of how to grow their business faster and more successfully. I am an operational executive so I know how to sell, how to communicate and how to win clients. I am a detailed oriented executive so I spot issues, inefficiencies and early signs of problems that bite companies in the ass as they grow.
Over the past few days I’ve been trying to articulate what it is like to run my business, what has made me successful, how I choose my clients and how I control the demand for my services when I have more work demanded than time available. What got me started on this quest for a better explanation of what I do was the redesign of my website and the requirement to be able to clearly articulate it.
So why is all this navel gazing important? Whether you are in my business or yours, being able to succulently describe what you do and your valuable proposition is critical to your success. It allows you to focus on what you are best at and ignore the rest. It also allows your prospective customers to know when you are the solution for them to engage.
I find when I can crisply define what I do, my business development cycle with a client is often reduced to a 20 minute introductory phone conversation, a 90 minute lunch to confirm that we have the chemistry to work together, a brief engagement letter and then we start work.
This is in stark contrast to 8 years ago when I started my company. Then, I believed that my resume of smart guy (Engineer, MBA) with senior leadership experience (Group VP, EVP) who had done lots of things (sales, technical, consulting, business operations, managed very large teams, done change management, done M&A, crisis management experience, etc) would be enough to have clients knocking down my doors asking for help. Instead, the opposite happened because no one could visualize how to apply these skills to solve a specific business pain they had.
So after 8 years, I think I am better a describing what I do, but still working on it.