It's fair to say I kicked off my own data management consultancy with a flawed strategy of "If I build it they will come".
When my 'Field of Dreams' refused to grow, I invested in sales and marketing education, and the results soon came.
My first investment was with Penny Power's Ecademy and their Blackstar program.
There, like many in the UK, I was introduced to business coach Richard White (who sadly is no longer with us).
I still use many of Richard's techniques today and it's fair to say I never would have took the plunge and stayed the course without the early support of Ecademy and Richard's guidance and encouragement.
Through investment in coaches and training along the way, it's continuously reinforced the value of investing in my own knowledge to better serve my clients.
If you're thinking of launching your own data management business, or have already launched and are struggling, I can't stress the importance of getting that outside perspective.
The value of coaching and personal development cannot be overstated.
For example, when I put my own coaching transformation program together, I initially resisted the idea of adding elements of mindset coaching.
"These are grizzled data veterans, they just want tactics and logical steps to follow, not 'woo woo life coach' stuff".
But as so often happens, my preconceived notions were wrong and the 'woo woo' stuff has created some huge shifts in the mindset of my clients, helping them to augment and focus the more practical sales and marketing steps I help clients execute.
For example, I've seen data professionals realise, sometimes for the first time in years, that aspects of their work really does bore them silly, and it's ok to let it go and build a business model around the work that drives them.
Sometimes people just need permission and encouragement to change.
(And I'm sure you've seen that many times in your own data management career).
When you build a data management proposition you truly love to deliver (tapping into that Zone of Genius that my clients will recognise), whilst building systems to outsource the stuff you hate, you will see your business, and life, in a completely different light.
Because life is too short to spend it doing work that grinds you down and leaves you unfulfilled.
So give yourself permission to invest in yourself.
Make personal learning a pillar of your small business.
Don't feel guilty about increasing your knowledge in the non data-stuff.
Learning an entirely new discipline is a fantastic experience. Consider it a reward for so many years spent in the 'data trenches'.
And if it helps grow your business as well, it's a persuasive pitch to loved ones too!
What's more, as you develop new skills of attraction, ethical influence and persuasion, you'll start to observe a subtle change in your consulting engagements.
Your messaging will become more succinct.
Your ideas and suggestions will land with greater impact.
You'll have greater influence and traction through storytelling techniques.
Clients will start to see where they are in their own customer journey, because you will become adept at mastering your customer journey process.
And once clients can see where they are, and where they're headed, you'll be positioned as the trusted guide to support them along the way.
Once you see your business as a collection of systems, you'll start to apply the same process to your data frameworks and delivery services, further demonstrating to clients that you're the most complete and 'got-my-stuff-together' consultant they're looking for.
Finally, how many thriving businesses do you know that point blank refuse to invest in areas where they are weaker than their competitors?
And 'business' is the key word in all of this.
You're not just a data practitioner anymore, you're a business owner.
So, right now, give yourself permission, as 'CEO' of your own data management business, to create two new functions:
Research and Development
Sales and Marketing
These will help you improve the core activities of any business which is:
Attract, Convert, Deliver, Collect.
(AC/DC if it makes it easier to remember).
Investing in R&D will help you package a proposition that the market wants. It will also help you collect a fee based on the value of the outcome, not just your hours on site.
To get that proposition into the hands of the consumer, you need to improve the way you attract and convert. That starts by understanding your ideal customer and the problems the face, so that your messaging and proposition will be fully aligned, smoothing the conversion process.
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