As I’ve mentioned in many previous posts here at the Consulting Business School Blog, to run a successful independent consulting business, you need to be proficient in a range of skills beyond a technical knowledge of your chosen consulting field.
Some of those essential skills will already be in your portfolio, especially if you have held a management position in your previous corporate life.
Other skills will need to be developed. If you want to know which skills should be sharpened as a priority though, there are two which when combined, both contribute to your overall consulting skill-set, and join with it to form what I call a triangle of skills.
The Three Points of the Triangle of Skills
The two primary skills in the triangle I’m talking about are project management (PM) and marketing. The third is not a single skill, but rather a group of qualities which for the sake of argument, we’ll just call consulting business skills.
In this post, I’ll explain the concept of the triangle of skills, in which PM, marketing, and consulting skills mesh together, with each corner of the triangle respectively strengthening the others.
You’ll also discover how the triangle as a whole supports the success of your independent consulting business. So read on to understand just how the triangle of skills can work for you. We’ll start by looking at project management skills and their benefits to your independent consulting career.
Project Management in Independent Consulting
As an independent consulting professional, most of your tasks will be carried out within the framework of projects, whether they are projects of your own devising or of your clients’.
In most cases, you will either find yourself as a joint project lead, sharing management responsibilities with somebody from your client’s internal team, or sitting outside of the project hierarchy, serving as an advisor.
Whatever role you play in your consultant/client relationship though, project management skills will be invaluable in just about everything you do.
Project management skills will help you to…
- Delegate tasks to your client’s project team members (essential if you don’t want to end up doing all the work yourself)
- Fulfill a mentoring and leadership role (necessary to keep client-projects on track, even if you aren’t the official project lead)
- Facilitate implementation of solutions for your clients
- Identify and assess project risks and work with the client team to mitigate them
In addition to the activities mentioned above, your skill in project management will form one of the angles of the triangle of skills.
PM skills will actually help you be more successful in developing and utilising marketing expertise, and will contribute to your general development as an independent consultant.
The value of project management skills in your marketing activity will come from the natural tendency to treat your campaigns and initiatives as projects in their own rite, breaking them down into tasks, milestones, deadlines, and outcomes. As you get better at project management, your marketing skills will grow and strangely enough, will serve you in more ways than you expect.
Do More With Your Marketing Skills
Marketing abilities are more important to your independent consulting toolkit than you might imagine. In addition to being necessary for getting your business known and for generating leads, the skills you develop as a marketer will also help you to get other things done more effectively within your business.
For example, as your marketing knowledge develops, you’ll be glad of it in any situation where you need to…
- Engage in active listening
- Persuade a client to adopt your recommendations
- Analyse and filter data in order to make good decisions
- Approach difficult conversations with tact and diplomacy
- Prioritise resources and use them efficiently
- Focus on the big picture and avoid getting bogged down in details
What you may notice here is that all the situations described can crop up during your marketing activities, but are just as likely to arise when you are managing projects or indeed, performing other key consulting tasks. That’s why marketing skills form the second angle in the triangle of skills.
Completing the Triangle
The third angle in the independent consulting triangle of skills is formed by your general consulting expertise, while in the centre if you like, lies your technical knowledge of the industry in which you practice.
To form and complete the triangle, you should focus equally on each of the three angles, which means:
A) Developing your marketing skills: This will be necessary to promote your business successfully, but will also help you manage projects more effectively and thirdly, will enhance your overall consulting skill-set.
B) Improving your project management (PM): Because as well as being a cornerstone skill in independent consulting, PM techniques will assist you greatly when it comes to marketing your brand.
C) Working on other non-technical consulting business skills: Just as your marketing and project management skills will help you to do this, so your consulting-business skills (like communication, analysis, and problem-solving) will strengthen your abilities as a marketer and project manager.
Perhaps you can see now why I like to call this model the triangle of skills, and why project management and marketing are high-priority disciplines for success in independent consulting. The triangle forms a self-perpetuating development path, with the skills at each of the three corners supporting one another in a continuous process of growth and development.
The Triangle of Skills for Every Business
While aimed at professionals wishing to start and grow an independent consulting business, the triangle of skills, and other development concepts covered here at Consulting Business School and our partner site Be A Consultant Secrets is highly relevant to any type of business providing professional services.
So if you’re ready to exit the world of corporate employment and hang up your own shingle, remember to visit this blog regularly, along with the Be A Consultant Secrets Blog, for more insights into founding and growing your own independent business.