What kind of restaurant is your consulting business? - Mimiran

What kind of restaurant is your consulting business?

Food Restaurant

What kind of question is that, anyway? Like a restaurant, you want to attract clients/patrons who will enjoy the experience, come back for more, and refer friends. You also may have to deal with people who peruse the menu and decide it’s not for them. Or worse, decide it might be for them and come in and argue about everything, then leave a bad tip and a bad review.

Still seem like a strange analogy?

Here’s an important similarity from a financial perspective. Neither type of business scales very well. (Although the economics of consulting businesses are much better.)

A restaurant has a certain number of seats. (With the rise of take out, the bottleneck may become the kitchen. I had a “nice” restaurant in Austin cancel a large take out order a few hours before I was hosting some people for dinner. I guess their kitchen got busy.) You can also batch prepare popular menu items, like some taco joints do here in Austin– you can find their tacos at local coffee shops.

You have a certain number of hours in the day. An hour spent with one client is not spent with another. Like the restaurant’s take-out plan, you can do group sessions, you can create online courses.

But the core of the experience– the dine-in meal, the personal consulting, has limited scalability.

That’s bad if you want to sell to a hedge fund, or start the next McDonald’s, but it’s great if you want to serve amazing meals to people who appreciate them.

Perhaps the most famous example of this in Austin is Franklin’s Barbecue. People line up hours before they open. They serve until they run out of food.

(Image from this great write up on the experience.)

Franklin could probably make a lot more money scaling up his operation, franchising, etc. But he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to make the best brisket in the world. (I’ve never waited in line, but I have eaten the brisket a handful of times, and if anyone has found any better, please let me know.)

Coincidentally, when that fancy Austin restaurant cancelled my take out order, I scrambled and found a obscure place that provided delicious food. It only has about a dozen tables. One of my dinner guests was excited– he loved that place, and talked about drinking wine with the husband and wife who owned it.

If you’re an independent consultant, you run one of those “local gem” restaurants.

Don’t try to run the McDonald’s corporation.

Who do you want at those tables? The people who appreciate your authentic cuisine? The people who can’t wait to bring their friends?

Or the people who say the food is too spicy? Or can their kids just get a pizza? (Totally fine if you’re a pizza joint, of course.)

The point is, you can’t seat everyone.

Make sure that everyone knows what you do, from the name to the aroma that wafts out of the door.

Too many consulting businesses run a restaurant that’s the equivalent of this:

Who wants to go eat at the “Food Restaurant”?

You only have a few tables, so you want to fill them with people who love your particular style of cooking.

People should be able to tell from the aroma wafting from your website whether they are going to love it or not. Note that people walking by a restaurant and smelling something delicious may not stop to eat. Maybe they just ate. Maybe they are eating at home. Maybe they have other plans right now. But they’ll make a note to come back.

Just as in your business, some “ideal prospects” are not quite ideal, because they are not hungry right now, which is an important part of “ideal prospect”, but they are perhaps someone who will enjoy your newsletters, webinars, books, podcasts, etc, even refer other clients to you, and at some point will likely become a client.

But not if you run a “Food Restaurant”– then everything is hard. You compete with everyone. You can’t be the best at anything. You can’t be known for anything, other than perhaps blandness.

Of course, there’s a spectrum, from brilliant hole-in-the-wall with the best brisket on the planet to the “Food Restaurant”. Most of us are somewhere in between those extremes. But wouldn’t you rather have people queuing up for your expertise, spreading stories about how great their experience with you was, and providing the best help and impact that you can for your clients?

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