Last month, I invited Brad Farris on The Recognized Authority podcast and we had a fantastic conversation about how consulting businesses grow and scale.

This is not just about how to grow a business, it’s about how to grow one that is better. By better I mean that it’s more profitable, less stress, reliable lead generation and gives you the ability to take time off.

This advice is based on patterns Brad and I have witnessed over years of working with entrepreneurs and business owners. Time and time again we see the same things happen and the same solutions missed. In fact, helping people avoid these mistakes so they can grow and better their businesses is why we are both in consulting.

Growing a business is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. There’s a structure you can follow: our conversation identified 5 key steps you can take to grow your consulting business.

1: Starting out: focus on customers

When people first start their businesses, they often spend a lot of time and money on everything but finding a customer*.

This is a mistake. If you find your customers first, then you have money to hire people to help build your business while you focus on the big picture.

To start a business, all you need is a customer.

You don’t need an office, you don’t need a website, and you don’t need a phone number  – a customer is the only thing that puts you in business.

2: Raise prices

Pricing your services too low is probably the single most common issue Brad and I see when we’re talking to independent consultants of any kind.

In fact, neither of us have ever worked with a client where we didn’t suggest raising prices! That’s how common an issue it is.

But this suggestion to raise prices is almost always met with resistance and reservation. People are scared of raising their prices for fear of losing clients.

But wouldn’t you rather have eight clients instead of ten clients and make the same amount of money?

The bottom line is that raising prices usually solves a lot of problems: not only does it free up time, but it also results in more engaged clients. People who are willing to pay more money for something they want are usually more serious about it.

In addition to that, putting a high price on a service communicates something important to your customers. It tells them that you have high expectations for the results. Specifically, Brad said, it communicates that they should also have high expectations for the results.

Book recommendations: “Pricing Creativity” – Blair Enns, “Value Based Fees” – Alan Weiss

3: Specialize: pick a path and stick with it

Number three is repeated a lot in the business world, but it’s true. Both Brad and I have witnessed specialization make all the difference in a business’s success.

So pick a specialty. Become an expert in something and build your business around that.

Attempting to cater to too many people by broadening what your business provides is not an effective way to grow. This is because you’ll be spread too thin. You won’t be able to deliver as high quality of a service or product as you would if you specialized in something specific.

Specializing makes everything about business easier, and that’s what will help you grow. Sales, marketing, delivery, pricing, you name it, specialization makes it easier..

And ultimately, specialization makes you more profitable.

Book recommendations: “The Positioning Manual for Indie Consultants” – Philip Morgan, “The Business of Expertise” – David C. Baker

4: Hire other people

Hiring other people, or delegating, is an essential part of growing your business. The more you, the business owner, can free up your time, the more time you can spend dreaming up new and bigger visions for your business.

That’s what’s required to grow.

Because as you grow, you have to be doing less of the work that the company gets paid for by hiring people under you to replicate your skills. Essentially,  you need to break what you do into chunks and then hire people to do those chunks.

Book recommendations: “Who Not How” – Dan Sullivan, “The E-myth Revisited” – Michael Gerber

5: Measure your results

The last key piece of the scaling process is the implementation of more measurements. Brad emphasizes that it’s vital to make sure you’re receiving reports on how your business is doing.

As your business grows, and as you start to hire more people to run everything day-to-day, you need to have reports sent to you. You need a way to measure how the business is doing so you know where to spend your time troubleshooting and fixing things.

Wrapping it up

By working on those steps: focus on customers, raising prices, specializing, hiring people to do jobs to free up your time, and setting up systems to measure what’s going on in your business, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

They’re not everything you need to know, but they give you a solid start.

Thanks to Brad for sitting down with me and providing such a stellar conversation. If you want to hear a few more of our thoughts on scaling a business, our favorite books on the subject, and saying what you think, you can listen to our entire podcast episode here.

* A note on terminology: I prefer the term “client” over “customer” in the context of consulting, but for this article I’ve stuck with “customer” as that’s the word Brad used in our conversation.