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How to Productize Consulting Services with Alzay Calhoun

July 12, 2021
Episode 19
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

As a consultant, bespoke projects can sometimes get overwhelming as you have to customize the project specification and the delivery for every new project and client.

In this episode Alzay Calhoun and Alastair McDermott discuss how to productize your consulting services to leverage your time and maximise profits.

They also discuss how Alzay has used YouTube as a major channel in growing his business, and his tips for consultants who want to do the same.

Show Notes

Learn more about Alzay here:

Book mentioned:

Show mentioned:

YouTube Channel mentioned:

Guest Bio

Alzay Calhoun has been a business coach since 2008 and helps owners of boutique consulting firms scale without stress. Imagine fewer proposals, easier sales calls, better behaved clients, and more days off. These are the results he works hard to create for his clients. He also runs a popular YouTube channel offering insights on the process.


client, productize, youtube, business, project, choices, content, people, strategy, talk, scope, offering, service, concept, thought, hear, entertainment, clientele, work, video

Alastair McDermott, Alzay Calhoun


Alzay Calhoun  00:00

So in my world, education is the primary goal of my channel. I’m trying to educate my client on the situation, educate them on what their what their best next step might be. But I also make intentional choices about entertainment. If it’s funny, I laugh if it sad, I emote, if that’s silly, I call it silly. And we get to share in that recognition together. And so I’m conscious about both of these, these the choices that you’re making to get to make most use of the plan.


Alastair McDermott  00:37

Hello, and welcome to the Marketing for Consultants podcast. This is the podcast that helps independent consultants and subject matter experts get more clients without having to beg for referrals or make soul-destroying cold calls. Today, my guest is Alzhay Calhoun. Alzhay has been a business coach since 2008. He helps owners of boutique consulting firms to scale without stress. And that means fewer proposals, easier sales calls, better behaved clients, and more days off. I love the better behaved clients. But these are the results he works hard to create for his clients. And he also runs a very popular YouTube channel offering insights on the process. And I know that YouTube channel is working really well for him because I keep coming across these videos there.  So I’ll say let’s talk about that first. What are you doing on YouTube? How did, how did you start doing it? Can you just tell us more about that whole? Why you turned to YouTube? Because it’s not really typical in the world of consulting to go to YouTube, as you kind of your first channel.


Alzay Calhoun  01:30

You bet. No, it’s not. It’s not the first step folks in my space normally take. Let me start by being really honest, it wasn’t intentional. So it’s easy for me in this story to kind of make it seem like one big master plan. It was not it was not I got started making video out of pure frustration. I was working with clients at the time, I didn’t like how that client work was feeling. And I wanted a way to attract clients. And in that frustration of trying hundred different things. I started making video, and where do you put a video, you put it on YouTube? There you go. And I what I what I gravitated to about about video was that I could make my concepts visual. So as experts, you know, we live in our heads are so many things happening in our head. And it’s hard to express that in words alone. So that’s why we have in our work, as well. We have PowerPoint documents, and graphs and charts, all those things help visualize these complex ideas. So YouTube gave me a platform, once I kind of got over my frustration with my own situation. I said, Oh, this platform will allow me to make these ideas visual. And so I started with with making mind maps, and then I moved to doing whiteboards. And then and then all the kinds of things I’ve added on to that. So I think the really big idea for those who might be interested in doing YouTube at all, is that it gives a visual element which is otherwise invisible, you know, intangible services.


Alastair McDermott  02:51

Cool. Yeah, so YouTube is typically seen as like a b2c kind of channel. And you’ve got all of these gray kind of informational videos that you’re putting out there. Can you tell us a little bit about what the process is? Or the tactics or the strategy that you’re using? Like? How do you go about deciding what content to record and put up there?


Alzay Calhoun  03:09

That’s a very straightforward question that really can be unpacked at levels. Because here’s but here’s the straightforward answer. Though. I’ve made content that reflects my clients situation, period. I do not make content to entertain myself. I do not make content to prove how smart I am, or recap my resume, or any other things that we kind of get talked into as experts we think, we think we should do I only make content that reflects my client situation reflects is a really strong word like a mirror. So if you were to stand and look in a mirror, what would you see, you would see yourself?  Well, my intention with the content that I make is that you see yourself that my clients see themselves. So when I even when I’m when I’m in that kind of teaching and training mode, we are working on a problem that I know that my clients are having or a scenario that they’ve seen three or four or five times, and I’m providing maybe a sixth way to navigate that situation. But I have made and continue to make a very intentional choice not to make the content about me not to make the channel about me, I am just a vehicle to help you to help my customer.


Alastair McDermott  04:19

That seems to be very much like a service mentality, that you’re there to serve the client. I mean, it’s right there in the word professional services that we help our clients. And that seems to be what you’re talking about here. So that that’s cool. So can you give us some tips for people who are thinking about using YouTube? Like, what are the things that that you found that have worked for you or are kind of on the other side? What what doesn’t work?


Alzay Calhoun  04:40

Yeah. Okay. So video is a thing, period. So I know we consume a lot of video as everyday people in the world, right, all kinds of platforms, all kinds of all kinds of ways. So we’re used to receiving video and on some level video seems pretty approachable. In some ways. It is it’s pretty simple and pretty approachable. But if you’re going to leverage region video inside your business to attract clientele to help clients lives easier, etc, etc, you’re gonna use it as a tool, we’re now having a different conversation, you don’t have to leverage video that then involves some skills you’re going to have to have for a rapid fire kind of thought process here.  First is you got to get on camera period. So this idea that you can somehow do video without being on camera is a false hood, it’s a bad idea to don’t sign yourself up for that it’s wrong, bad. So one of the points that I’ve made to my clients, to some clients who have who have considered video is when they are when someone’s watching your video, it should feel like a one on one consultation. It should feel like they’re actually in your office talking to you live. That’s how it should feel. And so you’ve got to be prepared to create that kind of presentation for those you’re serving. So you being on video is for that reason is you’re saying, Hey, it’s me, hey, it’s us, let’s dialogue, let’s work that thing through whatever whatever it might be.  Secondly, is video requires editing, it requires very deliberate editing. And I did not grow up using video editing software. That was that’s not my training. That’s not my background. That’s not what I do about or know about, frankly. So you got to do so not only being in front of the camera, and doing your thing is one part of it. But also editing that piece of content down so that it’s exciting for someone else is something else. One of the things that we get a mistake we get caught in as experts is we take our live presentation that we did somewhere out in the field, and we just throw it on YouTube, we upload it to YouTube, we call it a YouTube channel, you know, the footage is shaky. It’s you from 65 feet away, though the audio was poor, if you were alive, great experience, but the video experience does not compare. So again, we are there’s a vehicle called video that we have to respect. And I think just as a final note, to kind of make a three pronged point out out of that.  YouTube is a viewing experience a specific type of viewing experience. So like, you know, watching a talk show on a television is one type of viewing viewing experience. Watching a blockbuster movie on Netflix is another kind of viewing experience. watching a video on YouTube is a different kind of viewing experience. So when you make these videos, you have to optimize your entire video strategy around that particular viewing experience. Can this be done? Yes, it can absolutely be done. Does it require crazy complexity? No, it does not, it does not require credit capacity. But you do have to respect what the respect the strategy you’re putting forward. And that’s what we’re talking about. Now, what does it mean to do video and do video on YouTube? These are things you should know about and respect.


Alastair McDermott  07:35

Okay, so let’s talk about that. Because as you say, like it’s different than watching like a blockbuster movie or something on Netflix. So what is the kind of your viewing experience? I mean, are you kind of optimizing for somebody watching watching a video on their phone while they’re waiting at the watercooler or are in a in a queue for Starbucks or something? Is that what you’re talking about?


Alzay Calhoun  07:55

That’s a good question, right? Because Okay, so let’s understand what that means to appreciate the YouTube viewing experience. Okay, so specifically the YouTube platform, people are looking for a one of two major things, there’s one of two major drivers of their usage of the YouTube platform. It is either education or entertainment. So all of us on in some level have had the broken dishwasher, or the you know, they got that you came down with an illness and you’re not quite sure what illness you’ve got, or you bought this product, you’re going to buy a new technology product, you’re not quite sure which which one is best, you will look for review. So that’s us all education, right as educate me on this thing I’m doing.  The other extreme is entertainment, right? Which is literally cat videos and people jumping off of cars and silly things, right? And that’s all fine, either, it’s fine. But clearly, they’re different. Okay, the best content on YouTube is the combination. It is both entertaining and educating. Now, you can skew one way, you know, a little bit more education lowboy entertainment, that’s that’s our, you can have fun with the balance there. So you need to you need to decide and recognize which one of those two, you’re going to, you’re going to make primary, and then that’s what you’re doing. And so in my world, education is the primary goal of my channel. I’m trying to educate my client on a situation, educate them on what their what their best next step might be. But I also make intentional choices about entertainment. If it’s funny, I laugh if it sad, I emote, if that’s silly, I call it silly. And we get to share in that recognition together. And so I’m conscious about both of these, these the choices that you’re making to gain to make most use of the platform.


Alastair McDermott  09:37

Yeah, absolutely. And I think most people who are listening to this are experts in some way. And I think that they would be falling on the education side of the spectrum in terms of the content that they would like to produce, but fitting bringing in that entertainment because I agree. I mean, I look at somebody like Christo from the future and his channel and there’s a massive channel on YouTube. Have a link in the show notes. But he has a very professional presentation style when he’s being professional, he can also make it very fun, and bring in jokes. And he’s just got a very kind of a very fun demeanor. And also he looks cool. He’s always wearing really cool gear. So yeah. So, so trying to find that balance between those two, that is really interesting. So can you just talk about the entertainment that the choices that you’ve made to bring in entertainment? I mean, at the start, were you doing that at the start? Or were you just keeping it really professional? Or like, does that come naturally to you? I’m just trying to imagine bringing it in, in my own content, and how I might do that.


Alzay Calhoun  10:36

I appreciate that. Right. So another good question. Okay. So you use the word I want to jump on here, I’m gonna be a be a business coach for a minute. So you said, “Were you always professional?” It was it was the question you just asked. And so what I’m arguing is that we’re always being professional. And in no way have we ever left the spirits or the construct of the concept of professionalism. So I’m saying that saying that not just to you, but I’m saying that to us as as a body of people, sometimes we get really rigid in our ideas of what’s professional and what’s not. And anything outside those, that rigid picture we cannot accept. And we’re in our own way, at that point, you are the problem you are in your own way. Let’s be open to flexing our ideas here.  Okay, if you’ve ever sat down with a client, which is 98% of the folks who are listening to this have say, “Have you ever sat down with the client? Have you ever laughed with a client? Has it ever been funny? Ever?” There’s got to be one time that comes to mind right? Like they just saw I’m talking about a settle settle for everybody who’s listening, right? That my gosh, as human beings present in the moment, we have emotions. And we do that with six figures on the line. We do that with deadlines on the line. We do that in team meetings, we do it with PowerPoint slides on the wall, we do these things and all of our very complex, heavy, you know, special business things. We’re still human. Okay. So when we talk about appreciating the the need for entertainment, right, because someone’s watching YouTube, and they’re walking down the street, and then they just got through watching the cat video and not watching your video. That’s, that’s the that’s the mental space that they’re in. Right. So if they see your face, and you are stoic, and you are speaking, in the biggest words possible, and you’re explaining concepts have never heard before, that video is not getting watched ever. And then you’ll complain about YouTube is not a good channel. No, your your videos aren’t very good.  Okay. So how do we do entertainment is the bottom line of what you’re asking here. And I’m saying be human. I’m trying to remind us of how human we are, and our everyday interactions. And that’s the level of humanity that we’re trying to apply to our content. We’re not trying to be funny. trying to be funny is a mistake. Don’t try anything. How about that? Stop trying? Just do just do whatever you normally do. Do that and do it as honestly as you can a Yoda quote. Thank ya. Right, right. That’s right, just right, do or do not? There is no try. Right, exactly.


Alastair McDermott  13:01

I would say, the next thing I want to ask you about is a kind of following on from that last point, should we actually be thinking about the YouTube algorithm? And trying to optimize for that when we’re thinking about creating our content? Do you do do you do that?


Alzay Calhoun  13:15

Yes, yes, you should think think about the YouTube algorithm, but not the way you think. So it’s, especially if you’ve done any studying of online marketing of any any level, you’ve been taught keywords and tags, and meta descriptions, and a very technical, very technical understanding of what SEO means. And I’m happy to inform you that all the platforms have evolved beyond that criteria. So yes, those things are important. All those all those details, you know, about they are important, but not as important as optimizing for the person.  So all of the platforms, but let’s just stay focused on YouTube, YouTube specifically does a much better job than it ever has, of understanding the consumption of the content that the viewer is taking in. Do they watch it? Do they like it? Do they enjoy it? What happens before this content when I was added to this content is very, very complex ways of doing that? So what that means for you and me is that now we can just we can take a deep breath and we can think more from a more human perspective. What would someone want to watch? What does someone want to know what’s most important to share? Let me just make sure I get that across and then I can just end the video and now we don’t have to be these really technical marketers trying to find just the right keywords just the right tags, just the right description length. I’ve done all that work I’ve done all that work and there’s there’s a place for it but the 80-20 here the the most bang for your buck, the most bang for your effort is in delivering to a human being answer the question that they have be as impactful and helpful as you can as fast as you can. If you check that box over and over again, you will get what’s Do you which is which is viewership and consumption you know, clientele, interest, etc.


Alastair McDermott  15:00

Right, right. I could talk to you for the rest of the episode about YouTube. But I do really want to get into productization. Because I think it’s a fascinating topic. And this is kind of a real area of expertise for you, I know from watching your videos, which is really great, because you know, YouTube has helped you to kind of build your authority and demonstrate your expertise in this area. So I mean, you were talking about bang for your book there with YouTube. But but that’s really what product citation allows you to do as well. It allows you to really optimize things and and deliver. So let’s talk about that. You talked about fewer proposals, easier sales calls, and better behaved clients. I can’t I really love that. So can you talk about that a little bit about about the concept of productize ation, and why it’s important and how it can lead to those results.


Alzay Calhoun  15:45

Yeah, yep. So I’m gonna try to tell a long story as fast as I can, how I got here today. But what I’m doing right now, when I got started as a as a business person, I was or started as a consultant. I had a undergrad degree in business, an MBA, a master’s degree in business, and a 4-500 client already under my belt. So I thought I was gonna start it off at a really good clip, I had some good bones, good fundamentals, good things working for me. Six months later, a year later, 18 months later, I was totally overwhelmed. The amount of details occurring in my business at the exact same time was absolutely overwhelming. And then there comes a confusion of I thought I was good at this. I thought I was a good business person. Why is it so hard? Okay, I’m telling you that my life did not get simpler, or my life did not get better, my business did not get better, until my plan got simpler, I had to have fewer things going on.  Okay. One of the core concepts that I leverage in order to simplify what was happening in my business, and in my life was productizing. The idea and concept of productizing took all of what was totally overwhelming. It made it incrementally more manageable. Now, while we’re talking about productizing, I have to reinforce the word incrementally. Sometimes, you know, we hear a podcast like this, we hear one core concept in our brain goes, “Oh, that’s the magic answer.” And we try to fast forward, you know, every possible results or benefit too quickly. Once you hear the concept. Please understand, like anything else, it needs to be improved and iterated on in order to be better.  But productizing in its simplest is about making the buying decision easier for your client, so your client can see what you’ve made available. We talked about YouTube, helping to make these intellectual concepts more visible. productizing essentially takes your service and puts it into a box, hey, I have a box of things that does something good for you, it solves your problem, do you want my box of things, it’s at $500, that becomes the proposition. But if we if you don’t have that box of things, if you don’t have that concrete offering to make, then now it becomes let me describe my resume to you for the next 45 minutes. And then you can tell me what you’d like me to do. And if you serve one client, you know that the phrase telling me what you’d like me to do is the open door for pain and punishment, because the client will invent tasks for you. And they’re often well intentioned, but they are often off target for what needs to be done, the expert you needs to be in control of the arrangement. And so by offering a box, you’re saying, Here is the box, I built the box, I know how the box works, I know what goes inside the box, I’m offering the box to you in order to solve your problem. So you’re hearing two things here, you’re hearing that your client can either take or not take what you’ve offered. And two, if they choose to take it. You know what your scope is? It’s your box, you designed it. So there’s control on your end. Go ahead, Sir, please.


Alastair McDermott  18:38

Let me ask you, because in the world of consulting, one thing that’s really important at the start is the diagnosis phase. So that’s something that you know, when you talk about this, I’m just wondering, where does that diagnosis happen? Is the client self diagnosing before they get to you? Or do you do that as part of your product as a service? Or how does that work?


Alzay Calhoun  18:57

Very good, very good. Okay. So that we there are details abound here if we choose, hey, consultants, hey, fellow smart people, every project you work on has two phases. I don’t care what your expertise is. It’s got two phases. It’s got strategy and execution, you got to think clearly about what it is this going to be done. And you got to do it every single project we’ve ever worked on is built like that. And if you see it that way and do it that way then it’s better so you call the discovery is the same basic idea we have to be clear about what we’re doing first strategy that we do we got to go ahead and go do it that is execution. Okay. What I recommend to my clients is that productizing includes both because as fellow smart people and someone right now was nodding because they were waiting for me to say that is that you if you offer someone the box we have to be clear be certain that what we’re about to go deploy fixed up the problem that you’re facing we got to make we got to do that sanity check. So inside the box is it are both parts just the strategy is the confirmation that Okay, we’re gonna go do a thing now is exactly how we thought if we get a yes on that, then we just unfold the execution, but both go inside the box.


Alastair McDermott  20:03

Right? Okay. So would you ever have a situation where you’d have two boxes, one for strategy and one for execution?


Alzay Calhoun  20:08

Yes, you can. And for those of us who are following along we can we can feel the danger in that some of us in our, in our expertise have been invited to do execution when someone else did the strategy. And we show up and we go, what mess is this? If you if you serve one client, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So you got to be careful of offering now you can do an 80-20, you can do a 20% check off on the strategy, let’s, let’s just make sure it’s the right thing, check the boxes and then do 80% execution, you can also do vice versa.  You can do 80%, or do the majority of the strategy and do a little bit of the execution. Why would you do that to make sure we’re paying a good picture here. Because if you’re doing the strategy, the thought work, the interviews, the research, the behind the scenes stuff, you know, as a consultant, as someone’s going to pick up this work and do it behind you, whether it’s the internal team or another agency, or farm or what have you. So some of the execution is needed, so that a good handoff occurs, why is that important? Because you only did the strategy to solve the client’s problem. So if you do the strategy work, build it, build a 90 point PowerPoint deck and leave it on someone’s desk, no problem has been solved. You just pass paper around. So in order to really solve that client’s problem, we have to appreciate what happens after all of our smart strategy. Okay, great. Well, let’s make sure we interlock these two things before we fully step away from the project and and call those things out. This dialogue that we’re having right now says, don’t just make this intuition, because that’s I’m saying it out loud. You go, obviously, clearly, I would do that. No, we don’t we know what the real life looks like. So this conversation is saying call these things out specifically, and scope them accordingly.


Alastair McDermott  21:44

So one thing about productized services is there’s usually an upfront price, it’s usually fixed price. And it’s usually published somewhere. Sometimes there’s even a Buy button on the web page. So somebody can come along, click the button, put in their credit card, and they’re signed up as a client. So can we talk about that a little bit? Because that scares me because you can end up with somebody who’s not a good fit lines. So how do you approach that?


Alzay Calhoun  22:06

Okay, all right. So the concern, and by the way, I appreciate the concerns, I hear them often, I hear them often. So these these specific concern you just brought up was, what if somebody pays and I don’t like the project, I’m not comfortable with the project, I don’t like the people I’m working with, etc, it’s just not going to be a good deal. So Hey, everybody, give them the money back. If they pay, if you got a price on a website, they pay the money, you bring them in as a client begin the upfront work, the strategy work, we talked about checking those initial boxes, and one of those says, Do I like you and you cannot check that box, then you know what, they get their money back and they get to go find another solution. That’s that’s better for them or any other appropriate criteria that would say, this is not the best project for us, you have the chance to refund. But notice, notice what just happen in this dialog productizing gives you that option. Without productizing. When would you have this moment, you got to do 100 proposals, 90 sales calls, 30 meetings that by the time you go to go to the other effort, you almost feel guilted into into starting the project you spent so much time working on you got to do it now, which is a open again opens the door for a sliding scale of stuff we don’t like. So this option is only available to us because we productized. So if you’d like the choice, you got to productize.


Alastair McDermott  23:22

Right. So let’s say we’re bought in on the idea of productizing. And our client is considering working with us. But so our productized service is a web page with a price sales page, maybe some informational videos, our competitors are saying yeah, let’s get in the call, let’s we’ll create a custom project for you. I mean, do you care about that? How do you think about that?


Alzay Calhoun  23:44

No, we don’t care about that. Why are we worried about that? Why are we worried about what some other competitor may do for the client that we’re talking to think about that for a second, we’re having a dialogue right now without with with our client of the day with our prospect of the day, we have a chance right now to understand the problem facing them and recommend the best possible solution right now we have full control of this moment. But we’re going to give away control this moment because we’re concerned some other guy down the street may cut a better deal. We don’t know who that guy is. Who is that guy? What’s his name? Like? What do we what do we ghost? Who just invented a ghost? Now, how’s that I appreciate this. That’s a very real dialogue to have. This is a very real moment. And in no way am I trying to belittle the concern. It’s a legitimate concern. We all operate in a competitive landscape. I’m very aware of that. But what I’m also trying to remind us of is the truth that we have a whole lot more control than we think sometimes we have opportunities right in front of us and we get to decide what happens with the opportunity. We don’t have to just give it away, not to just forfeit it, we can maximize the opportunity right here in front of us. So there’s a new idea to be added to our conversation. I know we don’t have time to break everything apart, but the value of good conversations is what we’re talking about here. So last so before you enter into this full productize service and do your $19,000 worth of work, you probably need to have a conversation first. So everybody feels good about what’s about to go forward, you and the new client. And so in that interaction, we get to make sure that what we’re doing is good. And if we’re not sure we get to clarify it. If we know it’s not not good, then send them to the competitor, send them because you’re better served with them than you are with us. But you this is we have control. Now see, so fellow consultants, I’m reminding us of control that we have, these are options that we can, we can fully grasp that we don’t have to just give away.


Alastair McDermott  25:33

Yeah, so easier sales calls. So it sounds to me like what you’re saying is, okay, we’ve we’re not discussing scope, because scope is already I mean, you’re you can be educating them about the scope, but you’re not discussing changing the scope on that call. So basically, what you’re you’re doing on that sales call, is you’re deciding if they’re a good fit for what the fixed scope is.


Alzay Calhoun  25:53

That is the primary function, what I would argue that’s the primary function of every conversation you have, there’s a thing that we do, it’s, there’s a defined way that we do it. And I just want to be sure that before we get started, we feel good about what we’re about to do. Now, for the for the consultant who’s listening right now, who’s who’s who’s got the year buts going on. Yeah, but at but in this scenario, okay. All right. Okay, I’m recommending that you have at least one of these productized services in your business.  If you choose to focus or to function in a bespoke way in a fully customized way. That’s your choice. Again, you have choices, having this kind of clarity in your business, having this kind of clear option in your business makes your conversations much easier to have, for example, for example, if you’re having if you choose to do both productize and a more customizable option. Great. So you had the productize option you’re discussing that the scope is fixed, and you decide together, this is not the best option for you, you’ve now had a dialogue. And so now you can go, you know what we can actually our custom options is better. And here’s, here’s how we typically do that. And I cost three times the price. But all of what you’re trying to get done can be done with the Customize offer.  So now the movement to customize is palatable for both parties, you feel good about offering it up, they feel good about hearing it. So the productize offering gave us content, you just need one of these offers that I’m talking about. You don’t need 90 of them. You need one good solid one. And look at all the levers that we now have available to us all the things that are now possible, because we’ve productize that’s missing if you don’t have the productized service.


Alastair McDermott  27:32

Okay, what can’t you productize?


Alzay Calhoun  27:34

There’s nothing you can’t productize.


Alastair McDermott  27:36

There’s no there’s no types of consulting projects you think that that don’t fit this?


Alzay Calhoun  27:40

No, I do not. Okay. Challenge me, challenge me, Alastair.


Alastair McDermott  27:45

I can think of one. You see, I’m trying to I’m trying to argue with something here, I don’t believe because I am totally bought in on productization. Having come from the web design world, and kind of lots of custom quotes and things like that. And now working in in marketing. And it’s very easy to have a very fluid scope project that goes totally out of scope for the budget. And so yeah, I’m all in on productization. Cases, for anybody Listen to this. I’m trying to argue something here where I don’t really believe that. So


Alzay Calhoun  28:15

Well, let me let me help because I do appreciate that some of us work. So again, my background kind of trained it as a as a traditional consultant, I thought I was going to be working for McKinsey and Company, Accenture, Deloitte, I thought I was going to be going to one of those more, again, traditional management consulting company, and those companies work on really big, really expansive of multi-year projects. Now, can you hard productize, one of those projects? No, no, you can, I’m not suggesting that you can that you can just have to put that in a small box. But let’s appreciate the fundamentals here. So we can appreciate that even was really big, monsterous projects, there are always some core fundamentals.  So the first thing I’m saying to all of us, those of us who are used to scoping projects, there’s always scope, time and price, those three fundamentals are always present scope of work was being done. Time, how long does it take? Price, how much does it cost? That’s not going anywhere. those fundamentals are always going to be part of the conversation and your prospective client needs to hear them in order to say yes, so we can dance around you know, intangibles, all we want, your client wants to know what’s being done, how long does it take, and how much is it going to cost? Okay, so so that so those fundamentals are always present.  Okay, given the way your company functions, you have a specific and unique approach to every problem you solve. You don’t just start here’s a wake up in the morning. Okay, everybody, now we’re going to do X today. What how’s that work? We don’t know. Go to Google type in like that. No, that’s not what we do. Even with the most expensive projects, there is a way you go about working toward the solution. So even if you do big humongous projects, there is a method that you have. And so let’s be honest, let’s take this deep breath and be honest about what that method is honest as important is the important word here, no matter what someone brings me, no matter how creative I might be, there’s a way I go about creating the Mona Lisa, I know she’s beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. And we just, we just, you know, made her out of out of thin air. But there’s a way I went about creating that artistry, as long as that artistry is, is designed to solve the problem. We’re thinking from a productize point of view. And it allows us to speak with more clarity and confidence, even when the project may be quite might could be quite nebulous, depending on what we’re discussing. It could be quite nebulous, but the fundamentals of privatization are always present, no matter how expansive the scope of the project may be.


Alastair McDermott  30:48

Okay, let’s say I want to get started, I have a custom solution for every project I’m running at the moment and I want to change that. And it feels like every project is different, every client is different. I can’t even imagine where where to start. So how do I start productizing from that point?


Alzay Calhoun  31:04

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And the direct response here is, again, one of honesty. So be it let’s be honest, about the kind of work you enjoy doing. There are certain kinds of clients you do not want to work with anymore. They’re not bad people, you just don’t prefer those kinds of projects. There’s other types of projects you will really enjoy working on. And maybe the person one that much fun, but you just enjoy doing the work. So you signed up for anyway. So we want to be honest about the kind of work that you enjoy doing. We want to be honest, that people are interested in buying the kind of work you’re thinking about. So there’s got to be a marketplace for this, we want to be careful of inventing services that we think are really clever. But you know, we’re not trying to evangelize the service. Please don’t do that. I’ve done this more than once. I’ve made my own clever service. And now I’m trying to convince everybody that they should buy it, that’s a lot. It’s very, very hard. So do the simple research in the simple reflection on your own on your own resume, your own history, your own experience, all the things that people are willing to buy.  Okay, one more thing here. It should be repeatable. So and given what I just said that that third idea should be easier. So So what do you honestly enjoy doing? Like, I really enjoy doing this kind of work? And then to the people by this? I mean, you know, really, do people actually buy this? Or is it just kind of my invention. And then if one and two are both true, then third, what you have now something that’s something that that’s repeatable, so now we can find this person, we can do that work, we can repeat it like now we’ve got a thing that we do, if you want to do other projects as well, your choice, you want to do custom work as well, your choice, you always have those choices. But now we have some something repeatable, and the number one challenge that that bespoke agencies have customized consulting offers have that nothing repeats, everything is new, everything is brand new, every time there’s no time leverage, there’s no money leverage, because you because you don’t know you can’t, you can’t predict what’s going to happen on any level. And that that level, that creates uncertainty, that lack of consistency creates uncertainty. And we all know, uncertainty is stressful to experience as business people.


Alastair McDermott  33:15

And it sounds like on listeners and probably sounds like we’re getting on to my favorite topic, which is specialization, because that sounds exactly like what you’re describing to me.


Alzay Calhoun  33:23

Yes, it’s exactly what we’re saying. And to keep the themes connected, you get to choose, you get to choose whatever you want to specialize in, these are all your choices. So sometimes we hear specialization that sounds like handcuffs, you know, you need to you need to specialize, you have one idea and focus in and don’t do anything else, okay? That I understand the value of that conversation, I understand. But I also want to remind us that we get to choose what we specialize in. And there are some very attractive, lucrative choices have made available to us, if we kind of just take a deep breath for a second. And I’m trying to help us do that. And, and so this dialogue is is an example of how you can slow yourself down and decide I want to focus on this kind of work and do it really well or a name for myself doing that kind of work. And then I can I can release my second album and my third album, my fourth album as I go, but I want to I want to make sure that what I’m doing, you know, is is most comfortable for me.


Alastair McDermott  34:14

So what’s the 80-20 here then for for productization? We’re looking at specializing or you know, doing something repeatable, that we love doing, that we know that people will buy, what’s the next step? Or what’s like, can you can you give us a quick summary of how to actually go about it.


Alzay Calhoun  34:29

So you make the choice? The direct answer is now you must market that service, which opens up a whole a whole conversation here also, but you make the choice to specialize you go Yep, there’s a kind of work that I’d like I’d like to do. And I know I can do it well and and we have a general methodology or process for for creating that that great end result. Cool.  So now what you have to be able to do or begin to do is market that actual service. Now, again, this can become a roadblock for some folks because we’ve never actually marketed before. So prior to this moment. And there’s somebody on the line right now who or somebody listening right now who’s feeling the anxiety as I’m talking because you know, I’m talking about you. So up to this point, you have been able to do work for your colleagues, folks you used to work with, folks used to work around, they know you, you know, them used to have drinks together, yo yo, what’s, what’s the picnic together, etc. And so your custom work comes from those referrals, they just said, your project, you just kind of do it, you get paid. And by the way, you can make plenty of money doing that. But what you also feel is a lack of control, you know, controlling you that it’s all random. It’s all random and sporadic.  So now what we’re saying is, yes, yes, you get to choose which projects you focus on, and you get to choose your clientele who you offer that to, but now you have to go out and do that work now. You have to actually build the clientele that you choose to work on, you can no longer just sit, sit kind of sit still and let deals come to you. Now, if you fast forward, the chain here, if you do the heavy lifting of building a clientele that respects the work you choose, then eventually folks will know you for that kind of work. And that’s what they’ll ask you to do. Hey, hey, you’ve been helping me with a two ABCDEF and G, man, give me the next letter. Because I know I heard you do you do great letters, give me give me one of the letters you got, right. But you have to be you got to build that momentum. And some of us are really poor at this, we never had to do it. We just always just folks just kind of came to us, you know, I’ll give a speech here. I do this I do an event I go to this this thing every year. And folks just kind of know me and call me. And I never had a market before. So try to prioritizing is the reality of now we have to market.


Alastair McDermott  36:31

Yeah. And so I did a research project, in that I found that about 95% of consulting business for firms size one to 50 to 200 to 500, about 95% of businesses pass for referrals, networking, so very little actual marketing. And I guess that’s one of the the kind of the goals of this podcast is, is to talk about that a bit more. So I’m with you all the way there. Okay, so I want to start to wrap this up, because I’m just aware of the time here. And I’m thank you for for, for for staying on. One thing I’d like to ask people about is resources, particularly books or podcasts and things like that. Is there anything that has really helped you along the way that you would recommend to people?


Alzay Calhoun  37:13

Man, so the short answer is yes. Short answer is yes. But I okay. So here’s, here’s, here’s what I’m supposed to do in this moment. I’m supposed to fire off this wonderful book, you’ve got to read because everybody’s supposed to read this book. And if you don’t read it, then you’re behind. That’s what I’m supposed to do in this moment. There are some books that fit that category. I do not want to give people another book to read, quote unquote, another book to read. We don’t need more books to read. We need to spend more time developing our business, strengthening our business, putting more repeatability in our business and limiting the risk in our business.  Okay, I said all that right. There’s my there’s my you know, my soapbox, okay, I really respect the book E-myth. I really respect “E-myth revisited”, I think it’s a very intelligent book. And it’s in its simplest, the book talks about putting process to the work that you do, you can’t just do it, you’ve got to put process to that work. So you and you hear a lot of that influence and the way that I speak because I very much am a proponent of that style of thinking, what I’d like to add to that, to that thinking is there are some choices you need to make along the way. So there’s some reflection that you need to do so actually, having said all that, now, let me say two things, you should read “E-myth Revisited”. And you should get a journal. So you can write out your thoughts. Because it’s not just about getting more processes, you need to make some choices and be reflective about where you want to take your business and and that requires some introspection. So if you’ll do those two things, then I you know, you’ll feel the acceleration things will feel simpler, you’ll be able to move more quickly.


Alastair McDermott  38:47

Cool. Is there a fiction book that you really like that you recommend people should read or other big fiction readers? So I like to find that, is there anything that you read?


Alzay Calhoun  38:55

You know, what, I don’t read. I read book for work. Now that now that we’re having this conversation, I read things for work. So it’s all boring business, you know, intellectual stuff. I will tell you, though, that I there’s a special I watched on Netflix here recently. So depending on when this comes out, especial could be a little a little older, but it’s called High on the Hog. And it’s quite interesting. It is the story of African American culture told through food. And it’s interesting, because it’s honest, you know, sometimes this could be a very dense, a very dense topic. And you know, it can be so dense that none of us want to talk about and it’s just, it’s this is really heavy, but it’s not designed to be heavy like that. It’s not designed to be heavy. It’s also not designed to be trite, either. So as you asked me the question, that’s, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And I guess that’s nonfiction too. So I guess I kind of I kind of, I kind of skipped the question, but but it came to mind and I thought was really well done professionally done. And so I’ll let that be my answer. So I don’t,


Alastair McDermott  39:54

Super okay. That’s cool. Okay, and so one other recommendation that I would have for people is to go check out your YouTube channel, because you have a wealth of videos there that are both educational and entertaining. Yeah, no. And I really do genuinely recommend that because there’s just, you know, I like your presentation style, but you really present some great concepts and really got me thinking about the concept of products as a nation. If anybody’s interested in learning more about you, and about I think you help consultants with productization. So they might want to talk to you about that, can you tell us where to where to find you?


Alzay Calhoun  40:30

So the YouTube channel is one, you know, a lot of what I’d like to offer you what it feels like to work with clients, I actually have, like to work with me is is there so you get a good feeling of that, I also have a specific playlist that is for testimonials. So if you want to hear what other clients have said in working with me that you can just kind of, you know, click click the link and see the had the experience. So the YouTube channel does does a lot of heavy lifting in my business. In addition, there is a webinar that I do at And that webinar, there’s always some free training there right now, there’s a webinar that’s there, and I’m delivering that webinar live. And that webinar is about simplification. It’s about giving you more control over your business one week at a time, and what that looks like. And so it’s a conversation that’s available there. And so if you like what we’re talking about, if there’s like a thing you might want to do, I think that webinar is a good place to go because I’ll be there live. And then you can ask your question and talk about it. And productizing is one of the core concepts there are three concepts, core concepts, and productizing is one of those three to give you more control over the business that you run.


Alastair McDermott  41:39

Okay, well, I will link to all of those in the show notes. So as I tell him, thank you so much. I really appreciate you being with me today.


Alzay Calhoun  41:46

I enjoyed it. Thank you for having me.


Alastair McDermott  41:51

If you gained any insights or tips from this episode, please share it. It might just be the thing to help someone in your network. If you share the shownotes link it will include a podcast player and all the other information from today’s episode. Thanks for listening and see you in the next one.