How to Scale Your Consulting Business with Brad Farris

June 28, 2021
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps independent consultants & subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals, or make soul-destroying cold calls!

Brad FarrisWhen you’re trying to grow your consulting firm, there are a couple of inflection points you can hit that are difficult to push past.  In this episode, Brad Farris and Alastair McDermott discuss how Brad now uses his extensive experience of buying  agencies and creative firms to help owners to scale up without wanting to quit the business!

They also discussed specialization, raising prices and saying or writing things that other people couldn’t say.

Show Notes

Guest Bio

As Principal Advisor, Brad Farris guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Brad is a speaker and author. Brad is passionate about business and helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money and enjoy life more. Find Brad on Linkedin, and Twitter.

 

Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS
people, business, prices, clients, starting, book, services, specialization, sales, talk, hire, business owners, charging, expert, brad, conversation, pricing, productized, money, point

SPEAKERS
Alastair McDermott, Brad Farris

Brad Farris 00:00

Seth Godin has this concept where he says that freelancers get paid for the work that they do, they get paid for doing things. Entrepreneurs get paid for hiring other people to do things. And so the time that you’re spending delivering your company services, you’re acting like a freelancer. That’s, that’s what freelancers do. But what you need to get into the habit of is hiring other people to do the things because you need to maintain time to do the business development and to run the business. That’s your job. And so to the extent that you’re still delivering services, you’re doing two jobs, which eventually is going to drive you nuts.

Alastair McDermott 00:46

Hello, and welcome to Marketing for Consultants. Today, I’m here with my friend, Brad Farris, who is the principal advisor at Anchor Advisors. And Brad guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. He is a speaker and author. He’s passionate about business and helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money, and enjoy life more. So Brad, thank you so much for being with me today. Our second attempt at recording this.

Brad Farris 01:12

I’m happy to be here. Thanks.

Alastair McDermott 01:14

Okay, so first thing I want to ask you about is just a little bit of your backstory, because you are a successful consultants in your own right. And you also help people who are consultants and business owners and people like that. So we’ll just talk first about your own story. And how you became you know, how you got to where you are.

Brad Farris 01:32

I started life as an engineer, and I loved being an engineer, I love solving problems. But I was frustrated because I could build exactly the thing that the marketing team wanted me to build, and it might not be successful. And so that made me think, well, these marketing guys obviously don’t know what they’re doing. So I got to go figure out the marketing teams job so that I can do my job. That’s how engineers think we’re kind of crazy like that. And so I went over there and and follow them around and realized I had to learn accounting in order to understand marketing, because that’s the language they’re speaking. And, and I became kind of a nerd that spoke business or the business guide spoken or depending on what side of that wall you’re on. And so when when the company I was working for started doing some acquisitions, they put me on the team to be the guy that spoke to the nurse. And so I actually spent about 10 years buying businesses from entrepreneurs for a billion, which was a great job, love that job, catch up, run a few of the companies after we bought them. But a couple things that I noticed one thing is that most of the entrepreneurs were selling their business because they had reached some sort of ceiling, they just didn’t know what the next thing was for them to do to keep growing their business. Or they just exhausted themselves, they reached a point where they know how to kind of change their role to make it possible for them to update your business. So they were selling it because they can reach the end of the runway. So what happened was, I noticed that after they sold their businesses, they weren’t really that happy about it, they didn’t really enjoy the post sale life. And so once I got to a certain point where I had done a ton of traveling, and I’d run a couple businesses, and I really wanted to come home and not travel so much. I thought about those business owners who sold and wanted to help them to have the tools that they needed to grow their business to the next level without having to sell it to the billionaire. Because, you know, I made a lot of money for the billionaire. But it wasn’t always a great deal for the entrepreneur. So I kind of wanted to switch sides of the table and help.

Alastair McDermott 03:32

Okay, cool. Let’s talk about that plateau, that they hit that ceiling, what was it typically.

Brad Farris 03:37

So there’s a couple of things. The first plateau that people hit is usually around a million between a million to 2 million dollars, the hustle and the grind that went into growing their business kind of runs out at a certain point, like you just can’t hustle anymore, or you just run out of hours to spend doing the business development during the books, getting all the stuff organized. And so the business owner themself has to change their role change really their concept of what they’re doing and get themselves out of the service delivery part of the business. And that happens in various places. But in service businesses, it happens typically around a million million to somewhere there. If the business owner can pull themselves out of that service delivery role and become the CEO, then they usually can grow it up to about around 50 to 75 people where there’s another inflection point where now instead of leading the team, you need to start reading the leadership team. And your there’s another layer of distance that you get from the people doing the work. And that also is a mindset shift that business owners need.

Alastair McDermott 04:39

Okay, so we have these two inflection points. And so you’re starting to see patterns in what you’re looking at in the in, you saw patterns in the people who were selling to your billionaire boss.

Brad Farris 04:49

Yes.

Alastair McDermott 04:50

Right. And so what happened next?

Brad Farris 04:52

So I like I said, I switch sides of the table started working for the entrepreneurs. And initially I was I was looking for entrepreneurs who wanted to sell their business, and I would help them to kind of get a better value for the business, do some work in the business to straighten it out to make their income statement balance sheet look more like the what the acquires more and give them a higher multiple. And so I would go in and buy a bunch of problematic employees get rid of “Uncle Betty” and, you know, “Cousin Steve,” increased prices, get them a little better terms, they were collecting their money better. And you know, basically shoring up their income statement balance sheet. And once we did that, I would say, Okay, now you’re ready to sell what’s good out in the market. And time after time, they would say, “Brad, this is a great business, why would I sell it? I mean, you’ve kind of fixed all the problems that I had, let’s just keep going.”

Alastair McDermott 05:41

Just get back over. How did you get past the problem of being tied into the percentage of the sale?

Brad Farris 05:47

I just stopped looking for those deals, I basically said, I’m not going to make those deals anymore. I’m not going to talk to people who are selling their business, I’m just gonna look for people want a better business. And so just changed the way I offered the same service different…

Alastair McDermott 06:00

Different clientele. Cool. That’s fascinating. And so and there’s some very simple things like you’re reducing headcount, salary, ongoing costs, you’re increasing prices, something I think, you know, I think that most entrepreneurs who I speak to, and most consultants, and I think almost everybody can increase the prices, I think it’s just, I think you could take that advice, and just apply carte blanche to everybody listening to this and say, you should probably increase your prices right now. Right?

Brad Farris 06:27

You know, it’s funny, you say that I’m not sure there’s a client that I’ve ever worked with, and I didn’t increase the prices. And they always tell me that they can’t do it, they lose a ton of business that, you know, people would say no, and then they try it. And sure enough, that first person doesn’t say no, and now they’re mad, because they look at all these other clients, like, Hey, you guys are ripping me off, even though that was the price that they swore that everybody wanted to pay. But as soon as you start raising your prices, kind of addictive, like, hey, I’d like to give more for this one, I can get more for the next one, and you will get more noes. But if you do the math, it only takes a few yesses to make up for those noes in it. And the other thing, this is the funny part, I’m working with business owners were telling me “I’m so busy, Brad, I don’t have an hour in the day to think I can’t get my business development done.” And I suggest raising prices, and they think I’m crazy. And I’m like, Who wouldn’t you rather have eight clients, instead of 10 clients and make the same amount of money, then you wouldn’t be so busy, you’d have time for the business development, it solves so many problems for us, when we raise our prices, we also end up with more engaged clients, clients who have a bigger need, because they’re willing to give more money for it. So that raising prices thing is a huge lever in in helping people to get over that growth.

Alastair McDermott 07:39

Yeah, let’s dig into that a bit more. Because I think that, um, it’s something that people have great fear about is, is raising prices, and like we’re talking now, pretty much exclusively in professional services, or in the creative industry. I mean, there’s this huge fear of raising prices, because you know, you got your existing clients are gonna get pissed off with you, you know, you’re, you’re gonna get less new clients coming on. But in reality, there are some people who are potential clients looking at your pricing and saying, I’m not going to go with them, because the price is too low, I don’t know if they can do the job properly.

Brad Farris 08:09

When we put a high price on our services, what we communicate to people is we have high expectations for the results that we’re going to achieve. And you should have high expectations for the results. And so by charging more money, we get better clients, because we get clients that want that bigger result, who are willing to invest more time and energy in order to get it. If you’re having clients that aren’t showing up for meetings, or they aren’t doing their homework, or you know, they aren’t taking your advice. Those are all signs that you’re not charging enough. Because the more you charge, the more people will take your advice, the more they’ll follow through on what they’re committing.

Alastair McDermott 08:44

Apart from pricing, is there anything else, you know, in terms of business model? Like? Like, would you look at productized services or custom services or recurring billing type models? Is there anything else there that you that’s always a go to just like you would always increase prices?

Brad Farris 08:59

So I work with a lot of creative service firms. So marketing, advertising, PR web design, those type of people. And all of those business models make sense for some segment of that market, like the customized services is great for marketing firms, because they really are doing a lot of one off sort of stuff. For the digital marketing, SEO kind of folks, the productize service seems to have worked well for them. Although, you know, if you pull back the hood, on any of those, a lot of times, they’re just a bundle of hours. And so we really want to I want to move away from that if what you’re really selling is it looks like a product or a service, but it’s 10 hours a month or 20 hours a month or whatever, that that ultimately is going to get you in trouble. You really need to have a we’re going to deliver this value for this amount of money. And so all of those business models I think can be successful. But when you pick a business model, you need to commit to it, like doing one customized service and one productized service and you know, that turns into a mess over time. So that would be my advice is to pick a lane. Do it.

Alastair McDermott 10:00

And would it be right in saying then that the productized services are typically cheaper was because my services are typically more high end?

Brad Farris 10:06

No, not necessarily. I have a client that charges has an $8,000 a month productized service. So it really just depends on what you’re delivering. But you know, the client that I have that has the high value productized service, they’re selling deliverables, you know, this is what we’re gonna get you month, a month, and here’s how you know that you’re going to get that result. And then they do a really good job of reporting, so that people can see the value they’re getting for the for what’s going into it.

Alastair McDermott 10:32

Right? Yes, because value pricing is difficult, at any time. And doing value pricing in a productize service tof me, like, it just sounds like it could be very difficult unless you know your market unless you know the value that they’re going to get. Unless you know the problem very well.

Brad Farris 10:48

You know, just like in any other value pricing conversations, you know, if you start off with that, why conversation? Why Why are you in this? And then what is it worth for you? You know, if we’re able to achieve this? What result will you get? Then you can go right into to those higher prices, because you confirm with the client that the value of what you’re going to deliver them is definitely higher than what you’re going to charge.

Alastair McDermott 11:10

Right? And can we talk a bit about how to scale because we’re talking about growing the business, how to actually scale up to, let’s say, somebody listening to this, and maybe they’ve got a small firm, they’ve got a principal, and maybe they’ve got a couple of assistants. And they’re looking at at getting from being a say, a mid six-figure business, and they’re looking to scale that up to seven-figure. What’s, so we obviously they can’t fire anybody. They can probably increase prices. I mean, maybe they can fire people but probably don’t want to. So it was it was, first of all that increasing prices. So what else is is in there? Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Brad Farris 11:46

So one of the values of increasing your prices at that size, is that it starts to give you enough margin to peel some of the work off of your plate. So if you’re thinking right now, well, I can’t I can’t stop doing the work. Because if I pay people to do the work, then then I’m not gonna make any profit, I’m not gonna be able to pay myself. If you increase your prices, then you can start to peel more of that work off of your plate. And that’s what is required for scale is that as you start to scale, you’re doing less of the work that the company gets paid for. Seth Godin has this, this concept where he says that freelancers get paid for the work that they do, they get paid for doing things. Entrepreneurs get paid for hiring other people to do things. And so the time that you’re spending delivering your company’s services, you’re acting like a freelancer. That’s, that’s what freelancers do. But what you need to get into the habit of is hiring other people to do the things because you need to maintain time to do the business development and to run the business. That’s your job. And so to the extent that you’re still delivering services, you’re doing two jobs, which eventually is going to drive you nuts.

Alastair McDermott 12:54

How does that work in the context where somebody is a subject expert? They’re the principal, they’re the person the client wants to work with directly? Because there’s a conflict there. Right?

Brad Farris 13:05

There can be. What I would say is the first thing to think about, if you’re the subject matter expert, is how much of your expertise, can you productize how much of what you’re doing is kind of the same engagement over and over again, because if what you’re doing is really a customized service, where every engagement is different, yes, then you are probably gonna have to stay involved, but you better be charging a lot. Those customized services where something’s different every time there’s tons of risk in that engagement, there’s tons of learning, right? You’re gonna have to figure stuff out as you go. And so you’re gonna go down some blind alleys and come back and do something different. And when you scope that stuff out, it’s not a “Oh, this looks like it’s 100 hours times 250 an hour.” No, it’s not that because whatever your scope is, it’s probably going to end up being double that. And we’ve all had that experience where we took on an assignment that we had never done before. And we’re like, oh, how hard could that be? It’s hard. That’s why nobody’s doing. So if it’s if it really is a customized service, then you need to charge a ton for it. And then what I would say is, you either need to go find some other people that have similar expertise, or you need to make some people that have some more expertise. So you need to bring some people under you, so that you’re replicating your expertise in that.

Alastair McDermott 14:21

Okay, so we fire people, we increase sales, then we start to fire people.

Brad Farris 14:25

We’ve only got a couple I mean, you’re only firing the people that aren’t that are efficient, right?

Alastair McDermott 14:31

And okay, and then we hire people. So, yeah, on either way, people, people who we can make into who can replicate the work that we’re doing.

Brad Farris 14:39

That’s right, yeah. And they don’t have to do like, you probably have a breadth of things that you can do. You might hire one person to do piece A and one person to do piece B and one person UPC. That’s easier right than hiring. You’re not going to duplicate yourself. There are a lot of clients come to me and say, Brad, what I need is a clone. No, you don’t. If you had a clone, they would run their own business, right? What you need is to break up what you do into chunks and then find people who can do those chunks.

Alastair McDermott 15:06

Okay, so what else is in there in when you’re looking at these types of businesses? And you’re looking for, for ways to grow that? What else is in there that we haven’t discussed yet?

Brad Farris 15:16

Well, specialization is key. One of the reasons that you need that Uber expert is that is that you’re doing different things on every engagement. And while that’s exciting for the Uber expert, because they get to, to, you know, test their mettle, it’s not a very profitable business strategy. And so we want to get you into doing similar work for similar clients time after time. What ways to skin that specialization cat, but you really need to have more engagements that are similar so that you can start to hire people to do that work and make it more so…

Alastair McDermott 15:48

Anybody listening to this is probably thinking, I should rename this to be The Specialization Podcast because it is a topic that comes up in every single conversation I have. So am…

Brad Farris 15:59

Let me just take a minute and say, I know you’ve heard a million times this advice to specialize. And I just want to say, I understand how hard it is. Like, when I had a very generalist firm, it was very hard for me to even get my mind around the idea that I was going to focus on just one thing, why would I go want to go for a smaller market? Why would I want to decide to say no to business that’s coming. But when you do that, once you’ve made the switch, it really makes so many things easier in your business, it makes sales and marketing easier. It makes delivery of things easier, makes pricing easier, and it makes you way more profitable. So if this is something that you’ve been hurt, hearing and hearing, you’re like, I don’t know what to do really lean into this, this is something that is going to make a gigantic difference here.

Alastair McDermott 16:45

Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I love talking to people about specialization. Go listen to Sara Dunn, or my conversation with Philip Morgan about specialization or my conversation with Jonathan Stark, where he mentioned specialization or my conversation with Wolfram Moritz where he talks about how specialization helped him to slay a Goliath.

Brad Farris 17:04

Yes!

Alastair McDermott 17:05

And it’s it’s incredible. It’s just the huge results people see from specialization. I personally, I think it is the silver bullet. Okay. specialization is key. We’ve prioritized services, we’re using value pricing, we’re using value pricing across the board here, right. It’s not just products and services.

Brad Farris 17:20

That’s right

Alastair McDermott 17:21

For everything.

Brad Farris 17:21

That’s my services, any any, any way that you’re offering your business, you got value.

Alastair McDermott 17:25

Yeah. And we’ve increased prices. And to be honest, anytime you go to value pricing, usually what that means is that you are maybe five to 10x in your prices anyway, that that’s my experience of looking at value pricing as it’s, it’s quite significantly higher than what you probably were charging before.

Brad Farris 17:42

Probably right. Yeah. And then the the last key piece to this process of getting up to seven figures over seven figures is starting to do more measurement. As you pull yourself out of the day to day, let me do this backwards. When you’re in the day to day, you don’t have any need for measurement, because everything that you’re doing, you see, you know, you’re sending every invoice you’re signing every check, you don’t need a report, it’s all there in front of you. But as your organization grows, and as you start to pull yourself out of the service delivery, you need to start having reports, you need to start having measurements that come to you so that you know where do you need to spend your time troubleshooting and fixing things in the business. And so having a dashboard where you can start to see all the way from your leading indicators, your visits, and leads and new business meetings, all the way through to your cash flow. And when things are getting paid. You want all that in a dashboard where you can follow that. And that’s really when you start to have that it just makes you sleep at night so much better. You don’t have those moments where you wake up in the middle of the night and go, did we invoice so and so. And those people paid us like having that those reports coming to you just give you you don’t have it’s impossible to keep it all in your head anymore. And so you need a way to go look it up.

Alastair McDermott 18:56

Right. So systems and processes, really important measurements. I know I’m gonna ask you later on about your favorite business book, I told you that already. My favorite business book, I think and I’ve read it read a lot of them. But it’s probably one of the first I read is the E-myth. And just talking about the systems and processes putting in place and and what they can do, and I record videos of me doing something, I give that to my assistants, they’re able to turn that into a document with screenshots, which is now a step by step checklist for anybody else to go through.

Brad Farris 19:27

Yes.

Alastair McDermott 19:28

It means it can be handed on and handed on. And those SLP standard operating procedure documents. I mean, for me they’re key, because it means like, I don’t have to do bookkeeping, which is the bane of my life.

Brad Farris 19:38

Oh my gosh, the first thing I gave up honestly, I’ll tell you a funny story about E-myth. When I started my business as I would go and talk to new clients right before they would sign the contract i’d reached in my briefcase and I get out a copy of E-myth and I’d say I just want you to know that everything I’m going to teach you is in this book. I will give you a copy of this book for free or you can sign that contract for thousand of dollars of consulting, nobody took the book, not a single person.

Alastair McDermott 20:04

Well, it’s interesting. I think Alan Weiss talks in, in one of his books, or in our maybe it was on an on an interview I heard, but he talks about walking into a room with it with a CFO and a CEO. Now, Alan is not same as you, when he saw them with his book. He didn’t mention it at all, he got them to sign, signed the check first, then he mentioned the book. But he said, he said, Guys, you know, I wrote everything I know about this type of project in that book, you could have just took the book and implemented it yourself. And they said, We want the guy that wrote the book.

Brad Farris 20:37

I mean, I wasn’t even the guy that wrote the book, but they would rather have me do it. I mean that. But time after time, people would say, I’m never gonna read the book. I’m like, all right, well, let’s do it.

Alastair McDermott 20:47

Well, I know how to change the oil in my car myself, I know what kind of OIL I NEED. I know how to do it. I don’t want to do it. So I’m gonna go and get it done. And I don’t have to dispose of seven litres of use motor or whatever it is. So let’s see, is there anything down that path that that we’ve missed? That we should talk about? Or can I skip on?

Brad Farris 21:08

I think you can go on. I mean, there’s lots more to it that we probably can’t cover in a podcast. But if you work on those things, raising prices, specialization, getting yourself out of the service delivery part of the business, and then starting to to systematize and measure things in your business. That will take you a long way. You know, if you get all that done, call me. We got other things we can talk about. But that’s a good place to start.

Alastair McDermott 21:32

Yeah, excellent. Okay, let’s go back a bit then to somebody who is starting out and trying to build a business who’s a bit earlier stage. And maybe they’ve been a freelancer, they’ve they’ve dipped their toes in the water or, or maybe they’ve just walked out of them walked out of one of the big consulting firms and, and they’ve got a bit of cash in the bank. So they’re able to finance, finance, finance it a bit. So if somebody is in that situation, where they’re just starting out, have you got any tips for them in starting to build the business.

Brad Farris 21:59

So I’ll tell you the two things that people said to me in when I was in that situation, and they I think that was the best advice I could have gotten. The first thing is that there’s only one thing you need to have a business, you don’t need a website, you don’t need business cards, you don’t need an office, you don’t need a phone number, you need a customer, a customer is the only thing that puts you in business. And so a lot of people when they go to get started, they spent a lot of time on their website. And there’s been a lot of time, you know, making all the accoutrements and making myself look bigger, and whatever. Don’t do any of that, just go get a customer. If you have customers, then you can hire people to make all that stuff free. And so your laser focus at the beginning needs to be on on winning new customers. And winning new customers means understanding very clearly what the value is that you can create, and who is the person that wants to buy that, and then putting that value in front of as many of those people as you can. And so the second piece of advice I heard was, no one is ever going to crawl through your computer screen and hire you, you know that now we have inbound marketing. And yes, people fill out forms and blah, blah, blah, but you need to have conversations with people who can hire you. So if you’re laser focused on getting clients, what you need to do is to find people who can hire you and talk to them. And notice, I didn’t say sell to them, I said talk to them, you just need to have conversations with them, where they’re talking to you about what’s going on in their business and in the world. And pretty soon you figure out that they’re on a journey to get someplace. And if you can help them on that journey, they’ll pay you money for that. And so that’s that’s the conversation that you want to start having. Where are you trying to get what’s trying? What what what are your objectives, with your business or with your role? Where are the obstacles? How can someone help you get there? Because if you can get those pieces, then you can offer them a proposal and they’ll hire you to help.

Alastair McDermott 23:45

Okay, let’s talk about that. Then, let’s talk about finding those first clients. So if somebody is starting out, and let’s say they, they don’t have a big network, they don’t know, you know, maybe they’ve moved to a new city or, you know, maybe maybe it’s it’s COVID out there. And it’s it’s tough to meet people. So what would you recommend people do to start it?

Brad Farris 24:04

So it’s interesting. Everybody starts with their personal network. And that’s, that’s great. I mean, you’re going to start with every, you need to tell everybody you know, what you’re doing and who you’re looking at that. But that may not take you very far. And that’s fine. I also am not a big fan of local networking. Local networking is a way to get business quickly. But networking tends to produce leads that are not very spot on for what you’re looking for. They tend to produce kind of a scattershot of leads, because it’s whatever happens to be in your local area. And so a lot of people have been led astray and ended up following business that comes to them and end up being in a business that they don’t really enjoy, or they’re not really good at. And so being more focused on this is the person I want to talk to you and this is the value that I want to offer them means that we might go beyond our local area. My favorite tool right now is LinkedIn. If you subscribe to LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can do a search that will produce your exact ideal leads. Now Sales Navigator is the worst search engine I’ve ever used. It produces, you know, 20% of the people in that list are actually the people you want to talk to. But you’re a lot closer.

Alastair McDermott 25:11

Yeah, I agree there is there is a lot of noise, but it does. It does help. Yeah.

Brad Farris 25:14

Yeah. And you can do some outreach from there. And it doesn’t have to be on LinkedIn, it can just help you to identify who you’re looking for, and find a different way to reach out to a few if you prefer.

Alastair McDermott 25:23

Yeah. And just on the local networking thing, I have a friend who is in exactly that situation, she built her business on the back of the local networking thing, the business meetings where they meet meet up at 6am or whatever, every Friday morning in some horrible place. If I actually joined that networking organization, I would be kicked out. I think it works great for local businesses, but I don’t think that it works for expert businesses, it doesn’t allow you to grow and scale is great for a florist or maybe for a dentist or you know, a plumber or people like that where, where your business is totally based on being in the locality. And a lot of repeat trading.

Brad Farris 26:04

The likelihood, if you’re an expert, but likely to have your expertise overlapping with whatever geography you can even frack is low.

Alastair McDermott 26:12

Right? Experts travel right, at least in normal times.

Brad Farris 26:15

Yeah, we can travel like this. I mean, in fact, I haven’t traveled for business purposes in probably 15 years.

Alastair McDermott 26:24

Wow. Okay.

Brad Farris 26:24

Because we can do business remotely. You know, there, there’s this magical technology that allows us to talk to people that are far away, and we can get that work done.

Alastair McDermott 26:34

So let me ask you about speaking and writing, what are your thoughts about speaking and writing as as marketing?

Brad Farris 26:40

Do more of it?

Alastair McDermott 26:41

Okay.

Brad Farris 26:42

So there’s nothing that so if you’re an expert, telling people that you’re an expert is not particularly attractive? Hey, I’m super smart, and I can fix things. You sound like a smarmy jerk, right? So the way that people hire experts is because they experience your expertise. And the only way they can experience the expertise is if you demonstrate it. And so going on a podcast, doing a workshop or a webinar, writing regular emails, or blog posts or guest posts or whatever it is that you’re doing. But expressing your expertise in a way that other people can experience. It is really the best form of marketing for any type of excellent.

Alastair McDermott 27:21

Absolutely. Another thing I wanted to ask you about is something I think you know, a lot about, which is masterminds. Can you tell me a bit about the value of masterminds, how they work, what you can get out of them.

Brad Farris 27:34

So first, let’s define a mastermind. A mastermind is a group of people that meet together regularly, some weekly, some twice a week, some once a month. And in the mastermind, you share your challenges and your progress. And you ask the group to help you with your challenges. And then you’re open to the feedback that the group has to offer you as a way to help you improve whenever you’re trying to improve your business. I work mostly one on one with clients for a long time for more than 15 years. And just in the last few years, I’ve started doing mastermind groups as a way to deliver services. And the first thing I noticed, and honestly, it’s super humbling is that people learned more and grew their business faster in a mastermind than they did working one on one with me. And I was super pissed about that. At first I’m like, Well, I’m the expert. I’m bringing the expertise. Now. They’re just listening to a bunch of their peers, and then doing more of what the peers tell them to do, and growing the business faster. But I couldn’t deny the fact that this was working like this is great. And there’s a combination of things there. I mean, one thing is that you’ve got multiple perspectives. So there are people that are seeing things that I wouldn’t see and adding perspective that I wouldn’t add. A second thing is that when it’s just one on one, if I tell you to do something, most people our natural reaction will say, I don’t want to do that. Now. There’s an adversarial kind of thing. And even if we use our best coaching, and you know, what do you think about this and asking questions and drawing people out? There’s something about having a peer who says, You know, I tried this and it works, that people are more likely Oh, well, I should try that. And when people have resistance to something, someone else in the group says, Oh, I did, it was easy. You should do it. You know, like it. There’s an openness and expansiveness that comes from having that. And so it’s just been wonderful for me to see businesses grow faster. And then the flip side of that is if I’ve got five people in a group, and I offer that for a third the price that I would offer a one on one, good deal for me good deal for them.

Alastair McDermott 29:33

Right.

Brad Farris 29:33

As you grow a business model perspective, it can be a really good solution.

Alastair McDermott 29:38

Right? And I’ve heard a lot of people talking about about group coaching as a way to scale. The first guy heard talking about, I think, was a guy called Lee McIntyre. About 15 years ago. But yeah, really great way to scale up and to charge more. I want to ask you something slightly different, which is about failure. And I really like when people embrace failure and try to learn from it. Don’t don’t view it as negative. So I just want to ask you about what you’ve experienced in terms of business failure, and how did you get through it? What did you learn from from that?

Brad Farris 30:08

It’s hard to pick just one house there. I mean, I’ve failed a lot through through my business. And just in general, I would say that having been in business 20 years now, when I look around and see the other people who were starting back, when I started and who are still here, the thing that they all have in common is that they didn’t quit. And, you know, that seems kind of obvious. But on the other hand, it is really a secret to businesses that if you want to stay in business, just don’t quit, just keep at it. And there is a certain amount of just persistence that is required. But probably the failure that sticks out most clearly was when I was very first starting my business, I went to a week long seminar that was teaching people how to sell consulting services, and I paid a lot of money, like, you know, roughly a semester of college to go to this week long seminar. And I came out and I had a sales process that I was very confident in. And I went to my first two appointments, and I closed them both. And I was like, man, best money ever spent. I am a genius salesperson, I’m in business, I have two customers, like everything is fantastic. And then over the next three months, I went on 27 sales calls and closed zero. And so after an O and 27 run, my overconfidence had worn off, I was no longer a sales genius. In fact, I was worried about ending up living under a bridge somewhere and you know, never being able to feed my kids. And two things happened at that point one is I got desperate enough to ask for help. And so I went back to the sales trainer from the seminar and I said, you know, I’m the worst salesperson ever, you know, I’m gonna live under a bridge, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. And he said, Well, I can’t help you until you do something for me, I want you to go to for more sales calls and at the end of it write down after the after the sales call, immediately write down what went well, what went poorly, what do you want to do differently? Just write those things down, call me back up, perform more sales calls. And so I was like, Okay, well, they’re gonna end the same as all the other one. So I, you know, but four more. And so I went to the first one and went back out in the car, what went poorly, I didn’t ask for the order that I was the next one wrote down, didn’t ask for the order. The next one, I was like, Well, I’m not going back to the car and saying, I didn’t ask for the order. If they’re dragging me out of here by my heels, I’m going to yell back and say, Would you like to talk about how we can work together to solve that problem? Because that was the part of the script where you were asking for the order. And sure enough, I asked for the order and it closed. And the next one, I asked for the order it closed, and then it things went better from there. And so, you know, the two things are asking for help. And sticking to the script. Why did I ever just stop asking it just because I thought it was so confident I was so good at this. I didn’t have to do that. But yeah, that that was that was quite a time.

Alastair McDermott 32:55

And just took with the the kind of the retrospective look at looking at, you know, the kind of the post mortem, I was talking to Wolfram Moritz earlier. He said that that one of the questions he asked always to his seld and his business partners is what did we learn today after every sales call? And he said that actually that he would consider it a failure if they got the sale, but they hadn’t earned anything. That’s really interesting kind of point of view, you know. So well, that actually is a segue to something else just want to ask you about which is something that we’ve spoken about before, which is point of view, having a point of view. And I think that it’s something that people talk about in positioning and standing out and being different, differentiating yourself from your from your competitors, is having this distinct point of view. But it’s not so easy. And it’s, it’s one of these fluid things is like, yeah, that sounds like a really good, good thing to do. But how do I actually do that? So can we talk about that for a few minutes?

Brad Farris 33:54

Sure. Absolutely.

Alastair McDermott 33:55

So, what do you think, a point of view, is there a distinct point of view?

Brad Farris 33:58

What do I think a point of view is, so you’re not looking for something that nobody has ever said before? I’ll tell you early in my career, I read a book called “Endless Referrals” by Bob Burg, and I thought it was a brilliant book. I loved it. And then a year or two later, I read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” you know, like the most popular book ever written. And as I was reading, as I know, a lot of this is really familiar. And I would get Bob Berg’s book, and I opened up and like the Table of Contents was almost the same. Like he had rewritten How to Win Friends and Influence People in his own work,

Alastair McDermott 34:31

Good business model, right.

Brad Farris 34:34

This is genius. This is Fantastic! So the point isn’t to write something that no one has ever said. But it’s to write something that no one else is going to set. Because you’re going to say things in a way that’s uniquely you. That’s based on your experience and your point of view and your language. And so you want to say something that other people are not going to say or that other people couldn’t say because they didn’t live the life that you live in. Didn’t have experiences. And so writing from a point of view means figuring out what it is that you know, that’s true. Testing that in the marketplace a little bit like, we’re not just gonna throw crazy theories out there, we need to have some experience or some research, and then articulating in a way that you think it makes it easy for people to respond or for people to understand. To me, that’s what having a point of view is about.

Alastair McDermott 35:23

Can you give me an example? Because this…

Brad Farris 35:27

Well, I’ve got, if you go on the homepage of my website, the call to action there is to take a business growth assessment. And the business growth assessment tells you where you are in the lifecycle of a business. And so are you a baby business? Are you a adolescent, are you you know, a, an adult or a senior citizen. And the idea of the business growth lifecycle is not new. But the way that I articulate that, you know, which some of which we’ve talked about earlier about, you know, getting from that baby stage, that adolescent stage is really about raising prices and specialization and measurement and getting out of the driver’s seat. Like those four things, I’ve never heard anyone else put that together and exactly that way. But because of the experiences, I had identified, that those were things that happened over and over again, that I saw were consistent, and my clients were able to grow. And so just putting it into that framework, you know, talking about a business growth lifecycle, people understand the idea behind the business lifecycle. And then what are those stages? Okay, lay that out. And then what are the things that need to happen to get from one stage to another? And by doing that, when people take that assessment, I land them on a page and say, you know, here’s what’s going on your business. And here’s what you need to do next. And people write me back. They’re like, Oh, my gosh, that’s exactly are you like, in my office looking over my shoulder? I don’t have to be I know. Yeah. You’re not that unique.

Alastair McDermott 36:54

Yeah.

Brad Farris 36:55

So that’s an example of trying to make make my experience more understandable for other people.

Alastair McDermott 37:00

Right. Interesting. Yeah. So you’re taking your experience, translating that in a way further so that other people can understand that? And that is your point of view? That’s your perspective.

Brad Farris 37:10

That’s right.

Alastair McDermott 37:10

Right.

Brad Farris 37:11

Okay. So over and over again, I’ll relate different issues that people are having back to one of these four problems, right. And so earlier, when we’re talking about raising prices, I talked about quiet engagement, oh, I’m having quiet engagement problem people aren’t following through on their homework. Well, that’s because you’re not charging enough money, right. And so I can connect a lot of problems that people are having back to one of the backs of this framework in a certain way. And so that helps me to return to that point of view over and over again, and reinforces for people Oh, Brad does know what he’s talking about.

Alastair McDermott 37:41

Okay, let me again, switch gears, because I want to ask you about resources that have helped you along the way books, podcasts, videos, people, anything, what has been an influence on on you.

Brad Farris 37:53

You know, E-myth, obviously, was an early influence, I think the book that has had more impact more recently is getting naked by Patrick Lencioni. I’m not a fan of the parable, book genre. But getting naked really helped crystallize some things for me about being a consultant,

Alastair McDermott 38:11

Can you just describe what the premises?

Brad Farris 38:14

Getting naked talks about different conversations that we need to have with our clients when we’re a consultant and what the job of a consultant is. And so, but one specific one is to enter the danger that whenever you’re talking to a group of business people, there’s always some topic that they’re all kind of dancing around. And you as the consultant need to be willing to say, Hey, I noticed you guys aren’t talking about lead gen does that because lead gen is just perfect. You’ve got all these leads pouring in, everybody starts looking down at their shoes, right? Oh, it’s not because your lead gen is perfect. So why are we not talking about lead gen, you have to be willing to walk into those dangerous places. That’s what they’re paying you for as a consultant. And so that’s the that’s the concept. And he has four other distinctions there but that’s kind of the the one that that is the key everywhere.

Alastair McDermott 39:02

Yeah, I love it. And I have a posted lots of posts with notes to myself on my computer screen from me here, no passwords, thankfully, one of those is “say no more often.” And another is actually from from Blair Enns, which is “say what you’re thinking,” and I really love that. Like, it should be so obvious, you know, and maybe it is for a lot of people but but yeah, and he’s talking about typically in the context of of a sales conversation, but but in any engagement, I think it’s best just be be straight up with people and and literally say what you’re thinking so yeah, I’m all for that.

Brad Farris 39:38

So I agree 100%. And as someone who can be very blunt, what I’ve learned is to say what I’m thinking but sometimes introduce it in the form of a question or sometimes introduce it in the form of a something that I’ve seen with other clients is x y, z, right? So

Alastair McDermott 39:54

Brad isn’t quite so blunt.

Brad Farris 39:55

What I found it again, my job is to say things in a way that people can hear low and maximum bluntness isn’t always that way.

Alastair McDermott 40:05

You’re not going to get a good result. You’re not going to help them by doing that. Yeah.

Brad Farris 40:07

That’s right.

Alastair McDermott 40:08

Yeah.

Brad Farris 40:08

And that’s what we’re there to do. Right? Yeah. But I agree 100% when Blair crystallize that, it’s kind of the same thing as as the getting naked concept. But there are conversations where you’re thinking, well, there’s gonna be a problem down the road with this. And when we don’t say it in the moment thinking, well just sign the contract. And then later on, we’ll deal with it. No, no, say it in the moment. Because when it comes up down the road, now you’ve got a bigger problem.

Alastair McDermott 40:32

Okay. Another another question about books actually is, do you have a favorite fiction book?

Brad Farris 40:37

Favorite fiction book? I was thinking about that. I think there’s two that are sort of epic fiction works that I’ve lived with Lord of the Rings, from the time I was a kid was just a piece of fiction that I’ve gone back to actually my 11 year old is reading now. And so it’s super fun that experiences secondhand, and then “The Master Commander Series” by Patrick O’Brian. It’s it’s like a 19 volume novel. Goes romping through the the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. And it’s really about friendships between men and and how men relate to one another. And it’s it’s a fascinating, long, interesting novel with lots of ropes.

Alastair McDermott 41:18

Okay, cool. Is your question that I asked you that I didn’t ask you today they should have?

Brad Farris 41:23

No, I don’t think so. I mean, I think the thing we didn’t talk about is podcasting, which I’ve done a good bit of podcasting over the years, and I’m not actively podcasting now. But I love to guest on other people’s shows, because it is a way to demonstrate expertise,

Alastair McDermott 41:37

Right. And it’s a speaking, speaking part of the writing and speaking.

Brad Farris 41:41

Exactly. Right. And so having your own podcast, in turns out is hard work. And there’s lots of benefits from it. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I always tell them to go be a guest. Yeah.

Alastair McDermott 41:54

Thanks.

Brad Farris 41:57

Well, you didn’t ask. So I didn’t give you the advice.

Alastair McDermott 42:01

I knew what the advice was beforehand.

Brad Farris 42:06

It’s fun. There’s a lot of benefits, you get to meet a lot of interesting people.

Alastair McDermott 42:09

Yeah. And I’ve actually been surprised at how quickly people have been willing to say, Yes. Where can people go if they want to find out more about you about the business growth assessment. Can you tell us where people can find you online?

Brad Farris 42:22

Sure, if you go to anchor advisors, calm, right on the homepage is a call to action that will get you the business growth assessment. I also, we were talking about raising prices, I have a really complete guide for raising prices out there. If you don’t mind putting that in the show notes. I think people get a lot of value out of that.

Alastair McDermott 42:39

Cool. I’m the homepage and the guide to raising prices in the shownotes. Brad, I really do appreciate you being here with me today. Through all the podcast, recording glitches and network failures that we’ve experienced. Thank you so much.

Brad Farris 42:53

No worries. Great to talk.

Alastair McDermott 42:57

Hey, folks, so I just want to tell you about a free resource that I have available for you. I was recently on Brandon McAdams podcast sales for founders. And he asked me to walk him through my sales meeting process. So during the podcast, I decided to make my sales question sheet available for his listeners to download. So this is a single sheet with 25 questions that I always ask in every sales meeting. And I’ve used these to successfully close five and six figure deal. Absolutely. It’s literally the sheet that I use, or bringing into every meeting. I have it in front of me as I’m speaking with the prospective client. And it’s all the questions that I go through during that sales meeting. If that sounds like it might be something useful for you. You can grab a copy by visiting MarketingforConsultants.com/sales. That’s MarketingforConsultants.com/sales. You’ll also get an explainer sheet with comments on why I use those questions, and I’ll even link to the podcast episode with Brandon. Thanks for listening. See you next time.