On July 23, 2019, Kasie and Shennice welcomed Ann Elliot of The Berkana Company int the studio. Here are the show notes:
Theme for day:
Consulting in practice
- Get to know Ann Elliot
- What is consulting?
- How do consultants work?
- CRC Academy revisit / review
We’ve been focused on Consulting as a business this month and today’s episode is no different. With us in the studio is Ann Elliot, Leadership Strategist and Founder of The Berkana Company, a Columbia-based training and executive coaching consultancy. Berkana was founded in 1993 so you’ve got some consulting longevity on Shennice and I. Clemson Road Creative was founded in 2012 and Smart Cookie Coaching was founded last year, so we’re relative newbies here to learn at the feet of the master.
Tell us what made you strike out on your own?
What was the most difficult part about starting your own consultancy?
What kinds of resources have you leveraged over your growth phases?
You have a few nationally-recognized affiliations. The Women Presidents’ Organization (to which both Shennice and I aspire) and the Women’s Advantage Forum. Tell us about each, how you got involved with them and what leadership of them has done for you professionally and for growth of The Berkana Company.
We did an episode on critical relationships in which we defined these professional services roles:
Mentor – an experienced, wise, and trusted advisor; provides support to and feedback to the individual being mentored. A good one is a sounding board; gives guidance on what you’re doing and where you’re headed. Teachers, parents, coaches were your earliest ones.
Sponsor – someone in a powerful position taking a vested interest in your success; makes connections that lead to growth and revenue. Puts you forward to opportunities they come across. Recommends you, vouches for you. Will open the door for you, make sure you’re at the table, that you’re included. Sponsors are not your peers, they are in roles higher than yours.
Coach – the expertise lies with the person, not with the coach. You have a goal and the coach acts more like a passenger helping you to navigate and achieve milestones; your co-pilot with experience and knowledge specifically in the process of setting and achieving goals.
Consultant – the expert engaged for specific help with something: public speaking, communications, writing, etc. They have a skill set that can help you get better at a specific skill. They create a structured curriculum for you and hold you accountable for achieving certain milestones and skills.
Supporter – people who get excited about your work, make connections for you, make suggestions, let your bounce ideas and provide you with some stories and examples. May be at the same place in their journey as you. Can commiserate. Probably won’t challenge you as much as a Coach or a Mentor will; but will probably be more resilient than a Sponsor even after you let them down.
Part of being a Leadership Strategist must be recognizing which people require which kinds of support or intervention. How have you honed this particular diagnostic skill, Ann?
Sometimes independent consultants don’t know what they need, really, to stabilize or organize themselves. If it’s more business — higher revenue — or better systems (as we discussed with Stephanie last week) — or if it’s personal leadership as we discussed with Stephanie Kirkland back in April.
Is this a problem unique to women? Not knowing how to diagnose their own needs? Or even seeking help? Or doubting their ability to make this happen or make it work?
We’ve been talking most of the month about consultants needing to quantify their work, find a vocabulary for inventory — whether it’s hours or projects or deliverables — consulting is its own type of business model, aside from whatever expertise you’re selling.
Learning the ins and outs of consulting, as a practitioner, can take a while. How did you get a hold of what the work of consulting looks like, Ann? Did you think about the business model of The Berkana Company before launching? How has it evolved or changed over the years?
One of the biggest brick walls for consultants is the “perceived value” of their work. Meaning that often consultants are asked to perform work without that work being identified as product. In these circumstances, consultants are underpaid for their work — we’ve been invited to speak in exchange for “exposure” and to build our own resumes.
How do consultants communicate value?
How do they show evidence of work?
What results can consultants expect to measure for their clients?
How frustrating is it to suggest change and then see the client choose not to follow the lead?
Clemson Road Creative has launched the CRC Academy, an effort to “certify” independent consultants in The R.O.A.D. Methodology for services delivery. This approach helps itemize the work the consultant does, provides a map for the consultant to follow with each business engagement and includes deliverables templates and knowledge transfer, marketing content development, and project management.
Our vision is to help independent consultants (primarily women) stabilize their practices so they can grow their businesses.
We might be just one of a million different programs for encouraging collaboration among women. We’re narrowly focused on consultants, so unlike the WPO or the Women’s Advantage, we’re not open to any kind of business at all. There’s a juxtaposition in consulting of the industry or program expertise and the work of running a business. We know consultants are wicked smart at the work they deliver. It’s the operational side that sometimes takes them down.
Clemson Road Creative is building a shared services platform to address the needs of these independent consultants, to offer them the support and knowledge they need to organize and stabilize.
Ann was one of the consultants I brought the idea to during our customer validation period. You and I spoke at length about the pitfalls and challenges for independent women consultants. You’ve been very supportive and I’m grateful to you. As we grow, I’ll continue to look to you for advice and suggestions. Thanks for being on the show today.
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