Book Review: Hard-Hitting Consulting How-To

‘Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional's Guide To Growing A Practice’ is not for the faint of heart

Back Web Only Jul 2, 2015 By Michael Scott

So-called expert consultants abound, but Alan Weiss’ Million Dollar Consulting: A Professional Guide To Building A Practice offers what many other how-tos don’t: modern, actionable tools for building a highly profitable enterprise.

With fresh insights that address prevailing challenges facing today’s busy consultant, Million Dollar Consulting is a go-to guide for accounting and legal firms, professional service practices and independent advisors of all stripes seeking to build a successful client following. Unlike other books of a similar ilk, Weiss’ book is highly pragmatic and prescriptive. Readers will find it an engaging counterblast to traditional consulting practice methods that have lost their luster over time.

Weiss, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, is one of those rare people who can brag about being a successful consultant while maintaining a track record to prove it. His solo practice, Summit Consulting Group, boasts powerhouse clients including Merck, Hewlett-Packard, Mercedes-Benz, The New York Times Corp., Toyota and The Federal Reserve. He’s also comfortable revealing failures and pitfalls — like the time he got trounced in the first round of “Jeopardy” by a dancing waiter from Iowa.

But first, a forewarning: Weiss is not one to don kid gloves. His writing is direct, and he is upfront about the numerous mistakes many consultants — perhaps yourself included — make when approaching their business. With chapter titles like, “Stop Thinking That Time Is Money: If You’re Charging a Per Diem, You’re Still Just Practicing,” Weiss’ no-holds-barred critique can feel as though it’s personally directed at the reader. But that’s what makes it so valuable.

In the end, Weiss wants readers to learn how to help prospective clients shift their mindset from “Should I use this firm?” to “How should I use this firm?” His thesis is this: Significant improvements to a client’s condition are the gold-standard of consulting value and should be priced accordingly. He details key elements like raising capital, attracting clients, creating a marketing plan, blogging and social media, building a global presence and other issues that bedevil many consultants and advisors. Alan supplements all of this with real-world case studies that demonstrate the importance of delivering solutions, not performing tasks.

With his signature contrarian flair, Weiss points his finger at wrong-headed approaches that hinder the success of most consulting practices. He is unrelenting in his diatribes about the stupidity of using hourly rates that contradict the delivery of an authentic and sustainable value proposition. Instead Weiss believes client proposals should offer flat-rate pricing options of increasing value, with a discount offered if the entire retainer is paid upfront. I tried this approach myself when I inked my first major client with a California based biotech firm — then walked away with a $60,000-retainer upfront.

Weiss also covers:

  • Business formation and other keys to executing a successful practice startup
  • How to integrate professional speaking and a published book into an overall branding strategy
  • Methods for sustaining a profitable practice while honoring one’s need for work/life balance

Million Dollar Consulting certainly isn’t for the faint of heart or those with ironclad egos. Readers  with old-school accounting and legal-firm mindsets are likely to grimace and look askance at some of Weiss’ missives. Nevertheless, he is an engaging writer who’s not afraid to challenge the prevailing winds of status-quo thinking. His book will take you to the mat, for sure, but it does so in a manner that delivers a solid return.

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