Change a happy balance?

Philip Morgan


A good question from my post opt-in survey:

I LIKE creating marketing communications materials as well as developing strategies and systems, yet several of the teachers I follow–most notably Jonathan Stark and David C. Baker–talk about doing “hand work” or “Implementation” as if it’s a bad thing. I want to do and be PAID TO DO both. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Nope! If you can get what you want out of your business, that’s an accomplishment you should feel good about.

To generalize this a bit, let’s think about the solo indie consultant. What about them? There are 4 aspects of that business type to think about in light of this question.

Can you do both strategic work and implementation work while meeting your revenue goals and avoiding working too much and avoiding the feast-famine cycle that can come from insufficient business development work?

If you can, great! If you can’t, then you may need to choose a different tradeoff between those 4 things. Elaborating a bit…

There are 4 things at play here:

  1. Strategy work
  2. Implementation work
  3. Business development work
  4. The limits of your time and personal energy level

If you can meet your revenue goals (now and in the future) with your current balance of those 4 things, great!

I consider #3 and #4 relatively fixed. You might be able to build a sustainable business without doing any business development work, but I doubt it. The age-old recommendation is that nearly 50% of your working time will be invested in business development.

You might be able to increase your time and personal energy level for a while, but most of us can’t dramatically increase those things for a long period of time (years or decades). In fact, most of us naturally experience more demands on our time and a gradual decline in our personal energy level over time.

So if, as a solo indie consultant, you reach a revenue limit with your current balance of those 4 things, there are only 2 places where you have significant latitude to make changes: do less strategy work, do less implementation work, or make one or both of those 2 things more profitable.

If our questioner and I were in a realtime conversation, I would ask: if you’re happy with the status quo, why are you seeking outside input on how you run your business?

My guess is either that you’re bored, or you’re curious if you can get more out of your business.

David and Jonathan are presenting proven ways to get more out of your business! It’s good advice!! I don’t have much to add to their advice, other than to reassure our questioner that if you’re not wanting to get more out of your business, you can ignore my advice along with David’s and Jonathan’s.

If you’re happy with how things are, don’t screw things up with endogenous change to your business! I really mean that.

Endogenous change is not the only kind, though.

We all exist within a larger context, and sometimes that larger context forces change upon us. Or rather, the larger context changes without regard to how we might be effected, and we get to choose whether or not to change in response. Exogenous change isn’t personal; it isn’t about us; it just… happens.

Sometimes we have a happy balance, exogenous change happens, and it upsets our happy balance.

In that case, we have to choose how to respond.

I really like the option of doing less implementation work and more strategy work. I agree with David and Jonathan on this point.

If the exogenous change in question is commoditization, then moving up the value chain towards strategy work is a good way to respond because while implementation work done in a pre-commoditized context might be fun and challenging, that same kind of implementation work done in a post-commoditization context is often less fun, less creative, and less personally challenging. And less profitable for a soloist!

So if exogenous change happens and makes your implementation work less fun, creative, challenging, and/or profitable, then you might be forced to consider change.

One possible change is to find another kind of implementation work that exists in a pre-commoditization context. Software developers do this frequently when they leave a stale skillset behind, re-skill, and ride the next wave of demand for pre-commoditized skill. This could be a solution for you.

Or, you can decide to move away from implementation work altogether and towards strategy work.

Let me leave you with an urging to consider the context and the timeline of your career, and to try to “skate to where the puck will be” as much as possible.

Invest now in building what “future you” will want. :)

Keep building; keep taking risks y’all,