You’ve now built a successful consulting practice, and are a recognized expert in your market niche. Expertise has been proven through thought leadership, industry presentations, and client deliveries. A network of satisfied clients and colleagues regularly refer work to your firm. Transformational client work is detailed in a trove of industry-specific case studies.
But how do you continue to grow the firm beyond that initial niche? How do you stay intellectually engaged with new and different client challenges? How can you create value for clients in areas in which you have not previously worked?
Extension into new practice areas can seem to require much of the same steps that were required to build your firm in the first place. You need something novel to say about the new practice area and promote that with published thought leadership. You need to extend your network to an often new set of colleagues and potential clients. Most importantly, you need to delight your new clients by exceeding expectations.
We argue that the use of flexible, independent contractors can accelerate your transition to adjacent practice areas. By bringing in professionals to augment your existing staff, you deliver domain expertise to clients, improving the quality of your deliverable and increasing the likelihood of referrals and follow-on projects.
Independent professionals can be leveraged to help you move into adjacent practice areas in 4 key ways:
1. Best Practices: Contractors with domain expertise can bring best practices from prior operational work and consulting engagements, improving the deliverable and deepening the client relationship.
2. Upskill Existing Staff: Existing staff is upskilled on new industries and functions when contractors are brought in to project manage engagements outside of the firm’s core.
3. Extend Professional Network: Experienced professionals pull in others in their network that can be relied upon as industry experts as well as new senior professional contacts for the firm.
4. Demonstrate Impact: With case studies of exceptional projects on hand, consulting firms find it easier demonstrate impact in adjacent practice areas to new clients and upsell to existing clients.
It is best practice not to stray too far from your core, following one of the 5 consulting adjacency approaches we have laid out in the graphic below (adapted from Zook). Even extension into near adjacencies, however, can be challenging without help. For example, a consulting firm we’ve worked with was firmly rooted in transportation and logistics, but wanted to extend into energy. A natural place to start was transportation-intensive commodities such as coal and biomass. After completing transportation cost studies for those commodities, it was much easier to sell subsequent projects in coal pricing and biomass feedstock evaluation. Strategic use of contractors with domain expertise – in this case energy – can help you move beyond your core practice area to adjacent markets in far less time than trying to make the move organically without external assistance.
Of course you can move into adjacencies all on your own through doing the research and incrementally upskilling your staff through white papers, studies, project work, etc. We simply argue that you can make that move faster when you augment your staff with those with deep experience in those adjacent practice areas.
Contact the Talent Response team for more information about how domain experts with consulting and project management expertise can help you accelerate your shift towards adjacent practice areas.