I met someone recently who was just starting out as a freelance consultant, and I was assigned to him as his business adviser. Nice man, let’s call him Mike. He had been made redundant from a large multinational corporation where he’d clearly had a glittering career in corporate finance - negotiating big deals and all kinds of high powered brainy stuff that, well to be honest, went over my head a bit. The redundancy happened for two main reasons. Firstly the company he worked embarked on a global restructure, and secondly, Mike had suffered from an illness and had to take a couple of months off work. Although fully recovered, the firm that he had dedicated most of his career to, decided they didn’t want him back and offered him a juicy redundancy package. So much for loyalty.
So just to recap. Mike could negotiate massive corporate deals worth millions. He clearly knew about business, money, manufacturing, setting up subsidiary companies and well everything you could ever learn about in an MBA course.
So the big question was, why on earth was he sitting in front of me?
The answer to this question was a total shocker. It turns out that he was terrified of working for himself (cue the ‘duff duff’ sound at the end of Eastenders). He knew nothing about marketing, selling or promoting himself. He wasn’t even sure what he would ‘consult’ on.
OK, I can certainly help someone with that, but…
One my favourite little ‘sayings’ about being a marketing consultant is this: “If the work and/or ideas I create for a client are to succeed, the client must be a willing participant in the process. Otherwise it will fail.” And this was the real problem I was faced with.
We shilly-shallied around talking about his ‘offering’ and target markets. Who did he think he could help and how? What problems did he think he could solve? Etc. But somehow I just wasn’t getting any vibe of enthusiasm from him. So I asked the question.
“What do you really want?”
He paused, and gave a massive sigh. Then he eventually said: “I want to get back into the corporate market at a senior level. I want the corner office, business class travel, a company car and all the perks and prestige that goes with it. I want my old life back.”
So I asked him what was stopping him? And I got a litany of obstacles that were put in his path: He was too old (at 55) to be taken seriously. He’d been on over 30 interviews with no success. Any jobs that were within his grasp were in open plan offices, or less than half his last salary, or didn’t have a car as part of the package.
Setting up his own business was the only option left to him. I gave him the best advice I could and gave him a checklist of things he needed to get in place in order to take his consulting business forward. We agreed an action plan and booked another session the following week.
The next week came, and I was left sitting in a Starbucks on my own.
Mike never showed up for our second appointment. I contacted him to see if everything was ok, and he said he put the appointment in the wrong day. I’ve not heard anything since.
I guess his heart just wasn’t in it after all.