Consulting is, in my opinion, one of the most noble professions that exists. Sadly, too many freelancers, subcontractors and outsourced laborers have diluted the meaning of the word “consultant.” For the purposes of this article, let’s agree that the true definition of a consultant is a professional who leverages many years of experience, knowledge, and training, often applying their own unique intellectual property, in order to improve their client’s outcome in a given situation.

So without clients, a consultant is actually just a pundit.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to being successful as a consultant, therefore, is attracting clients and winning assignments.

Merilee Kern, writing for the Innovation Enterprise Strategy blog, observed the following:

But, even in a trade that’s rife with profit potential, actually earning that pot of gold can be extraordinarily difficult given there are two-plus million consultants, coaches, trainers, and similar professionals all fighting to find clients, win projects and make a living. Roughly half of these consultants are solo practitioners or in boutique firms—and the sad reality is most boutique consulting firms are perpetually six months away from bankruptcy. Their ‘new business procurement’ engine sputters along resulting in a persistent struggle to grow larger, while solo consultants capture average annual revenue under $70,000 (compared to $250,000 per consultant across the entire industry). To explore this disconnect, I connected with David A. Fields, author of ‘The Executive’s Guide to Consultants,’ and the soon-to-be-released follow-up title, ‘ The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients .’ Himself a multi-million-dollar-earning independent consultant, this ‘expert’s expert’ has some sage advice on how people can realize success in the consulting trade—a profession, he concedes, that can be ‘as problematic as it is profitable.’ Since Fields has coached hundreds of successful consultants and other independent practitioners around the world on how to ‘make it rain,’ I asked him the obvious question: ‘Why do so many struggle in this field?’ Quite unequivocally, he asserted that too many consultants—the majority, in fact—are completely missing the mark with respect to their baseline approach and overarching mindset. To help give independent consultants a clearer path to that coveted yet elusive goal of financial freedom through what ‘could’ be a lifestyle-friendly career, here are six of Fields’ pragmatic, eye-opening tips:

  1. Think Right-Side Up
  2. Maximize Impact
  3. Build Visibility
  4. Connect, Connect, Connect
  5. Become the Obvious Choice
  6. Propose, Negotiate & Close

Make sure to read the full article for detailed explanations of Fields’ tips for closing more business as a consultant.

Back in 2001, several thought-leaders in the software development world got together and tried to reinvent the business processes behind turning code into something useful and marketable. The result is known as the Agile Manifesto and has spurred on a revolution in how software is made, with a pragmatic, market-driven and user-centric approach.

When AirBnB started eating into the profit margins of the established players in the lodging industry, the threat was not taken seriously at first. Savvy and agile investors quickly transformed small apartment buildings and houses into mini-hotels, creating a new class of social media-enabled commercial real estate investment property. Now, municipalities are actively trying to recapture lost tax revenue. (more…)

Last week, my colleagues and I joined about 1,400 of our closest friends in the construction defect litigation industry at the Disneyland Hotel for a conference. It was my first time staying at the actual Disneyland Hotel. Nice hotel, but really unacceptably poor wifi, and the grounds demonstrate a myopic and blatant disregard for the drought we find ourselves in…

After six months of intense research, Austin Carr wrote an extensive article for Fast Company on a massive program that Disney undertook at the iconic Disney World resort to bring its theme parks into the modern digital age. The article is called The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness.

The night before the article went live, Carr gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse of some of the drama that was uncovered during his investigation. Well worth the read:

Talk to Disney or read other stories about MyMagic+, and you’ll learn it cost nearly $1 billion to develop. But you won’t be privy to the fact that the earliest bill-of-materials cost estimate for the MagicBand was $35, a surreal 87,000% increase from the 4-cent paper tickets Disney historically relied on. Or that the cost to redesign and integrate DisneyWorld.com with MyMagic+ ended up ballooning to nearly $80 million. One former creative involved tells me “people do a spit-take when I tell them I worked on an $80 million website. But the scale of it was so massive.”

Talk to Disney, and you’ll hear about the collaborative, team-oriented atmosphere. You won’t hear about the internal resistance, the grasping for credit, the political battles. One source deeply enmeshed in the development describes Disney as a “culture that is all smiles and happiness, and everyone is going in to give you a hug. But you have no idea who is working against you. You come out bruised and bloody.” Another former exec says there was “land-grabbing, finger-pointing, and, quite frankly, a lot of yelling in closed-door meetings.” Adds another executive partner intimately involved with the project, “There were a lot of bodies buried on the side of the road [over the course of developing MyMagic+].”

But the truth is, this is how innovation happens. The scale of MyMagic+ was indeed massive, as are many projects developed at innovative companies. Yet rarely do we get such an intimate look into how that creative process actually works.

Source: Fast Company

San Diego has been at the epicenter of the microbrewery and craft beer scene since the beginning. The neighborhood my wife and I lived in when we were first married went from being an affordable place to rent an apartment, to becoming the scene for artisanal brews. The hookers have been mostly displaced by hipsters.

Besides my own personal observations, and bold statements made by various pundits in the local beer scene, is there really anything to this craft beer explosion in San Diego? (more…)

They say, “the sky’s the limit,” but perhaps not for long when it comes to commercial real estate development. The valuation of real estate is based on a simple principle: there is only so much land on the surface of our planet. What if we could open up a little more land for development, even if it isn’t the most convenient?

In response to a number of startup firms eyeing the possibility of commercial real estate development on the surface of the moon, the US Federal Aviation Administration has taken an interesting step to ensure “that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.” (more…)

Way back in the year 718, an entrepreneur named Houshi or Hoshi (depending on who is translating), opened an inn on the site of a natural hot spring in the Awazu region of central Japan. 46 generations later, the Hoshi Ryokan hotel has remained operated by the same family, making it the oldest family-run business in the entire world. (more…)

There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.

In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants. (more…)

The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO, though not to be confused with “Chief Information Officer”) is a relatively new position in the marketplace created with the express goal of fostering innovation within a company.

Innovation, though, rarely happens through shear force of will and poor management is often the greatest obstacle to institutionalizing the kind of innovative and entrepreneurial practices that some leaders dream of. Alessandro Di Fiore, writing for Harvard Business Review, says that even well-managed companies inadvertantly create environments that are hostile to innovation:

This is precisely why large companies need a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), a powerful executive who can counterbalance the natural killing instinct of a company’s business units and design a more innovation-friendly organizational environment.

Drawing on the results of our research at the European Center for Strategic Innovation, we have developed a framework that can help CIOs to see how successful they are in doing just that. We have identified seven key roles in the CIO’s mission:

  1. Supporting best practices
  2. Developing skills
  3. Supporting business units in new product and service initiatives
  4. Identifying new market spaces
  5. Helping people generate ideas
  6. Directing seed funding
  7. Designing shelter for promising projects

Source: HBR

A horrible, yet somewhat unsurprising tragedy occurred last week when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight, killing one of two pilots. Coincidentally, another commercial space mission ended in a fireball when an unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket experienced problems during launch just days before. Clearly, the commercial space industry is going to be spending heavily on PR this year… (more…)