Businesses have unique stages of evolution. Each stage has different goals, needs, and resources. As a result, offering consulting to startups requires a distinct approach when compared to a medium or large scale company. The mindset and strategies listed below apply to anyone offering consulting to startups of any kind.
Mindset: Consulting To Startups Is An Investment
A startup cannot afford the kind of rates that an established international corporation can. (Yet.) They do, however, have lots of work for the savvy, forward-thinking consultant. Instead of thinking of the work as not top-dollar, perceive it as an investment. Like any investment, there is an inherent amount of risk involved. Not all startups reach the next stage of their growth. However, in stocks and other investments, most of us are on the sideline. We do our homework, place our bets, and take our chances. Not so with offering consulting to startups.
This is an investment you can impact directly. One where you can stack the odds in your favor through your hard work, diligence, and advice. And they will be quick to remember anyone who stood by them in the formative years. As they succeed, you succeed. As their profits increase, so do yours.Which brings us to our next point.
Strategy #1: Startups Need Structure
If you’ve ever worked for a startup before, you know how chaotic it can be. It’s pretty standard, to be honest. A startup has a small team, and everyone is wearing different hats, often at the same time. The company needs structure, but none of the full time members have enough time, and in some cases, the requisite experience, to apply it. When you offer consulting to startups, don’t be discouraged if no one provides you with clear direction. The company probably hasn’t found its voice yet. You might be surprised how far some startups go without defining a unique selling point. That’s where you come in. Identify the target audience. Establish a USP. Build a marketing plan. Introduce them to SEO. As a consultant, you have the experience and expertise to identify what they need and prioritize it. If you do that, you will rise above the consulting competition in their eyes by providing much-needed relief.
Strategy #2: Take Extra Initiative
Because everyone is so busy at a startup, your phone calls might not get returned. Email responses will be delayed. So take action and give them what they need to succeed. This isn’t to say that you should “go rogue” by any means. You don’t want to present yourself as a completely independent operator who does whatever they wish. An excellent balance can be found by letting the startup give you goals than taking lots of initiative with how you reach them. Or, you provide them with goals in your quest to implement structure, get their approval, and take delivering solutions into your own hands. Keep them up to date on your efforts. Communicate clearly and concisely out of respect for everyone’s time.
Strategy #3: Join A Cause, Not A Company
Startups are very passionate about they do. They have to be to take on the kind of challenges and risks that they face every day. Many consults will insulate themselves from the companies mission, culture, and cause. If you want to stand out from the crowd, get a sense of why this company is doing what they do. What motivates them to work such long hours? Do they want to change something in the world around them? Figure out what the company is passionate about and immerse yourself in it with enthusiasm and sincerity. Prove to them that you “get it.” That is a priceless quality in a consultant, and very hard to find. It will change your perception of the company and empower you to give the best consulting to startups possible.
Have you ever consulted for a startup before? What mentalities and strategies did you find effective? Post your comments below.