Start Small With Consulting, Then Scale With Product

Great momentum builders in the early years of a business revolve around finding and earning those precious first customers. Finding a paying customer quickly is advantageous, particularly for first time entrepreneurs. Paying customers bring cash and create good ‘restless-sleep’ momentum. In addition, they provide product usage and feedback. I’ve made the mistake and observed it numerous times where taking 6+ months to build a product before having a paying customer can lead to all types of paths including a popular one: the belief that “the next feature” is the one that will open the flood gates of customer acquisition, satisfaction, and usage.

I’ve never been a fan of established consulting firms trying to productize a process or workflow. The foundation and DNA of the consulting firm are solidified and their go-to-market mindset is baked into their comp structure. Chasing big one time deals or engagements with high, hourly fees is starkly different than smaller, recurring contracts — which is where most SaaS companies start.

However, when you first start a company, finding a paying customer that is willing to pay for your consulting fee is much different. When you wake up in the morning, you’re thinking about how to take the biggest problems of your customers and streamline the process and hopefully the problem is big enough and there are enough customers where you can build a substantial business. You also stay lean enough where you don’t develop a lifestyle dependence on those large contracts. Lastly, early customers who buy your services help you iron our key customer stories that will help ten-fold in the sales process early on. Good examples include Greg at QGenda and Sean at SingleOps.

The mindset and intent is not about finding another consulting customer to pay the bills. Rather the mindset is about finding another consulting customer to validate the problems and learn if the assumptions you’re testing are large enough and close enough to the wallet that you can build a 10x solution and a great business from it.

If you’re about to start a company and wondering if the envisioned solution will work, start by having them pay you for your consulting services. Do the manual work your solution would do (or as much as possible). This generates a good relationship with your paying customer, constant communication, and significant learnings everyday of their problems.

Most importantly, it keeps your confidence up!

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