One of the most lucrative opportunities available to an entrepreneur is that of a consulting business. It typically has a low barrier to entry in terms of investment and manpower. You can start with just one person – yourself.
It is also one of the most competitive spaces to be in where it’s tough to differentiate and define a niche and at the same time, be able to scale and grow the company.
But, there are some who’ve found tremendous success in running a consulting business, of course with their set of ups and downs. I spoke to one such entrepreneur – Matt Weinberg of Vector Media Group, who started the company with his high school buddy Lee Goldberg and hit the Inc. fastest-growing company list by the time they were all of 27.
Matt shared the secrets to his success and how every entrepreneur in the consulting space can build and run a successful business.
Success doesn’t come overnight
It just doesn’t happen in a consulting business. Matt and Lee ran the business in high school and college, on nights and weekends. They had good clients but worked day jobs for two years after college so they could save money as they grew the business.
They quit their day jobs when Vector revenue was about $400,000 per year. A significant portion of that was paid out to contractors because they were working during the day, and so couldn’t execute all the work themselves. They realized soon after that they could continue to do what they loved and dramatically reduce expenses by just working on the company full time!
And so, a year later, in 2011, with their first full year on Vector full time, they brought in $1.2 million in revenue with just 7 people on their team. Last year, they were over 30 people and had more than $6.5 million in revenue.
Keep existing clients happy
Vector’s primary channel for customer acquisition is referrals from their existing customers. They get some business from being well-known in various CMS communities, such as for the ExpressionEngine and Craft CMSes. And they have an ecommerce platform called CartThrob, which is popular and drives business in implementations and custom enhancements. However, Matt’s primary source of customers remains referrals. That’s why they work so hard to keep their clients happy!
Build a personal brand
In 2010, Matt gave a talk at the ExpressionEngine/CodeIgniter Conference in San Francisco about eCommerce, PCI compliance, credit card security, and the various providers involved in processing credit cards online. It was well received and he was immediately asked to present on a similar topic later that year in The Netherlands.
It also gave Matt and his agency a presence as ecommerce experts, and built on itself as it led to an increase in ecommerce projects and the eventual acquisition of their own ecommerce platform, CartThrob.
If you want to build a personal brand, here’s what Matt suggests you do, “Get deep knowledge on something and share that knowledge. There are thousands of topics out there, and people who know a lot about something often think that their knowledge is either very common, or very easy to obtain. But that’s not true– I find that technologists especially often underestimate the value of their unique experience with something. Write blog posts, submit to speak at conferences, and make some case studies. Go deep on a single topic and become well known in that niche.”
Always add value
Everything’s fine when you’re going through good times. But, there are going to be bad times and there are going to be worse. What you do in times of adversity is what defines you as a person and as a business.
“There are weeks you feel like you’re going to take over the world, and week where you’re convinced you’re going out of business. But we’ve acted ethically, always treated our team well, and gave our clients honest advice even if it meant a little less short-term business for us. Doing that has helped build a good name and reputation and more than paid for itself, as it builds great trust with our clients,” says Matt.