#151 How to Start a Consulting Business, Part 4

Part one is here. Part two is here. Part three is here and covered insurance and accounting. This is the last part and it will cover the most important thing you’ll do for your business: business development.

Business Development

What is business development(BD)? It’s basically doing everything you do to bring business into your company. It could mean anything from internet research, to phone calls, to office visits, to power lunches. Business development is constant, never stops, and is a full time job.

I’d love to get to a point way down the road where I can have PI’s working under me that handle proposals, report writing, and project management, and a business developer that I work with that is in charge of primary BD. That way I could focus on research, publishing, app development, and all the side tech projects that I want to do. That probably won’t happen for a while, and may never happen, but it’s certainly a goal.

So, where did I start and how did I begin to find clients? Well, you probably know more than you think you know already. All I had to do was think about who the projects were for that I’ve worked on in the past. Some of those clients may feel some loyalty to one firm or another but most of them want to save money and will look at other options. This is what I counted on.

I started by making a spreadsheet of all the clients I could think of. A little internet research yielded a few more. I recorded their address, phone number, website, contact name, and the types of projects they typically do.

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I started an Evernote note for each contact and once I started contacting them I recorded details of the conversation. I also have a note for phone call dialogue. Before I called anyone I wrote down what I wanted to say, possible questions, and how I’d answer them. You don’t want to be caught fumbling for your words if you want them to give you tens of thousands of dollars. Doesn’t sound too professional.

Initially, I sent a few emails and made a few phone calls. Some of the clients I called were out of the area and it wasn’t feasible to visit them. Also, it felt like I was jumping the gun by going to talk to people without my BLM permit in hand. You don’t need a BLM permit to do ALL the work in Nevada but you do for a large portion of it.

For the last two weeks I’ve been on the road. I’ve been searching for construction companies and environmental firms online. For each contact I created a note within Evernote. The note contains all of the pertinent contact information and details about the company and what they do. When I contacted a company via either email, phone, or a direct visit, I recorded the details in the Evernote note. If I needed to contact the client at another time, either because I couldn’t talk to the right person or because they asked me too, I put the date and time in the Evernote note. If I was on my iPad or iPhone then the time and date would be recognized by the device and I could instantly make a calendar event to remind me.

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I’ve had some big successes and a bunch of ‘we’ll call you’ type responses. Some companies just don’t deal with archaeologists and if they have an archaeological need they contact an environmental firm that handles all the details. Sometimes the environmental firm contracts out the archaeological work. It’s from those firms that I had a great response.

It’s nice to be able to ask a potential client if the firm they are currently working with is still using paper to record sites. Then I show them how I’m doing it and they are blown away. One firm I talked to today mentioned that they are starting to use iPads in their fieldwork. They told me who they are currently working with. I told them that no one else in the Great Basin is recording with digital devices of any sort. They were excited to see that at least one company is using advanced technology.

Now, I just need a few companies to trust that this is the right way to go. I need them to take a chance on a new entity because they see the value in moving forward. I may be new to the business side of this but I’m experienced with the archaeology and if someone could just trust in that they’d not soon regret the decision.

I’ve visited 16 companies, emailed five, and called four. At least one of them is going to need work soon. True, it’s still winter here in the Great Basin and that has a serious impact on what’s being done right now. But, they should be starting to think about the upcoming season and I hope they give me a call.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!