Packaging yourself as an SMB technology consultant

Hello there. I am Harry Brelsford, the author of the SMB Consulting Best Practices book. I post up passages as a virtual book readuing from my home office on Bainbridge Island and today is the all important topic of PACKAING yourself. This is the the context of the 5P’s of marketing. Read on!


In marketing, the proper packaging can make or break a product. And excellent packaging can overcome other shortcomings. Packaging yourself properly as an SMB consultant is a critical business success factor. In this section, I offer some sage advice on packaging yourself as a professional service provider.


You can position yourself to deliver services to individual clients (discrete business entities). This is the most common form of SMB consulting. For example, you might be a sole practitioner and have a dozen active clients. You provide services and bill on an hourly basis. As you’ll learn in the

Minder section of this book, this is a good life and you’ll likely cap around 1,000 billable hours per year. This is one way to make six figures (say over $100,000 US) as an SMB consultant. This could be considered “bread and butter” consulting and its as straightforward as it appears. In the USA, bill rates for this type of consulting can range from $50 per hour to $150 per hour in the SMB space. Enough said for now.


Here is a situation where you provide quasi-management consulting services to executives (C-level, such as CEO and CFO). This discussion is applicable even for SMB, although you might have suspected it applies better to the enterprise level. The following is an example of what I call “corner office consulting.”

Take SBS 2003 and one of the components: Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS). Microsoft’s Sharepoint solutions, which also include Sharepoint Portal Server (SPS), are collaboration and document management tools. It’s my belief that WSS in SBS will sell a ton of SPS (try saying that ten times quickly). And it’s both WSS and SPS that open the door to one-to-C consulting. Why? Because the Sharepoint solutions have a real element of management consulting to them: picking best bets, information categories and subcategories, and creating document profiles. It’s a consulting area that kind of combines an MBA skill set with an MCSE skill set. And it’s a consulting area that allows you to charge much more per hour. Once you introduce an executive audience and management consulting deliverables, your hourly bill rate can see the other side of $200 US and maybe even approach $300 per hour! This is one way to leverage up quickly as an SMB consultant (financially speaking).


Something that you might not have considered is one-to-many consulting in SMB. This is where you ascend the value chain (and charge more accordingly) because you are providing more value per hour: You’re dealing

with an audience, not an individual. Examples of how I’ve employed this concept in my SMB consulting practice include:

  • Workshops. Ever wonder why someone flies from city to city and delivers one-day technology seminars in airport hotel ballrooms? Because it pays well! Whereas a good SMB consultant might make $1,000 per day in the US, the same person could potentially earn $3,000 day or more if they successfully produce, promote, and deliver these types of workshops.
  • Train the trainer. There is great value in a one-to-many consulting relationship when you’re training someone who will then go on to train others. For example, if you trained a power user at a client site on a particular technology, and this person proceeded to train other staffers, you’ve added tremendous value into the equation and should charge accordingly. Read “charge more”!
  • Training staffs at competing consulting practices. A profitable part of my consulting practice has been to train other consultants on how to be successful SMB consultants! I’m comfortable with this service, but I know other SMB consultants aren’t for one simple reason: They believe they are training their competition! I don’t agree with that assessment because I believe there’s enough good business for all of us in SMB. The more the merrier, and I’d like to have a hand in developing competent professional SMB consultants!

And don’t forget the Soft-Temps franchise discussion several pages ago, where one alternative as a franchise owner is to not even do the work. That is, you could simply be an appointment scheduler and farm out the work to other SMB consultants, taking a slice of their hourly earnings as your reward. What Soft-Temps is doing is employing a time-tested business model under these circumstances of “selling shovels to gold miners” instead of being the gold miner. It worked for the Nordstrom family over a century ago in the Alaskan Gold Rush, and guess what? The Nordstrom family survived and thrived, but I’ve not seen a bona fide Alaskan gold miner in years!


Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation

MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here! J


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