For practitioners looking to launch a new services-based consulting firm, they likely need less infrastructure in place than they may expect.
While some firm owners have talked about the need to have backend operations established, a long client list or significant funding in place, Michelle Coyle, founder of the business development consultancy BGSD, believes what successful entrepreneurs need has more to do with their vision.
“Let’s make sure that you’re actually assigned to the goal of being an entrepreneur first and then we can talk about all of the different things that you have to have in place,” she said June 21 during a webinar hosted by C&E.
She added: “There’s not a whole lot that you have to have going in aside from the real desire to do it. You do need to have a gut. You do need to be able to take risks — especially with your money, a little bit in the beginning.
“But you don’t need to have money. You just have to be willing to take risks with money and get money. And really do what it takes to go out and get the resources that you need to invest — time, money, people — to apply to growing a business.”
When it comes to a vision for a successful business, Campaign HQ’s Nicole Schlinger said to think about how the business serves its clientele and work backwards.
“Think about your target clients. Think about why they would want to hire you. Why are they going to pay you money? What kind of value are you going to be adding to their campaign or to their issue organization? And then work backwards from there,” she Schlinger.
She continued: “You don’t necessarily need to have office space. You don’t need to have an organizational chart. There are so many of the things that people will tell you you need to have that you don’t need at first. What you really need is a clear vision and an understanding of how what you do provides value to the people you potentially want to serve.”
Of course, having a vision doesn’t pay anyone’s bills. So another pressing question for would-be political entrepreneurs is whether to launch with at least a few clients.
“Certainly You can launch with nothing lined up. [But] do you have enough in the bank to give yourself some runway? Three months, six months, a year? What is it that we need?” Coyle said.
That runway needs to be longer for product-based businesses, she pointed out. Moreover, Coyle noted that some entrepreneurs choose to launch with some clients who might not help grow their businesses.
“People will get clients that they don’t actually want, or hold on to clients that aren’t paying enough because they get into this scarcity mode of ‘Oh, I need to at least have one client or I need to at least have three clients,’” she said. “That’s not always the case.”
She encouraged would-be founders to look for clients that “align” with that their goals.
Meanwhile, Schlinger, who launched her Iowa-based fundraising business in 1999, noted that having some existing clients right out of the gate helps validate a new business.
“If what you’re doing is selling your time for money before you scale, I think it’s better to have a couple of clients,” she said. “It does validate you in the marketplace [because] at the beginning people are taking a chance on you.”
She also advised that new entrepreneurs in the campaign and advocacy space to talk to an election lawyer — not necessarily to get them on a retainer, but to at least to establish a relationship right from the start.
“You can get out of political trouble. You can get out of money trouble. It is hard to get out of legal trouble,” said Schlinger. “So if I had to do one thing, I would make sure that I had a good election lawyer on speed dial that I could pay by the hour.”