The Business “C” Word:  How to Increase Consultants’ ROI

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Written by Maitri Meyer, August 18, 2017

There seem to be two opposing viewpoints when it comes to the necessity of hiring consultants to effectively run an organization. There are those that enthusiastically rely on consultants as a business-critical resource and those who strongly believe, and often loudly exclaim, “Those who can’t, consult!”

Reasons Companies Hire Consultants

Companies hire consultants because they have a significant business challenge and gaps in expertise and/or bandwidth to solve it. By hiring a consultant, they assume their problem will be fixed by the consultant. More often, the consultant analyzes the situation and makes a plan for correction, but the consultant is not the one who implements the plan. That task usually falls back on the company, who probably still has the gap in bandwidth and/or expertise! The result is a beautiful report complete with SMART goals, budgets and timelines and no one in the company able to do anything with it.

Two Consistent Consultant Deliverables

No matter the type of consultant or topic they are consulting on, there are always two consistent deliverables: A long to-do list and a big invoice!

Because hiring a consultant is such a resource-intense investment, it is critical to implement the recommendations ASAP.  Letting those suggestions go stale is a sure-fire way to sour any future consulting budget allocations.  Immediately turning the counsel in to deadline-driven projects and finding the resources to carry them out needs to be the final step of any strategic initiative.

Project Execution Strategy

“Project”, as defined by the Project Management Institute:

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

Therefore, it does not make sense to divert (or train) current staff to complete any project, because it is not a process that will be repeated.

Instead, contracting outside project resources that are skilled in the exact tasks required makes far more sense to ensure project completion and success.

Consultant Collaborators

Asking your consultant to take the final step of outlining specific project parameters to implement his/her recommendations is the best way to increase consultant ROI.  With the consultant’s final report and clear project requirements in hand, a virtual professional can pick up right where the consultant left off.

Ultimately, your company will receive a much greater benefit from your consultant’s expertise by hiring virtual professionals to complete business critical projects, without interrupting your current daily operations.

Conclusion: How to get your consultant initiated projects actually done

Our virtual professionals have 20+ years of experience in their respective fields to ensure your project is a success.  Let us fill your bandwidth and expertise gaps to get your critical projects Actually DONE!

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Reflections on New Beginnings & Callings

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Written by Maitri Meyer September 14, 2017

Summer Sabbatical: New Beginning

Few of us are gifted the opportunity to rest, reflect and reset. That is exactly what I did this summer in preparation for a new chapter in life. Recently, over only a 90-day period, I endured several of those major life stressors we read about on stress scale lists. I can’t even count how many times I listened to and sang along with Daniel Namod’s Everything New song, “Bring it on! Everything new; everything different; everything true. I am ready, for my next thing to do. Ohhh I know, it’s gonna be everything new.”

As part of the process I was forced to slow down enough to read more than the back of the Advil bottle to determine how many I can take without endangering my kidneys!

Two excellent books helped me examine how I could serve this planet in my second half of life. In case this is useful for others, I will share some of the key insights that were most helpful and the reflections that resulted in Actually DONE’s mission, vision and core values being formalized.

Discovering my Calling

Callings by Gregg Levoy

Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy

My dear friend, Gregg Levoy, describes the traditional calls – typically sounds – to worship or rituals in his book Callings, “The purpose of calls is to summon adherents away from their daily grinds to a new level of awareness, into a sacred frame of mind, into communion with that which is bigger than themselves.” Like the temple chimes, shamanic rattles and church bells our life events can awaken us to our inner callings. For me, becoming an empty nester, selling the family home, quitting a stable job and moving 1,500 miles from “home” provided the earth quaking gap between my former life and the need to create anew. It became deafeningly apparent I was to slow down, nurture my exhausted mind and body and reflect gently before any major decisions were made. It wasn’t long before the over-achiever’s guilt of not “doing enough” and the fear of realizing I’m formally unemployed set in. I became restless and almost panicked, thinking maybe I should just get another J-O-B.

Law of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson

Law of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson

Thankfully, I was listening to Marianne Williamson’s The Law of Divine Compensation on CD’s in my car.  She clearly differentiated a calling from a job, “A job is an exchange of energy in which you do a material task and someone provides money in exchange. A calling, however, is an organic field of energy that emerges from the deepest aspects of who you are.” “…a true calling puts you in a career zone that cannot be taken away.” “Your calling is what you would do whether you were paid to do it or not. Your calling is what you have to do in order to be happy. Your calling is what connects you to your deepest self, and to the rest of life around you.” Every time I got in the car, the stereo was speaking directly to me as it reminded me that jobs end, but callings cannot. What a relief to realize unemployment is impossible, there is always more service to provide the world.

Inspired even more to continue reading Callings, I really resonated when Gregg described the intellectual debate we experience while contemplating that which we feel destined to do, “Saying yes to the calls tends to place you on a path that half of yourself thinks doesn’t make a bit of sense, but the other half knows your life won’t make sense without.” He concludes, “Generally, people won’t pursue their callings until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so, but it’s appalling how high a threshold people have for this quality of pain.”

Examples of the physical and emotional pain I had been feeling for over 25 years flooded my consciousness and I knew it was time to make a radical and intentional change. I reflected silently for days on my favorite quote from the entire book, “When we give off nothing but busy signals, calls simply don’t get through. Get off the line once in a while.” Boy had I been guilty of hogging the line for years, perhaps stemming from being one of 3 teenage girls back in the single land line era.

Once the exhaustion brain fog dissipated, I was more determined than ever to leverage my talents to improve the planet.  My personal motto became, “Improve the planet, one action at a time!” Matthew Fox theologian says, “If you get cut off from your passion, then where’s your compassion going to come from?” I have always been very clear my top passion areas include: Sustainability, holistic health and personal growth. I also knew I wanted to help positive impact organizations working in these three areas to accomplish their missions. The best way I could do that is to be a resource any time they have a gap in expertise or bandwidth and jump in on a project by project basis.

Actually DONE Business Formation

With my calling and passion areas solidified, I was fully equipped to develop my new business’ vision, mission and core values:

  • Actually DONE’s vision is to proudly serve over 100 environmental, health and spiritual organizations worldwide to complete their mission-critical projects.
  • Actually DONE’s mission is to leverage our professionals’ skills to propel positive impact organizations forward to improve the planet, one project at a time!
  • Actually DONE’s core values in priority order are: Honesty, reliability and integrity.

As how to how to get that actually done, I referred to Marianne’s Divine Compensation book once again where she lists the four rules for miraculous work creation: 1. Be positive. 2. Send love. 3. Have fun. 4. Kick ass.

With that, I leave you with a reflective prayer from my beloved Course in Miracles, “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?”

…and what is YOURS to do?  Please, let us know!

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Easily Solve Gaps in Expertise & Bandwidth

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Written by Maitri Meyer, September 1, 2017

Talent Shortage Facts

  • Globally, 40% of employers report having difficulty filling positions states ManpowerGroup’s 2016-2017 Talent Shortage Survey.
  • There were 76 million people born between the years 1946 and 1964. Numerous sources have confirmed 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every single day, and this is expected to continue into the 2030’s. The Boomers filled (or still fill) the highest levels of leadership.
  • There are 30 million less Gen X’ers (the generation after the Boomers), which creates a major gap in leadership and experienced talent.
  • Succession planning is still not common place, especially in smaller companies.  Various sources over the past 5 years reported between 30-60% of companies have not done any succession planning.  Likewise, few companies invest in identifying and developing their high potential employees.
  • Many employers are still cautious about increasing their W2 employee count after the 2007 recession forced layoffs and terminations of those they considered family.

3 Talent Shortage Solutions

  1. Recruit New Talent: Given the talent shortage and skills mismatch, recruiting new employees is not as easy as it used to be. Significant strategy and investment is often required to be even moderately successful.  Creating a new position is weighed very carefully and is often denied.
  2. Retain and Train Current Talent: Lifetime career employees are no longer the norm. We have all heard facts such as: Average tenure in a job is less than 5 years; average workers will work 12-15 jobs in their career; and only 30% of employees are engaged at work, 50% are not engaged and 17% are actively disengaged. In addition, personnel costs typically account for 15-30% of a financially stable company’s budget. The cost of turnover is obviously staggering. Clearly, the best investment is to train and develop current employees. If the skills being learned will be required on a regular basis or to move up in the company, the investment is even more critical.
  3. Outsource Talent: Hiring independent contractors is a low-risk strategy that many organizations are embracing. In fact, this trend expanded significantly after the recession. Given healthcare and additional benefits add 30% to every employee investment, avoiding those costs results in a low investment per manhour. For short term, skill-specific or project work it becomes a no-brainer, outsourcing is by far the most economical tactic to fill talent gaps.

As the demand for off-site contracted services skyrockets, the supply of remote workers, advisors, consultants, virtual professionals, freelancers, overseas call centers and virtual assistants has kept pace.

What Exactly is a Virtual Professional? How is it different from a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual professional completes his/her work remotely as an independent contractor. Areas and levels of expertise can vary greatly including highly specialized consultants, project managers, individual contributors or administrative support. Oftentimes, virtual professionals are hired on a project or other short-term basis. Side note: Some fun labels for virtual professionals include Digital Nomad, Freedom-preneur, and Suitcase Entrepreneur.

A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a sub-set of the broader category of Virtual Professional (VP). Most VA’s provide administrative support to take routine tasks off the plates of busy executives.  They can be hired via numerous online service providers, typically for $6-$40/hour.

In addition to carrying out the tasks, VP’s can also help determine what is needed and recommend the best resource (oftentimes a VA!)  At Actually DONE, our VPs are highly accomplished (20+ years of experience), reliable professionals that recommend strategy, define scope, and complete your on-demand projects when you have a skill or bandwidth gap in your organization.

We specialize in bringing business skills to positive impact organizations to fulfill their mission-critical projects on time and on budget. Contact us to discuss how we can cut your To Do list in half.

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The 1 Question Sales Rep Interview

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Written by Maitri Meyer, March 31, 2017

If everyone knows we are selling ourselves all the time, why are sales professionals not demonstrating their sales strategy and techniques during interviews? Perhaps we are not giving them the opportunity by continuing to ask them a series of traditional recruitment interview questions!

Any effective seller knows sales has radically changed since the features and benefits era. Purchasers expect the vendor to have done their research on the prospective customer’s company and situation prior to the first meeting.  A salesperson that arrives not fully briefed on the company’s history, products and services, key decision makers, recent news and current business challenges will not impress. In fact, they will probably annoy and most likely not get a second meeting.  Decision makers are busy and expect the sales people to be able to ask a few key questions to clarify the problem, decision making process, budget timelines and then make recommendations and outline next steps.

Likewise, a competent sales expert should be able to demonstrate their sales strategy and technique during the recruitment and interview process.  Thus, only one question is required during a sales rep interview:

You found a company you would like to work for as an Account Executive, but you do not know if they are hiring and do not know anyone in the company. Please explain how you would sell yourself to me as the ideal sales rep for my organization.

If candidates begin detailing their skills or experience, stop them immediately. If there are other indications this is not an ideal fit, politely end the interview. Explain your company only hires sales people that understand sales is 100% about providing value.  Therefore, until the research and probing have been done to fully understand the customer’s situation, no attempt to align offerings should be made to solve an assumed challenge. Diagnose before prescribing is my favorite sales metaphor.

Sales people are used to initial rejection and the best trait of any potential employee is the ability to receive guidance with dignity, learn and improve. Candidates that are most impressive will reflect on what was said and then persistently and professionally attempt to re-open the door over a reasonable amount of time.

If you are compassionate and see potential, you might realize this is an excellent teaching moment. Hand them a piece of paper with the request typed up and offer them 15 minutes to reset and think about how they would approach a sales call with a key prospect:

You found a company you would like to work for as an Account Executive, but you do not know if they are hiring and do not know anyone in the company. Please explain how you would sell yourself to me as the ideal sales rep for my organization. Describe your research process, cold call approach and be prepared to role play the in-person first meeting with me.

Obviously, the best indication of a person’s future behavior is past behavior. If the candidate did not prepare for your interview by doing the research on your company, will s/he take the time to do so with your prospects?  If not, this will be the last time the applicant will schedule an interview without treating it as if it were a crucial sales call. Teaching moment accomplished!

The proof is in the pudding. If all of the key ingredients are used, in the right amounts, with the right timing you will have a delicious outcome!

If your organization needs assistance recruiting talent or any marketing or business development related tasks, please evaluate Actually DONE for virtual professional project assistance.

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Daring Networking: Seeking truthful objectives

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Written by Maitri Meyer, October 1, 2010

It’s dreadfully early on Thursday morning and 150 half awake, yet fashionable and smiling, Madisonians are crammed into the Roosevelt Reading Room at the Madison Club attempting to inject coffee into their mouths and not onto their suits. The words, “What do you do?” echo over the required gracious laughs.

Networking 101 teaches us to seek a genuine connection with new acquaintances by asking questions and seeking mutual benefits, and above all giving more than receiving.  So, why aren’t we instead asking, “Why are you here?”  Are we afraid we’ll get the truth?  Perhaps a performance evaluation is coming up and the 57-year-old accountant we’ve just met has been challenged to “network more.”  Will he actually share that he is five events short on his quarterly tally? Or do we not ask for fear of selfishly realizing we just wasted 10 minutes, not with a future client, but with (yet another) “professional in transition.”

If the tables were turned, what would you say if someone asked (in your morning fog or evening exhaustion), “Why are you here?”  Sales 101 teaches us to never pick up the phone or meet anyone without a clear purpose.  Aren’t many networking happy hours just big sales rep orgies?  I’m certain everyone in the room has a SMART goal in their left pocket upon entering the Brink, right?  I dare each of us to change our WIIFM-goal mindset to a service-goal mindset.

For example, instead of a typical goal of “Meet six new people at the next meet- and-greet” how about “Pull the SMART goal out of four new acquaintances’ pockets and do everything possible to assist those new contacts in achieving that goal”?   Who knows, you may match that overwhelmed employer with their next emerging leader or play matchmaker to a couple that will someday celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary!

Visit Maitri’s newest business venture, Actually DONE to find out what her objectives are!

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