A few months ago, I was approached by a firm asking to become a consultant. I starting thinking about how I would run the whole practice. I decided to share this with the world.
I’d want the major business pillars to be well integrated. The practice/product is integrated with marketing, which is integrated with sales, and hiring. Every business unit works together, and outputs feed as inputs to each other. I think this holistic approach would mean a smaller, more agile business able to respond to market trends quickly and disrupt from the inside. This plan would take commitment and patience to execute, but would be humming solidly after year two.
Here’s how I think each pillar would perform and integrate:
Marketing is the first pillar because, before anyone will buy what you’re selling, you need their attention. You’re selling your product to your clients, but you’re also selling the company to potential employees. A rock-solid marketing strategy can also integrate into the product offering, acting as client marketing dollars.
- Sales: Marketing’s chief responsibility is to reach potential clients and make them aware of what we offer. This is the obvious aspect of marketing. Less obvious is when the marketing strategy boosts revenue and conversions for the client as well, like when products appear on Shark Tank.
- Recruiting: Part of the marketing strategy should be to show the company’s internal processes and people, and get new employees excited to work there. Featuring the employees is the obvious part, but also teaching them how to build their own brand is another aspect that is easily overlooked.
- DevOps Consulting: Marketing would increase the value of the consulting product by also acting as outsourced marketing spend.
The execution of the marketing strategy revolves around solid storytelling. A small team of 4-5 could do it well, but they all need to be extremely talented. I’d set up some local meetups around modern marketing strategies and recruit from the talent pool there. I’d keep the meetups going as a source of content.
- Weekly Q&A show: highlight our engineer skills by doing a live Q&A show
- Interview Show: run a regular interview show with external guests from all aspects of the business
- Day-to-day office vlog: a daily/weekly vlog centered around the business execution
- Podcasts: all video content would have the audio stripped and released as a podcast
- Remixed Content: quotes, tips, jokes, etc would be pulled from all the content and released as smaller pieces of content on the various platforms.
- Long-form Content: content that warrants longer exploration would be converted into written pieces for LinkedIn/Medium/Company Blog
- Targeted content: when some content hits with the audience, a solid Web/YouTube SEO strategy would help really drive leads
The consulting product is geared at accelerating existing business practices or bringing in new products or processes. The practice would be focused on re-usable patterns and scalable implementations. The engagements may be to build out deployment infrastructure for specific apps, but their other apps should be considered as to not exclude obvious wins. Each engagement should be seeking long-term viability of the client’s business, including training them on DevOps or even moving our trained and knowledgeable employees into the client’s company. I know a lot of engineers (myself included) are wary of projects built by consultants or contractors, due to a perception of low quality. Moving your engineers into the client company would show that they’re committed to building a product or implementing patterns that last.
- Sales: engagements aren’t purely focused on transactions. It’s far more important to deliver value and create long-term relationships. A willingness to place our engineers in the company shows a commitment to that relationship.
- Recruiting: As part of the consulting engagements, we’ll actively seek to place employees in client companies. Rather than creating conflicts of interest and non-compete clauses, our talent pipeline will generate knowledgeable resources. Their value to the client and our value to the employee allows us to create a larger profit margin on the consulting product.
- Marketing: The consulting engagements are a near limitless source of content. Every engagement highlights our expertise and consistency, as well as market trends.
Development / Execution
While building solutions for clients, there should always be an eye for building patterns or products that could be scaled to multiple clients.
- DevOps as a Service: Build out pipelines and platforms that can be maintained by our engineers for a monthly fee. Maintenance is a great way for younger engineers to get into DevOps and could also serve as a stable revenue channel.
Recruiting / HR
The recruiting part of the strategy ensures that we have a solid pipeline of talent available to us. It enables the employee placement strategy of our consulting product, as well as reduces our costs when needing to scale up the labor side of the business. Developing training is crucial for us to onboard new engineers and also feeds our product of training clients on DevOps tools and practices. The other aspect of this is having open conversations with employees. DevOps is a really hot sector and seems to only grow in demand. Engineers who can learn quickly can dramatically increase their market value in 2 - 3 years. This strategy is designed around an expectation that engineers will leave the company. A smaller product under the company’s umbrella could be recruiting/staffing. Where we have engineers go through our pipeline but don’t have a place for them, we could try to place them in client companies.
- Marketing: Doing DevOps deep-dive classes is a great source of marketing content as well as engineer interviews.
- DevOps Consulting: In addition to building the tech and the program, we can also provide consulting on a client’s ability to recruit/train employees. Development / Execution I would build out training programs and onboarding documents for our engineers, but also open them up to external engineers. The suite of classes and training material for external individuals will attract them to our company, develop their skills, and likely land them a job. Also, from the start, an open and honest relationship would be essential to develop with every employee.
- DevOps Bootcamps: classes targeted at working engineers who want to level up their skills, also gets them in the recruitment funnel
- Quarterly 1:1 meetings: If I were running this business unit, I’d force every employee to have a short, private meeting with me every quarter. I’d try to break down any reservations they have and get them to talk to me plainly about where they’re at, in the company, in their life, everything. Then I’d work like hell to make sure we can get them what they want.
I left sales for last because it’s easily my weakest skill. I think a solid marketing execution would naturally feed the lead funnel. Additionally, client services businesses are tough to run for a long time, as the sales cycle needs to complete as quickly as possible. I’d see if there are any of the Agile/DevOps concepts to apply to our sales process. There’s a lot of power in iteration, so it would be essential to always be willing to try new approaches.
After a few years of operation, this machine would be a valuable asset itself. It could easily shift towards startup incubation or flipping acquisitions. Any business or product run through this machine would see a dramatic and rapid increase in value, both through the marketing and DevOps implementations. Maybe I’ll cover these in depth in a future post.
That was a long one, but hopefully I was able to clearly convey the plan. If you have questions or want to talk about this further, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always available for interesting conversations.