David Fields, Founder of Ascendant Consulting
>>>Visit MyQuestforTheBest.com for complete show notes and more expert advice and inspiring stories to propel your small business growth. My Quest for the Best is a top-rated small business podcast with over 300 episodes of thought-provoking and insightful interviews with today’s top thought leaders and business experts. Host Bill Ringle’s mission with this show is to provide the strategies, insights, and resources that will unlock the growth potential of your business through these powerful conversations.
David Fields talks with Bill Ringle on My Quest for the Best about how connecting with clients means recognizing that when it comes to consulting, it’s not about you.
Key points that you’ll learn from this interview:
- Why Emotional Connection plays such an important role in client relationships
- How Making mistakes can make you more valuable to your clients
- What it means to think “right side up.”
- Why being confident will get you more consulting clients
- The reason clients have difficulty trusting new approaches
Read the Show Notes from this Episode
- 00:59 Fields discusses his fanatical love of both chocolate and hockey.
- 1:28 “I happen to love what I do, like many of us who are entrepreneurs. I just thrive on the business.”
- 2:36 Fields recalls a story from his childhood about a word class mathematician who taught him how to use unit blocks in kindergarten. “This amazing mathematician would ride his bike to teach kids in kindergarten.”
- 3:00 “I just think that the idea of teaching other people and giving your knowledge, not at your level, but at their level…you meet people where they are and help them.”
- 3:56 [On his first job(s)] “I’m a numbers person, and I went into marketing research and learned a lot of great skills there.”
- 4:07 “My first boss once told me, ‘David our job isn’t to say that the glass is half empty or the glass is half full but to say there is 6oz of water in a 12 oz glass.”
- 5:13 Fields tells about his time working as an interviewer for a dating service.
- 6:05 “If you go back 30 years, the idea of meeting someone through a service, there’s a lot of stigma attached.”
- 6:30 “It wasn’t the matching that got people there, it was the emotional journey.”
- 7:00 Fields recounts the time leading up to spinning off from his original company to start a new consulting company with his partner Jim.
- 7:40 [On the fate of the early venture] – “That worked incredibly well for about 4 weeks.”
- 8:05 “Jim was the business development guy. I was the backroom engine guy. I was coming up with models and smart solutions to client problems.”
- 8:19 “I was left without a partner, without clients, and without the skill set to develop clients.”
- 8:37 “My first year running Ascendant was a disaster.”
- 8:59 “Once you have some success and you’re smart enough to get help, then it gets easier.”
- 9:25 “Unless you have failed, you can’t show that you have the resilience and the ability to get up.”
- 9:43 “I wouldn’t go out of my way to try to make mistakes, but if you try to avoid them, that’s where trouble sets in.”
- 10:25 [On Org Design] – “No design is ever perfect out of the gate.”
- 10:33 “We’re better off putting it in place, getting it darn close, and then refining it. I don’t worry about the mistakes, I worry about creating high quality.”
- 11:15 [On thinking right side up] – “Consulting is not about you, it’s about them.”
- 11:35 [On what his experiences working in a shoe store taught him] – “It doesn’t matter what it looked like to you…it mattered what it felt like to them. It wasn’t about my shoes it was about their feet.”
- 11:56 “If there’s one thing to take away from our discussion, I would say take that away. It’s not about you, it’s about them.”
- 12:26 “Most of the time we start something we think about ourselves, and we have to push ourselves to think about our clients.”
- 12:50 “Take the first line of the e-mail and make it about the client, not about you.”
- 13:08 “In everything you do: every e-mail you write, every presentation you give, think to yourself, ‘How do I make this about them, not me.”
- 13:32 “Confidence is extremely important.”
- 13:59 “One of the ironies is that people look inside for their confidence. They’ve been taught by self-help gurus that there is some inner core and they have to believe in themselves, and I think that’s absolutely nonsense.”
- 14:16 “Stop looking at yourself. If your prospect or client believes you have value, then you have value.”
- 14:38 “The lack of self-confidence comes from thinking too much about yourself.”
- 16:20 [On teaching new consultants why they don’t need certifications] – “If a client came to you with this problem, could you give them a solution that will solve the problem? If the answer is yes, then why do you need a certification?”
- 17:20 “A lot of consultants want to start with: ‘Here’s what I’m good at. Here’s what I know. Let me try to sell what I know.”
- 17:30 It doesn’t matter what you know or what you’re good at, all that matters is what the market wants.
- 17:38 “Learn something different. Learn what the market wants.”
- 18:14 “It’s not that we shouldn’t study and learn. We absolutely should, we should go where the market is and pick up skills.”
- 18:42 [What Field learned from consumer products] – “You need a breakthrough product and you need to be differentiated.”
- 19:05 “Clients aren’t looking for different. Clients aren’t looking for breakthrough. Clients are looking for solved. They’re looking for a solution that’s reliable and credible.”
- 19:25 “Every single client, every single executive, has had at least one experience, and probably multiple experiences, with having hired a third party and that third party didn’t deliver.”
- 19:59 [On client trust] – “They want the thing that’s worked 30 times.”
- 20:03 “Don’t worry about what makes you different, worry about what makes you credible and reliable.”
- 20:25 How Fields met Keith Ferrazzi
- 22:00 “If we’re trying to appear reliable and we’re trying to appear credible, the clients need some proof.”
- 22:21 “There’s social proof like crazy these days.”
- 22:41 Clients are looking for how you interact with them, and they’re also looking for other kinds of social proof.
- 23:15 “The advantage of having a marquee client is that you can put them on the marquee and people will say ‘Wow!’”
- 24:15 “Whether you’re a sole [consultant] or boutique, you’re always trying to balance command.”
- 24:25 “I would never advise building capacity ahead of demand.”
- 24:50 Not everyone is cut out to be a rainmaker.
- 25:53 “Impact is step 2, before you get visibility.”
- 26:55 “People who are going to take your ideas and not call you, were never going to call you anyway.”
- 27:26 “What you do is gain the people who were smart enough to realize that there’s one level, which is understanding a concept, there’s another level which is implementing it without making as many mistakes. And then there’s another level, which is implementing it with feedback and coaching and guidance along the way, and that’s going to make the entire process faster.”
- 29:06 “I think most people know that coaching is a good thing.”
- 29:25 “You have to make a decision that you’re willing to invest in your business.”
- 29:45 “Are you willing to learn and change?”
- 29:55 Good coaches will often make you do something different, something uncomfortable.
- 30:00 “And if you want to achieve something different, you’re going to have to change something and probably something that feels uncomfortable.”
- 31:17 [On the early years of Ascendant] – “It never occurred to me to do hourly work, that’s not how I grew up.”
- 32:25 Fields tips for staying on track and focused.
- 32:42 “I’m not naturally on track. I’m intellectually spastic.”
- 32:54 “If something’s not your skill set, you get rid of it and you have somebody whose skill set it is take care of it.”
- 35:00 “I am here to help consultants succeed.”
- 36:35 “We can always learn and we can always improve.”
Subscribe on Your Favorite Podcast App
Click to listen and subscribe to your favorite place to enjoy podcasts below so you are the first to know when a new episode is released. My Quest for the Best is the podcast where ambitious small business leaders discover strategies and tactics to unlock their growth potential.
Give us a 5-star rating and positive review to make it easier for other small business owners to find and benefit from our work!
David A. Fields works with boutique consulting firms and individual consultants across the globe that are eager to accelerate growth, increase profit and create lucrative lifestyle-friendly practices. He has guided consultancies ranging from one-person startups to the consulting divisions of some of the world’s largest companies.
David still advises corporate clients too. After climbing the ranks to become a partner at a prestigious consulting firm in Connecticut, David co-founded Ascendant Consulting, where he has attracted clients such as Abbott Laboratories, Church & Dwight, FMC, Warner Home Video, and many others.
David’s books include Amazon’s highest-rated book on the business of consulting released in the past 20 years: The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients.
He also leads the Ascendant Consortium, a unique, “general contractor” model in which David acts as both a client and consultant on the same project. The consortium now includes more than 150 consultants whose clients are a Who’s Who of the global business world. The Ascendant Consortium was a breakthrough for David professionally, and in this model high-dollar, high-margin projects are the norm.
David received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon. (Go plaid!) He is a hockey fanatic and eats egregious amounts of chocolate.