Consulting Tips

Building Relationships Using LinkedIn

Several members who could not join live asked for the recording of the July 23 webinar I did with Sree Sreenivasan and Dorie Clark on how to build relationships using LinkedIn.

Sree is a leading thinker on the use of social media, and he has given training on social media around the world.  He has been the Chief Digital Officer of New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Columbia University. Since the pandemic started he has been leading a daily live call with experts.

Dorie was named one of the Top 50 Business Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50, and the #1 Communication Coach in the World by Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards. She writes regularly for the Harvard Business Review and is the author of the bestseller Entrepreneurial You.


All of a sudden I’ve been hearing about Mural, “a digital workspace for visual collaboration.” While they’ve been around since 2011, have 100 employees, and received $23M in funding in January 2020, seems like COVID has been driving their growth as more people work remotely.

Check out the 100+ visual facilitation templates for everything from workshop planning to storyboarding to service blueprint.

8 ways to find a job during the pandemic

On Thursday, July 16, from 12-1 p.m. I’m leading an interactive discussion to cover eight ways to find a job during the pandemic.

Primarily targeted at recent grads of college or B-school.  Non-recent grads welcome too.

If you know someone who is looking, please feel free to share the link to register:

Also: if you have ideas on how to find a job during the pandemic, please let me know. (I’ve come up with seven.)

Mid-Year Review

This weekend I’ll be working on my mid-year review.

Above are some prompts for reflection, from a tweet by Steve Schlafman.

Tiago Forte published his mid-year review – it is inspiring.

Pro-active, ongoing LinkedIn connection request strategy

Consider setting up an ongoing program of sending connection requests on LinkedIn to build your professional network in your niche.

This is in addition to sending connection requests to all the clients you work with and others whom you interact with.

Steps to do this:

  1. Decide on the profile of the person you’d like to connect with.
  2. Develop a reason for individuals who fit that profile to connect with you. Also note that, counterintuitively, some people may be more willing to connect to provide YOU with help than to RECEIVE your help. So consider asking for help.A few connection request ideas:
    – I’m doing a project on XYZ and would value your insights
    – I’m organizing this virtual event, would you like an invitation?
    – I’m organizing a community for people interested in XYZ
    – Would love to interview you for my blog/podcast/white paper
    – I’m a fellow alum of Famous College. Would be grateful to get your advice on ABC
  3. Pay a freelancer to create a Google sheet for you listing people who fit the target profile.  Sheet should have columns:
    – First name
    – Last name
    – Current job title
    – Current employer
    – LinkedIn URL
    – Location (maybe)
  4. Send your personalized LinkedIn connection requests to those on the sheet. Add columns to track:
    – Date connection request sent
    – Email address of the person (if they connect with you)
    – Status of your follow-up

NOTE: If you get flagged by too many recipients as “I don’t know this person,” then LinkedIn will remove your ability to send connection requests unless you know the recipient’s email address. In general, if you send < 50 connection requests per day and at least 20% of the requests are accepted and only a small number are flagged “I don’t know this person,” you should be OK.
So start small – just 10 per day – and check the response rate.

On the browser version of LinkedIn, you get prompted if you want to add a personalized note – you should always do that.

On the LinkedIn app, perversely, LinkedIn hides the personalized invite three levels down. So following the above program is much easier on the browser.

If you DO want to send a connection request with the app, here is how to personalize it:

How to write a consulting proposal

In case you missed the webinar last week on how to write a consulting proposal, here is a recording.

Here are the slides.

Here is a proposal template in Word.

Business Insurance

If you are looking to get business insurance, check out this episode of The Umbrex Guide to Setting Up Your Own Consulting Practice.

This episode includes an overview of 33 different types of business insurance that independent consultants may consider purchasing.

Build your virtual team

As an independent professional without the infrastructure of a large firm we need to build our own virtual team.

Section 4 of The Umbrex Guide to Setting Up Your Own Consulting Practice has 13 videos on this topic, with tips on how to find:

  • Administrative Assistant
  • Bookkeeper
  • Tax Accountant
  • Attorney
  • Insurance Broker
  • Remote IT support
  • Research support

Family photo album

Recommended if you’ve got some time available:

In 2009 I curated all the digital photos the family had taken during the year and made a 100-page, 11″x14″ photo book. Since then, I’ve made it an annual practice, and for the total joy received it has been one of my best time investments (30-40 hours each year to curate 20K digital photos down to ~200-300).

With changing digital formats and changing platforms, digital photos are evanescent. Unlikely your grandkids in 50 years will be able to access your Facebook or Instagram account; but a printed album can still be on the shelf.

I used to use MyPublisher until they shut down. Now I use Shutterfly. The premium 11×14 books are expensive (~$300 if you add 100 pages) but if you design it and wait around, you’ll eventually get an email with a 60-70% discount code.

Recording family history during the pandemic

Recommended pandemic activity: record family history.

Every Sunday morning for the past nine weeks, I’ve recorded an hour-long call with my dad. So far we’ve covered his time in elementary school, high school, college, the Army, grad school, meeting my mom, his professional career as a nuclear engineer, and my childhood. You can hear the most recent discussion, on his second career as a handyman, which he enjoyed a lot more than designing fuel for nuclear power plants.

Some of my dad’s stories are new to me, some I’ve never heard before; I’m glad to have this chance to preserve them.
Meanwhile, our kids have been interviewing their abuelita each week, and those calls help lift her spirits.

Whiteboard apps for videoconferences

One aspect of in-person meetings that I’ve missed in the age of the videoconference is the ability to stand around a whiteboard and brainstorm.

This week I discovered that Zoom has a whiteboard feature built in. You need to enable the annotation feature (instructions here).

If you’re on the Zoom on your laptop, you can join the Zoom with your tablet and then click Share / Whiteboard, and you’ll be able to draw with your finger or tablet pen. You can also enable such that a group of users can annotate in parallel, though I haven’t mastered that.

Enhance your information security

April 28, 2020

Hacking is up during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Episode 263 of Unleashed, information security consultant Gary Chan explains 12 action items to enhance your information security.

You can download the graphic above along with a summary sheet on Gary Chan’s website.

Create an estate plan

If you don’t have an estate plan in place already, PLEASE get one drafted up, now.

The ROI is dramatic:

Attorney’s fees to draft up a full estate plan including a trust, power of attorney, health care proxy, all the guardian designation documents: ~$5,000.

Cost to go through probate if you don’t have a trust when you die: ~5-10% of your estate, plus all assets tied up for 9-12 months.

In Episode 250 of Unleashed, trust and estates attorney Maureen Pritchard discusses:

  • What information you should gather before meeting with a trust and estates attorney?
  • What is the benefit of creating a will?
  • What are the benefits of creating a trust?
  • What are the considerations in designating a guardian for your children?
  • What other documents, besides a will or trust, should be included in an estate plan?
  • How much will it cost to have the documents prepared?
  • Why not use LegalZoom?
  • How to select a trust and estates attorney

Maureen generously provided these files to get you started: Estate Planning Worksheet, this Will Design Sheet, and these 12 tips for guardianship.

Making productive use of time when projects get delayed

March 31, 2020

The past week, I’ve published five episodes with ideas on how to stay productive when a project gets delayed.

In Episode 235, Mark Williams, aka ‘Mr. LinkedIn,’ provides advice on updating your LinkedIn profile. Mark is the host of the podcast Linkedinformed, which is one of my favorites.

In Episode 236, I discuss how I use Evernote as my external brain. Evernote is a note-taking app on steroids.

In Episode 237, I discuss MixMax, which gives you email superpowers (if you use Gmail or G-Suite.)

In Episode 238, I cover 17 technology tools you may want to set up for your practice.

Episode 239 covers 14 ideas for investing in your marketing collateral.

Competitive Intelligence Firms

March 24, 2020

Last week I asked for recommendations in intelligence firms. Here are firms recommended by members of the community:

Data room tools recommended by the community

March 17, 2020

A few weeks ago I asked the community for recommended M&A data room tools.  The most frequently recommended tools were:
iDeals Virtual Data Rooms 
Deal Room
Merrill Datasite

Other tools mentioned once or twice include:
efileCabinetGoogle DriveeRoomOpentextSharePointBoxCitrixDeal RoomClient AccessSharefileSalesforceP CloudDocSendAnsaradaMS TeamsBCMS

Additional Tips:

  • Utilize tools to restrict the most sensitive information to “view only” — no printing or downloading. Remember, there is no requirement to put information in a data room, and sometimes the best way to share information is in-person
  • Review usage metrics daily to ensure other party(ies) are keeping their commitments, and real deal work is occurring. Look for signs of inappropriate user id/password sharing as well – eg, one user has connected from 10 different devices
  • Due diligence questions and answers should be logged carefully – include keywords, topics, whatever is meaningful in a data field so that they can be searched before potentially answering the same question(s) twice.

To lead, be the first follower

February 11, 2020

In the first 20 seconds of this 35-second video, the man in the bench is singing alone. Then one person – hard to tell who – joins him around 0:22, and within 8 seconds the whole crowd has joined in.

To be a leader, you don’t always have to go first.

It takes courage and leadership to be the first follower.

I once read (can’t remember where) a post making this same point, illustrated by this fabulous 3-minute video titled “Sasquatch music festival 2009 – Guy starts dance party.” If you are ever looking to illustrate the S-shaped market adoption curve, that video could be Exhibit 1.

January 30, 2020

If you are looking to raise your visibility by appearing as a guest on podcasts, one approach to getting booked is to do the work yourself: identify podcasts that could be a good fit, reach out to the hosts, and pitch yourself as a guest.

A more expensive but more efficient approach is to hire a podcast booking agency, such as Interview Valet. Those agencies typically charge a recurring monthly fee that works out to about $400 per podcast booking.

Another option which I just learned about from Rick Watson is, which connects podcast guests and hosts. He has gotten booked on four podcasts by using the site, which costs just $99 per year for a basic subscription to be listed as an expert, or $299 for a premium subscription.

Superhuman email

January 23, 2020

A friend who is the CTO at a public company told me he has been using Superhuman, and it makes him 3x more productive on email. I just signed up to test it with my Gmail account.

Increase your conversion rate

December 18, 2019

David A. Fields returns to Unleashed in Episode 221 to share tips on how to increase the conversion rate of leads into opportunities.

Hear more of David on Episode 1 (how to win clients), Episode 170 (how to make outbound calls), Episode 172 (how to set up your CRM system), and Episode 190 (on successful consulting partnerships.)

And of course sign up to get David’s weekly blog posts.

Create an online course

December 11, 2019

You know something that someone, somewhere, wants to learn. Consider creating an online course to share what you have to teach.

In Episode 220 of Unleashed, Umbrex member Paul Millerd discusses how he has created several online courses.

Paul’s StrategyU teaches basic consulting skills. His Carve Your Own Path course takes you on a journey to reimagine your relationship with work, launch creating projects, and redefine ambition.

Follow Paul on Twitter @p_millerd

Journaling prompt of the week

December 5, 2019

What are three things that you are really looking forward to the most?

What have you already heard about this effort?

November 20, 2019

When you are meeting for the first time with someone new at a company you are serving, what do you say?

I used to take up the first five minutes of the conversation by force-feeding the person with a summary of the project.

Now I start with: “What have you already heard about this effort?”

In Episode 215 I explain why I find this question so valuable.

How to source expert interviews

November 13, 2019

In Episode 213 of Unleashed, I share tips on how to source expert interviews for your projects, both through expert networks as well as how to find them yourself. (Here’s a transcript for those who prefer to read rather than listen.)

The episode includes tips on:

  • Using an Upwork researcher to create the target list for outreach
  • How to reach out and make the interview request on LinkedIn
  • How much to pay an expert
  • Benchmarks for response rate you should expect
  • Pros and cons of recording the interview
  • Suggested design of interviewee tracking sheet (Download a template here.)

Generally, it is more economical to source expert interviews yourself rather than using an expert network.

Printer for holiday cards

November 6, 2019

Great source for holiday cards (or other printing needs): NextDayFlyers.

  1. Far more economical than Shutterfly or other consumer brand
  2. You get complete artistic control and don’t need to use some pre-existing template
  3. No Shutterfly logo

NextDayFlyers would be primarily for U.S. customers.  What are your recommendations for customers in other countries?

BagBNB (Luggage storage)

October 30, 2019

Ever need to store your bags for a few hours while traveling?

BagBNB is like AirBNB for your bags.

As an example, this map shows locations currently available to store bags near Times Square – just $6 per day per item.


October 23, 2019

Canva is a fun design tool that doesn’t require a weeklong class to get started.  I downloaded the app yesterday and in 5 minutes had created my first Instagram-style post (above).

The tool has templates for infographics, proposals, invitations, certificates, tri-fold brochures, menus, letterheads, tags, tickets, gift certificates and a couple dozen other categories.

Best name badges ever

October 16, 2019

If you are organizing an event where more than ten people will show up, it is nice to provide name badges.

These are the best I’ve found. They’ve got magnets that go inside your shirt. No annoying pins or clips.

If you re-use the name badges, you can buy these insert refills.

Accounts Receivable Process Review Checklist

October 9, 2019

A client asked for some advice on reducing accounts receivables balances, and as a problem-solving tool for his team, I put together the above checklist (download here), mostly based on my own experience of collecting on invoices over the past 11 years.

Initiative charter

October 2, 2019

When kicking off a project, particularly one that involves a broad set of stakeholders, you’ve probably created one-page initiative charters.

You can download a PPT of the above version here.


September 25, 2019

At a breakfast with company founders last week, we shared favorite tech tools. Michael Cherkassky recommended DocSend, and half the table seconded the recommendation.

DocSend allows you to:

  • Securely share large files
  • Keep track of who has opened them
  • Get alerts if the document is forwarded
  • Get page-by-page analytics on where people spent time
  • Make edits to the doc after you send it
  • Auto-expire documents or turn off access at any time

Recap emails

September 18, 2019

Recap emails: A five-minute investment that dramatically improves the effectiveness of meetings and the client experience over the course of a project.  Further thoughts on Episode 203 of Unleashed.

Establish your vacation policy

September 11, 2019

In August I recorded 70 short videos for a course on how to set up a consulting practice. I will get them all edited and available online within the next month or so. Stay tuned.

I just got the first video back from our editor and would love your feedback on the design.

In this episode, I suggest that independent professionals discuss with their significant other and agree up-front on their vacation policy.

Free (or cheap) international phone calls

September 4, 2019

When 1.5 billion humans are already using WhatsApp, I recognize that this barely counts as a tip. Nevertheless, I’ve interacted with members of the community who still haven’t signed up.

WhatsApp is handy for making free international phone calls.

For cases where the other party doesn’t have a WhatsApp account, it is useful to also have a Skype account, of course.

Beyond WhatsApp and Skype, what tools do you use to make international calls?

Proposal template

August 28, 2019

Here is a sample proposal template that I’ve successfully used to win dozens of projects. You can download a Word version here. A friend sent this template to me 11 years ago and it has served me well.

Sometimes, a project needs a horizontal PPT-style proposal that takes a lot more work.  Knocking out a proposal in this vertical format, however, generally takes me about half an hour.

Section headings:

  1. Project context
  2. Objectives
  3. Scope
  4. Approach
  5. Team
  6. Timing
  7. Professional arrangements
  8. Use of this proposal
  9. Next steps
  10. Contact info

Turn on 2 Step Verification to protect your email account

August 21, 2019

It takes about three minutes to set up 2 Step Verification (2SV, also called Two Factor Authentication), and the simple step is one of the most important things you can do to keep your email account from being hacked.

Chances are that
a) You know you should turn on 2 Step Verification
b) You haven’t done it yet

Why not do it now? It’s OK, this email can wait. Here are links to common services:

Google services
Microsoft account
Apple ID

Sanitized work sample

August 14, 2019
The last four clients I’ve spoken with have all asked independent consultants to provide a sanitized sample of work.  Consultants without a sample deliverable are definitely at a disadvantage.

Is everything you’ve ever done so confidential that there is no way you can sanitize it? Then take a free day, hire yourself, and create a sample deliverable, outside in, e.g.:

  • Is your focus M&A? Then pick a recent publicly announced merger, and prepare the strategy document that you would have shown to one of the CEOs to justify the deal.
  • Do you specialize in operational improvement? Observe the Department of Motor Vehicles and create a one-day diagnostic of improvement opportunities (should not be hard to find some.)
  • Is your focus digital marketing? Pick a set of consumer brands and do an outside-in assessment
  • You’re an expert in PE due diligence? Pick a company that interests you, interview some customers and former employees, and put together some pages

Correspondence cards

August 14, 2019

Sending a handwritten note to a client is a nice touch, whether after an introductory call:

Such a pleasure to meet you; looking forward to exploring ways for us to support your Asia growth initiative.”

or at the end of a project:

So pleased to hear that the Board approved the recommendations you presented….

Having a stack of handsomely-designed correspondence cards (plus envelopes and stamps) on hand helps overcome the activation energy that this extra step of client service requires. makes beautiful 32pt cards, 4.13″ x 5.82″  (10.5 x 14.8 cm).

Connect on LinkedIn with other members of the community

August 7, 2019

The chart is from The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors, by Matthew O. Jackson, a fascinating survey of academic findings on how we are affected in all sorts of ways by the people with whom we are connected.

To me, the book reinforced the core mission of Umbrex:
To provide opportunities for top-tier independent consultants to connect with one another. 

And the book inspired this week’s tip: Connect on LinkedIn with other members of the Umbrex community.

You can find all members of the Umbrex community on the Umbrex website. The hyperlink on every member’s name goes to their LinkedIn profile.

The website’s filter tools allow you to find members who share your geography, function, or industry.

As always with LinkedIn, good etiquette is to include a personalized note, such as, “I’m a fellow Umbrex member [based in Munich] / [focused on pricing projects] / [focused on the high tech industry]. I tend to work with [type of clients]. My contact info is […..]. Looking forward to connecting.”

Note: if you aren’t in the habit of sending out multiple connection requests, you may want to limit to about 10-15 per day or LinkedIn may put restrictions on your account for possible bot activity. Over time you can increase the number gradually.

Company page on LinkedIn

If you haven’t created a company page for your firm on LinkedIn, please do so – it is worth the five-minute investment of time, making a profile look more professional.  Here’s the instructions.

USPS Informed Delivery

Even if you have automated and shifted from physical mail to electronic delivery as much as possible, some important communications still come in hard copy via the postal service.

If you are away from home for a stretch of time and live in the U.S., the United States Postal Service has a nice free feature called Informed Delivery (not available in all zipcodes.)  When you sign up, you get an email every morning with an image of the outside of all the envelopes arriving that day along with a listing of any packages being delivered.

Not so exciting when the incoming is junk mail (as in the sample below from my own inbox), but nice to know when a paper check from a client will be arriving.

Transferwise and OFX

What have you found to be the best way to send or receive funds internationally, when the transfer involves a currency exchange?

When I found that my bank charges a currency exchange fee of nearly 3%, I started using OFX, where the fee is under 1%.  Several Umbrex members have told me that they use Transferwise, which seems like a more powerful solution.

Note: the initial setup involves a bit of know-your-customer anti-money laundering administrative hassle, so if you anticipate needing one of these services, get it in place in advance.

New LinkedIn Feature: Open for Business

I received an email from LinkedIn on Tuesday letting me know about a new feature:

Here is the text of the email:

“Today we’re piloting a new product dedicated specifically to business owners and freelancers: Open for Business. This new feature will enable you to showcase the services you provide on your profile, so that you and your business can be found in search on LinkedIn. From there, potential new clients can reach out to you for free — it’s as easy as that.”

I just added this new profile section to test it out. I don’t know if this feature is being released selectively, or if everyone can now add it.  If you have questions or insights about this new feature, please share on the Forum.

Here is a screenshot of my LinkedIn profile with the new section added:


Audacity is a free audio editor that does a lot of the basics pretty well.

Priority Pass

I had the Chase Sapphire credit card for about a year before I bothered to get Priority Pass, which is one of the included benefits but requires an extra step to sign up.

For me, the Priority Pass membership alone justifies the annual fee for the Sapphire card, with the free access to lounges in nearly every airport. around the world.

When I travel with the family, I’ve never had a problem getting the whole crew admitted for free.

(In fact, writing this email from the VIP lounge in the airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador.)


There’s plenty of apps to read, review, and mark up PDFs.

I find LiquidText particularly elegant. It’s the closest digital tool I’ve found that feels like I’m reading and writing on printed pages.

You can highlight and make annotations on LiquidText – but that’s not what makes it great. My favorite feature is how you can pull out selections, organize notes, and add comments in one place from multiple documents.

LiquidText is currently available on the iPad. It should be available for Microsoft within the year.


Margarita Soto has been a fan of Scribd for years; I’m a late adopter.

Pay one monthly subscription and you get unlimited access to their library of books, audiobooks, and magazines.


Sarah Sonnenfeld loves Tripit, a tool that “makes sense of all your travel plans and creates a single itinerary for every trip.”

1. Forward your confirmation emails
2. Get a master itinerary
3. Download the app

TeamGantt (what project planning software do you use?)

At Top Tier New York last week, at one session we discussed favorite tech tools (thanks to Sarah Sonnenfeld for facilitating.)

For a SaaS project management tool that can be shared with clients, several members recommended TeamGantt.

How do other consultants market their practice?

Michael Zipursky surveyed consultants on how they market their practice; you can check out the results here. I interviewed Michael on Episode 120 of Unleashed.

One stat: 41% said making outbound phone calls is the marketing activity they dislike the most.

(On Episode 170, David A. Fields shared his advice on how to make outbound calls.)

How do you market your practice?
What has worked?
What have you tried, but didn’t get any traction?

How do you expose yourself to new ideas? (Recommended app: Feedly)

Feedly is an app I love to discover and then follow blogs.

The discovery tool is great: enter one blog that you’d like to follow, and then the app suggests a series of other blogs on the same topic that you might also like.

Some of the favorite blogs in my feed are (and I don’t agree with all of them. Part of my goal is to regularly read writers I disagree with, to challenge my thinking)

Marginal Revolution
The Big Picture
Farnam Street
A Learning a Day
Gabe the Bass Player
Gene Expression
Sasha Dichter’s Blog
Slate Star Codex
The Story of Telling
Flowing Data

How to start a podcast

I believe that hosting a podcast is such an amazing opportunity for independent professionals. A single activity that allows you to simultaneously:

  1. Build relationships with your guests (potential clients)
  2. Learn something
  3. Raise your visibility / build credibility in your chosen niche

In case you missed the “How to start a podcast” session last Friday but wanted to attend, we recorded the session, and here is the video.

And you can download the PDF of the presentation here.

How to set consulting fees

A listener of Unleashed asked for advice on how to set fees, and I shared my thoughts in Episode 174. I’ve added that episode to Unleashed Essentials.

In this episode I refer to, and strongly recommend, Chapter 22 of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: 6 Steps to Unlimited Clients & Financial Freedom, by David A. Fields.

Novelist and Umbrex member Tim DeRoche emailed me two reactions to the episode:

“First, I try to set my rate so that I *lose* maybe 10-20% of potential projects because the client says I’m too expensive.  That tells me I’m at the outer edge of what the market will bear for someone like me.

Second, I will often discount for smaller companies.  They usually have smaller budgets and lower expectations.  But I enjoy working with smaller organizations, so it’s partly related to your idea of the Fun Discount.”

A cool way to hire an employee for your firm

David A. Fields is hiring a Principal to join his firm, and I thought his approach is worth sharing, for anyone who is looking to grow their team.

First, there is a detailed video explaining the position. Then an online application that sorts for those who are seriously interested. Pretty cool idea to have an in-depth video of the person you will be reporting to.

Can’t get no satisfaction?

Gotta love a 2x2x2 matrix.

Eden McCallum in partnership with London Business School did a survey of independent consultants and current consultants.

A web version of the results is here.

A different downloadable version of the results is here.

How to make outbound calls

April 24, 2019

Outbound calls are one of the best ways to keep relationships strong and stay top-of-mind with decision makers.

But making outbound calls – even to people in your core network – can be awkward.

It helps quite a bit, though, if you have a plan for what you’ll say and how to steer the conversation.

At the Top Tier events last year, one of the highest rated topics was David A. Fields sharing his approach to making outbound calls, including:

  • Why you should not always try to “add value” whenever you make a call
  • What to say if you reach voicemail
  • How to navigate “The Turn” if a possible project opportunity gets mentioned
  • What to say when asked what you’ve been up to

David was kind enough to return to Unleashed as my guest to discuss his approach on Episode 170, which we’ve added to Unleashed Essentials – the top episodes I encourage people to start with.

You can download for free the call outline that is excerpted above by going here. That link will also take you to a Script Bank that David developed.

Browsing top-ranked papers on SSRN

April 12, 2019

This chart is pulled from the article “Notes on Designing Your Company” by Kevin J. Boudreau, Harvard Business School working paper 16-131. You can download the full document here.

This was the second-most downloaded article on SSRN (Social Science Research Network) the week of March 18th.

SSRN is a fun place to browse – you can get a free account, see the rankings of the most-downloaded papers, and download papers for free.

Other top-ranked articles include (free account required to download):

  1. A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory
  2. Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain
  3. The Evolution of Fintech: A New Post-Crisis Paradigm?
  4. 18 Topics Badly Explained by Many Finance Professors
  5. How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the U.S. Share of Mass Public Shootings: U.S. Rate is Lower than Global Average

Yes, you should get long term disability insurance

An Umbrex member asked me last week if I’d recommend that she get disability insurance.

Short answer: Absolutely.

It is a bit of a hassle, but I would encourage everyone (in the U.S., at least) to get long term disability coverage. The process takes 4-6 weeks, and there is never a better time to start than right now.  Cost is ~1-3% of annual protected income.

A good website to compare quotes is Policy Genius.

I discuss considerations in buying disability insurance and the factors that affect the price in Episode 157 of Unleashed.

The (70 : 30) Squared rule

We all know the 80-20 rule. What about the (70 : 30) Squared Rule?

The (70 : 30) Square Rule says when you are having an initial context discussion with a client, client should be speaking 70% of the time, and consultant should be speaking 30% of the time. And when the consultant is speaking, 70% of that 30% should be asking questions.

Once we’re in the room, the goal is not to establish our credibility, but to deeply understand the problem.

It is hard to self-monitor to actually know how much time we are talking vs. asking questions. Consider asking a colleague to join you and give you feedback. Or record a call (if legal in your jurisdiction) and listen to yourself.

More thoughts in Episode 159 of Unleashed.

A single piece of paper

March 13, 2019

Instead of a whole deck, what if you go to a meeting with one piece of paper? I love this infographic created by Umbrex member Ian Tidswell.

I can imagine having a robust two-hour discussion based on this one page alone. Have you ever gone to a client discussion with just one piece of paper?

100+ Tech tools and apps for social sales

Found this on LinkedIn, posted by Chelsea Peitz.

LinkedIn posts

February 27, 2019

Over the past week I’ve been binge-listening to the LinkedInformed podcast with host Mark Williams, thanks to a tip from Mahan Tavakoli. I’ll be sharing my key takeaways in this weekly email. Here’s one:

I’ve been writing sub-optimal posts on LinkedIn. I generally do a post about each episode of Unleashed with the name of the guest, a short summary, and a call-out to subscribe to my weekly email.

I’ve learned that anything that smacks of being self-promotional is disfavored by the algorithm and limits views. And that ideally, posts should invite conversation. Pose a question.

According to Mark Williams, if you are seeking to raise the profile of a post and increase your own profile as well, the best thing you can do is comment on the post (perhaps ask a question of the author). Liking a post is OK, but doesn’t help as much.  Sharing a post is not as good as commenting on it, because it breaks the connection with the other comments on the post.

I’m curious about what you are posting. If you’d like me to comment on your LinkedIn post, mention me with an “@Will Bachman” and I’ll see if I can think of something to add to encourage conversation.

Compare: independent professional vs independent consultant vs freelancer

February 20, 2019

Umbrex member Caleb Williams asked me my perspective on the difference between these terms:

  1. Independent professional
  2. Independent consultant
  3. Independent contractor
  4. Independent advisor
  5. Freelance consultant
  6. Mercenary

Since I’m trying to learn how to do video, I posted my two-minute answer here. Would love to see your thoughts on those terms in a comment to the video post.

Incidentally, I used Headliner to do the captions. It transcribes your video and adds the captions for you. Pretty great tool.

The Lifespan of News (interactive visualization)

February 6, 2019

Interactive scrolling display of the lifespan of news at

I can imagine using a similar visualization on a consulting project (perhaps the impact of a series of promotional campaigns?

Enhancing our clients’ experience

January 9, 2019

If you were a taxi driver, what might you do to increase your tips?

How about:

  1. Providing phone charging cables to the back seat
  2. Asking the passengers what music (if any) they would like to listen to
  3. Learning a bit of local history and offering to, e.g., tell passengers what movie scenes were filmed on which block, or where famous murders took place, or which apartment buildings have empty condos owned by Russian oligarchs

Those ideas (which might or might not work – haven’t tested them) have nothing to do with the basic function of a taxi: to get you from point A to point B.

But they do affect the client experience.

Starting with Episode 128 of Unleashed, published yesterday, I’m doing a six-part podcast miniseries on ways to enhance the client experience, based on a framework developed by David A. Fields that we used at the Top Tier events in 2018. Several dozen Umbrex members contributed ideas during the workshop.

Episode 128 introduced the series, and Episodes 129-133 (today through Sunday) provide some suggested ideas on how to improve the client experience across these five phases of a project: 

  1. The proposal phase
  2. Onboarding / kickoff phase
  3. Project execution
  4. Wrap-up
  5. Post-project


From the School of Life – Three questions towards self-knowledge

January 2, 2019

An exercise for daily reflection that I’ve been working on.  Pick one of the above questions and write for fifteen minutes.  If it is helpful, make a list of things while considering the following categories:

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Children / Parents
  • Health
  • Money
  • Things I have to do / want to do / am afraid to do

Now, the next step would be to begin unpacking each item you’ve listed.
For items you are anxious about, try answering:

  1. What steps do you need to take?
  2. What do others need to do?
  3. What needs to happen when?

Getting it on paper makes things a bit more manageable.

This is from Self-Knowledge, published by the School of Life.