The Simple Method For Growing Your Consulting Business With Jason Shafton: Podcast #305

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Growing your business may not be easy but you can look at the successful people around you and learn from them. One of those that you’ll find invaluable is this episode’s guest, Jason Shafton, the Founder of Winston Francois. Drawing not only from his experience and expertise but also insights learned from the amazing people around him, Jason shares the simple method for growth in your consulting business. He dives deep into the value of getting referrals and how to get them without directly asking for them, the secret to winning new clients (and no, it’s not your typical marketing tool!), developing IP, and finding and keeping great talent. You don’t have to find success on your own; you can make the journey much better with people on your side. Follow Jason’s footsteps toward success and grow your consulting business today!

Joining Michael on the show is Jason Shafton. He is the founder of Winston Francois, a boutique growth consulting firm. Before starting his own consulting business and agency, he worked at Google where he led Google Play and social marketing. He was also the VP of Marketing at Comedy Central and Headspace.

Before I tell you more about Jason, as you’re going to hear, he attributes much of his success to following in the footsteps of people who have come before him and learning from their mistakes. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Jason and accelerate the growth of your consulting practice, the Consulting Success Team is here to help. To work directly with the Consulting Success Team and receive personalized coaching and support to optimize and grow your consulting business, marketing, and revenue, visit to learn more and apply.

Let me tell you a little bit more about what you’re going to learn from this episode between Michael and Jason. The first is how to get referrals without directly asking for them. Why conversations are more important than creating a website or other marketing tools when it comes to winning new clients. Why hiring a second command can help you fuel the growth of your firm. How to develop IP and why that’s critical to your growth. How to hire and keep great talent. Plus, so much more. Here to share with you his full story and insight is Jason Shafton. Enjoy.

Jason Shafton, welcome to the show.

I am super happy to be here. Thanks, Michael.

I’ve been looking forward to our conversation. Before starting your own consulting business and agency, you worked at Google where you led Google Play and social marketing. You are also a VP of Marketing at Comedy Central, so maybe something funny will come from this. Also, Headspace. What did you learn about marketing inside of these organizations that are quite well known in many circles anyways? What did you learn inside of them that maybe you’ve thought about or have even observed that the typical business owner either doesn’t know or doesn’t understand in relation to marketing and best practices and what works?

No amount of marketing can make up for a bad product. The thing that’s consistent across all of the places I’ve had a chance to work and even the companies I’ve now gotten to work with as a consultant is if you have a great product, a certain element of it sells itself. I’m not going to suggest that if you build it, they will come, but great products cause people to talk about them and tell other people. You get that incredible organic growth coefficient of virality K factor that makes growth a lot easier. The other stuff that people like to talk about is marketing, advertising, and paying for ads. It’s gasoline on a fire as opposed to putting all of our eggs in this Google ads or meta ads basket and hoping for the best.

Do you think that applies differently for a company that is a product-led business? Let’s say it’s an actual product as opposed to a professional services business. Take consulting versus somebody developing a phone or AirPods. How do you view potential differences?

When you’re a consultant, you are the product. You are selling yourself. At the end of the day, it’s either you have a great service offering. In our case from my business, every new client we’ve been able to connect with has been the result of word-of-mouth referral. Somebody I interact with at some point in my career came along and said, “I need your help” or “This person I know needs your help.” That referral flywheel I mentioned has been a huge driver of our business.

It’s different selling yourself as a consultant from selling a phone in terms of the end product, but the mechanics of how things grow and how people talk about great products are very similar. I like to think and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never marketed myself as a consultant. All of it has been referral and word of mouth, which makes the process of closing a deal or selling a new client a lot easier when it’s a warm lead as opposed to outbound and cold.

We’re going to get into that. Right now, you have 4 to 5 full-time people on the team. You also have a team of 40 or 50 potential 1099s or contractors or freelancers that you work with. I want to get into how you have gone about doing that, how you also think about when the consultant, meaning you as the brand, is what people are coming for, and how you think about scaling beyond yourself. Before we get there, I’ll hit the rewind button and take us back to your time as an executive. I’m wondering what was going on. Why did you decide to leave working as an executive inside of these well-known growing companies to start your own consulting business and agency?

I have a fortunate career that I’m super grateful for. I like to think that maybe some amount of skill was involved, but it’s certainly that a lot of my moves throughout my career were happenstance and luck, the right place, the right time, and knowing the right person. For me, there got to a point where I was doing a lot more teaching than learning. In my most recent role, before I went into advising and consulting with companies full-time, I was an executive at a Fortune 200 healthcare company running a startup business inside of that. There were interesting problems we were solving in the healthcare space, but I wasn’t as challenged or as pushed to my limits and learning. I think I get a little bored.

For me, the trigger point was knowing there was a bunch of pent-up demand for the kinds of stuff that was rattling around in my head. People were coming out of the woodwork saying, “It would be great if you could help me with this problem or that.” Knowing that I’d also built up this amazing network of people that I’d worked with or had worked for me, I knew over the years that also were looking for those kinds of new challenges and opportunities. I think it was a perfect storm of stuff coming together.

CSP Jason Shafton | Growing Your Consulting Business

As I was leaving Headspace, a friend of mine reminded me of this recently. I turned to him and said, “Someday I’m going to start an agency that’s not an agency. I’m going to bring you and all these other great people who have worked with me. We’re going to work with companies doing cool stuff and help them grow.” I was on the phone with him maybe a few months ago and he said, “You did that. You have done that.” I was like, “I did do that.” It just happened. I wish I could give like, “There was this moment and I realized.”

Following your truth and the things that you’re passionate about but also good at, and bringing those two things together. That’s what has worked well for me. Being an executive, while titles are cool, shiny, and fun, sometimes the most value for me in my career is getting my hands dirty and working on hard problems with smart founders and tech startups doing cool stuff. That has been the most rewarding and fulfilling time in my career.

You talked about having this vision of what you wanted to do, and then now you’re looking back. It’s like, “I’ve done this. I’m in the process of doing this.” You mentioned the right time and right place. There’s maybe some luck involved. If you zoom out for a moment and look at what you feel played the biggest role in ensuring that you didn’t leave that path but kept going, is there some mindset that you have or some belief or something that you feel is integral to who you are from the perspective of this is what helps you to be successful and to not only identify a goal but make sure that you achieve it? What do you think about that?

The mindset I have is rooted deeply in resilience. No matter how many times you fall and fail, you pointed to all these cool things you’ve done. There are so many times I’ve messed up in my career and I learned a ton from that. Being resilient enough to say that mistake or that screw-up doesn’t define me. It allows me to see things more clearly and know what not to do next time. That has been the key to my success because there are as many, if not more failures, than successes.

Following the people and working with the people that have been most formative for me has been huge. There are folks that I now work with on companies that work with me at the first startup I co-founded, and then came to the next startup, and now consult with me. Surrounding myself with people that are way smarter than me, more talented, disciplined, interesting, and complementary ways to myself has allowed me to breathe a lot of life and variety into my own professional life in a way that gives a lot of energy as opposed to taking energy.

I’m sure people can relate to the idea of working in a big corporate job in a large organization with hundreds of thousands of employees. Sometimes you feel like a number and sometimes you don’t feel as much meaning or connectedness to the work. Whenever I can ground myself in these awesome people, that always helps me refresh and reset and not feel like, “Here’s another day at the Doldrums or Dilbert Ville.

Has your relationship with the concept of failure changed over the years?

It was more theoretical earlier in my career. I didn’t have that many failures and I still was pretty afraid of it. I worked at Google, so it was fail fast and learn a lot. It was a very safe place to fail. Once I was in my first startup that I helped found and get off the ground as the first full-time employee, we were messing up all the time. We launched our first healthcare, Doctor House Call app. We launched our first market in Los Angeles. It was going pretty well, but then we went and launched in San Francisco. It was completely a different market, totally different demographics and geography, and all sorts of new challenges. As I mentioned at the beginning of the show, you build it and they will come. That’s not how it works.

It didn’t work that way. We opened this new market. I was sitting there waiting for the calls to come in and for people to use the service. Nobody was. We had to completely rewrite the playbook. I think it wasn’t until I was working at startups, and gotten out of the Google and Comedy Central world that I experienced failure, the pain, and the rollercoaster of starting super high highs, and then super low lows of, “This is going to fail. We’re going to run out of money tomorrow. It’s never going to work.” The next day, we raised a huge round of fundraising. We closed this huge enterprise deal and now things are in a great place. It’s not great for relationships, family, and stuff, but it’s very exciting and fun.

I find my relationship with this concept of failure, I don’t even like to use the word failure. It’s more like a learning experience but early on it’s something that you try and avoid. As you develop and progress through your years of experience and your career, at least in my observation and experience, you understand that it’s there. It’s not necessarily that you want to fail or to make mistakes, but you know that you’re going to. The more that you understand that, it becomes quite empowering because you recognize that’s going to be a learning experience. If you learn from it, as long as you apply it, you’re going to get stronger and better, and then there’s no real stopping you.

No amount of marketing can make up for a bad product. Click To Tweet

That’s when the game of entrepreneurship becomes fun. If you have that mindset that is open and you welcome it, it becomes a part of it as opposed to trying to always avoid it. When you operate from that mindset of avoidance, it’s like the scarcity mindset, and then you end up not taking action which holds you back. It sounds like that’s what you’ve experienced as well.

I agree. Failure is used very loosely.

Let’s talk about your business, Winston Francois. First, we have to address the name. What is the name? What does this company do?

My wife and I have two French bulldogs named Winston and Frank aka Francois. When I met her, she had Frank. He was a puppy, and she was calling him Francois or Frank or Francis. We then got Winston a couple of years later. Frenchies are a lot. I don’t know if you’ve ever got to hang out with one. They’re nuts. They’re crazy dogs. They’re a lot of fun. I named the company after the two dogs. People are like, “Where does that name come from? Is this a law firm? Is this some kind of hoity-toity thing? It’s a little weird and it’s got French in it.” I like telling people where it’s from because then everybody smiles like you did and chuckles about it. It’s a little disarming. There are lots of silly consulting firm agency names out there and I like ours. It’s unique.

What do you guys do? What does Winston Francois do?

At a high level, we are a boutique growth consulting firm that helps anyone grow. You could be a first-time hacker growth marketing manager working at a company. We’re going to start releasing content that helps explain growth basics and principles to founders, C-level executives, or series B startups that are trying to break through that next level of growth and figure out some things operationally and organizationally, put the right process, programs, and teams in place to succeed. We tend to come in and provide fractional support both at the strategy level and the Head of VP C-level as well as actual hands-on keyboard execution operators that can get things done across basically every discipline of growth and marketing.

Think brand product marketing, lifecycle marketing, content marketing, search and performance marketing, social media ads, PR and communications, and even growth design engineering, building apps, websites, and experiences. I’ve accumulated this amazing group of people over the course of my career. We’re able to plug those folks into exciting high-growth companies and help them scale and solve problems. We’re not an agency and we’re not there to work with you for 5 to 10 years. We want to help you achieve some very discreet growth objectives in the short to medium term, and then move on and help the next company.

You talked about one of the things that you’re proud of is to this point anyways, you haven’t had to do much marketing if any at all for the business.

This is my first show.

Let’s talk then about the early days when you started this. There are lots of people who might be in a situation either where they’re looking again to make the transition into consulting or maybe they’ve even been consulting for a decade, but most of their businesses have come the same way as you from referrals and their network. Take us back to the day when you were getting started. What did you do to start bringing in those few clients? Did you send a bunch of emails to people? What did you do to get those first few ones in the door?

CSP Jason Shafton | Growing Your Consulting Business

I think I’m very fortunate. I didn’t email anybody. I got emailed. I had a colleague that worked with me at Headspace. He referred me to a cool founder that he was working with and that was how I started working with the first company that we helped. It was very organic, and then that guy introduced me to probably the next 5 or 10 companies that I worked with. It had that kind of domino effect.

For people that are trying to figure out where to start, my recommendation would be to start with your network. Once you made the decision that you’re going to do this or you’re trying to find those new growth channels for whom you could work, tell the people that you’ve either worked with in the past in other ways, maybe not as a consultant but full-time opportunities or the network of people you’ve worked with at other companies. Let them know that you’re doing this.

As you said, you could send an email to LinkedIn. It’s super effective in letting people know what’s going on. Once you hang up that shingle and say, “I’m doing this and this is something I’m proud of. I’ve built all these amazing things over the course of my career and I bring that knowledge to other companies and help them. It takes 1 or 2 people who believe in you and go, “You’re great. I got to introduce you to this person.” To be the spark that sets off a series of amazing connections to the next opportunity.

A lot of people might be in a similar position where they’ve gotten some referrals, but your business is solely based on referrals. If you can zoom out and look at what you do, your typical engagement, and what you focus on. I’m wondering what you’ve maybe already consciously identified or if you haven’t, just thinking about it now, what do you think makes the difference? What I mean is to the point where you’re getting a lot of referrals.

A lot of people will deliver on a client engagement and they’ll do good work, but they don’t necessarily get the referrals or they don’t get enough referrals. In some cases, that’s because they don’t ask for them. In other cases, maybe there’s something missing in terms of their delivery, their focus, or how they execute that project. What do you think is that special sauce or the secret of what you’re doing that allows you to generate so many referrals where you don’t even need to market?

There’s no secret sauce or special formula. First and foremost is to deliver, be good at what you do, and be an expert. A lot of people in my career have helped me without expecting anything in return. What I try to do in all of my relationships professionally and personally is offer help and be that person to support whether formally or informally. That sometimes turns into the next opportunity as a consultant.

What I’ve done with a lot of companies is we met through this amazing founder community called Hampton. Somebody has a founder that I know has a question or a problem, something they’re trying to solve in growth and marketing. I raised my hand and say, “I’ve encountered that before. Message me. I’m happy to talk to you about it.” We had a 30-minute conversation. I tell them the things that I’ve faced before, and how I’ve addressed that problem. I need more help than this with somebody who can do this or that, and tease up the next conversation.

The other thing is you should ask too. We’re about to launch a new website and start to tell our story a little bit more broadly. The timing of this conversation is great. Part of doing that is promoting what we do and asking the people who’ve worked with us and had a great experience to share. It’s setting up that referral template in the flywheel.

Give people a series of questions, “Give me a quote about your experience working with us.” You can put that on the website. “Can I use your logo to say that we worked together before?” Put that on your website, marketing materials, and pitch decks. Ask them, “Can you tell other founders or other executives that you know about what we’ve done together? I’d love it if you pass this along. Here’s a blurb that you can use to forward to your network.” Tee up all that stuff and make it easy for the person whom you’re asking something of to do it. Hopefully, you’ve already done a lot for them, so they’re like, “No problem. This is no skin off my back.”

It sounds like your mindset and approach are about giving before you think about taking or asking, and that has served you well. You mentioned your website. The website is almost non-existent. It’s there, there’s a logo, but there’s nothing there. How long has it been like that? Has that been since you launched the business?

Word of mouth makes closing a deal or selling to a new client much easier. Click To Tweet

At first, we didn’t even have a website. We added a website maybe in 2022 or 2021. It’s what you see now, which is nothing in context.

It’s a logo. What I found so interesting about that, and I wanted to bring it up very often, is one of the things that holds consultants back regardless of what stage they’re at, but from a marketing perspective, landing consulting clients is about conversations. The more conversations you have, the more business you’ll typically generate. A lot of people hold themselves back because they’re trying to build a lot of stuff. They build their website and things but they’re not having conversations.

The reason I want to highlight your “lack of website” is that you’ve built your business, you have a team, and you’re growing, yet you don’t have a website. There’s a website but it’s not a real functioning website, but you’re still able to be successful. Is there anything that stands out around it that you would maybe tell somebody who’s trying to think, “I have to make my website spectacular in order to create a successful business?” How would you counsel or advise or share some thoughts on that?

Keep it simple stupid. As a counter-example, in late 2022, I was like, “I’m going to start building out all this content and teach people to do what I know how to do and use these amazing consultants that I work with to teach their craft. I’m going to build a studio in my office.” In the other room, I have backdrops, lights, cameras, and a teleprompter. I invested a bunch of money in all this stuff and I have released zero content. You can throw a bunch of money, people, and resources at something. To your point, if you don’t do the last mile and just have a lot of conversations or write a lot of stuff in my case to start recording and creating content. It’s not about the kind of coat of paint, the shine, and the veneer of the surface of what you’re doing. It’s the substance.

One of the things, going back to the last question that I think is important that I should have mentioned is to under-promise and over-deliver. I often will tell a prospective client or a client something that I know I can knock out of the park and I can over-deliver on that. If I say, “I’ll get you a pitch deck next week. I’ll come back to you with that proposal. We’ll have that deliverable done in a week and deliver it in 2 or 3 days, that sets us up for better interactions. People feel like, “This is a ton of value in somebody who is working very hard to support me.”

Don’t worry about making the perfect website. To your point, get on a bunch of calls and find out from real potential customers what they need, and then build that and only that. To go back to the website point, a simple lead form is probably all you need. Set up some sort of CRM so that you can send out a series of emails introducing yourself, what you sell, and what you do, and can track interactions you have. You can have a CRM and a spreadsheet and you can send emails from your one email account and you can have a single-page website like we do with a logo and a contact form on it and you’ll be okay. When you start to grow and as we are, we’re about to launch a real website because it’s probably time. It’s a little bit overdue actually.

Does anyone fill in that form since there’s nothing on your website?

Yes. Some people do.

What do they say? “I found you here. I heard about you guys.” I’m wondering, when somebody comes to that website and it’s just your logo and a form, what are they saying?

They’ve come there because they found me on LinkedIn or they know us. If they haven’t been able to get a warm introduction, then they fill out and say, “I’m looking for help with this.” Ninety-nine percent of everything we’ve done has come from people reaching out through connections that I have as opposed to a cold form on the website. I think that’s about to change. I’m about to publicly promote the fact that we’ve built this consulting business.

CSP Jason Shafton | Growing Your Consulting Business

One challenge that typically earlier stage consultants will have is, back to your earlier point, that the brand is you. It’s your network and your connections. People are coming to you initially because it’s the Jason show. To scale that, you can’t be involved necessarily in every single project to the same degree that you were earlier on. What have you learned about that process or making that transition or shift so that there isn’t as much reliance on just you, or creating more time and space for yourself to work in other areas of the business?

It’s not easy. I haven’t completely succeeded in that. I still represent 100% of all of our new client acquisitions. That comes through me and my network, and then referrals to me. However, part of this metamorphosis that we’re in the process of right now is all about establishing Winston Francois as a brand and me as an ingredient to that brand. Many other people have similar or different complementary skills to me. A good piece of advice I can give to consultants is to start to groom and establish a strong number two. I’ve been able to do that and this woman on my team is basically able to do about anything I can do, so she’s allowed me to scale.

If I’m working with one company and managing a team that we’ve brought in with that company, she can go take another company. Maybe I was involved in selling in that engagement but I’m not working on the engagement at all. We recently had a client with whom we swapped. I was working on it, she was working on it, and we had a conversation. I talked to the founder and I was like, “I think it’ll be much more valuable for you to have her leading this engagement.” He agreed and that allowed me to step back and focus on other client projects.

Having that strong number two is important. If you don’t have that person now, seeking out somebody who has either a similar or complementary background that could be that person to support you is important to start building many brands around the IP that you’ve built as opposed to the individual people. When you engage and sell a new client, it’s less about, “I have to have this person. I want this process you’ve built.” The best example of this is EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. That’s a franchise model alone and it’s huge. Even a small consultant in a one-person shop that maybe is trying to grow can develop IP and probably has IP that they can then scale, train, and lead other teams to sell in and operationalize.

I love this idea of training, holding, and supporting a numbertwo point. It might be multiple people over time. Can you add a little bit more detail to what you have done? What does that training look like? How have you essentially got this numbertwo person to get up to speed and the level to where you are or close, or at least to the point where you feel comfortable and confident to hand over valuable client engagements and work to them?

My management style is very much hands-off. I allow people to shine and do what they’re great at. In her case, she’s spikey and successful in performance marketing, growth marketing, conversion optimization, and running web teams and mobile app teams that can drive growth and build a growth flywheel across channels. She didn’t have as much experience with things that I’ve done in my career around brand marketing, creativity, and maybe a little bit less on the lifecycle.

These are all learnable and teachable disciplines. What I did over the course of a couple of years now we’ve been working together is to keep giving her exposure when we’re working with a client that we’re doing something on that work. Giving her exposure to those things, and then putting her in charge of them over time.

Overseeing functional area operators and people who are experts in those disciplines so she could manage their work, see their work, and ultimately, take ownership and accountability for it. The next client that comes along, she’s never done this before but she’s done it right. She’s also able to run this. It’s playing to people’s strengths and then coaching them up and giving them shots on goal opportunities to embrace the areas that they maybe aren’t as strong on or could use to sharpen skills.

Is there anything inside of that in terms of how you run meetings with this person or the people on your team? Is there a certain frequency cadence? Are there certain SOPs you bring into it? Just a little bit more granular, how do you approach all that?

Meetings are kryptonite for me. When we’re consultants and we’re doing billable hours, we generally try to have a very tight schedule with clients, and then we do weekly meetings with the client, and then we’ll focus a lot of our time on delivery, and then if there needs to be another touch point later in the week where it’s a report out or a delivery meeting. Internally, she and I probably talk every day, multiple times a day about everything that’s going on. I’ve brought her in every aspect of the business with full transparency including pricing, margins, and how everything works. I coached and developed her on the business development process so she can go do a pitch with a client without me now and sell in a team, go and resource, and build that team.

Mistakes and screw-ups don’t define you. They allow you to see things more clearly and know what not to do next. That’s the key to success. Click To Tweet

The way I’ve made that work has given her economic and financial upside to doing that. Beyond that, she puts herself on a deal and has her retainer hourly rate that she’s getting. She’s also getting participation in the economics of the overall deal and the overall contract value. The frequency and intensity of engagement come from my time working at startups, which is to run at problems as fast as we can. We use whatever available communication channels that make the most sense. We meet and talk through things if we need to. Otherwise, we’re on Slack 24/7. We’re firing off emails. We’re in Google Docs, slides, and sheets building out all the materials to support a client.

It’s extremely fluid. It’s not this regimented approach. As we scale with any organization and as more process comes in place because it’s required, we’ll probably have more of that. I’m not a fan of and I’m very allergic to meetings but ultimately, they do serve a purpose, and so we’ll use them sparingly and very intentionally.

Is there anything that you learned or maybe you tried that didn’t quite feel right or didn’t create the result that you wanted when it comes to that incentive, bonuses, or profit shares or however you’re structuring that with this person or other team members? Anything that you tried and didn’t work that you could share and others can learn from?

With some of the people I’ve had on their team, there was one other person whom I gave this access and visibility into margins. It didn’t work because they weren’t as senior as she was. They didn’t handle the client conversations as well. They made some bad calls about how to loop in additional resources and support. To your point about meetings, they didn’t join important pitch meetings and things didn’t land and didn’t close. As a result, the mistake is not on me.

I picked somebody who was a little bit more junior and a little bit more inexperienced that wasn’t ready for that responsibility and that level of accountability. That person ultimately is not actively consulting anymore with me. I don’t blame them for it. I’m just hoping that I could see them level up into yet another number-2 or number-3 position if they weren’t quite ready for it.

I love what you said there in terms of you taking responsibility even though many people in that same situation would put more of the onus or the blame or they’d point out more of what was wrong with the other person. What I liked that you did that right now and I’m saying that I try and also live by is that, at the end of the day, if you’re the leader of your company, it doesn’t matter if you want to make mistakes, it still comes back to you in one form or another. You got to learn from that and take ownership of it. I like you calling that out.

As you talk about bringing on a senior person, one area that people struggle with at times or aren’t sure about is how to bring in talent. If you think about a senior marketer, that person could potentially go anywhere or get a job at a much larger firm that potentially could pay them a lot more. What have you learned or how do you think about attracting great people that are more senior or that are very good when you potentially don’t have the same resources budget when it comes to salaries right away? What do you think about that?

I think about it in terms of the people. My greatest selling point and everybody that works with us started out doing just as a side hustle, freelance contract. The vast majority of the team as I mentioned are freelancers. It’s complete control and flexibility. It’s your choice to work with smart people that are hired guns that you can’t get access to in hiring your own company. That’s the sales pitch to a client and I think it’s also a sales pitch to potential new consultants because of the caliber of people they’re going to be working with, the quality of thinking, and the work, everybody does their stuff.

To my point about management style before, nobody has to be chased. We don’t have to say, “You owe this client this deliverable.” People just own it and they do their work. You don’t have to court anybody per se like we will go out to our network and say, “Is anybody interested in this?” We get a lot of inbound interest, especially post all the tech layoffs that have happened. A lot of talented people that were otherwise very happily employed might not be in the same position anymore and are looking for opportunities like this.

To the point we’re talking about profit sharing and participation in economics, the most talented folks work their way into the best client opportunities and conversations and get access to more upside. I had a retreat with my team and explained to them, “If you warm introduce us to a new client that we close, there’s a referral commission for that. If you help close that deal yourself, here’s what the referral commission is for that. Billable hours, if you work this many billable hours, fly you and your family out, you can stay in my house out in Palm Springs.”

CSP Jason Shafton | Growing Your Consulting Business

There is some amount of cool stuff you get to do and work with great people. A big company might give you a bigger salary, more benefits, and different stuff. It’s based on where people are at in their career and their journey to say, “I’d rather have that small team intimate family feel, as opposed to a big company where I’m a number.”

The last point I’ll leave you with on that question is, we have this intros channel in our Slack that I started inspired by another intros channel you and I are both a part of. They’re introducing themselves and one of the team members goes, “As a reason that they’re here, Winston Francoise cares about its people.” It was an interesting thing for me. I sent it to a couple of people and I was like, “That warms my heart” because I’m trying to be intentional about the culture I build and people that want to be there and feel seen and heard that they’re valued.

That’s an important point. We’ve seen the same thing with a few of the people that have joined the team the more recent years saying that what attracted them to Consulting Success and why be part of the team and in many cases leaving maybe bigger firms was due to the values and due to the focus on that. It’s nice as a leader to hear that because back in the day, we didn’t think as much about values but as the focus has been more on growing the team and there’s a lot more growth happening, the values and identifying those and trying to make sure that everybody is living them or understanding them is so critical.

I wanted to ask you a few more questions here before we wrap up. You talked about one thing that you’re doing right now or coming soon on the website in terms of the next stage or evolution of the business. As you think about growth, growing the business, and getting into that next level of success, whatever that looks like for you, what’s 1 or 2 things that you have your site set on that is a priority for you to achieve that next level of growth?

It’s a couple of things. We want to teach people to live the mission, which is to help anyone grow. Building out a suite of content. That includes me starting to use that studio in the other room and make educational informative 101-level material to teach anyone to basics of growth marketing, and then get into deeper levels of sophistication with the experts on the team that know their stuff and can teach it.

That’s an amazing growth angle for us because it allows us to scale beyond the kinds of companies that can afford to work with us, and then into individual contributors, leaders, and people who want to learn this stuff. There’s a space in the market for it now because I don’t feel like there’s good content out there for people that do not already understand some of the acronyms and the jargon in this world. Being more approachable and accessible is a core part of that.

Another piece that we’re working on is building out a marketplace of these experts. If you’re not ready to do a whole engagement with us, being able to book calls, there’s a bunch of these third-party knowledge networks that connect knowledgeable people. They may not even be a consultant with companies looking for that information and they’re a broker of that. I’d love to take the group that we have and expose them to those that want to be able to be booked on a one-on-one basis for support. That’s another great opportunity to capture additional growth and revenue.

We’re also looking at ways that we can help earlier-stage companies through basic connectivity into their Slack. If you have a simple question you want to ask the expert in this performance marketing topic or lifecycle marketing, connect to our Slack for a relatively nominal subscription fee. There will be a person that, within one business day, responds to you and gives you that answer.

These are all the things we’re playing around and we’d like to grow. The big ambitious 5 to 10-year plan is growth as a service and being able to package together these talented consultants and digital products, SaaS, data layer, and technology to create the visualization dashboards, reporting, and information that companies need to understand how they’re doing. Understanding the health of their business and plugging in the experts to help them move those metrics and show them. A little bit of a SaaS play there, but that’s a longer-term objective for sure.

You mentioned resilience being one of the keys to your success or something that you feel contributes to it. Are there any other habits or mindsets or beliefs that are front and center for you that you feel help you to perform the way that you do?

There’s no secret sauce or special formula for generating referrals. Just deliver, be good at what you do, and be an expert. Click To Tweet

It’s all about the work. Get your stuff done. Deliver work hard but smart. Not only get back up when you fall and be resilient. Also, I think my whole career has been based on working circles around other people and being able to execute and chop a lot more wood. There’s an element of having more grit and passion for what you’re doing. If you don’t, it shows.

How do you do that though? When you say to chop more wood, do you feel that’s because you work more hours? Do you think it’s because you are more efficient or effective? Do you have better tools or automation? What do you feel contributes to you being able to chop more wood?

A big part of it is I am hyper-efficient and I can be hyper-focused. I tend to lots of lists and knock out the highest-priority stuff as quickly as possible and block time. I know that I’m better at complex high rain power tasks earlier in the day. By the afternoon, I’m shocked. I’m doing this in the afternoon when I would normally have meetings because energy level-wise I don’t have as much to focus and deliver. It’s structuring my day and building my calendar around blocks of work time and meeting time and trying to cut out the noise.

There is so much stuff that gets in our heads and tries to distract us from what matters. My Slack notifications are snoozed on my primary work computer here, so I’ll go and check Slack in chunks of time but I’m otherwise in a window working on something and ignorant to all the notifications that are blowing me up. Focus modes on iOS are great, like your work mode. Only my wife can text me and everybody else can F-off.

At different times of the day, things are blocked or allowed. I feel like I live an inbox-zero life where I try to clear everything out by the end of the day before I sign off if possible. It’s hard to do but I clear out all notifications. When I see people’s phones and they have the red bubble with 10,000 unread emails, it stresses me out. I have a panic attack for them. Some people that works, my wife is that way but I can’t do it. I have to clear everything out. It allows me to stay hyper-focused on where I think I’m going to drive the most impact.

A couple of final ones here. Over the last six months or so, what’s one book that you have either read or listened to, could be fiction or nonfiction, but something that you’ve enjoyed and that you would maybe suggest that others take a look at.

I’m going to cheat and say something from a while ago, but for me and the conversation we had, there are two. There’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, which is an awesome book and formative for people that are trying to do and solve hard technology problems and build teams around them. The other one that’s in the same ballpark is Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. Those are both awesome books.

The first one has been mentioned a few times over the last probably year or two. I don’t know if Peter Thiel’s book has been mentioned. It may have been once.

That one’s great. It’s all about building something that is an order of magnitude better than the prior thing.

Thinking bigger. Good suggestions there. Before we wrap up, I want to make sure that everyone can go someplace to learn more about you and your work. Send them to your website at this moment as we’re recording, probably it’s not going to be the best, but maybe it’ll be by the time this goes live. Where should they go? What’s one place? Is it the website? Is it your LinkedIn profile? Is it something else? Where can they learn more about you and your work?

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The website is great. The website is Also, there’s a forwarding URL from WF.Team.

Jason, thanks so much for coming on.

Michael, my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

There you have it for today’s episode between Jason and Michael. If you enjoyed this episode, then as always, be sure that you hit that subscribe button wherever you listen to your favorite shows. If you want to help support the Consulting Success show, you can do so by heading over to Apple Podcast where there you can leave a rating and review.

Also, a quick reminder, if you want to work directly with the Consulting Success Team to receive personalized coaching and support to help you optimize and grow your consulting, business, marketing, and revenue, be sure to visit to learn more and apply. That’s the end of the line for us this week. We’ll be back next week with another episode. Until next time.

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