Picking the brains of 30 Madison business consultants

A new book combines years of consulting experience into one useful volume.
Feature Business Consultant Book Panel

It’s generally not hard to find someone willing to share advice on how to start, grow, and run your business. Often, this advice is unsolicited. Getting advice that is knowledgeable, actionable, and useful, however, can be a little more difficult to come by.

A new book drawing on decades of experiences from 30 Madison-area business consultants aims to cut through the clutter and provide tips and tricks that both new and seasoned consultants can use in their own consultancy endeavors.

According to Forbes, the consulting industry is worth a whopping $100 billion per year and is expected to grow around 80% per year over the next few years. The consensus seems to be there’s never been a worse time to work for someone else, and there’s never been a better time to start your own consulting business.

We Wish We Had Known CoverWe Wish We Had Known: Everyday Tips from Consultants to Grow Your Business was created by members of Madison Area Business Consultants (MABC), a professional association of business consultants located in and around Madison who specialize in providing an objective point of view to help entrepreneurs and organizations spot and analyze problems they might not be able to see or recognize on their own.

From solo entrepreneurs to global consultant businesses, 30 members of the group share their best ideas on how to create and sustain a consultancy in the new book. Whether it’s branding, selling, masterminds, work-life balance, as well as starting over in the middle, and beginning a company on 50 cups of coffee — each topic offers a nugget for success.

John Russell, current MABC president and founder of The Business Source, notes MABC is a relatively small organization that attracts people with big ideas. “We discovered a way to unlock the brain power of 30 Madison-area business consultants in this book. We all come to this group with the hope of connecting with people who can create value for each other and our clients, while creating a platform for giving to others.”

In the book, Russell notes, readers will find an objective point of view, specifically presented to help them and their organization identify and analyze challenges that need a solution.

“Some you’re aware of and others you might not be able to see or recognize,” notes Russell. “We can help you reduce inefficiencies, pinpoint solutions, save money, make money, improve overall performance, and facilitate the change necessary to achieve your goals. Our organization was created to provide a shared learning experience for Madison’s best business consultants. Our focus is always on improving our consulting skill sets and finding great businesses that want to benefit from the knowledge and expertise our members bring to the market. We support each other.”

Incoming MABC president and founder and president of Creative Across the Curriculum LLC, Heather von Oesen Dean, notes that being a small business owner or consultant has its advantages and struggles. “We usually love the work we do but languish with the other tasks that are not in our area of expertise.

“This book’s mission was to offer step-one tips to improving your work on those other essential tasks,” Dean continues. “Each chapter stands alone as it is written directly by the author, using their voice, their industry jargon, and their style. This anthology of authors also gives the reader literally over hundreds of years of expertise in 30 topics to use exactly when you need them. Think of this book as a directory of advice to pick up and skim through to learn something new or to target read a single chapter on a specific need for your business. Either way, these authors are here to support your business journey.”

Part of the business journey of each of the authors was publishing a book.

In April, MABC member and bestselling author, life coach, motivational speaker, and founder of Life’s a Daring Adventure, Mary Helen Conroy, gave a presentation to the group titled “How to Eat an Elephant: All Dreams Are Possible.” She talked about how she had made a pandemic pivot in 2020 from speaker and workshop provider to publisher, which included her work with two authors to get their books published and become bestsellers on Amazon.

“What followed from that program was the desire of the consultants to also do a book,” explains Conroy. “Each of the members said it was on their bucket list to be an author. That is the dream of so many and yet only 10% ever see their name in a book. We formed a committee and determined that there was an easy way or hard way to do this. The hard way was everyone writing 10 pages and taking two years. The easy way was each of us sharing a tip we had for consulting and having four pages. We opened it up to the members in July to sign commitment letters. During August and September, we held ‘how to write’ sessions, and the deadline for submission was Oct. 15. I published the book on their behalf on Oct. 26.”

One MABC member, Mary Jane Connor, donated her skills with the cover, and another, Ann Massie Nelson, edited the book.

“It has been a dream of these authors to be an author,” says Conroy. “Authorship helps in the objective view of a consultant. They can now say they have published. Reading the book, you can hear their voices; you can hear what they know and how they work. The story I find amazing here is that folks talk about their dreams but never do it. These folks put a dream out there for everyone to see, they did the work, and together they have a book. Awesome! And we’re still dreaming — depending on our sales, we might just make bestseller status!”

We Wish We Had Known: Everyday Tips from Consultants to Grow Your Business goes on sale Thursday, Nov. 11 on Amazon and will be available in paperback and e-book formats.

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