AT THE opening of the Odd Couple Marketing And Strategy Seminar for professional speakers, consultants and coaches, my co-presenter Alan Weiss (AW), gave this advice in the question-and-answer session.

Q: How do I build my business?

AW: “There has to be a market need for what you do, you must have the competency to meet the need, and you must have the passion to want to fulfil it. When these three things converge, you will have a brilliant career.

“It doesn’t matter what the economy is like; it doesn’t matter what the competition is like; it doesn’t matter what government regulation is like. The great thing about what we do is we control our own destiny.

So, look where those three things are and you will have a brilliant career.”

Q: How do I differentiate myself from other consultants and professional speakers?

AW: “When I started my career, quality circles were very big. I wrote an article called Why Quality Circles Make No Sense. It was completely contrary to popular opinion and was published in an instant.

“You don’t want to be the 457th person talking about how leaders have high integrity and they’re ethical. You want to talk about the facts. For example, right now, you have two kinds of people in leadership. You have people who are in their 50s and 60s near the top of organisations, who didn’t grow up with diversity, high-tech, and instantaneous communications and know nothing about it.

“You have a second era of leadership, who are people in their 30s and 40s and have never led in down times and have only led in boom economies. Now, given that juxtaposition of these senior people who aren’t used to some conditions and the next level of people, you have a leadership crisis.

“So, I’ve created a whole new route here. I can do that all day long. I can get anyone interested in what I have to say about leadership, or you name a topic and I’ll make it up. That’s what you have to do.

“So, if you want to enter a field, whether it’s team building or leadership or priority setting, diversity, whatever it is, come up with your own viewpoint. Read what people have said and then decide how you’ll be slightly different.”

Q: How do I build credibility with future clients when I am still fairly young and inexperienced?

AW: “I worked with a woman in my mentor programme. She said to me, ‘My problem is this: I don’t have a college degree; I’m younger than I look; I have no experience in any of these industries. How do I overcome that?’

“I said, ‘How does the prospect know this?’ And she said, ‘I tell them.’

“I said, ‘Stop doing that. So, what you do in your case is to publish. You start with position papers that you published and put them in your own press kit on your philosophy of leadership. You publish them in the local newspapers. You get up and speak somewhere, for free if you have to, on leadership. Have it taped, and then create a CD and white paper. This is what you do to create an aura of authority and accountability around yourself about whatever topic you like.’

“Never feel as though you’re going to walk in and sell to GE (General Electric). That’s not what you do. What you want is GE to come to you and say: ‘I’ve read something you have written.’”