The Evolution of My Consulting Business

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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A few weeks ago, I surveyed my newsletter subscribers and asked them what they would like to see me write about. A common theme from the responses was that they wanted to learn more about my business and the impact that it is having on the leaders and organizations that I work with.

So, over the next few weeks, I will share:

  • Today: The Evolution of My Consulting Business
  • Next Week: The Impact of Vertical Development on Individual Leaders
  • In Two Weeks: The Impact of Vertical Development on Organizations

The Beginning

I started my consulting practice about five years ago. At the time, I wasn’t necessarily looking to start a business, but I wanted to write a book related to my research and learnings related to mindsets.

As I did research about what it took to be a successful author, I learned that most non-fiction authors never make money from book sales (in fact, most lose money). But, the way to make writing a non-fiction book worth it is to use the book to generate business. And, to do that, the author needs a business.

So, I started a simple sole proprietorship.

The First Two Years (2018-2020)

Having developed (1) expertise in mindsets, a topic that I knew could be life-changing, leadership-changing, organizational-changing, (2) a book that I was writing would shortly be introduced to the world, and (3) a mindset assessment that could help people awaken to their own mindsets, I knew I could add value to organizations and their leaders and employees. I just needed to find organizations that wanted to develop their leaders and employees and believed that a focus on mindsets would help them.

I felt like the best way to market myself and the impact that mindsets could have on organizations was through speaking. So, for the first two years, my primary focus was on speaking to any audience that would let me.

I ended up speaking to about 80 groups over the first two years, with about half of those engagements being free engagements.

These efforts led to periodic consulting engagements.

Also during this time, I was able to serendipitously land some engagements with some really large companies, including Deutsche Telekom, CVS Health, and Mondelez. These were already companies that were focusing on mindsets, and somehow, they learned about my mindset assessment, something they had been seeking out for several years.

During these first two years, approximately 75% of my revenue came from speaking, and 25% of my revenue came from consulting, which, for the most part, took the form of doing single workshops for organizations.

The First COVID Year (2020)

In March 2020, I was attending a book launch party in Nashville, Tennessee to celebrate the upcoming release of my book Success Mindsets two months later.

It was while I was there that significant COVID restrictions began to be announced.

Almost overnight, I lost a dozen or more speaking engagements. But, fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult for the other half of my engagements to pivot to a virtual format.

The first part of the COVID pandemic, I had a huge win: Success Mindsets hit the Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller lists.

But, this year would also be the year where I experienced my biggest business loss.

While at my publisher’s launch party, I met a woman who said that she would help me create an online course and that I could make massive amounts of money in a rather passive way. Seeing that things were going online because of COVID, I decided to invest in making an online course. I called it “High Octane Mindsets.”

Long story short, it was a huge flop. I sold the course to only a handful of people. I learned a lot of lessons from that experience.

Because of a downturn in business, high marketing costs associated with my new book, and an unsuccessful investment in an online course, I ended 2020 in the red.

But, what I found was that with my book hitting best-seller lists, it was easier to get into organizations and I was able to charge more money. At the end of 2020, a wave had been building that would set me up for a great start to 2021.

The Second COVID Year (2021)

By 2021, largely because of the restrictions associated with the COVID pandemic and greater interest in my consulting services, my business had changed significantly. 75% of my revenue was coming from consulting and 25% was coming from speaking. 2021 ended up being a much better year financially. I was operating well into the black. I had more than doubled my revenue from the prior year and costs were much lower.

This was also the year that I attempted to master the concepts surrounding vertical development, which led to me writing The Elevated Leader, which would eventually come out in October of 2022.

From 2018 to this point in time, I knew that my approach to developing leaders and people through a focus on mindsets was (1) not normal, (2) getting to a deeper level within the people that I was working with, and (3) was transformational.

When I first came across the concept of “vertical development,” it put a clear label on what I had been doing: I had been focusing on vertical development, not the traditional horizontal development.

2022 – A Shifting in My Branding and Marketing

Learning that my approach to develop leaders and people through a focus on mindsets was vertical development, I changed my branding and marketing.

I went from telling organizations “I can help you develop your leaders and employees through a focus on mindsets,” to “I can help you vertically develop your leaders and employees.

This has proven to be a game-changer for my business.

Not only did it lead to more business, but it led to longer and deeper engagements with clients. Also, it led to more opportunities to work with executive teams (I had typically been working with mid-level leaders).

Again, I doubled my revenues while keeping costs as a percentage of revenue quite low, even with investment in the marketing of The Elevated Leader, which came out in October, 2022.

2023 – The Present

The launch of The Elevated Leader led to me lining up a significant number of engagements for the first half of 2023. The vast majority of these engagements have been longer-term programming and higher in the organization (executive teams). This has been incredibly fun and rewarding.

This has been exactly where I wanted my consulting practice to go. I wanted to get to a place where I was doing less one-off low-paying engagements and more deeper-level high-paying engagements. So, it has been fun to do more of what I love doing.

I am currently on pace to almost double revenues again, with keeping the percentage of costs per revenues relatively low.

Over the last few months, I feel the development marketplace has changed as there have been a number of continued clients tell me that they no longer have a budget for training and development, or I have had a number of high-potential clients that have told me that their budget has been slashed or pulled. I am interested to see how the economy behaves for the rest of the year and into the near future.

2023 and Beyond

My goal is to continue to do the work that I am currently doing, but moving into bigger organizations, higher up in those organizations, and deeper/more sustained development work.

I am currently working on what my next book will be about. I am leaning between two options:

  • Vertical development for leadership developers – The idea being that the people most interested in vertical development are leadership developers
  • Vertical development for executives – It might help position me for more of the opportunities that I want

If you have any feedback for me on these two options, let me know. Comment below or shoot me an email.

In all, I am always trying to figure out the best way to inform the world, business leaders, and leadership developers on a concept that I believe can be world-changing and world-elevating: vertical development.

Since you are reading this, I am so glad and honored that I have been a conduit of this concept for you.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Ryan, for sharing your story. Thinking about your two options for your next book:
    -I think the first option would reach a wider audience
    -I believe the second option is more targeted and could lead to more work, but you may be unintentionally leaving out many that would benefit from this work and your knowledge in this space

    To think about this another way, if I am in the Mind 3.0 space: which option contributes more value and impact to others? Which topic would better lift others?

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