The Pavilion Podcast: The Framework for a Successful Consulting Business w/ MJ Patent
Tom: Thank God, it's Monday. Welcome back to the Pavilion podcast where we break down the tips, the tricks, the tactics that you need to be successful as a revenue professional. I'm your host Tom Alamo. This is episode 149. Excited to get into everything with you folks. I've got a great episode today with MJ Patent. MJ is the co-founder and CEO of Alveo and she runs the consulting slack channel for Pavilion. Right? So that means there's a channel where everyone talks about consulting, some people do it full time. Some people do it on the side, Some people maybe are in between trying to do it. And she essentially runs all those conversations, helps to answer questions, and connects people in the right positions. And so she's an expert in this space. So if you are considering launching a consulting business, if you are in that mode right now and you're trying to figure out, you know, specific questions around how do you price it? How do you grow your business? When do you start hiring employees? We cover all of these different types of questions and even when it's the right time to take the full plunge and go full time if that's right for you.
So MJ is a wealth of knowledge. I love talking to her. We're going to get to her conversation one minute after we give a quick shout-out to our sponsor. This episode is brought to you by Sendoso. Sendoso, the leading sending platform, is the most effective way for revenue-generating teams to stand out with new ways to engage at strategic points throughout the customer journey by connecting digital physical strategies. Companies can engage, acquire and retain customers easier than ever before. Now let's get straight into our episode. All right. The second most famous MJ that I know behind Michael Jordan, MJ Patent, Welcome to the Pavilion podcast. How are you?
MJ: Good. Thank you for having me. Yeah, excited to uh, to get into a bunch of different topics.
Tom: One thing...that I want to kick off with, I was just doing some LinkedIn research last night and saw your code of conduct Rule # one don't be an a-hole, and had to bring that up because I got a chuckle out of that.
MJ: Yeah, I think in work environments sometimes you do end up running into those types of individuals and it doesn't breed a very good culture in the organization and I am a strong component that you should treat everyone nicely. You never know when you're going to run into that individual 20 years from now. So really make sure that you treat them with respect. So that way they remember you as a great person instead of an a-hole. I live by that.
Tom: Yeah, that's a good rule to live by. I feel like if you do that, you're already like 80% of the way there to a happy and successful life. Right? So one thing I wanted to get into with you on is I know that you're the head of the consulting channel at Pavilion as well as newly head of the phoenix chapter as well. So congrats on on both of those and Pavilion kind of sucking you into the community but I'd love to just wrap with you a little bit about consulting. I see this is just maybe it's always been a big topic but it feels like it's growing because of Covid remote work. People have more flexibility. I think people are strongly considering: Should I do more consulting on the side and or should I leave my full-time job as a VP of sales or marketing and you know do consulting and maybe have some more flexibility that way. So I'm curious to learn about your journey. Like did you start kind of like dip your toe in, did you go all-in at a certain point? How did it start for you?
MJ: Yeah, so I always wanted to go into consulting from you know when I started out in my career but I took the more traditional route and I started in the IT Channel. I worked at a service provider and I ran marketing there and then went into the value-added reseller space and then most recently I was in an IT Distributor and every single time I came into an organization it was usually because they were trying to build something and I was considered I guess a change maker because of that, I would have to work with different parties try to create a vision and then execute on that. And that's the thing that I love about consulting, I love going into an organization and I love solving a problem and building it up and then honestly afterward I end up getting bored and I've had this conversation with my last executive where I told her straight up listen if I'm not working on projects where I'm building something I'm going to leave, this doesn't bring passion to me and I want to be working on passionate projects. So she was doing her job of always assigning me to things where I got to have that hands-on experience.
So when it came to consulting several years ago this was, I would say, four years ago, I was working for a company and I was miserable, the culture wasn't the right fit. And every day I was coming home and I was telling my husband, man, I really just want to leave, I can't do this anymore, it doesn't fit with my values, you know with my principles, and one day I ended up finally leaving and I decided you know this is the best opportunity for me to go into consulting and if I'm going to do it, this is it.
So I ended up you know reaching out to my network, having conversations and I was introduced to a leader at Tech Data and they were looking for help with their internal and external communication strategy and they just went through an M&A, they acquired a portion of Avnet Technology Solutions and I came in to figure out how to unify eight different service organizations under a single mission and brand and that project we had to take the new service organization to market within nine months. It had all new messaging, all new positioning, a different story, new website, content, etcetera. It was intense but I loved every moment of it.
Even you know, working 100 hours a week was great because we were building something and it was super exciting, exciting and they actually asked me to stay on board and run their global marketing, which I did because I love the organization I was working with but that that's when I really started to do consulting and like I said, I enjoyed every moment. I knew this was the right path for me because of the type of individual I am.
But you know, I ran into hurdles early on in my career when I was talking to other consultants about going down this path, there was one individual in particular that came to mind when I said yes I want to go and become a consultant. He said well you have a problem because one year a woman and two you're too attractive. So yeah, who says that right? So now that I owned my own consulting firm, I'd love to write to him and be like, well, guess what?
Tom: I'm surprised you haven't yet.
MJ: Yeah, well it's the whole don't be in a-hole kind of thing, you know? I don't think it's good to put it out there. But yeah, that that was one of the biggest motivators for me was to prove that person wrong that I could actually do it and I could be successful doing it. And now I've gone from being a solo consultant to actually building a consulting firm. So I have a partner, we have a very specific go-to-market strategy, going after service providers and companies in the IT channel and really harnessing the experience that we have in that space.
Tom: So what led to the decision of you wanting to grow the firm rather than you just running your own business by yourself?
MJ: Yeah, I think for me it was really about creating more value for our clients. So my background is all in marketing. But over the years, what I've realized is that there's a huge gap between these organizations between marketing, sales as well as the product side and their silos in the organizations. And those silos are the things that are actually holding back a lot of companies from consistent revenue growth. So me just fixing a portion of the problem isn't really fixing the revenue problem in an organization. We have to attack it from multiple angles. And so my partner for example, his entire background is in product management and we come to the table looking at an organization holistically and how can we impact both revenue functions in order to get them back on track and then hit that sustainable and scalable growth. Like I said, I don't think you can do that if you're just fixing marketing or you're just fixing sales, there's a bigger problem there.
Tom: So when you're working on the consulting channel within Pavilion, I'm sure there's a lot of folks that are early in their process either have never consulted before or they're in their first gigs and probably have a ton of questions. What are some of like the common mistakes or hurdles that you see people come when they're early on in the process?
MJ: Yeah, I think a lot of people think that they need everything in order to get started. I need to build out a very expensive website. I need to hire a lawyer. I need to get an accountant. You know, a lot of upfront costs, and the thing is you really don't have to do all of those things. For example, you could set up a landing page and leverage that in order to just explain what your services are and what value you're creating for your customers. You can leverage your LinkedIn and promote yourself that way. You don't need to spend 5, 10 grand with a web developer in order to stand up your business, there's a lot of discussion around, should I get an LLC right from the beginning or should I go as a 10 99? You can actually do a lot of work as a 1099 until you build up your business enough to then turn into an LLC. There's different schools of thought on that and we end up getting a lot of debate around what do you really need to get started? And it's really, you just need an opportunity. You need one client to get started.
Tom: Yeah. And how do you, how do folks generally find that client are people doing a lot of, is it a lot of promotion, you know, for themselves on LinkedIn and other places, is that you just know someone and you keep getting referred down the line, like what's what's usually the process look like.
MJ: Sure, usually it happens from your own network. I was actually just talking to someone earlier this week and they had questions because they were getting picked by their coworkers or their professional network, asking about different things that they should do from a sales organization standpoint. And so they started out just helping, but now it's getting so so busy that they're starting to build out a consulting practice instead. And it just happened from referrals and usually that's what ends up happening as a services. And if you think about a consultant, it's a services organization that you have, even if you're a solo entrepreneur, you end up building from your own network and the people that, you know, and having conversations and asking, hey, what are you dealing with and how can I solve that problem?
Tom: Right. Do you find that folks often have any form of like imposter syndrome when they first start big time.
MJ: Usually, it's around how much should I charge? And well, so when I first started, I was nervous about asking for my rate because I didn't know if someone was actually going to pay me that amount and there are different ways you can price if it's hourly or project or whatnot. But I mean even today I have this debate with my partner, are we charging enough or are we charging too much? Is someone going to actually see value in this? And there's a lot of this impostor syndrome because you just don't know until you get out there and I think if you do your research and you know what the market value is and you know, your experience, I think that's enough data behind you in order to position yourself, you know at that price range. One of the great things about our community is that we have bi-weekly calls and you can tap into other people in that community and ask them is my pricing too high? what are you guys pricing for these type of services? and people will give you that type of information. So that way you feel more confident or you can talk through these issues.
There's the whole debate of should I be charging hourly or on a monthly schedule or on a per project basis? We still have this debate and some people do a mix of all of them. But I mean that's one of the great things about Pavilion and that community is the fact that you have people that you can actually tap into and you don't have to pretend like you know everything because most of us are just trying to figure it out every day.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I'm curious if you could tell me a little bit about, I know you just released and have been talking about the go-to-market maturity model. So I'd love for you to educate me on that a little bit.
MJ: Sure. So one of the things that Alveo, my consulting firm, we ended up building a Services Go-To-Market Maturity Model because what we realize is that in a services organization, unlike in traditional product or hardware organizations, there is no product management equivalent. Usually, you have delivery, then you have sales and marketing and delivery is in the middle of actually delivering the services right. But then they are given the pressure of the same responsibilities as someone who would actually be in the product marketing or product management function in a traditional organization. And that's not fair. That's like you telling your own product, hey, you need to also manage yourself, right? That doesn't make sense. But because that happens in a services organization, there are specific inputs that are not being gathered and then fed into your revenue organization. So what we ended up doing is building out this maturity model that an organization goes through. So that way companies can identify where are they and then what needs to happen for them to mature both their service management functionality, their marketing, and sales. So they go and mature in lock step and therefore reach sustainable and scalable revenue growth.
Tom: I love that. And where were you you were just on the webinar talking about that.
MJ: Yeah. So I ended up having a webinar where I spoke to the four reasons why service revenue ends up being inconsistent and then how to fix it.
Tom: Was it just a solo or were you like on a on a back and forth with someone else?
MJ: It's a solo webinar and we ended up creating it because a lot of these issues, these are issues that service organizations end up running into because they're missing that function area of a service management function in their organization. Do you want to know what the four reasons are?
Tom: I would love to know the four reasons.
MJ: So reason one ends up being too many go-to-market strategoes, I think this is something that's common across the board and a lot of organizations where you know, they go after the healthcare market as well as public sector, after SMB solutions as well as enterprise. All of those are different go to markets and they end up stretching out their teams because they're not focused right? So we find this is one of the issues that a lot of these organizations run into. They're just lacking that focus
Number two. Having their portfolio go stale. Like I said, because there's no one who's actually managing the services organization and looking at well what are the expectations of our customers? How has that changed? What should our roadmap for our services look like? How should we be bundling our services etc. You end up having a portfolio that may be made sense 20 years ago, but today things are very different and people are consuming those services very differently. And now in order to make up for that gap they have to put a significant amount of resources and money into that to fix it.
Reason three ends up being ineffective enablement because we're missing that function. Not understanding clearly why do you win, why do you lose being able to clearly define the ideal customer instead of going after every single deal and spending tons of time on writing S. O. W. S. That this is where the team isn't receiving the type of input for them to be effective and it's not just sales not having the right enablement. It's also marketing not having the right enablement.
And lastly it's about internal misalignment. Time and time again. We see even small organizations where they're less than 20 people where they're not speaking to each other, they don't really understand the services that they're selling. They don't agree on the value that they're creating. They don't speak to IT. And HR. And finance for future planning. So that way they have those investments tabled for later on. So it's that misalignment that's really causing them to not be able to execute on the strategy that even if they're focused they're unable to execute.
Tom: I love it. You nailed it. I can tell that you recently did a webinar on this. You know, your facts stone cold. I want to ask you for a minute about recently taking on the head of the Phoenix Chapter as well. So shout out to Phoenix down there first. When did that happen in second, what's it been like one of your biggest takeaways from that additional responsibility and probably starting to meet a lot more people in Pavilion in the area.
MJ: Yeah. So I have been in the role for two weeks.
Tom: All right, We're fresh. So it's exciting.
MJ: I'm stoked to help grow that chapter Phoenix overall has been booming. I moved here from Chicago actually eight years ago and I haven't looked back, I'm so excited to be in the Valley of the Sun, but overall our population has skyrocketed and we've had a lot of people move in from the midwest as well as from California and a lot of professionals have moved into the area, Phoenix overall has been known more for industrial type of work. And so eight years ago having a set of professionals in marketing and sales, it was actually hard to find local talent and I think that has changed significantly as more tech companies have actually moved into the valley, which is super exciting.
So the idea of having Pavilion now have a stronger presence in the Valley, giving this outlet for revenue executives to make connections, build their own network and have really a support system. I think it's fantastic. So I'm excited about that journey and really, you know, putting some structure behind it, more communication, more events and more opportunities in front of those leaders.
Tom: I love it. Yeah, Phoenix, Scottsdale, that whole area, I feel like has really blown up the last few years and is one of like the up and coming cities, I'm personally a fan of some dry heat. So, uh, that's appealing to me as well. Um, but I was, I didn't, I thought that I saw Chicago Blackhawks on your mug or your bottle there. So I wasn't sure if I was missing that or not, but the Chicago makes sense.
MJ: Yeah, that's accurate. I have a lot of Hawks materials and you know, I have a flag at home, I love it.
Tom: I want to get a few more questions in with you before we take off. Number one opposite Pavilion, great source of networking, building relationships. I'm curious what's your Number one tip or your philosophy when it comes to networking, business relationships, things like that.
MJ: I think you really get what you put into it at the end of the day. If you know, Pavilion is fantastic in order to build your network. When I first joined and I joined almost a year ago and I found the first month, I wasn't really sure about where I should be connecting, how should I participate. But once I really found the areas that I was very passionate about and adding value and you know, reaching out to people and just having a conversation and getting to know them, things just blew up. And I've become, like you said, I've been sucked into Pavilion big time, but it's, it's because of the people I have had the pleasure to meet during this. A lot of my close friends now are actually Pavilion members that I've met because of networking and just having a 15-minute conversation and having some coffee and asking what are you dealing with and you know, just introducing myself.
I think it's been a really great experience and I think for anyone who is considering joining or is a member of the Pavilion. I think you really need to be looking at this as an opportunity to get to meet people from all over the world and not be an a-hole, you know, just build connections, right? Yeah, absolutely. It's a yeah, it's just an amazing opportunity to meet these like minded people and it's so easy right at, you know, the click of a mouse or whatever, you know, just in the slack channel or some of the events, it's just been, it's so much easier now than it was, you know, years ago, right? We had to go to Dream force or some major conference to connect with people. Yeah. And um it's like adult dating, you know, um well, I guess professional dating, um I remember just going to some industry events and you know, walking up to someone at a table and be like, hey, what did you think about that? Such a, you know, it's super awkward and I'm not that kind of person, so, but I do enjoy this and you know, everyone is just so nice.
I think that's the biggest takeaway from me is no one has an ego about them. They are willing to help, they're willing to jump on a call and you know, time is so expensive, right? It's such a valuable thing and I have not run into situations where people said no, I don't have time for you and I think that's amazing.
Tom: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I'm curious were big learners on this podcast, curious any books that have, you know, greatly impacted your career, your life, if that's too big of a question, you know, something that you've read recently, that you've liked anything like that.
MJ: I do have a book that I absolutely adore and I tell everyone, well I have two books, so I'll tell you 1, but I'm curious how is it okay to swear? And so the first book I would say was extremely important to me on a personal and professional route and it's the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.
Tom: I had a feeling that was what was going to be.
MJ: Yeah, and I just, I adore that book for me, you know, several years ago, I ended up being, I guess a workaholic some people would term it as that. And that book really helped me put things into perspective of, you know, focusing on the things that really matter to me and there are aligned to my values and I love that because now, you know, I'm married, I've been married for almost a decade now. I have a two-year-old and I put them, I always put them first and I would say that maybe five years ago, that wasn't the case. Um, so I, I personally loved that book because it helps kind of you know, changed my attitude around things and why I was going after the things I was going after and maybe the reasons that were motivating me previously weren't the healthiest motivations compared to today, you know, so I, I personally love that book.
The other one would be the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and that book specifically I love and I would end up purchasing those books for anyone who would report to me. It's because I think they are fundamental in order to breed a strong culture in an organization. And even if you have a few individuals on your team or you have a team of you know, 50, I think things come out and drama happens and it's all because of communication. It's because people are trying to save face. There's the, you know, the corporate politics and whatnot. And I think these five dysfunctions really break that down. And if you go through the exercises, you can actually breed a really great organization where people can feel like they can be vulnerable in the organization where they can work towards healthy debate and become more innovative. And I suggested for any leader. But I also suggested for your teams as well.
Tom: I love it is that, I could be mistaken, but is that Patrick M. Lencioni, wrote that book or then by making that up. Okay, awesome. Those are two great book recommendations. My last question for you who in the Pavilion community should come on this podcast that you know that you're connected with, that you enjoy talking to, learn from someone like that.
MJ: There's so many people that have open to. Oh jeez um well now you're gonna put me on the spot and if I don't say someone's name, I'm going to feel bad. So I would say my friend Nisha, so I met Nisha actually through the consulting channel and she has been absolutely amazing for multiple reasons and I'm going to completely butcher her last name, Parikh. The reason why I would suggest her is because as a consultant and also someone who's building up their business and also as a woman in the tech space, you know, there's not a lot of representation. And so me personally, sometimes, you know, I run into days where you know, there's a lot of self-doubts. I'm not sure if we're doing the right thing. Should I just go back to corporate whatnot? And she has always been there in order to boost me up and say MJ you're on the right path, Keep going, you're kick ass and just being a cheerleader and she herself has done some really amazing things and she just blows me away every day. So the fact that she could do so much and then at the same time be you know, that sounding board and such a great person for support, that's who I would recommend.
Tom: I love it. No disrespect to anyone else that MJ didn't mention correct.
MJ: Correct. I would have named everyone.
Tom: I love it. Uh MJ appreciate you coming on, being generous with your time and your wisdom, if folks want to connect with you to learn more or just to chat, what's the best way to do so?
MJ: Well, I would say LinkedIn is probably number one. So MJ Patent like the office or just hitting me up on slack or even email. I'm very available. I always love talking to people so there you go.
Tom: I love it. MJ thanks so much for coming on.
MJ: Thank you.
Tom: All right, thanks for checking out that episode. All podcasts in October are going to be brought to you by the lovely people at Sendoso. So they deliver modern direct mail, personalized gifts, and other physical impressions that make your outreach more personal. I'll be back next Monday with another episode. Until then feel free to hit me up on Linkedin. My name is Tom Alaimo and go out and get after it peace.