Graham (who’s blog makes Lindsay Lohan look like Jabba the Hutt) and I were skying the other day about what it would take to build a successful start-up services consulting practice, aka SSSCP (everything needs an acronym, ENAA).

Now, for a while, I’ve had this idea on how to recycle all the ex-Microsoft staff that retire, quit, go AWOL or MIA, or just plain stop turning up to work (and no I don’t have firm statistics). The plan was to have a company called X-MS, where you can find people who have cool-aid coursing through their veins, are well connected into product teams and marketing channels from Redmond to Reikorangi, and also plugged into their local technical hub (partners and customers). But this is really another post all together.

OK, so where did we get to? A couple of thoughts:

1. Buddy up! This is really about selecting the people you are going to go into business with. Don’t go it alone, because everything is sweeter shared; both success and failure. Also make sure you get people who can find, mind, and grind. Now, those who know me, and have heard me spout on consulting know I swear by the F-M-G model of practice management. Also make sure you go in with business partners who can go coast to coast on an opportunity solo, or can work in parallel when in a team configuration. This way, while you struggle through the “wash your face” years, everyone can feed their families, while slowly growing the shine on your brand. This is key because in the first years, each partner needs to operate tactically alone, but strategically together.

2. Inch wide, mile deep! Don’t try to do 100 things 1% well, because you’ll never get out of the pre-sales cycle into the “I did work now pay me” cycle. So grab two or three things that you will own, build comprehensive end-to-end GTM strategies around these, understand your engagement cycle back to front, then go out and bill, bill, bill.

3. Stop, collaborate and listen! Vanilla Ice knew the deal, and probably ran an SSSCP before being a washed out rapper. Essentially, make sure you and your partners sit down on a regular basis and recount your experiences, identify your good, bad, and ugly experiences, and ensure all lessons learnt are shared.

4. Brand layering! I’m a huge fan of what I call brand layering. This is something I’ve always believed in, and especially for small organisations (but just as valuable for big) where it’s harder to differentiate yourself in the open market. But brand layering isn’t about affiliation; it’s about creating a compound brand and image from two distinct yet complimentary brands. What you’re trying to do is build a sense of uniqueness and exclusivity by partnering with another organisation, and going to market around a joint offering that exploits and leverages the best of both your businesses. For example, Adidas makes good shoes; nothing earth shattering, but they have a great pedigree and history. Missy Elliot makes unreal music; totally innovative, engaging and pretty much cutting edge. So what do you think when you see these? For me, it means Adidas is on the money, they see value in someone I see value in, so therefore, I want to be associated with them (not that I’m going to roll out in my latest Adidas Women’s Missy Basslines!) So if you are going to market around a database technology and you want to win mindshare with Business Intelligence folks, find a firm that is the best in BI who has no database GTM, and create a love-brand. Trust me, it has a multiplication effect.

Anyhoo, I’m off to bed now. Good night all :)