Many business professionals reach a point in their careers when it makes sense to strike out on their own as consultants in their field of expertise. The notion of choosing the projects you work on, living by your own schedule, and spending your time doing exactly what you love is understandably compelling.

Starting down this career path involves defining and delivering your own proprietary frameworks, methodologies, and expertise. It may manifest via a book you write, professional speaking, working directly with clients, or (most likely) a combination of these. This can be a lucrative way to monetize your intellectual property and thought leadership, but since there's only one you to deliver your message, it's not very scalable as a business strategy, and you may eventually burn out from travel exhaustion.  Before your workload and your schedule begin to wear you out, start thinking about what it will look like to bring others on board to share your ideas.

Treat Your Brand Like a Franchise

Building a strong brand around your idea is key to help increase revenue: Once you do so, you can consider a train-the-trainer model to more or less franchise your speaking and consulting business.

Bestselling authors like Marcus Buckingham (StrengthsFinder), Melissa Hartwig (The Whole 30), and Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul and Success Principles) use a train-the-trainer model to license their content to certify other qualified trainers in delivering their ideas. In most cases, this model works like a franchise system with the franchisee piggybacking on a successful brand and covering an assigned region.

This approach can be used online and offline. The online scenario is more common in direct-to-consumer programs, and your trainer (licensee) is often called a coach who provides a deeper level of guidance and support. Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Coaching (based on his Rich Dad, Poor Dad series) is an example of this.

The offline version involves trainers or facilitators who deliver your content in person, usually to a corporate audience in the form of onsite workshops with some phone or email follow-up afterward.

Choose a Financial Model That Works For You

In most cases, the train-the-trainer model involves a revenue share between the licensor and licensee, and the licensee must follow established guidelines around the content delivery.  In other cases, the trainee is simply becoming certified in the trainer's system and is granted permission to use the brand but has to develop their own business opportunities from there. In the latter scenario, expect a trainee to pay a one-time fee to become certified (and possibly an annual certification renewal fee) but little to no revenue share from the business they develop since they don't enjoy the benefit of exclusive assigned territories or markets.

In both models, the rights to the intellectual property itself should remain with you, the licensor. Your licensees are simply authorized to deliver your content and leverage your brand. A strong non-compete and confidentiality agreement to protect your content and brand should be a part of your plan to roll out any coaching or training program involving outside representatives.

As with building any new business, beginning with a strategic brand vision will help to guide your growth. There's a lot of effort required in laying the groundwork early and hustling new business, but in time, the payoff of being able to scale will yield big returns.

Published on: Jul 12, 2018