In this episode of “In Systems We Trust”, we talk with Paul Higgins, founder of Paul Higgins Mentoring, about cloud consulting, its challenges and the steps to making it in this industry.
Paul Higgins is passionate about helping cloud business owners to scale to live a life with no limits. At age 18, he was diagnosed with a condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). He had an 18-year career at Coca-Cola before he decided to start his own business and focus on his health and family. He transferred his system thinking and experience to the cloud Industry.
In 2019 he gained a new kidney from my best mate Brendan and sold his cloud consulting business to a Google partner. Now he owns a virtual assistant agency, and he also helps cloud partners to scale to either exit like he did or have someone run it for them.
Entrepreneurship with no limits.
Paul has also been an entrepreneur at heart. During his years in Coca-Cola, Paul was certainly an intrapreneur who loved to take on challenges that everyone had deemed difficult and excel in them.
“Often a lot of my colleagues used to say, look slow down, you can just go at a pace like everyone else. I'm like, I'm just not wired that way,” Paul says.
When his PKD started to take a toll on his body, Paul knew he had to step back from the corporate world and change careers. It took him a couple of years of coaching executive leaders to realize that his true calling is guiding cloud business owners to scale and live a life with no limits.
Paul explains life with no limits as the ability to do whatever you want, and work comes second. “The flip side of corporate is you miss the anniversaries and birthdays. Sometimes you can control the agenda, often you can't control it. Whereas no limits to me meant that no, I could basically do whatever I wanted to and then work still fits around that.”
Paul knew early on, even before he ran his own business, that to lead a life of no limits, he needed to protect his own time. His contract with Coca-Cola stipulated providing him with an executive assistant to free Paul to work the side of the business he was hired to do. Later, while his own business was in its early beginnings and wasn’t generating enough cash flow, Paul still hired a virtual assistant to give him some wiggle room to work on the sales aspect of the business. Slowly but surely, Paul was able to hire, train and delegate to a team of talented individuals worldwide to keep the business going 24/7.
“I can go and play golf with my mates knowing that the wheels are still turning, and I've got a fantastic team supporting me.”
This, in short, is what living an entrepreneurial life without limits looks like in the eyes of Paul, and it is precisely what his services promise to cloud partners.
Cloud consulting and its challenges.
With the technological evolution shaping how organizations work and operate, cloud consulting services have become in demand more than ever. Cloud consulting provides services to organizations to design, implement and maintain cloud applications and processes. A cloud consultant is an expert in these systems and often partners with brand software to build systems for customers.
“So brands, let's use Asana as an example, they continue to improve the product, they do some marketing, but then they have partners that actually go and make sure that last mile with the customer or the consumer is delivered.”
Paul has built an ever-growing community of independent cloud consultants proficient in different software to share their experiences and knowledge. While he doesn’t have a technical or programming background, Paul draws from his experience in sales and marketing to guide cloud consultants to attract and retain qualified leads.
Like many entrepreneurial professions, cloud consulting comes with its own set of challenges. The most prominent one is getting quality leads in the door. This is a challenge that many entrepreneurs face in different industries, but it becomes even more difficult for purely technical individuals with no experience in sales. A quick fix Paul suggests is undergoing sales training and workshops to strengthen this weakness in the consultant’s skill set. Another piece of advice Paul shares from experience is investing time and effort into expanding one’s own network.
“I'm constantly adding to my network. So that worked in my favour because someone knew the person that was doing all of the work for some of the biggest names in the world, including, Tony Robbins and Jay Abraham. And they introduced me to them because they'd heard my story, they knew that I was just about to go on dialysis and this person said, look I'll share with you my secrets. Now, they didn't have to do that. But they did. And that sort of changed my world. And that was all about how to gain clients out of LinkedIn. And I think we gained more clients through this process than our monthly ads.”
The 9-step roadmap to a life with no limits.
Drawing from his 18-year experience at Coca-Cola and 11 years in consultancy, Paul offers a 9-step roadmap that promises to improve cloud consultants’ processes within 12 months. This roadmap is divided into three phases and each phase includes three elements.
The three key pillars are:
- Say no.
- Be sought.
- Let go.
Paul takes us briefly through each pillar and its elements, demonstrating how each builds on the next to allow for business growth.
The three elements of saying no.
The first element to saying no is visualizing the end in mind. Ask yourself what’s your ambition, purpose, and what is it that you’re trying to build.
When Paul first left the corporate world, he envisioned his purpose to create the next billion-dollar unicorn. However, after much reflection and discussions with his mentor, he realized that all he really wanted was to spend more time with his family. If he were to take that route of tech entrepreneurship, he would have to sacrifice quality time with his family. Paul realizes that many people would willingly make such sacrifices, but that journey was not for him. This was the first step for him to build his own company that allowed him to fulfill his purpose and gain the freedom he sought after.
The second element is adopting a smart business model that generates greater revenue with less effort.
“I see a lot of people working so hard, but they're not always working smarter. As an example, I see a lot of agencies that go from project to project.” Paul emphasizes the importance of creating services and products that stays with the customers from “cradle to grave”. This includes building sustainable business models that keep customers like membership models or recurring revenue models. You can achieve this step by looking at the clients you already have or former clients and thinking of ways to retain them with new services or tweaked prices.
The final element in this stage is accountability. It gets lonely running your own business, and it's very easy to fall into your safety patterns. It helps to have a partner or a mentor to remind you of your end goal and keep you accountable for every decision you make. Building a business means taking risks and spending more effort learning new things. Therefore, complacency has no place in the life of a successful entrepreneur and you need to constantly remember that.
The three elements of being sought.
Once you’ve built the foundation of your business by adopting a purpose and business model, you can then move to build your niche and network.
The first element of the second pillar is creating the ideal client profile.
“Who do you really want to be in front of? I won't go into a lot of detail but to me, I really believe in super niching. For me, I chose cloud consultants. I could have picked any type of consultant in the world, right? But I'm very specific on whom I support. So when you come to my website, when you hear what I'm doing, you know that it's, specifically for you.”
Once you’ve established your customer persona, it’s time to build your authority. This simply means showing the world where your expertise lies and what you’re capable of. It could be through writing blog posts on your area of expertise or starting a podcast to help potential clients find and trust you.
“LinkedIn is still a fantastic way to get people to see you. I can write a post for 15 minutes and get 50,000 views. So you know, 15 minutes working the algorithm, you can get a lot of eyeballs to that. There are so many ways to create that authority, so people know about you, and it's better to be known and you better be a big fish in a small pond, then I think the other way around.”
Lastly, you need to nurture those leads who are attracted to your authority through a sales funnel. This process is all about making people like you and trust your judgement. You cannot simply spam people on LinkedIn and solicit them as clients. You need to nurture them through valuable content and offerings before they decide to establish contact with you.
“So for me at the moment, we have the cloud consultants community, which is a free community at the front, where I'm building my audience, and then from there, some people might choose to work with me. You need to develop a sales funnel, it doesn't have to be complex, but a sales funnel that actually converts.”
The three elements of letting go.
As you build up momentum with your content, network and your sales funnel, you will find yourself overwhelmed by work. The last pillar is about letting go of some of your tasks and responsibilities and delegating them to the right individuals.
The first step to letting go, quite naturally, is recruitment. You need to ask what tasks you want to hand over completely and whom you need to hire. It might appear simple, but recruiting individuals who are not only qualified for the role but are also a right fit for your company culture is an art in itself.
The second step is training. Paul emphasizes that “delegation is not abdication,” therefore, you need to be responsible for providing the right training to whoever is taking over your tasks. If an employee is performing below the line, ask yourself, have you trained them, are there SOPs in place, and is the current system supporting them? Taking accountability is essential in cultivating a healthy work environment where everyone is given the support they need to thrive at what they do. When your team wins, you win.
The final step to letting go is motivation. Being a business owner is more than managing employees and signing paychecks. It’s about building the confidence in every individual working for you and giving them the drive to excel.
Paul says it best, “What are you doing to make sure them working for you is the absolute best choice that they've got.”
Talking with Paul was a great learning experience, and we couldn’t help but take notes. If you want to learn more about cloud consultancy and Paul’s roadmap to success, make sure to listen to the full episode of “In Systems We Trust”, now live on all podcast platforms.