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Join us in welcoming Chris Knudsen to the Conquer Local Podcast. As a published author, university instructor, inventor, and consultant, Chris brings a wealth of experience, currently serving as an independent fractional CMO and CEO at StoicYeti, an advertising agency with a direct-to-consumer focus.
With a successful tenure as the former CMO of Purple Mattress and experience in founding and selling businesses, including 3DplusMe, a venture-funded consumer 3D printing and scanning company, Chris is also the author of the book “Trust Me, I’m a Consultant.“
His primary consulting focus is to help businesses and ideas thrive in an ever-evolving technological landscape. Tune in to learn from Chris’s remarkable journey and gain insights into his experiences that have influenced the worlds of business and technology!
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Boosting Consultancy Success: Strategies for Navigating Today’s Business Dynamics
Jeff Tomlin: Welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast! Our show features successful sales leaders, marketers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs who will inspire you with their success stories. Each episode is packed with practical strategies, as our guests share their secrets to achieving their dreams. Don’t forget to check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel for the video version of each episode, where you can see our guests in action. Tune in to learn the highlights of their remarkable accomplishments and get tips to revamp, rework, and reimagine your business. Whether you’re a small business owner, marketer, or aspiring entrepreneur, the Conquer Local Podcast is your ultimate guide to dominating your local market. Tune in now to take your business to the next level!
I’m Jeff Tomlin and on this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Chris Knudsen. Chris is a published author, university instructor, inventor, and renowned consultant. He currently works as an independent fractional CMO and is CEO at StoicYeti, an advertising agency focused on helping direct-to-consumer companies. As the former CMO of Purple Mattress, he has started and sold several companies, including 3DplusMe, a venture-funded consumer 3D printing and scanning company. He is the author of the book, Trust me I’m a consultant. And as a consultant, Chris’ main focus is to help businesses and ideas flourish alongside technological advancements.
Get ready Conquerors for Chris Knudsen coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast.
Chris Knudsen Discusses Transitioning from Employment to Consulting in his Book.
Jeff Tomlin: Hey, the book is called “Trust Me, I’m a Consultant.” Chris Knudsen, welcome to the Conquer Local podcast. How are you doing today?
Chris Knudsen: Great, Jeff, thanks for having me on the show, appreciate it.
Jeff Tomlin: Hey, well, it’s awesome to have you here. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. You talk about the transition from employment to entrepreneurship and so talk a little bit about first what inspired you to write the book and what people can sort of expect from the topics you cover.
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’d say about 13 years ago, I was a chief marketing officer at a large agency and I’d had, well, I guess I should say I was seeing the rise of outsourced chief financial officers and a lot of them were working independently, and I thought okay, if small businesses have a need for outsourced CFOs, they have a need for an outsourced CMO, right? So I decided that I was going to jump into consulting and work with small businesses who needed very professional CMO type of help but really couldn’t afford a full-time CMO, right? So there was a quarter time, maybe halftime depending on the company that I would go do that with and I just jumped into it both feet first. No real plan, I’m just gonna go for it, and I was kind of tired of being employed at that point. I was like I don’t want a real job anymore. So it wasn’t a great way to do it frankly and as the last 13 years have gone on, I remember thinking back in 2010, I’m like okay, well, if I can’t make this work in six months, then I’m gonna go get a real job again. And somehow I made it work, right? And so I wanted to write a book about all of the experiences that I’ve had in consulting and how it’s applicable to someone who’s looking to get into that type of work, but I wanted to write a book that was different than, I’m gonna call it your basic, everyday type of entrepreneurship book, right? Most of those books are geared towards okay, you’re gonna go, you’re gonna build a product. You’re gonna raise money. You’re gonna go start a company and hire employees and do all that type of stuff, and there really is a step in the middle there that I think that’s really a smart way to jumping into entrepreneurship and that’s I’m gonna go out and be a one-person consultant, and that’s how I’m gonna go start this. And there’s also a lot of people who are like look, I don’t wanna raise money. I don’t wanna have employees. I just wanna go and make good money and maybe I’m an accountant that wants to be just a CPA on my own or I’m a computer programmer, I’m an engineer, I’m a, whatever it is, right? Somebody with those technical types of skills. The book is really a how-to guide on how to go do that rather than go and be like okay, I’m gonna start the big company, and build a product, and raise capital, and do all those types of things. So I wanted to talk to that group of people about hey, here’s how you just go do this on your own.
Author Chris Knudsen Discusses Personal Inspiration, 80-20 Rule, and Entrepreneurship
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, so this topic is near and dear to my heart because I’ll give you a quick story and background. When I got out of school, I always thought someday I wanted to build a company. I wanted to work for myself, and that came from sort of a personal experience watching my dad. And I know my dad had a number of jobs. He was in the Canadian Armed Forces for a long time. He had 25 years in. Did a number of things after that and I could tell he always wanted to work for himself, but he didn’t take that step until a little later in life. And I remember very vividly, I’ve never seen my dad so happy as when he took that first step and then started working for himself as an accountant and had a bookkeeping business. And watching him inspired me later in life to do a similar thing. And so the whole topic, it’s really personal to me because I drew inspiration from my dad and I watched him sort of go through the process of stepping out.
Chris Knudsen: Right, yeah, that’s awesome and that’s who the book’s written for, people like your dad, right? Where it’s like if you’re sitting there wondering, I’ve noticed this a lot, just I’ve had a lot of clients over the last 13 years and it’s really funny. I’d say in about half the companies I’m working with, there’s some point where someone will pull me aside and say, “Hey, so how did you do this?” right? And they clearly are trying to figure out how to do it on their own, right? And so it’s very much a book written to those individuals who are like okay, I just wanna get out of the rat race and I just wanna be a consultant, and I’m gonna go find myself four or five clients. I’m really interested in making anywhere between depending on what the job is, right? I mean, in technical fields right now, US dollars, 20 to $40,000 a month in type of consulting rates, right? It’s like how do you get to that place? So the book is, it is a how-to guide. It’s not a 30,000-foot, oh, hey, this is really cool, you should go try it out, right? Which is kind of a problem with a lot of business books. They don’t really give you a good roadmap and they’re not revealing what I’ll call the secret sauce to going and doing things. I didn’t wanna write that book. I wanted to write the book that was like here’s the detailed approach about how you go and do this and not fail, and make sure that you’re safe and that you’re gonna get over this, I call it the “Indiana Jones” bridge from the third “Indiana Jones” movie where they have the invisible bridge, right? I talked about the “Indiana Jones” invisible bridge. It’s like okay, the bridge is there. You just don’t know it’s there. You got to kind of step out on it and take a little bit of a leap of faith, and here’s a really smart way of doing that. So it’s a very methodical plan about how to get you to that spot and I thought it was really interesting what you said about your dad. It sounded like once he figured out how to get there, he didn’t have my book to go be a guide but he did it, right? He went and he did it. A lot of people do, but it sounded like he was happier, he was a happier individual when he got to that spot where he was like okay, I’m my own person now. I’m doing my own thing.
Identify as a 20% performer for successful self-employment.
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, it’s exactly what happened. And one of the things I wanted to ask you about, in the book, you indicate that when people are employed and their performance as they’re employed can provide some markers of how they might perform being out on their own, and maybe you can talk about that a little bit.
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s very much around the concept of the 80-20 rule which is not a rule that I invented. It’s a rule that I borrow off from in the book which is 20% of your employees are gonna be your rock stars and 80% are not gonna be your rock stars, and this is kind of a general rule that I’ve seen very much in, I’ve consulted with hundreds of companies over the years and it’s a general rule that seems to stick pretty well. And so I have this theory, this opinion of what I’ve seen which is if you’re a 20 percenter, you’re gonna do really well on your own because you’re generally a self-starter. You don’t have to be told what to do. You don’t really need a boss. You’re really good at your trade, whatever that technical skill is, and you’re generally gonna go out and you’re just gonna get it done. You’re gonna figure it out, right? The 80% group is a different story where they do need a boss. Generally, they’re unmotivated, and they maybe hate their job. They maybe hate their manager. They maybe hate themselves. I mean, there’s all those things that come into play, right? Where the 80 percenter has to, and I take them through a kind of, I’ll call it a detailed process in the book where it’s hey, you need to discover are you that 20 or are you the 80%? If you’re an 80 percenter, the good news is you can change and become a 20 percenter. And my opinion is that those 80 percenters should stay where they are or get another job, and reset in a new job, and learn what it takes to become a 20 percenter, and I outline that very much in detail in the book. It’s like if you’re gonna be a 20% star in your company, this is what’s required of you. This is what you have to go do. Because when you find yourself in that spot, you’re going to set yourself up very, very well for self-employment. When you don’t have somebody sitting there staring over your shoulder and asking you what you’re doing all day, you’re in a place where you’re gonna do really well on your own. And so I encourage everybody to be a 20 percenter, right? It’s just the right thing to be anyway, but again, if you wanna go out and you wanna be on your own, those skills that you have as a 20 percenter, especially to those of you that are natural 20 percenters, you’re gonna do extremely well on your own in self-employment.
Vision Leads and Management Executes for Business Success and Independence.
Jeff Tomlin: Another thing that you talk about that I think is interesting too is the importance about the distinction between leadership and management because understanding that distinction has a lot of implications for things down the road like your ability to attract and retain clients over time and things. Maybe talk a little bit about how you think about that distinction and why it’s important for people that are striking out on their own.
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, leadership is really about conveying it properly and I would say effectively conveying a vision for where you wanna go. And in your own work, in your own self-employment, you have to sit down and say, “Well, what’s the vision of what I’m really trying to build here? Where am I really trying to go?” This is a mistake that I made coming into it where I hadn’t really defined what that was and frequently what you’ll find is it’s like okay, let’s say you’re a graphic designer. It’s like okay, I’m gonna go out, I’m gonna be a graphic designer, but you have to kind of look at the vision of the future from a leadership standpoint and say okay, does that mean I’m going to be just a graphic designer? That’s fine if that’s what it is. I’m just gonna be on my own or am I building a graphic design firm? Or am I building a product that’s gonna turn into a thing that the graphic design firm will be basically the impetus for, right? So that’s vision, and that’s ultimately what leadership is is understanding and then conveying that vision. Conveying it also to yourself which is really important, this is what I’m really trying to do here. Management is easy. Management is the execution of the vision. And so once you see what the vision is and the vision is understood, then it’s putting all of the pieces together to go execute on that vision and that’s basically all, I mean, people really have a problem with overcomplicating management. Management is not that hard. We have a management crisis in the United States and I would assume that you also have a management crisis in Canada because it’s very similar to the United States, right? We have in the United States nine, or I’m sorry, in the United States, an individual will hold between nine and 14 jobs by the time they’re 35 years old, and that’s really a crisis of management. It’s not really a crisis of companies, right? Well, I mean, it is by extension, but people don’t look at their company and say I don’t like this company. I don’t like this product. That’s generally not what they’re doing. They’re just saying I got to quit because I don’t like my manager. I hate my manager, I don’t get along with them, and it’s generally an issue of the manager is really bad at just management. They’re bad at conveying the, taking that vision that is conveyed or hopefully is conveyed from the top of the business and then executing on the management level to really go make it happen. So that management crisis is a really big problem and this is actually something that’s really hard to solve, and it’s the reason or I should say a primary reason why a lot of people are sitting around just going okay, how do I just go do this on my own, and get clients, and make my own schedule, and control my life more, right? So that’s what the book is a guide for.
Overcoming Fear of Self-Employment: Knowledge, Gradual Transition and Financial Planning.
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, both super important things and play different functions, hey? Really different functions. Yeah, we talk a lot about that around here too when we’re solving different problems. Always have to start with the vision first and that requires leadership. I like the way that you state that. The management of things is equally important to the execution after the fact. Same direction as the vision.
Chris Knudsen: Right.
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, when I got out of school, one of the things, I read a lot of books because I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Background on me is I got an economics degree and way back in 1994 I think is when I graduated, not to date myself. But the only thing I knew for certain when I got out of university was that I didn’t wanna be an economist in any sort of fashion. So I had to do a little digging to see where I was gonna land and so I read a lot of books. One of the first things, I was a sucker for infomercials and I bought Guthy-Renker’s “Personal Power” from Tony Robbins, but that one had a big impact on me. One of the first things that I learned through going through Tony’s stuff is one of the biggest things that holds people back is a fear of failure. And you talk about that too and how important it is to, number one, understand that and then number two, how to overcome that when it comes to taking action, striking out on your own, and going in a certain direction. Maybe you can give me your take on that.
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, the number one reason why people strike out on their own is, I just call it FUD in the book which is fear, uncertainty, and doubt, right? And so fear, uncertainty, and doubt generally comes because of lack of knowledge. It’s not a lack of courage or motivation. It’s typically a lack of knowledge. The other thing too is the older you get, the more obligations you have, right? And I talk about this in the book where it’s that line from “Fight Club” which is the things you own start to own you. And that’s where we start to get sometimes in life especially if you’re striking out on your own in your 40s which is actually a really ideal time to strike out on your own because generally by the time you hit your 40s, you really know what you’re doing in terms of your craft and your career, right? So it is a, I’m sorry, I lost it there, Jeff, the original question because I went to “Fight Club.” I’m sorry, it was really good though.
Jeff Tomlin: No, we were talking about just strategies to overcome that fear.
Chris Knudsen: Oh, yeah, fear, yeah. Knowledge is what, knowledge is the thing, right? So I looked at it and I said there weren’t really a lot of good places where I could go. I was afraid when I did it, right? I had this plan, it was kind of a loose plan but it was like look, if I can’t make this work, then I’ll just go figure out and give myself a job in six months or something like that, right? But it was very much a bad plan, right? And so that’s how I managed the fear and the uncertainty and doubt. I was like I can always just go get a job and that’s true for everybody. You can always just go back and you can always just get a job. But the way you overcome that fear is just by knowledge and that was really the goal in writing the book was okay, I wanna give people knowledge so they look at it and go okay, here’s a really good blueprint. Therefore I’ve taken away a lot of the questions that I have about going and launching this new venture for myself and therefore I feel a lot better about doing it and I’m writing it down. I have this plan, I’m gonna go execute on it, and a lot of questions were answered that were maybe not answered before. So that’s how we eliminate that fear, and that uncertainty and that doubt is just by getting the knowledge. The other thing too is from a fear standpoint is while you’re still employed, this is really hard to do. But this is something I talk about a lot in the book is while you’re still employed, go get a client or two clients that are smaller that you can manage, and maybe work on them on the weekends or at nights. Maybe it’s a five-hour week type of thing, but dip your toe into it and see if you like it. The way you go out and get those clients is you just access your network or you go to your friends who work at different companies. I’ll stick with that graphic design example for a second. It’s like you just go call your buddy at another company or somebody you went to school with. Be like, “Hey, you guys looking for graphic design?” “Yeah, absolutely, we could use somebody to come in.” I mean, everybody’s looking for graphic design help by the way. That is this place where everybody needs help, so if you’re in that world and you’re listening to this podcast, don’t have any fear. Just run out on your own right now because you will get the clients. But sticking with that example, they’re like, “Yeah, I need five hours of additional work a week on graphic design.” Okay, cool, just so you understand, I still have a job, I do this on the side. And as long as you’re transparent about that and jump into it with another company while you’re in your job, you can get a really good taste of what it looks like to be on your own while you’re still receiving a paycheck, right? So that’s another way to alleviate the fear and the uncertainty and the doubt is to just go grab a client or two while you’re still employed. But most of you just have to write that plan down. I recommend six months of runway and what I mean by that is financial runway. So six months of pretend you have no income coming in for six months. You have that money in savings that you can live off of that. And if you do, that’s also another way that you can alleviate that fear is okay, I’ve got six months to get out there and figure it out. Six months is actually a pretty long time in the world of independent consulting to be able to go get it figured out. You should be fine at the end of that six months.
Knowledge Boosts Confidence; Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity.
Jeff Tomlin: Well, I like that idea that knowledge, it improves your confidence. You can confidently go into something if you feel that you know what you’re talking about and you know what to expect, so knowledge goes a big way. I think the other thing that I’d layer onto that too is looking at the idea of failure the right way too, hey? You have to understand that failing is not terminal. It’s part of the learning process and some people are just really, really scared of failing. But you have to realize that anybody that’s done anything that’s challenging in life, a lot of failures along the way, but it’s just opportunities to learn, isn’t it?
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, absolutely, I would say, I mean, honestly, I haven’t learned much from my successes if I think about my success.
Jeff Tomlin: No kidding.
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, I was like that was good, okay. But my failures, oh man, and this is something else also I discussed deeply in the book is this concept of internalization. And this goes back to that 80-20 thing ’cause I’m like okay, are you an 80 percenter or a 20 percenter? You really need to internalize that and internalization is just having an honest conversation with yourself where it’s like okay, where do I actually really stand at work, at life, my marriage, whatever it’s, right? And those types of things. But having that internalization and that conversation helps you to find that awareness that really gets you in a spot where you can arrive at that conclusion if you’re ready for it or if you’re not ready for it really.
The Book is Entertaining with Relatable and Memorable Real-Life Stories.
Jeff Tomlin: I really like the approach of the book. You have a lot of stories in there and I think a lot of the stories are really relatable. Maybe you wanna give people just a little bit of a flavour of the way you’ve approached the book.
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, absolutely, it’s written in a very unique manner, right? Where I didn’t wanna write this really basic, boring business book frankly because I could have written the really, okay, here’s the 120 pages on how to go be an independent consultant. But I put a lot of stories in the book because I wanted the book to be entertaining. It also gives you a little bit of a taste of what you can expect because when you get inside of smaller businesses, there’s a lot of weird things that happen frankly. I mean, there’s a lot of strange things, and so I’ve gotten into a lot of situations where I’ve seen a lot of really weird things and that makes for really good stories. And there’s good lessons that come out of that as well, but I’m trying to entice people especially, I mean, just the back cover copy is just chapter headings about different things that happened, right? One that comes to mind is the Navy Seal rules of combat and a board coup d’état that I witnessed, right? And apply these Navy Seals rules of combat to a board coup d’état. So I wanted people to get a taste of hey when you get out there and you get in the world, I mean, most people in their own businesses are in a spot where they’re seeing the weird things inside of their companies. But when you go to the level that I’ve been at which is a lot of marketing and management type of consulting work, frequently I’ll become really close friends with the CEO and then I’m hearing all the really weird stuff, right? And the CEO is just looking for someone who is outside of the organization but is paid, right, for an opinion and wants to hear my honest opinion about what to do about certain things that are happening within the business, right? So yeah, the book is a little bit of a wild ride. It really interwinds all these stories. Some of them are really funny, some of them are just kind of head-scratchers, and other ones are unbelievable. But at the same time, I was just reading one of the reviews on Amazon of someone that knows me that wrote a review and he says, “They’re unbelievable stories, but I was there, they happened. I saw them,” right? So it is meant to be entertaining. It is meant to be more of, there’s a lot of conversation, There’s a lot of in the book, so it’s not this kind of boring, just kind of okay, I’m gonna go read this chapter about this and that. The chapters are intentionally short because we have a shortened attention span and so the chapters are normally three or four pages, so it’s easy to read and get through it quickly. But I think that the addition of a lot of the, what I’ll call the memoir style types of stories that I placed in there are, they give the book a lot of substance and depth and make it a lot more interesting to read. And I think when you hear those stories too, it makes it easier to understand the concepts that I’m trying to convey and then also apply them in your own life. That was the other reason why I wanted to write it that way.
Self-Employment made Easier: Seize Opportunities.
Jeff Tomlin: If you had one takeaway for people that are listening along, what takeaway would you give them?
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, the takeaway that I would give them is it’s not as hard as you might think that it is, right? If I can do it, you can do it frankly. And I’m just your average intelligent person, I’m not some crazy rockstar guy, right? You don’t have to be working at some company like McKinsey or someplace like that to be out doing independent consulting work. And if it’s something that you’ve always thought about but Jeff, to your point, just have the fear and you don’t have the ability, the fear is holding you back, right? And you really wanna see what a clear path looks like to this type of a life, then buy the book. It’ll give you a clear path to it, right? But I want you to just understand as a listener that this isn’t that hard. It’s not that hard to go do and you might make a lot more money than you’re currently making right now, right? Especially when you’re up and you have full-time work. It’s not unusual, especially I’ll call it marketing consulting which is where I spend most of my time, that’s not an unusual place to make 30 or $40,000 a month in consulting fees and even more. I mean, I’ve had months where I’ve made way more than that as a single individual working out, doing consulting work, a lot more money than that. So there’s a lot of ways to go do it. So if you have that fear, just buy the book, read the roadmap, right? And then internalize yourself and where you stand and then make a plan to go and do it. And again, if I can do it, you can do it. That’s the thing that I really wanted people to know the most is I’m not special. I just kind of went out. I figured out how to do it. I think I mostly survived because there was really high demand for what I was doing and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. And you will too, but that’s okay, that’s totally okay. But yeah, grab the blueprint and go for it. That’s what I say.
Entrepreneur Chris Knudsen Shares Courage in Entrepreneurship and Contact Info
Jeff Tomlin: Individual entrepreneurs always inspire me. It takes a lot of courage. The name of the book is “Trust Me, I’m a Consultant.” Chris Knudsen, thanks for joining us on the Conquer Local podcast. If people wanted to continue the conversation with you, how do they reach you?
Chris Knudsen: Yeah, you can reach me, you can go to our website, sevenfigure.consulting. You can find me at Chris Knudsen on LinkedIn. There’s a number of ways that you can get to me. My agency is StoicYeti which is kind of a funny name. People are like what is that? StoicYeti is the agency. So stoicyeti.com is where my agency resides and there’s a number of different ways that you can get to me.
Jeff Tomlin: Well, on behalf of everyone around here and myself, thanks so much for joining us for a quick chat. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a little bit and best of luck, and I look forward to maybe circling back with you in the future and having you on again and following up, see where things are.
Chris Knudsen: Let’s do it, Jeff. I appreciate your time. It was great to be with you and thank the audience as well and everyone there working on the podcast. It was great to be on.
Jeff Tomlin: What an interesting conversation with Chris! His journey from being a Chief Marketing Officer to a successful consultant and author highlights the importance of taking risks and embracing entrepreneurship. His decision to leap into consulting without a detailed plan emphasizes the need for self-starters to overcome what he calls “FUD,” which refers to Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, in order to pursue their goals.
Another key takeaway is Chris’ insights into the 80/20 rule, where 20 percent are self-starters while 80 percent may feel stuck in their jobs. He emphasizes the value of self-awareness and personal growth, encouraging individuals to internalize their goals, create a clear plan, and seek knowledge to embark on their entrepreneurial journey. Ultimately, his message challenges the fear that often holds many people back from pursuing their dreams.
In simpler terms, if he can do it, others can too!
If you’ve enjoyed Chris Knudsen’s episode discussing Entrepreneurship and Consultancy, keep the conversation going and revisit some of our older episodes from the archives: Check out Episode:
626: Unlocking Career Potential: Advice from a Talent Management Expert with Suman Cherry or Episode 623: The PepsiCo Way: Lifelong Learning and Leadership with Jorge Alzate.
Until next time, I’m Jeff Tomlin. Get out there and be awesome!