FT 137: The Most Unusual Consultancy Ever with Steve Sims
It’s not impossible to work with your dream clients, even if that client list seems impossible to obtain. Steve Sims, a consultant and concierge to the daydreams of his clients, works with the kind of people who want to get married at the Vatican or spend 10 days in the International Space Station.
Learn how Steve did it, and how you too can build a network filled with your ideal clients, no matter who they are.
Steve shares with us:
Build it and they will come.
Steve’s client list at Bluefish is exclusive. He works with celebrities and influential people who are looking for a combination of luxury and adventure. Entrepreneur Magazine calls him the “Modern Day Wizard of Oz”, and he does absolutely everything from product launches, to wedding planning, to coordinating your entrance on the red carpet. As he puts it, he fulfills the dreams of his clients no matter how grandiose they may sound. But it didn’t start out that way.
Steve got his taste for networking and event planning as a bouncer at clubs in London. He immediately took control of the guests by giving special treatment to locals and planning his own parties and events. His initial idea was to network with his wealthier guests and work his way into a cushy office job. But his events brought in so many people that he knew he had the beginnings of something more.
There’s nothing better than giving people exclusivity and something they can’t find or buy.
It was this proactive behavior that skyrocketed him to the top of the party planning business. You can’t wait around for your future to be handed to you by someone else, he says. If you have an idea for your business, you have to build it from the heart up. He’s now turned himself and his team into a full-fledged concierge to the stars.
You are more than just a business.
In fact, Steve doesn’t like to call his business a business at all. It’s more of a community that’s built around the heartfelt desires of himself and his clients. The key to creating your dream client list is to only work with the kind of people you want to associate with. Steve advises against working with people just for the money. Working with people you actually like is the first step to networking the ideal client list.
We knew that we had a community, a following, and a tone. Some people would say brand, but I felt that we had a tone.
Steve’s branding – what he calls a “tone” – and marketing technique, revolve entirely around his clients. It can be hard to define what you do in typical business terms, but if you can think of your career in terms of your client relationships, then you’re on the right track. By working with people he enjoys being around, Steve is able to use them and their relationships together to boost his branding and build his business.
Take care of your clients, and that client becomes your referral resources, your affiliate, your marketing, your branding, your tone.
Word of mouth is how Steve does business. He also isn’t afraid to ask for referrals. His clients refer their friends and colleagues to him when they’re looking for a unique vacation experience. It’s as easy as asking to be introduced to a friend or getting to know someone at a party.
I’m a great believer in leaning on your friends and your clients for credibility.
It really is about who you know. But it’s also about how you treat those people. Steve doesn’t use the word authenticity, but he does talk a lot on today’s episode about transparency. Being honest and real with your clients guarantees that they’ll tell their friends about you. Because you are more than just a business. You’re a person that’s fun to be around and you treat people with respect. Clients respond well to that kind of positive behavior, and it’s going to pay off when you build the kind of client list that establishes your brand as a trustworthy and worthwhile endeavor.
Simplicity is your most important asset.
Networking may seem like a complicated jumble of emails and business cards, but it really can be the easiest thing you do. As long as you keep it simple, Steve says. If you can speak to your core values and emphasize what makes you special and unique, you’re going to attract clients looking to be treated the same way. They will be confident that you’ll notice all their unique attributes too and deliver exactly what they’re asking for.
I’ve always kept things really simple. I’ve never complicated anything. Now, I may have got it wrong, which I’ve got it wrong millions of times…but I’m not afraid of failure.
The simplest thing Steve recommends for freelancers is to be better than social media. Communicate better than just email and text messages and Twitter. The most important part of our business is your client list, and you want to communicate with them in such a way that makes them feel important. Steve brings back the old school values of writing letters, and he shares how he even uses video messages to connect with clients in a more personal way.
There’s no app to build a relationship, and we’re actually losing the ability to communicate.
Nurture your relationships with your clients and make them feel special on a regular basis. Steve walks us through how he meets and greets new clients and the specific steps he takes to build a quality relationship with each of them. Even if you haven’t worked with them for a while, Steve says nothing should stop you from sending them a message and asking them out for a drink. Take a day and pretend that your email is broken. This will force you to get in touch with your people in a different way and really focus on what goes into maintaining a healthy and fruitful business relationship.
In order to build the kind of client list you’re looking for, play to your strengths. You know what makes you and your brand special and you should emphasize all of that when you connect with clients. Your relationships will evolve as your business continues to grow. And if you look at your brand like a community of clients the way Steve does, you’re bound to network and connect with the kinds of clients you want to work with forever.