[I got your mojo...posted by OPHOTON]

Lately, I feel as if I've been losing touch with everything that gives me my insight into this world. Ironically, the very thing I feel is the reason we started Citizen Agency (being able to advocate for the needs of the community) is already slipping away because of the amount of time we spend trying to make our clients happy rather than with the community itself.

So much for: we don't work for our clients, we work for our clients' clients [link]

And, in reality, we end up working for nobody at all.

What is at issue here?

Well, consulting is a very loaded profession with years of inefficiencies. Some clients understand that logging hours, sitting in meetings or putting together long reports is just a facade and would rather have their consultants doing what they do best: consulting. We've already run into one client who didn't understand that the 'deliverable' was our time and advice. Taking that advice is the difference between getting value or not.

So, we end up spending a great deal of time creating tangibles to keep the peace. Someone once told me that the more intangible your business is, the more tangibles you will have to produce and the more tangible your business is, the more intangibles you will have to produce. Marketing, I'm afraid, is very intangible, and I've run into this over the years and produced more half-baked strategies than I'd like to admit, just to end up using about 1/10th of that strategy that took me 30 hours to produce.

Therefore, here we are, after midnight on Saturday night in front of our computers, doing as much 'community' stuff as we can do...while doing 'tangible' things for our clients. Instead, we could be at Santarchy, actually hanging with people, building relationships, having fun...etc.

You may ask yourself: What does hanging with a bunch of people in Santa suits drinking have to do with anything? Isn't that just you doing what everyone does? Why should you be paid for that?

Good question.

Well, what I learnt a long time ago is that sitting behind a computer or in a boardroom does not inform you about much of anything at all and it certainly isn't the place to build good relationships.

I spent a good many years as a researcher - first academic, then marketing -  trying to figure out how the world ticked. I would study cultures and qualitative and quantitative data and do extensive analysis and produce crazy accurate reports, filled with context and depth...only to figure out when I spent any given time actually participating in the culture that I was dead wrong in my analysis.

You see, people rarely act the way numbers and history says they will act. Sure, sure, there are those who make a living studying how history repeats itself and predicts rises and falls and trends...but how accurate are they? Well, about as accurate as an 'educated guess' from a layperson, really. The people who REALLY know what's coming down the pipe are those who are on the bleeding edge. They are in the 'ranks'. They are working on projects within grassroots communities.

And I'm thinking, geez, Tara, get up off of your duff and get out there again. Look how much is suffering. Your blog is dropping off of the map because you aren't posting. You haven't touched your wiki in months. Every community project you say you want to start/join/etc. is on the backburner. You keep advertising these fun and free events in your space and nobody is showing up. You have no idea what is going on in the world or, even at the very least in the blogosphere.

Something has to give.

So, what is my plan? I don't know yet. I can write a note to our clients saying, "Your desire for tangibles is reducing our long-term efficacy, so, effective immediately, our 'logged hours' for you will be 1 brainstorming meeting + 1 update report per week." I don't know if that will work.

We do know that we have gone from being two people in a living room, consulting for a handful of clients on light contracts, to three people + stakeholders in a leased office space, consulting for a larger number of clients on varied contracts and we are really crappy about sticking to our allotted hours (generally, we'll spend 3x as many hours trying to show that we are working for a client than we are being paid for). This should probably stop.

But even moreso, we've been talking lately about the next step. And, mind you, the next step seems to have come 2 years sooner than we expected it to. We are growing in some ways, and becoming obsolete in others. We really need to think seriously about whether we want this to remain a 'three people consulting' shop or a sustainable, effective business that can actually change the world in ways we want it to. If it is the latter (and I know it is), we need to find a way to get back to our roots and maybe even hire a CEO or General Manager to do all of the important business-type stuff to get us there. Consulting certainly does not scale, but I love the work (when it's right). A couple of steps between now and then, though: 1. better use of our time and 2. more money in the bank.

So, if there is anyone who has some sage words or experience with this, I'd love to hear it.

I need desperately to get my mojo back.