Key Persons of Influence and the Portfolio Executive workstyle

One person standing apart from the crowd

You can sign up to our LinkedIn newsletter here

I’ve been very impressed by the thinking of Daniel Priestley and his book “Key Person of Influence”.  He tells a compelling story about how you build profile in your market place so that you become a key person of influence in order to attract people to your offer, to make your offer a premium offer and to build your business around being a key person of influence.  I have been reflecting for a number of weeks about whether the key person of influence strategy has a part to play in the Portfolio Executive workstyle. But before I go any further just a few words of caution.

Buyer Beware

As you step out into the Portfolio Executive workstyle and as you start to create some profile for your business there will be lots and lots of people who want to offer you their services to help you build your business.  Many of those services are a distraction from the core activities that you need to do to build your business, particularly at the beginning.  You will be assailed by people who want to sell you a serviced office, or a hot desk, or want to sell you a website or SEO for your website, or a social media or LinkedIn strategy;  maybe a business card design or a training in consultancy programme, or a coach training programme.

The Key Person of Influence Strategy

But let’s come back to the key person of influence and let us imagine that you are going to be a Portfolio Executive as a part-time Marketing Director and you want to take responsibility for the whole marketing brief for your clients.  You’re going to be the Head of Marketing or Director of Marketing for those clients. What would it mean for you to build your profile as a key person of influence? Well typically a key person of influence strategy has got three elements:

Are you competing?

The third thing is consider if you doing anything that could be seen by your employer as competition?  Again, if you are looking to provide other services to clients, or you are relying on contacts and relationships that you already have through that employer to build up some other kind of business you may have all sorts of constraints in your employment contract that you need to look at very carefully.   Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you are working as a marketing director and you decide you want to launch some dance classes because you are passionate about dance and you choose to use the company database to contact people that you already have a relationship with as a marketing director and draw them into your dance classes, then there may be things that restrict you including GDPR.

1 – Write the Book on your Unique Business System
The first element is to write a book that expresses your unique business system, your particular way of seeing the world. The five to seven steps, the three keys to success, or whatever it is, that you are going to articulate for your clients.

2 – Pitch your Unique Business System
The second element is to encourage you to pitching your unique business system as a speaker, blogger, vlogger or social media influencer.  Find and develop the crowd of people who might be interested in your services.

3 – Invest in Marketing Presence in your target community
The third element is to invest in creating and developing your marketing presence within your community through a whole set of other interventions.

Is a Book really Worth it?

So, let us just start with the book and the unique business system.  Imagine you are a marketeer whose portfolio executive role is Director of Marketing.  I’m not convinced you need a unique business system. You are a professional with decades of experience under your belt and a lot of knowledge and skills to offer. You may already be part of a professional institution like the Chartered Institute of Marketing whole set of accreditations that demonstrate your understanding of what it means to be good at marketing. Consider: there are thousands of books about marketing: are you really going to shift the dial for your ability to get four to six clients by writing another book? 

Counting the cost

Why do you need to have a distinctive point of view?   Consider the cost of writing and publishing a book:   a considerable amount of time, effort and expense.  I have been talking to people about what is involved in writing a book and the typical range of fees run from £2,000-£3,000 just to edit your final manuscript.  If you haven’t got time to write it yourself then a ghost-writing service starts at £30,000 including marketing.  If you are going to have an assisted-support programme, a ‘Do It With You’ type of approach, budget on around £10,000 to publish.  Then budget the time: for a 30,000-word book if you can write 500 words an hour that is 60 hours.  But the book writers I talk to tell me this is the tip of the iceberg.  Planning, re-writing, editing, designing and marketing will multiple this by three to five times.  On top, you have the costs of printing and distribution.

What do you get out of this?  Well it’s unlikely that it will be directly income generating.  It will make a really nice business card, but if you read my earlier blog, I don’t think that a business card is that essential.  

Pitching your unique business system

The choice of becoming a speaker depends on your personality and your own appetite for being a speaker.   If you are the sort of individual who loves getting up in front of an audience and talking to them, teaching and promoting your ideas to them, then having a speaker offer can make a lot of sense.  You will just enjoy it and have a high level of stimulation.  

But recognise that if you see this as a significant income generator then there is an enormous amount of work involved.   If for example you were going to provide a three-hour workshop for the CEO Growth Academy that I run, then typical fees would be £750 – £1,000.  Preparing and refining your proposition is probably five to ten hours work first time round. Then you may have to iterate it and evolve it.  Delivering a half day speaker engagement probably takes up a day of your life.   You will want to have a separate website.  You’ve got to promote it.  You probably need to participate in the work of the Professional Speakers Association.  You need to refine your speaking skills, build your workbook, develop your collateral.  So if this is something that you would love to do, then great do it, but if you see this as a money making venture, then it is going to be another line of business that you have to build and invest in.  

If you see this as a way of creating sales, I’m sure it will be a way of creating sales opportunities for you because you will be credible, in front of the people who you will want to buy your services and it will build opportunities.   I worked very closely with the founder of Watertight Marketing, helping her to create a three-hour workshop and helping her to refine some of her thinking around Watertight Marketing.  She has written a book, and has a speaker offer, but most importantly for her, she chose to build a network of accredited practitioners, that she is then promoting into the marketplace. She decided from day one to build a scalable business, not just to be a Portfolio Executive.

Investing in wider Marketing Interventions

So, what about the other kinds of marketing interventions, what about having people spending your time and your money, and some of their time for the service to build out your social media profile.  Again, I think this is partly about your own personality type.   I would always encourage you to start with building your proposition by doing networking events.  It helps you to refine you pitch, even if it doesn’t bring in any new business.  Then I would encourage you to use your existing referrals and train in being very effective around referrals and networking.  In addition, I would encourage you to build up your LinkedIn profile.

Don’t Spend Too Soon

Beyond this the next step would be for you to make an investment in a significant amount of support to build your influencer status and your LinkedIn connections with the paid assistance of a third party. When you are starting out, I think that this is an unnecessary investment. It is too early. You haven’t really framed your pitch, built your sales model or got clarity about your target market. But there may well come a point where it is worth getting somebody to assist you in managing your LinkedIn connections. You will pay a substantial premium if you engage a branded service. You can get most of the value by getting you administration assistant to do the interactions in a structured way on a regular basis, without paying for a package of support. I get approached by various people who are trying to sell me LinkedIn packages of support. This may be a course, a ‘Do it With You’ service or a ‘Do it For You’ service. When you go beyond the initial offer, courses are usually a six to twelve month commitment with fees of £3,000-£10,000. The challenge with these programmes is you are still going to have to do a lot of the work. In the early stages of building your Portfolio Executive workstyle this is a distraction from what you need to be doing.

This idea of building a short, expensive campaign, I think is missing the point. I believe you’re better off building incremental improvements around what you are doing on LinkedIn using an administration assistant who is going to be very affordable. You can get a lot of value by paying between £10 – £20 an hour for 5-20 hours a month.

Key Person of Influence: the right strategy for a Portfolio Executive?

In my view, many of the things that are associated with key person of influence strategy are not relevant to somebody who is trying to leverage their professional skills as an established professional and is developing an offer as a part-time Head of, or Director of a particular business function.

Spend more time refining your offer, approaching your target market, working through your referral networks and doing the things that you really enjoy.   If you would love to write a book – then great, write a book, but don’t be persuaded that somehow that is going to transform your working future if your goal is to become a Portfolio Executive.

If you love to go out and speak and share your insights with people as a speaker, great go out and do that. There are lots and lots of people who want to have speakers come into their community, but don’t see that to the key as getting your work as a Portfolio Executive.

If you want to become a social media influencer, appear on blogs and offer your opinion about all sorts of things then great. Enjoy it. Do it as part of the stuff that you do in your spare time but don’t see it as core to building your Portfolio Executive proposition.

Focus on the Core

So, focus on the core.  Build the workstyle of Freedom and Joy that you are motivated for and then do the other things that you love.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.