Portfolio Executive: DIY or …

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You are an experienced professional. You know your stuff and are successful in your own field. Why can’t you just step out on your own and become a Portfolio Executive? Why can’t I do it myself? And if I’m not going to DIY my Portfolio Executive future then what are the other options?


So, let’s just start with “Can I do it myself?”; and the short answer is yes, absolutely you can do it yourself.  You may have all the skills necessary to do it yourself.  So, if you are a sales professional, you know how to do sales.  If you’re a marketing professional, you know how to do marketing and if you’re a HR professional you know how to do HR.  If you’re a COO, you probably know how to do most things.  You probably have a whole range of skills and maybe you have acted as a professional as a consultant so you are used to going out and pitching to clients, producing propositions for clients.  You may feel very well equipped to do it yourself as a Portfolio Executive.


But I am constantly surprised by how big a step it can be for even very experienced consultants and very successful sales directors, to step into Portfolio Executive workstyle. People who have had internal functions, without any customer facing aspects, like the HR, Finance, IT Director or the CTO can find the stretch can be even greater.

Paradigm shift for consultants

Let’s just start with the people who often come to me as experienced consultants. These are people who have worked for large professional services firms or large IT services firms. They understand about the consulting process. They may even have made a transition from consulting world into industry and have experience of line roles at senior levels. They are confident that they just get the Portfolio Executive approach.  They understand about a value proposition, about finding clients through networking. But there is something very deeply engrained in them that they struggle to shift: the have a dominant “project mindset”. They see every relationship as “find a problem, fix the problem, hand it back”. It is so deeply embedded that it needs external challenge and support to make the shift to a fresh paradigm. The new paradigm is that they are going to be a part-time ‘Director of’ or ‘Head of’ taking responsible for a specific business function. They are going to be there long-term to build up a functional capability month in and month out. They are going ensure that at all times it is fit for purpose for a particular client.  So, they really struggle. Those people who I would have thought would be most equipped to move to a Portfolio Executive workstyle keep defaulting back to a consultant, project-based, problem-solving mindset rather than a capability building approach.  This really hampers them because when it gets a little bit tough their immediate response is to go and find a short-term project and often those short-term projects are very demanding and limit their ability to build their long-term future.

Client facing executives

But what about the Sales Director or the Marketing Director?  Surely, they understand how to win clients and how to make things happen? The truth is that, to a large extent, they do. However, the big challenge for those professionals is that they are used to working within a team environment where there are lots and lots of support systems. They are used to, as a sales or marketing person, being employed and measured on delivery (of marketing) or on the sales numbers (sales). They are less used to focus on building capability. They are also less used to marketing or selling themselves as a product. They are used to selling or marketing the product of their employer. The whole concept of selling themselves can be a significant challenge. They are not used to working without the team, support structure and infrastructure necessary to being successful. In fact, many sales director candidates for Portfolio Executive roles are tempted to put a sales number on their heads. This is just not the right way to move forward. They need to be there not as the senior salesperson with the highest sales target, but as the capability development person ensuring that their team is functioning to deliver the very best sales in the long term. They need to ensure that the sales function is properly integrated with other areas such as marketing and product development, account management, operations and service.

Executive from back office functions

So, we have talked about the consultant, the sales and marketing director who you would think would be well equipped. Now let’s consider the Finance Director, HR Director, IT Director, CTO, Operations Director and similar heads of functions without direct client facing responsibilities.   These people are used to relying upon their deep experience, knowledge and skills. They are used to doing a great job in the function that for which they are responsible. What they are not used to is going out and taking that value proposition to market. So, for them, there is that big transition. How do I take what I do and turn it into something that is a value proposition that I can sell? How do I sell? How do I find clients? All of these challenges are new.

What about ‘Done for Me’?

So, yes, you can ‘do it yourself’ but what if it all sounds a bit too difficult? Maybe the answer is to have it done for you. Maybe you should go to one of those organisations that specialise being a broker or agent for professionals like you? This is their business. They are the experts.

Yes, those options are out there, and yes, those organisations are often of quite a high calibre, but they are motivated differently to you. For example, they are keen to get volume through their system rather than achieve the very highest fee rate. They are keen to recruit individuals into their network who are prepared to sacrifice premium rates for a significant discount so that there is a good margin in there for them. They often take 30-40% of your fees. They are keen that you are prepared to engage in various non-fee earning activities to be part of the network. They are keen to make enough profit to build their business into a very valuable business and they are less interested in allowing you to build your business to be a very valuable business for you.

So, this can be the right answer for you, but it comes at a price.

The Portfolio Executive Growth Academy

The alternative is to come and join the programme that we offer which is a structured support and learning process.  You only pay just for the programme. You will be connected to other people going on this journey. You get to work with people who are experienced in supporting and developing portfolio executives on their journey and they have seen people go through this over and over again.   You get to keep all your earnings.  You get to pay just for the help that you need.  You get to build something where you are in control of your own destiny.


DIY?  Maybe.
Done for?  Expensive.
Done with?  Could be the right alternative for you.

Check out portfolioexecutive.biz.


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.