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I have now worked with more than 50 people to help in the transition to a Portfolio Executive workstyle.  Over the last five years, we’ve developed and refined a process, which I’m confident can work for anybody who’s committed to making the journey.  There are eight critical stages to take you from a commitment to a Portfolio Executive work style to a successful Portfolio Executive workstyle: a workstyle that is sustainable, enjoyable, and rewarding.  In this article, I am going to run through the first four stages and explain why they’re important.

1.  Define the niche you serve

This is critical because it creates a primary focus for the work you want to attract and it defines the context for enjoyable and rewarding work.  You will need to profile your target organisations and you will need to identify the job type you want to use to go to market.  You will also want to cross-check using LinkedIn there are going to be enough of the target organisations for you to build the portfolio you’re looking for within the niche that you have defined.  I recommend a simple five-dimensional way of defining your niche, that gives you a laser focus to position yourself to attract the work that you most want to do with the people you will most enjoy working for.

2.  Rebuild the story of your working life

This is so it becomes obvious to potential clients that your whole life so far has prepared you for the Portfolio Executive role you’re offering them.  The big shift is to redefine your value by demonstrating your knowledge, skills and experience and the outcomes you’ve achieved for your clients, rather than just the roles you’ve had over time.   As you rebuild that story, it’s important to project a character that is authentic to you, which will attract those who will most value your style and your approach.  You want people to get a very strong sense of how you show up.  This will mean going through and building a detailed LinkedIn profile, based upon a very rich CV of your life so far and then, using a structured process, to build that story into something that’s a simple narrative exposed by your LinkedIn experiences.  You’ll then support that with a set of articles and posts to showcase what you believe, who you are and what you’ve learned.

3.  Distil your Portfolio Executive offer as a diagnostic

The essence of what you’re offering as a Portfolio Executive is to take responsibility for the capability of a particular function within your client’s business, to ensure that that function is fit for purpose and has the right capability maturity, as that organisation develops and evolves.  You need to be able to enable your clients to trial an initial low cost engagement with you at a price that they can spend at their own discretion (metaphorically ‘money they can find down the back of the sofa’).  You also want to establish key relationships within the client executive team and build a business case for the short, medium to long term development of the function that you will lead.  This diagnostic needs to use a capability maturity approach.  Have a set of questions which will assess the maturity of the different processes with the key stakeholders and provide you with a report, which will show you the quick wins that you can deliver in the first stage, the foundations that you’ll build in the second stage, and the longer-term opportunities that you will offer your clients on an ongoing basis.  It will be important to link that capability maturity model, the diagnostic, back to the business strategy and direct improvements in revenue, costs and risk management.

4.  Define your value proposition

What is a value proposition? It’s about expressing the needs that a client will have, what you’re going to do to make a difference and how that delivers value to your clients.  You need to build a compelling case for your offer.  You need to identify what issues CEOs experience that limit their success and you need to demonstrate you are an expert on the problems they face so they’ll believe you’re an expert on the solution.

How do you do this? You want to align your service to maximizing shareholder value by improving income, reducing costs and enabling the better management of risk.  You will link the process themes in the diagnostic, that you have developed in your capability maturity model, and identify how improving that maturity will impact income, costs and risk management.  From that, you can pick out the presenting symptoms that CEOs would experience from low maturity and establish how you can identify those in your conversations with clients.  Now you’ve got a compelling value proposition.

What we have done so far in these first four stages is help you to be clearer and clearer about who you are going to serve, why you are the right person for that service, the difference you are going make and the starting point you are going to have with any new client.

You can read Part 2 here.