Strategic Advisor Profile: Chris Brogan–Consultant to Employee

Always look for the role that’s just over the horizon…one that gives you a slightly elevated view.” Chris Brogan 

If you’ve been following this blog or reading the email newsletters you know that I encourage — nay, insist — that you create stories that demonstrate the value you add throughout your career.

In the early stages of our careers, we’re really in apprentice mode. Our value is that we’re quick learners, pay attention to details, and are good team members. 

As we progress, we develop a certain level of expertise in our field. We can be relied on to provide accurate and useful information in a timely manner, and again, work well within a team. We may even become a team leader.

As we mature, we’re relied on less for our subject matter expertise and more for the strategic value we bring. There will always be someone younger, faster and cheaper to do the technical work. Our role is to provide meaning to that work — how can it be used in ways that add value to the organization; that makes the organization more competitive. 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll provide profiles of folks who have made that leap from SME to strategic advisor. First up: Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan: From Consultant to Employee

I became familiar with Chris Brogan in 2010 with the publication of his book (with Julien Smith) Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust (Amazon Kindle link). He won me over with his emphasis on building relationships and trust in business. I’ve been a subscriber to his weekly newsletter since then. It’s the first thing I read every Sunday morning.

As an independent consultant, Chris has been a thought leader in innovative business strategy, especially related to marketing. His expertise is in brand and digital content strategy. He’s also the best-selling author of nine books. So his subject matter bona fides are well established.

Chris recently made the leap from his own consulting business to Chief of Staff for Appfire, a rapidly growing software and app development company. I recently talked with Chris about his shift from independent consultant to employee. (Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.)

How Does Being an Employee Differ From Your Role as a Consultant?

I’ve always been interested in what big corporations do as well as what small businesses can do. I’m always asking “why” regarding what works in big companies vs. small businesses. 

While there are resource differences, the operational choices, marketing choices, and leadership choices are the same for both a small business as for a big corporation.

I was initially hired as a consultant for specific work. The success of that work led to “scope creep” that expanded my influence with the CEO and his leadership team. 

The title Chief of Staff came out of the need to directly support the CEO. I could have been Chief Strategy Officer, but then my team would be supporting the entire company, as opposed to the sole advisor to the CEO. 

I participate in meetings on behalf of the CEO and can speak for him in those meetings, which makes leadership decision-making more efficient. I also coach leaders at every single level of the company. 

What’s Most Rewarding About Your Current Role?

In running a small consulting business, the decision-making rests on one person: me. I was responsible for the wins and the failures. There may be some collaboration with others, but the sole responsibility rested with me. 

Here, I’m “highly linked” to several teams and deal with real leadership issues relative to a basic philosophy of preparing the next level of employees to take leadership positions. 

I was initially hired as a consultant to help infuse a culture of risk-taking in the company; to help people learn to fail, make mistakes, and learn how to recover. 

What Do You Miss Most About the SME/Operational Part of Your Career?

Corporations are never a democracy. I have to support decisions I might not agree with and projects that I might not enjoy doing. As a sole practitioner, if I didn’t like a project, or a client, I didn’t have to take it on. 

What Aspects of Your Operational Roles Prepared You for Your Role as a Strategic Advisor? 

I’ve always been a voracious reader of disparate subjects, and I’ve always looked for patterns. I’ve always been able to clearly and concisely point them out and note their implications. 

I’ve shared this pattern spotting in books and in my weekly newsletter. But it’s alway been just me. Oh, there may have been some collaborations with others, but primarily it was me sharing my thoughts and ideas with a broad audience. 

Now that I get to coach great leaders, I get great advice from leaders every day, and I share anything I observe that can make things within the company work better. 

If You Could Change One Thing About What You’re Doing Now, What Would It Be? 

I’m in my element. I enjoy what I’m doing, and I believe I’m making an impact on the company and its people. I’m not sure what I’d change.

We’re most attractive when we’re jamming. The most attractive person in the world is the person who is wholly on mission — regardless of what the mission is. The confidence just pours out of you.

Next Week’s Profile: The Transition From Employee to Consultant

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If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.

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