Diversifying Yourself Into a Platform Business

July 27th, 2011

phil simon platformsGuest post by Phil Simon, a technology expert and the author of three books. You can back his latest project here.

My forthcoming book is about the platform as an important and relatively new business model. I have learned from personal experience that building a platform is not only beneficial, but also imperative for many companies’ survival. I look at myself as a case in point: In a relatively short period of time, I was able to redefine my own business and launch completely new services. How did I do this? In short, I built my own platform.

From 2002 until 2008 nearly my entire livelihood was tied to one fairly specific type of work: enterprise resource planning (ERP) consulting. Even that type of relatively provincial work involves a wide variety of people and technical skills. It’s a niche – more than 99 percent of all companies would never consider engaging me. And even fewer need me at any given time.

Despite this significant limitation, by 2008, I had started to come into my own. It was the very definition of the “feast” year about which independent consultants like me dream. I should have been ecstatic.

Instead, I was extremely concerned. I was 36 and said to myself: I had better enjoy this while it lasts, because it just can’t get any better. I couldn’t raise my rates forever and there were only so many hours in a year. Plus, rarely does an independent consultant move seamlessly from one project to another during an entire year as I just did.

phil simon platformsI thought that I needed to diversify and establish myself in different lines of business, or face dire consequences. But somehow, that didn’t seem sufficient. I strongly suspected that I would have to refine my entire business model — and maybe even blow it up. But, the world was not terribly interested in my decision to enter new lines of business — nor were many of my clients for that matter. If was going to be successful in diversifying and mitigating my own risk, I would have to build my own platform.

Phil Simon 2.0

Fast forward three years. That consulting that generated more than $200,000 in revenue for me in 2008 is now just one service line for me. I have completely transformed my business. I now get paid for website design, writing, book coaching, marketing, and more. I make money from book royalties and mobile app sales. I also started a publishing company and a public speaking practice. In large part, my ability to continue working for myself would not have been possible if I had not built an effective platform.

For three reasons, I’m glad that I started diversifying and building my platform when I did.

  • I was beginning to tire of working on the same types of highly contentious projects.
  • I wanted to tackle new challenges and continue my own professional development.
  • It was an economic imperative.

In hindsight, my timing could not have been better. By early 2009, ERP consulting had slowed to a trickle, and many of my friends in the field had either lost their jobs or had a great deal of difficulty finding work. While I have yet to replicate the financial success of 2008, and may never do so, my new business model is much more sound and resilient to risk.

I start each year with a fair amount of base income from my writing and speaking clients. What’s more, book sales generate passive income for me. Unlike years past, I no longer start at zero every year. And my platform has continued to evolve in new and unexpected ways. It generates new income and opportunities for me.

And if I can build my own platform, you can as well.

What are you doing to build a platform for yourself – or even for your company?

(image by Burtonwood + Holmes)

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