Winslow Swart | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Winslow Swart


Winslow Consulting is an organizational development consulting practice. As an applied social science, organizational development has roots in organizational behavior and psychology, but has evolved over the decades. The firm specializes in strategic planning facilitation, leadership development, team-building and culture-building, and a wide range of business consulting services. 

The Mistake:

From a business standpoint, there were times when I have had very deep consulting engagements, and I got so involved and so committed to doing what I do for the client that I forgot about my own business development.

In other words, I forgot to have clients lined up when that project was done. You get so focused on the work, and on the needs of the client, and delivering on promises, that you lose sight of other issues. But you can't forget to do your outward-facing tasks and duties when servicing your current customers.

Nowadays, social media is helpful in this process since it can help perpetuate your visibility.

Meanwhile, over the years, the more clients you have served, and have done a good job for, the more referral business you will have and the less you have to go out and make it rain. After a while you will have predominately return customers and referrals.

Doing the best work that you can do for you clients is your best advertising and marketing, but it takes years for that to build up. Until you have a big enough footprint, you will very likely go from feast to famine.

Being generous with your time and talent will never harm you.

The Lesson:

Early on, before you do have a big footprint, there are a lot of things that we can do in the community, and for organizations, that are not billable. Some people worry about giving it away since their time is their inventory. But don’t be afraid to present for free, to forgive and forget.

I've been told you need to charge any time you are on your feet, but I find that's nonsense. Its goodwill, and it gives people an opportunity to test you out at no charge and risk to them. It's better than advertising.

Don’t be afraid to give it away.

There was a time many years ago when I was cautious about giving free gigs. But, what I see now, is that is how I got business. Being generous with your time and talent will never harm you. You will be rewarded.

If you work with integrity, professionalism, diligence, commitment and passion, then you never have to worry about creating competition for yourself, or about sharing what you know, because there can never be enough of those commodities. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to charge enough for what you are doing. Especially when starting out, some are afraid that if they charge enough they will price themselves out of the market. But you can always negotiate. Remember, if you don’t value what you are doing, how will anyone else value it?

 Follow Winslow Swart on Twitter at: @OrgDevSensei.

 Photo courtesy of Winslow Swart

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