Now What???

The first half of this year has been rough. It started out with plans to move back to our old house, followed by Mary breaking her arm which required surgery. Two weeks later, my good friend and business partner (Bill Kimmel) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

All this happened in January!

It was painful watching Bill sink, but it happened (too) quickly, and he passed away in April. The funeral was in early May, followed by the sudden loss of a cousin two weeks later. In the middle of all this, the remodeling was finally done and we moved.

Like January, May was a month I don’t care to relive.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been tying up loose ends with Bill’s part of Kimmel Gerke Associates (aka EMIGURU.) At the same time, I’ve been reflecting on what I want to do next. These past six months have been a grim reminder that time is not infinite.

So here are my current plans.

I plan to ramp down EMIGURU –ramp up JUMPTOCONSULTING — and simply slow down and enjoy life. So if you are interested in consulting, stick around as I get back on schedule with this blog and related projects.

EMIGURU – While my goal is to decrease the consulting, I plan to stay involved with the training side of the practice. I enjoy training, and it also gives the most bang for the buck for helping others. More effective to work with 10-20 at a time than just 1-2 at a time.

 

Efforts are underway to hand off consulting projects to a select group of consulting colleagues. The objectives are to support our clients, while helping some of the younger folks in our business.

 

Several technical courses are currently on the books. My goal is to limit classes to no more than one a month, a reduction from past schedules. Just got back from a class last week, and have classes scheduled through September. We’ll see how it works out.

 

JUMPTOCONSULTING – The goals here are to post here once a week, and to start development on an on-line class. An introductory e-book is also on the wish list, along with some magazine articles on consulting.

 

Still considering the book I’ve always promised myself to write. After a couple of technical books, I don’t need it for the ego boost, but it would be fun to do. So it stays on the to-do list for now.

 

PERSONAL – The goals here are to goof off more and enjoy life. Thanks to the consulting business, I’m financially independent and no longer need to work.

 

Not bragging — just grateful that I made the JumpToConsulting when I did. With time and effort, you can achieve this independence too.

 

So stay tuned, as I share more thoughts, ideas, and examples of how to make your own JumpToConsulting.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

The sad ordeal is over…

Last Wednesday, my good friend and business partner of 40 years passed away from pancreatic cancer. The end came sooner than expected, but at least he is no longer suffering. I will miss him terribly … hell, I already do!

A future blog post will address partnerships. Most of the time I advise against them, as I have seen too many go sour. But when they work, they are absolutely wonderful.

Such was our partnership, and a major reason our consulting firm was so successful.   And so much fun!

Although many of you didn’t know him, here is the eulogy I plan to deliver at his funeral this week. I think it captures the essence of this gentle man.

William “Bill” Kimmel, PE
Kimmel Gerke Associates, Ltd.
Consulting Engineers
1940-2015

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Daryl Gerke, Bill’s friend and business partner for almost 40 years.

When Bill’s daughter asked me to say a few words, I told her it would be a privilege. But when she told me I only had about five minutes, I knew it would be a huge challenge.

You see, I could go on for hours with wonderful stories about Bill… and given the opportunity, probably would. Those of you who do know me know that’s true.

As an aside, Bill and I spent many pleasant hours telling, and then retelling stories… often to the chagrin of our wives. I will miss that.

So what can I say in just a few minutes? As I reflected on this, I was finally able to distill it down to three key points I’d like to share today.

(1) Bill was highly respected

The highest accolade an engineer can give to another engineer is to say, “So and so is a good engineer.” Sometimes for emphasis, one is called a “darn good engineer.” We engineers are such an emotional bunch.

As the emails and phone calls poured in after the news of Bill’s passing, those phrases were repeated many times. Often with examples of how Bill had jumped in to difficult situations… helped out… and even saved their bacon.

Past students lauded his abilities to take complex concepts and make them easy to understand.

Of course, I agree with those sentiments… Working together for 40 years, I know of no better practitioner of the engineering profession.

(2) Bill was extremely gracious

In a business where giant egos sometimes reign, Bill was modest to a fault. When I shared a comment with him several weeks ago that someone had called  him a “rock star”, he chuckled and replied, “Gee,  I just thought I was doing my job.” … Classic Bill.

Bill also willingly shared what he knew. Not only with clients, but with colleagues and even complete strangers.

An e-mail from a professor in the UK told how, in the middle of his battle with cancer, he took the time to discuss the impact of some new standards. It was much appreciated… He was literally known around the world.

A phone call from a vendor told how he took the time at a trade show last fall to talk with the woman’s son about a career in engineering, and how much it meant to both of them… She had only met Bill earlier that day.

(3) Bill was a friend to ALL

I’m biased, of course… What started out as a couple of young engineers collaborating on some moonlighting projects blossomed into a friendship that lasted almost 40 years… Personally, I can think of nobody else who would have been a better friend and a better business partner.

He also leaves behind a multitude of friends in our engineering community… The many emails and phone calls in the past week have constantly expressed this sentiment… About what a good friend he had been, and how much he will be missed.

In closing, I’d like to share one particularly eloquent e-mail I received from one of those friends just after Bill’s passing.

I’m not much of a reader, but one time my Rabbi lent me a book to read. It was by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, the author of “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I never finished it, but I remember one passage:

 

As most clergy do, the Rabbi liked to learn about other faiths. He was at some kind of convention or conference, and he heard the Buddhists talking about how you shouldn’t get attached to anyone, because you would only lose them eventually…

 

Rabbi Kushner disagreed… He said that isn’t living… Rather, we should allow ourselves to love people even though it will be painful when we lose them… That is living.

 

So I’m doing a little living right now, over Bill.  (Thanks – Jeff Silberberg)

 

Right now, I think we are ALL doing a little living over Bill… REST IN PEACE, my friend!

Click here to see Bill’s on-line obituary.

P.S. Changes are coming, so check in from time to time. Initial plans are to ramp up JumpToConsulting, and to ramp down Kimmel Gerke Associates. And to spend more time just goofing off – grandkids, reading, writing, traveling, and playing with the dog.

The goal here – helping “newbies” become consultants, and helping “oldies” become better consultants. Like the underlying goal Bill and I always had with our consulting practice – helping engineers become even better engineers!

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

An update on the sad news…

In February I shared the sad news that Bill Kimmel, my business partner and good friend of almost 40 years, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That is the main reason the posts here have been few and far between. Here is an update.

It has been a rough few months. The chemo failed, but it did make him sick. As a result, he ended up in the hospital for a week with complications. This led to hospice care at home which was working  pretty well.

During that time I flew to MN for some visits. We tied up some loose business ends, reminisced, and even laughed a bit as we relived our past consulting adventures (and a few misadventures…)

We decided our business had accomplished the three objectives we had for any project — do some good, have some fun, make some money.

  • We’ve solved or prevented hundreds of EMI (electromagnetic interference) problems in a wide range of industries – computers, medical devices, defense (space craft to submarines), vehicles (planes, trains, automobiles – even fire trucks), industrial controls, facilities (including nuclear power plants & oil refineries), and more.
  • We’ve trained over 10,000 designers through our public and in-house classes – immensely satisfying in itself.
  • We had a great time visiting almost every state and several foreign countries – and we made many friends along the way.
  • We both ended up financially set for retirement – even though we’ve remained involved with our little consulting business.

The bottom line — no regrets. Looking back, it has been so much more interesting and satisfying than had we stayed with corporate careers.

While consulting is not for everyone, for us it has been simply great! It is also what keeps me going with the blog — the hope that others may be inspired to do the same.

Last week things took a turn for the worse. Having balance problems, Bill moved to a full care facility as his wife could no longer care for him at home. They had agreed on such a move ahead of time.

Nevertheless it has not been easy for anyone — Bill, his family, his friends, nor his business partner. But for now, he is hanging in there.

The response from our friends/clients/colleagues has been most gratifying. That is a good measure of business success – how much you and your work have been appreciated. I’m sincerely thankful to everyone who has expressed their kind thoughts to both of us.

In closing, my Dad had a sign in his workshop that said “Live, so that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry.”  As a kid, I found it a little spooky, but at this point in my life and career I fully appreciate the sentiment.

And don’t wait to start living your dream. Later, you want to be able to look back and smile as we are now doing — and perhaps even laugh a bit! 

P.S. ATTN Friends/Clients/Colleagues Contact Bill at bkimmel@emiguru.com. Due to low energy, he may not reply, but rest assured he enjoys hearing from you. 

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Motivating professionals…

Here is my reply to a question on LinkedIn about motivating professionals.

The more I thought about the question, the more it festered. Is it motivation, or is it manipulation? You decide.

How do you motivate your professional staff? …

How do you motivate a surgeon to perform an operation? How do you motivate an attorney to win a case?  How do you motivate an engineer to solve a problem or design an better product?

The answer – you don’t. Motivation comes from within. Unfortunately, much of what passes for as motivation is really manipulation.

So do you REALLY want to motivate professionals? Here are some thoughts based on almost 50 years as an engineering professional.

–FIRST, pay them what they are worth. Better yet, pay them a bit MORE than the going market.

— SECOND, consider company profit share rather than individual bonuses, which are too often political. After all, company profit is the “bottom line.”

–THIRD, provide good tools to do their jobs. This is an investment,not an expense.

–FOURTH, create a collegial work environment. See the comment on profit share versus individual bonuses.

–FIFTH, ask what you can do to help them, don’t tell them what to do.

Do this, and you’ll have all the motivation you need. And you’ll have motivated professionals flocking to your door wanting to join your organization.

OR, if you are a fellow professional, you can do what we did almost 30 years ago. When my business partner and I finally had enough management manipulation, we started our own professional engineering firm.

Our motivation is solving problems and/or improving things for our clients. That has been more than enough — and it has proven very profitable as well!

So if you too are weary of management manipulation, stick around and explore my blog. We’ll show you one way out by making your own JumpToConsulting.

P.S. Off to visit my good friend and business partner next week. Unfortunately, the chemo didn’t work and the cancer progresses.  But we both agree that we are so very glad we made our JumpToConsulting when we did. Carpe Diem!

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Engineer’s Week -2015

Time to celebrate for all my geeky friends! It is E-Week 2015 – February 22-28.

Here are some links that may be of interest. Particularly good if you want to inspire some young person about our crazy profession.

So break out your favorite Dilbert cartoon, and let’s party!

Beer and pizza are optional :-)

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Some sad news…

A New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was to post here at least once a week.

Next week I’ll break it. Here is why…

Late last week my business partner (and very good friend of over 40 years) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As many of you know, this is a very aggressive disease. The prognosis is grim.

It has been a rough week, and will likely be that way for the next month or so. In addition to a technical class I am scheduled to teach, I’ll be picking up a class for him.

It’s not a problem. That is what good friends and good partners do – they back each other up. But it does mean that in the short term, I have less time for this blog.

One more thing. I take some comfort in knowing how much both my business partner and I enjoyed starting and running our engineering consulting practice.

As I told him, I’m so glad we made our full-time JumpToConsulting almost 30 years ago – and that we didn’t keep putting it off. It has been great fun and most rewarding!

There is an old saying,  “We usually don’t regret what we have done as much as what we have NOT done.”

I’ll be back. Not sure when, as we’re busy restructuring our business and wrapping up loose ends. If interested, there are more details in an open letter to our friends, clients, and colleagues over at EMIGURU.

So please check back from time to time. I still have a backlog of ideas and concepts to share on how to make your own JumpToConsulting.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

How to piss off a prospect…

Time for a rant. This was precipitated by an unsolicited phone call early one Sunday morning, from a so-called “marketing firm” run by a so-called “consultant.”

Too bad he is giving consulting such a black eye.

Normally I’d let the phone ring, but for some reason I decided to answer. Actually, I was kind of curious as to what kind of jerk would call early on a Sunday morning.

Here is a short summary of the conversation:

Who is calling please? –Mumble, mumble, mumble.

Who? –RKX Research. (Not the real name*)

And who are you? –David.

David who? –Sorry, I can’t give you my last name for confidentiality purposes.

OK, David. And just where is RKX Research located? –Sorry, I can’t give you that for confidentiality purposes. But you can Google it.

OK, David. Then who is the CEO of RKX Research, and what is his number? –Sorry, I can’t give you that information for confidentiality purposes. But you can Google it.

OK, David. Did you know we are on the DO NOT CALL list? –(Haughtily) We’re a market research firm, and we are excluded from the FTC rules on DO NOT CALL requirements.

OK David. So does that give you the right to call a complete stranger on a Sunday morning?
— Well yes, legally we can call…

OK David. I don’t really give a damn about your legal interpretations  For your information, I consider your call legal harassment. — Uh, would you like to talk to my supervisor?

Sure, put him on. — Pause

Who is this? –Yohan.

Yohan what? –Yohan K…

Well, Yohan, if that is your real name, I just talked with David, if that is his real name.  I explained that I don’t really like getting unsolicited phone calls on a Sunday morning.
— Well this is a marketing research call, and we are exempt from FTC rules..

OK Yohan.  As I explained to David, I consider your calls legal harassment and will take legal action if you ever call again.  Are we clear? –Do you want me to remove your name from our call list?

Sure – you go ahead and do that. One more thing. Who is the CEO of RKX Research, and what is the address? — Sorry, I can’t give you that information …. but you can Google it.

END OF CALL…

So, I decided to Google the mysterious RKX Research.  Here is what I found:

  • RKX Research is located in New Hampshire.
  • The owner is KM. Had to hunt a bit to find this, but yes, you can Google him.
  • The web site is self aggrandizing. No list of owners or executives.
  • The FaceBook page has not been updated since January 2013
  • The Twitter feed has one tweet in 2012.
  • LinkedIn. Forget it. At this point, didn’t feel like paying LinkedIn to learn more.

Kind of interesting. If this company is a legitimate marketing company, why so little Internet presence? Why so evasive about ownership?  Perhaps they are not proud of what they are doing?

So what can we as consultants glean from this? Lets look at it upside down.  Imagine you want to break into market research consulting, and you really want to piss off prospects. Here are seven quick ways to do that:

(1) Ignore common courtesy. Call complete strangers at odd hours. Sunday mornings are particularly effective.

(2) Hire snotty kids to make the calls. Then teach them to be obnoxious and patronizing.

(3) Prevaricate. Tell people you’re just doing “market research” even if not completely true. This lets you hide behind a technical loophole.

(4) Be difficult to reach. Hide your identity and personal email address.

(5) Don’t monitor/upgrade social media for years at a time. This has the added benefit of showing how (in)competent you are at marketing.

(6) Ignore common sense.
After all, most people are just waiting for a thinly disguised sales call from some stranger – particularly early Sunday morning. Their time or privacy are not nearly as important as you are.

(7) Brag about what a great outfit you are on your website. Who knows? Maybe your mother will believe it. Or maybe not.

Would YOU hire these clowns to piss off your customers or prospects?

Finally, I’m not opposed to market surveys.  I regularly participate in those sent by email from companies and organizations I know and trust. I do NOT respond to fishing expeditions from strangers, particularly on a Sunday morning. Nor should you.

End of rant.

* Decided not to include the real info on RKX Research as originally planned.  No need to hurt or humiliate anyone – even though they might deserve it.  Rather, decided to share this rant as a lesson on how NOT to act as a professional consultant.


Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Some comments on fees…

Here is my reply to a post at Consulting Success regarding fees. Good info on this site — but with an emphasis on business/management consulting rather than on technical consulting.

As consulting engineers, we’ve used “project fees” for years. When quoting, we provide a budget and a general estimate for time. We use an internal hourly rate for estimates, but don’t include that in our quotes.

To me, hourly rates are useless. For example, if I’m getting a kitchen remodel, I don’t care what the contractor’s hourly rate is — I just want to know how much the project will cost. BTW, I’ve used that analogy on procurement people when asked about hourly rates.

Finally, we don’t bid “fixed fee.” Rather, we include a statement that “we will not exceed the budgetary estimate without client approval.” This gives us some room for contingencies or small changes. Clients and procurement people seem to like it too.

Hope this helps. I always appreciate Michael Zipursky’s insights.

Do you have questions of fees?  Ask away…

P.S. Been a crazy week here, as Mary broke her arm. On the mend after surgery…

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Don’t Hoard Your Experience… Share it…

Learned this lesson early in my consulting career. Fortunately, somebody else made the mistake, and I was able to benefit from their goof-up.

We’ve always had a policy of full and open disclosure for our clients. Retain us, and we will share everything we know about our specialty, with the exception, of course, of proprietary client information.

Worried abut overloading a new client, I quipped,

“We don’t hold back. You can tell me when to shut up, when you’ve had more than enough details and information…”

He replied,

“No, I really appreciate your being open. The last consultant we had (on a different problem) didn’t want to share anything. Seems he was afraid if he disclosed all he knew, we wouldn’t need him anymore.

My engineers were frustrated, and we all decided as soon as we have everything we needed, we’re done.  Which is a shame, as if he were more forthcoming, we’ve have him back again and again.”

Wow, I thought, I’m glad we didn’t follow that approach. Based on this incident, we made it a formal policy to ALWAYS share what we knew.  Even if it means they don’t need us again, because we’re pretty sure they will recommend us to others.

P.S. As a consultant, your goal should be to work yourself out of a job. Your client should always be in a better state after working with you. They will thank you for it by their referrals and recommendations — and by inviting you back for new problems.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are You an Economic Slave???

Ninety percent of Americans have virtually no savings… so says the latest issue of Money magazine. If you are in the ninety percent, consulting may offer a way out.

The problem with most jobs is that the income is fixed. Unless you are in sales (commissions) or an executive (bonuses), you have little opportunity for upside. But a consulting side-hustle can change that, and may even lead to full financial freedom.

Of course, making more money alone won’t do it. You need to cut your expenses too. Fellow engineer Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) saved his way to freedom in seven years, by cutting his expenses by 75%. Yes, it can be done purely by aggressive savings.

But you’ll get there faster, and with less pain, if you combine frugality with some extra income. I’m a strong advocate of combining both approaches — make more/spend less.

There are lots of ways to make more money. Unfortunately, many are scams or borderline scams. You know what I mean – multilevel marketing, on-line schemes, too many franchises, etc. Most of the money is made by the promoters — not the producers.

But consulting, even part-time, allows you to control your own destiny. The start-up costs are low, and you get to keep the profits of your labor. Other than the IRS, you don’t need to share those profits with those further up the food chain.

This is not meant to disparage other small businesses, such as restaurants, shops, specialty manufacturing, etc. But most of those require capital, commercial space, and employees. Not a problem if that is the way you want to go – or have already gone. :-)

Since you are reading my blog, however, I assume you have at least a passing interest in consulting –which I define as marketing/selling/delivering professional advice, with the goal of  improving your client’s situation.

No, you are not selling products or get-rich schemes – just your time and advice. You are joining the ranks of other professionals – doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, business advisers, and more.

Doing so part time is a good way to start. That is what I did. For several years, my business partner and I moonlighted on engineering projects. Eventually, the itch got so bad we went full time. But is was much easier making the transition from part-time to full-time, than from ground zero.

Two final pieces of advice:

  • First, avoid conflicts of interest. You don’t want to lose you day job, and you don’t want to affect your reputation. Integrity matters.
  • Second, keep a low profile.  You don’t want to inflame petty office jealousies. The voice of experience speaking.

My challenge to you — As the new year begins, give some thought to your own economic freedom. Remember, Uncle Daryl wants YOU — to be FREE. Happy New Year!

P.S. Back in the game… My goal is one post per week each Monday, with additional ones as the mood strikes. So join us Mondays, or sign up for our feed and newsletter.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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