Yearly Archives: 2011

2011 Annual Review…

As 2011 ends, it is time to look both back and ahead.

For the past few years, Chris Gullibeau has ended each year with an annual review on his popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. This year he challenged others to do the same.

What a great idea! So, challenge accepted.  Thanks to Chris!

Following Chris’s example, I’ll address both high-lights and low-lights for 2011, as well as a brief look forward to 2012. I’ve identified three categories to review:

But first, a little background…

The Jump-to-Consulting project began just over a year ago. The catalysts were questions by my older son, questions by other colleagues, and a fat file for a prospective book. With today’s economy, many people are considering options such as consulting.

I was also intrigued by blogging, and simply wanted to learn more about this Internet phenomena. What better way that to just start a blog. Incidentally, that was the same attitude that got me into consulting. Curiosity, and a desire to learn.

The EMI-GURU project began 30+ years ago,
and led to full time consulting in 1987. It has been great fun, and quite successful. I’ve traveled the world, and made a lot of friends along the way.  It allowed me to practice my profession as an Electrical Engineer in a ways I didn’t even imagine as a student or young engineer.

EMI-GURU also provides the grist for Jump-to-Consulting. Much of what is discussed here is based EMI-GURU experiences. The stuff I talk about is not theory — rather, this is real world and is based on 30+ years in the consulting business.

HIGH-LIGHTS in 2011…

Jump-to-Consulting –  Initiated the blog, and published almost 50 posts. Presented So You Want to be a Consultant at a technical conference, the IEEE International EMC Symposium.  Provided start up advice to several new consultants on an informal basis. Not too bad for the first year of a “helping-hobby” project.

EMI-GURU – Finished remodeling the web site, including adding a blog. The blog was picked up as a monthly column for EE Times, an on-line publication for electrical engineers. So I guess I’m now a multi-blogger, although in two rather narrow niches.

Published a detailed article for In-Compliance magazine on Military EMC, along with newsletters for our clients (Kimmel Gerke Bullets, or the KGBs.)  Developed and conducted a webinar, along with several multi-day pubic and in-house training sessions. Also had some interesting design and troubleshooting consultations.

Personal – Stuck with the workout routine, making it to the gym about 80 times. This is the third year, and not being a jock, I’m proud to say I’m still at it. Feel a lot better, too.

LOW-LIGHTS in 2011

Jump-to-Consulting – No progress on the book. Need to set aside specific time to “Git ‘er Done” as they say in my old home state of Nebraska. Not as many blog posts as hoped, but given the work load, have kept a fairly steady pace.

EMI-GURU – Class attendance at our public seminars a bit down. Training represents discretionary spending, so many companies are still holding back. Would more aggressive marketing help? Not sure — we’ve been pretty aggressive all along. The good news is that feedback on the classes continues to rate very high, which keeps us going.

Personal – Still haven’t lost much weight. Had hoped the regular workouts would help, but guess I simply need to focus more on the calories in.


Jump-to-Consulting – Invited to do a session in February on Consulting for Geeks at Design Con, a major engineering show in Santa Clara, CA. Curious to see where this might lead.  Got to get started on the book!

EMI-GURU –  Hope to ramp up attendance at the technical classes, an area I really enjoy. As an old codger, there is nothing like seeing a younger engineer (and even an old timer) suddenly “get it.” And it is very satisfying to hear later how our classes helped improved products and designs.

Personal – Spend more time with the grandchildren, along with reading, writing, and just “goofing off.” Social Security kicks in this year which will help with the cash flow, but I still plan to stay reasonably active with both Jump-to-Consulting and EMI-GURU.

Wishing you all the best in 2012! And thanks for reading my blog this past year.

© 2011 – 2012, All rights reserved.

Resource Review – Consulting Web Sites

Here are four web sites that specialize in consulting which you may find useful. I’m sure there are more — please let me know if you have favorites to share.

–Summit Consulting Groupwww.summitconsulting.comAlan Weiss, Ph.D. – Focus on taking successful practices to the next level. Strong emphasis on management/business consulting. Dr. Weiss is the author of Million Dollar Consulting (see my review) plus over thirty other books on consulting issues.

This content rich web site includes a blog, free newsletters, forums, and much more. Wide range of products/services ranging from books to workshops/seminars and personal mentoring.

A product I’ve enjoyed this past year is the Friday Wrap, a weekly 15 minute audio program supplemented with a monthly video. I consider it a weekly tonic on the business of consulting.

–Rain Today Schultz and John Doerr – Focus on sales/marketing of professional practices, both management and technical. Appear to be expanding their reach beyond consulting, as they recently added a sales/marketing program for business entrepeneurs. Schultz and Doerr are the authors of Rain Making Conversations (see my review).

Web site is membership based, with some free articles from a wide range of authors, but a lot more information for members. The latter include webinars, case studies, and more. They also offer a detailed class on selling professional services, plus research reports.

I belong to their membership site, plus attended the on-line sales class for consultants. Found it useful and got some new ideas. The class was an on-line version of their popular two day live class.

–Business Consulting Buzz and Sam Zipursky – Recently stumbled across this web site, although it has been around for several years. Focus on business/management consulting for both beginners and existing practitioners.

Products/services are primarily on-line, and includes an introductory course/workbook for a nominal price. I recently purchased their series of audio interviews of successful consultants and found them useful and interesting.

–Jumptoconsultinghttp://www.jumptoconsulting.comYours Truly – Focus on starting a consulting practice, with an emphasis on “geeks and boomers”. As a consulting engineer and a baby-boomer, these are two demographic groups to which I belong.

About to complete my first year of this blog. No current products, but some plans are brewing. Stay tuned…

Took a break… If you have been following this blog, you noticed a lack of activity this past month. The schedule got busy between business commitments and a road trip, but the dust is finally starting to settle. Been busy writing, however — a technical blog, a magazine article, and soon another company newsletter. Still, hope to be able to dedicate more time here.

Thanks… Appreciate those who have contacted me regarding the JumpToConsulting project, and am glad to know you’re finding it useful. Please keep me posted on your progress, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Multiple Referrals Multiply Success…

If referrals are golden, then multiple referrals are platinum! As you become established, cultivating referrals should be a high priority.

Here is a personal example, just published in Million Dollar Referrals, the latest book by Alan Weiss. When asked for examples of “greatest referrals” earlier this year, I responded with the following story. It is an honor to be included in his new book (pp 126-127.)

My Greatest Referral…

While not the greatest financial referral, this was kind of fun. Not one, but multiple referrals, that had the client clamoring to do business with us. No need to sell this one — the client was so hot to buy he was sizzling.

First, some brief background information. We are electrical engineers who specialize in a very narrow niche, electromagnetic interference and compatibility (EMI/EMC). For the non-technical, we are the “ghost busters” of the electronics industry.

Our clients often call us when they are in pain. Something is broken, or they have failed a critical test that prevents shipping their product. Expensive either way, and they need help fast. But they do want to make sure whoever they call can solve the problem and not make it worse.

So a typical first step is to ask others for recommendations. This is exactly what our client, a young engineer recently out of school, decided to do. His boss told him to check around, so he first called a favorite college professor to ask if he knew anyone that could help. The first referral: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates.

Not knowing who we were, he decided to get a second opinion. He called another college professor who had just written an article on EMI/EMC. The second referral: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates.”

The professor also mentioned a nearby EMI/EMC test laboratory. So he decided to call them too. The third referral: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates.”

The next phone call was to us. He said, “Look, I’m a new engineer and I don’t know who you are. But every time I call someone, the tell me to call Kimmel Gerke Associates. Either you guys are good, or you have been paying everyone off. Either way, I need help!”

After a brief discussion, it was obvious we could help. So we set up a meeting, reviewed his design, made recommendations, and accompanied him to a test lab to validate the fixes. After the consultation, we knew that if anyone asked him for a referral, he would say: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates!”

The multiple referrals were the result of what Alan Weiss calls marketing gravity. Thanks to our multiple marketing efforts, the first referral knew us from technical articles we had written. The second referral knew us from our professional society activities. And the third referral knew us from collaborating on several projects.

We’ve seen this happen a number of times. As engineers, we refer to this as an exponential multiplier. That is, if one referral doubles your chance of success, a second one quadruples it, and a third one drives it up by a factor of eight.  Call it gravity or call it exponential, multiple referrals really work!

Million Dollar Referrals, by Alan Weiss, PhD.  McGraw Hill, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-07-176927-3.  The latest in Dr. Weiss’s series of over 30 books on consulting.  Recommended reading for both new and established consultants.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Lead Generator #8 – Become a speaker…

Speaking can be a good lead generator, as long as you are in front of the right audience. The secret is to identify your ideal clients, so you don’t waste your time in front of the wrong groups. Focus on your target niches — specialty, geography, industry, and type of business (B2B, B2C, B2G)

Speaking (like writing articles) is something you can do prior to launching your consulting firm. If you speak about your existing specialty, it likely won’t be seen as a threat to your employer.  In fact, it may enhance your perceived value.

Keep the topics simple and tutorial. Like magazine articles, you are not trying to impress your peers — you are trying to show potential clients how you might help. Here are a couple of examples of focused yet practical topics – both professional and business:

  • Professional -An accountant talking about estate planning
  • Business – A marketer talking about LinkedIn for lead generation

OK, you’ve convinced me. Where can I speak?

  • Professional groups – Local society chapters are always looking for speakers, and are a good place to start. Symposiums are also good, but focus on the “tutorial tracks.” Leave the advance topics to the academics.
  • Business groups – For business topics, local organizations like the LIONS, Rotary, and Chamber of Commerce are also hungry for speakers.  Once again, focus on helping those who might actually need and buy your services.

Your talks (professional or business) must be informative and entertaining. Make your talks interesting. Whatever you do, don’t make them salesy.  A good test is to ask yourself, “Even if we never do business, has the talk been helpful?”

If you are really good and enjoy this, it might even lead professional speaking. Many leading consultants make thousands of dollars a year as speakers, doing keynote addresses, etc. Don’t expect to achieve that overnight – you need to earn your stripes. But even if you never make it to the paid speaker ranks, the business you bring in can make it worthwhile.

What to talk about?  Something of interest to both you and your audience.

  • Keep it basic. Think tutorial — you’re not doing a college lecture.
  • Keep it short. 20 -30 minutes for a lunch meeting.  30 minutes to an hour for a professional meeting. If an hour, make sure there is some technical meat in it.
  • Keep it simple. Three things to…  Top five problems…  Four ways to approach… New regulatory impact of …  How to avoid… Understanding the mysteries of …
  • Recycle. Did you write a  magazine article or publish a paper? Turn it into a talk. Add some overheads and you are good to go.  Don’t overdo it, though — we all know about “Death by Powerpoint.”

Your first talk.. Here are some last minute thoughts..

  • Practice, don’t wing it. Have a friend (or better yet, a group of friends) critique it. Time it to make sure it doesn’t run too long. Then practice it again until you feel confident.
  • Going live. If you are like most of us, there may still be butterflies.  Perfectly normal, don’t worry about it. In fact, I get worried if there are not butterflies — that is when thing usually turn sour.
  • Prepare an introduction for your host. Type it out, but keep it brief. No life history. Should be deliverable in about 30 seconds.

Unsure of your skills? Try Toastmasters. Although not a Toastmaster alum myself, several colleagues have praised the organization. I developed my “platform skills” through in-house presentations and teaching technical classes. We’ll talk about the latter in a future post.  Like sports, the more you practice, the better you get.

My own experience. Although I’ve now done hundreds of talks (and taught over 200 technical  classes), I did not start out as a natural speaker. In fact, I took a speech class in college and absolutely hated it!

Later, I discovered that  when I was interested in a topic, I could easily talk about it.  It wasn’t a speech — rather, it was a conversation with a friend or group of friends. The goal was not to impress, but rather to convey information. It does get easier with time — I promise.

A favorite talk was for the Society of Women Engineers many years ago as a sales engineer.  As the only man in the room, it was an eerie feeling to say the least.  Remember, engineering is still a male dominated profession.  (But I am delighted to see that is finally changing a bit..) .

So, I began my talk with “I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel so different here. Then it dawned on me — I’m the only person in the room with no hair… ” They roared. A little self deprecating humor can go a long way. For several years, I would run into attendees at that meeting. One even became a client after I launched the consulting practice.

In closing — speaking can be a very effective way to and generate leads and business, and can  generate new friends as well. Both have happened to me.

Comments or questions?

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Consulting Workshop…

As part of a special session at a recent engineering symposium, I gave a half hour talk titled “So You Want to be a Consultant? — Four Key Questions.”

Being the last speaker in the last session on the last day, I did not expect much of a turnout. Apparently the symposium organizers felt the same way. Would anybody really be interested in this non-technical topic?

What a surprise when almost 60 people turned out to hear four of us share our experiences and advice!  We were expecting perhaps a dozen.  Many other symposium attendees said they wish they could have been there. Personal discussions revealed that a lot of engineers are concerned about their futures. A sign of the times, no doubt.

Two of us were old timers, and three were newer to the consulting field. One of the newcomers was a recent retiree, and the other was an engineer laid off in mid-career. All have successfully made their own JumpToConsulting. And none plan to go back…

The general session was not recorded and is not available to the public. However, since I own the IP on my presentation, I’ll make it available  in a webinar format if there is enough interest.

Although originally targeted at engineers, the content should be of general interest to anyone considering consulting — either part time or full time.

Interested?  Please reply here, or contact me by email.

© 2011 – 2012, All rights reserved.

Success Story… Prior preparation paid off…

As the Boy Scouts say… be prepared! Because Dave was prepared, he was able to make a rewarding career change to consulting after unexpectedly losing his job.

Dave’s experience was a actually a catalyst for Kimmel Gerke Associates. I knew Dave casually, and my business partner was pretty good friends with him.  It was the mid-1970s, and we all worked together at the same defense contractor.

Dave loses his job…

Due to a business downturn, a significant number of engineers were laid off — an occupational hazard of the defense business. Dave was a very competent engineer, but as he was just winding down on a project, management considered him “expendable.”

Job hunting was tough, as other defense contractors were downsizing as well. But several years earlier, Dave had obtained his PE (Professional Engineer) license. While this credential often means little in the defense industry, it is very important for engineers working for consulting firms. It is a bit like having a CPA license in an accounting firm.

Dave quickly lands a new job…

On a lark, Dave called up one of the largest engineering consulting firms in town to inquire about jobs.

  • The FIRST QUESTION was, “Do you have a PE license?”
  • With a YES answer, the SECOND QUESTION was, “What is your background?”
  • When he answered electronics, he was immediately invited in for an interview.

You see, most of their electrical engineers specialized in power, not electronics. A PE with electronics experience was rare. He had exactly what they needed to work on electronics systems in buildings — security, fire alarms, HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning), etc.  Furthermore, as a PE, he could legally sign/seal the engineering drawings, and also supervise the work.

Prior preparation paid off…

Thus Dave began his new career. He called my partner and told him to “Go get your PE  — you’ll never know when you will need it!” Soon after, we were both enrolled in a class on the PE license. Not long after becoming licensed, we started our own part time consulting practice – later to become full time.

Today’s Lesson… Get credentials and licenses BEFORE you need them!

© 2011, All rights reserved.

On Moving to Arizona…

In 1996, I mentioned to a client that I was toying with a move to Arizona.

He commented, “My Dad always wanted to do that. Every year he and Mom would go to Arizona, and look for just the right place to eventually retire.”

Excited, I asked, “Wow!  Did he finally do it?”

My client sadly replied, “No, he died before he got the chance.”

With that “encouragement,” I decided to make my move a few months later!

— Off to an IEEE  (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) symposium in Los Angeles, where I’ll do a talk titled “So You Want To Be A Consultant.” It turns out more and more engineers are thinking about consulting. Bravo, my fellow geeks!

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Geezer Alert… Age Can Be Your Friend

Like it or not, age often matters in marketing a consulting practice. Age also matters in customer perceptions, as evidenced by the following examples.

Real Life Story # 1 – Floyd, a fellow engineer, was going to law school at night.  At the time, he was in his mid 40s, and I was in my late 20s. As he approached his graduation, I asked if he planned to hang out his lawyer’s shingle. His reply surprised me, but also set me thinking about my future.

“No,” he replied, “not unless I have to. I really enjoy what I do here, but law school is my insurance policy.”  I should add that Floyd had been in a car accident many years earlier that had left him partially paralyzed.

“Look at me,”  he said. “I’m over 40 and a cripple.  Who would hire me if I lost my job?”  I started to mumble an apology, but he continued. “No, don’t be embarrassed by your question — it was a good one. But even if I had no handicap, finding another engineering job would still be a problem because of my age.”

He then added, “The irony is that, as an older attorney, age is an asset, not the liability it can be in corporate world. Everyone will just assume I have many years of experience. Like fine wine, my value will increase — not decrease — with age.”

Wow! That set me thinking about my life after 40. Within two years, I hung out my shingle as a part time consultant.

Real Life Story # 2 – A dozen years later, now a full-time consultant over 40 myself, I was called in to help a small company with a serious design problem.  I was also now completely bald and starting to show some gray in the beard.  Oh, the ravages of time…

After solving the problem, I was wrapping things up with the equally bald VP of Engineering.  He thanked me, and then added with a twinkle in his eye, “You don’t know how happy I was to see a bald guy walking in here.  I knew I needed some old rooster that had been around the barn a few times… ”

That’s when I realized Floyd was right — as a consultant, age can be your friend!

Real Life Story #3 – For those of you who are younger, you may want to consider this approach. A consulting colleague has sported old fashioned  “mutton chop” sideburns from a young age.  As he explained, when he started out he looked even younger than he was, and it was hindering his ability to be taken seriously.

Incidentally, it worked (although like many of us, he no longer needs to add years…)

The bottom line — while age should not matter, perception does.  And in the mind of the customer, that perception is their reality.

PS – Don’t miss the “Special Welcome for Geezers”

© 2011 – 2012, All rights reserved.

Resource Review – What Color is Your Parachute?

For this month,  I’ve selected What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles.

Updated almost every year since it was first written in 1970, this is often recognized as the Bible of job hunting. The analogy is certainly appropriate, as the author is an ordained Episcopalian priest.

The catalyst for writing the book was his own job loss in the 1960s. Rev. Bolles soon landed on his feet with another job, which included counseling campus ministers looking for jobs. To facilitate those efforts, he did some research and wrote a guide he initially distributed free of charge. But the guide caught on, and to date, the book has sold over 10 million copies!

Although focused on finding a new job, the book also addresses changing your career. The book contains a number of exercises that should be useful to anyone considering the JumpToConsulting. Things like where would you like to live, what would you really like to do, etc.

He even includes a chapter on starting your own business.  No fluff, either, just lots of “nuts and bolts” advice.  All delivered in a manner you might expect from a caring pastor.

In 1978, he wrote a companion book,  The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to Life-Work Planning. Since then he has added another dozen or so to his arsenal.

Rev. Bolles also has a web site, and he periodically offers a five day workshop at his home in the San Francisco Bay area. At 82 years young, he is still going strong.

Although I’ve not met Rev. Bolles, I am an avid and grateful fan. His book certainly came in handy when I lost my job in 1982, and later when I finally got serious about making my own JumpToConsulting.

What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles – Ten Speed Press, 2011
ISBN 158008267X

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Are you a quitter, or a starter?

When I left my last corporate job at Intel (the day the market crashed in 1987), I stopped by the division General Manager’s office to say goodbye.  The GM, known as “Rocky”,  was a good guy with a sometimes wicked sense of humor. We chatted a bit, and he wished me well in the new consulting venture.

As I headed out the door,  though, Rocky threw in a barb.  “Quitter”, he muttered.  Without thinking, I spun around and quickly replied, “I’m not a quitter — I’m a starter…”

As I recall, he smiled, and said “Good answer.”

So how about you?  Are you a quitter, or a starter?  The reason I started this blog was to help those who wanted to start consulting … not necessarily those who just wanted to quit something else.

Please make sure you are considering consulting – or any other business venture –  for the right reasons.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Lead Generator # 7- Write a book…

Will writing a book help your consulting practice?

In my experience, yes! But it is a lot of work, and not something I recommend to those just starting out. Unless you have materials already (such as class notes or a bunch of research), better to start small and consider a full blown book when better established.

Still, there is no doubt that a published book is a huge marketing asset. Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting (plus 31 other books ) calls a book the gold standard for credibility. I agree. When our first book hit the streets almost 20 years ago, we immediately went from a local consulting firm to one with nationwide recognition.

Before beginning a book, you need to decide if you seeking profit or seeking visibility.  Unless you are a NY Times Best Seller, you will unlikely achieve both. Ask any author — most books never make enough money themselves to justify the time and effort. The real payoff for consultants is in the additional business.

Three ways to publish: Prior to the Internet, virtually all books were printed and sold through bookstores or catalogues. Although you might be the author, you still needed a publisher to print and distribute your work. Today, of course, that has all changed.  Here are three popular avenues:

  • Print – Commercially published –  Generally confers the most status (with a recognized publisher) with the least direct profit. It also likely involves the most work (rewrites, proofing, indexing, etc.) with the longest time to market. Since this is the most complex, you may want to engage a literary agent. Ask existing authors for recommendations.
  • If you can pull this off, it can vault you to the top. Although usually a poor strategy when starting out, it often makes sense after a few years in business. On the other hand, an engineering colleague wrote a comprehensive technical book while employed. When he retired, this quickly launched his successful consulting practice and his book is still his main marketing vehicle.
  • Print – Self Published – Provides medium to low status but more direct profit. Still a lot of work with a medium time to market. A word of caution — beware of the “vanity publishers” that prey on hopeful authors. For self published books, you don’t need a literary agent, but proofreaders and other support may be helpful.
  • If you are already well known, this may be a good approach. Thanks to “print on demand” and Amazon, you can even handle your own production and distribution. I know a successful business consultant who uses this approach. He sells his book on his web site, and also on Amazon. He prints them as he needs them, usually a dozen or so at a time.
  • E-Book – Self Published – Provides the lowest status but potentially the most direct profit. It has the lowest status (anybody can do this — no vetting by a recognized publisher) but can provide the fastest time to market.
  • This is a good approach when just starting out. An added advantage is that E-books are not expected to be as comprehensive as a printed book. As such, you can turn out an E-book pretty fast. Many bloggers supplement their content with a series of E-books. Most are pretty basic, but sell well at low cost and high profit.

Sources of materials: So you’ve decided to write a book. Where do you get the materials? With a 200 page book, you may be looking at upwards of 100,000 words, but even a shorter E-book could be 20,000+ words. Recycle! If you are considering a book, you have probably written other materials that can be reused.

Using existing materials makes a lot of sense. Just be sure they are your materials and you are free to use them. Whatever you do, don’t plagiarize! Here are several sources:

  • Articles and white papers — These can be excellent book resources. You’ll probably need to expand certain areas, and you’ll need to tie everything together in an organized manner. We used this approach in a specialized book for the medical design community, based on an earlier series of magazine articles.
  • One caveat. In order to repurpose magazine articles, you’ll need to either obtain a copyright release, or retain the subsequent publication rights in the first place. With white papers, that is not an issue since you are the original publisher, unless you have assigned the copyright.
  • Blogs and newsletters – These are also excellent resources for a book. Since blog posts and newsletter articles are generally shorter than magazine articles or white papers, they may require additional work to incorporate into a book.
  • On the other hand, even leading authors today often publish collections of their blog postings. Just organize them into sections, and add an introduction. Once again, if you own the copyright, you are free to repurpose your materials. Many readers appreciate having these collections all in one place.
  • Class materials – If you have taught a class on a subject, you already have notes (and most of the words in your head.) You also have the benefit of past questions, so you know your reader’s likely concerns.
  • You could even record a class, and have your lectures transcribed. You would still need to polish things, but much of the original work would already be done.

Personal experience –  My business partner and I currently have three books under our belts. One was commercially published, one was first published as a magazine supplement, and one was a series of columns turned into a book.  Both self published books were later turned into an E-books. People were asking for digital copies, so why not?

Our books were based on class notes, magazine articles, our newsletter, and a column for a specialty newsletter. The self-published books are for sale on our web site, while the commercial book is available from a publisher specializing in technical books.

All three books have been very helpful in establishing both our credibility and visibility. They didn’t happen overnight, so don’t feel you need to do everything at once.

Publishing books is more a marathon than a sprint — stay with it for the long haul. Comments or Questions?

© 2011 – 2016, All rights reserved.

Barriers to Entry…

Learned this lesson the hard way, at a cost of several thousand dollars. You’re getting it here for free.

This story goes back to 1981 and my early days as a part-time consultant. IBM had just introduced the PC. Our major client, a vocational school, asked for an evening class that focused on how to use PCs in small business.

Their original request was for a multi-week series, but realizing how valuable time is to a small business, my business partner and I suggested a single four hour evening session instead. They agreed.

So, off we went. We developed the class, and the school advertised it in their next bulletin. We knew we had a winner when over 80 people showed up for the first class. We repeated it several times, got good reviews, and the attendance continued to be strong.

Recognizing an opportunity and with the school’s permission, we decided to expand the class to a full day and offer it ourselves. This meant placing expensive newspaper ads (no Internet in those days) and renting a hotel meeting room.

Figuring the class was a certain success, we plunked down several thousand dollars and went for the gold. We didn’t bother with a pre-registration, but opted for walk-ins. After all, “Build it, and they will come, right?

But when the big day arrived, only three people showed up — and they were all from the same small company!

Well, the show must go on. There we were with three students, a room that could seat 40, and plenty of (expensive) refreshments. Over lunch we explained we didn’t know what had happened. After all, the previous sessions had been so successful.

“What did we do wrong?“, we asked. One of them replied, “Nothing. The class is good, but we are here only because we missed the FREE class last week.”

“FREE!!! What free class?” we responded. Well, it turns out that a new computer store had just opened, and to bring in business, they decided to offer a FREE seminar. Now how do you compete with FREE?

So that was the end of that adventure. It also quickly killed the classes at the school. But as we were licking our wounds, I ranted, “We are engineers. Never again will I go into a business where some kid from a computer store can eat my lunch. I now fully understand barriers to entry!

Not long after that, we decided to focus our efforts on Electromagnetic Interference, an area in which we both had extensive experience. It usually takes a degree in Electrical Engineering plus several years of direct  experience to become proficient. Furthermore, most engineers would rather not deal with these problems in the first place — another good reason to pursue this niche.  Thirty years later, those barriers are still there.

What are YOUR barriers to entry?

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Independence Day Musings…

Since I selected an Independence Day motif for my blog, it is only appropriate to offer some Independence Day musings. As stated elsewhere, freedom was a major motivator in my JumpToConsulting. But I didn’t realize it right away. Rather, that epiphany came a few months later.

Driving back from a client and listening to the radio, the commentator was discussing small business. He then quoted a survey that showed that the majority of small businesses were started for freedom — not, as many assume, for money or even power.

I about drove off the road. Yes, I suddenly realized! That was the main motivator for me too. The first few years were lean — made a little less money and worked many more hours. But it was all worth it for the freedom to do my own thing, to make my own decisions, and even to clean up my own messes.

But freedom is not for everyone, and that is OK too. Some people prefer the security of a steady paycheck, or the camaraderie of the water cooler. Other have family responsibilities that preclude taking financial risks. And many are very content with things as they are in the world.

Over the years, I’ve run into several examples of the above. After brief discussions, I’ve even discouraged some of them from making the JumpToConsulting. After all, not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. But if you want to change the world and the itch is there, it is hard to fight it (see previous post.)

I suspect our nation’s Founding Fathers felt the same itch. After all, many  were already independent businessmen — Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and more.  Some were even  traditional “consultants” — John Adams (lawyer) among others.

All valued their freedom, and were willing to work, fight, and even die for it. As Ben Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence “We must hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Said in humor, it reflected the seriousness of the situation.

Fortunately, none of us face being hanged for making a JumpToConsulting, or any other jump.  Their success gave us the freedom to pursue our independence today.

So thanks Ben, Paul, Tom, George, John, and all the rest!

Happy Independence Day, and remember, “UNCLE DARYL wants YOU.. to find your FREEDOM too!”

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Three Criteria for Project Success…

Have some fun… do some good… make some money. The perfect consulting project meets all three criteria. Two out of three is still often OK, and on occasion, I’ve even stooped to one out of  three. But these are three criteria by which I judge potential consulting projects.

Have some fun… For me, this is probably the most important. Life is simply too short to spend time doing things you do not (or no longer) enjoy. This comes from someone who daily wonders, “Where did the time go, anyway???”  Or, as Bob Parsons of GoDaddy says (Rule 16), “We’re here for good time — not for a long time.”  (Note – My older son was the GoDaddy controller in the beginning, working with Bob on a daily basis – now that was fun.)

Having fun means different things to different people. For some, it is learning something new.  For others, it is creating something, or perhaps solving a complex problem. Or it may just be the simple satisfaction of doing your best.

Having fun also means liking the people you work with with. You don’t need to put up with clients that are overly abrasive.  Unlike a full time job, as a consultant you can actually “fire” an obnoxious client. I’ve done that a couple of times in the past 30 years.

Do some good… This is closely related to the first criteria. In fact, doing good can provide immense satisfaction, and can still be the basis for a successful consulting practice. Best of all, you don’t need to do your good for free (unless you want to.)

A good example of this is Lynn, the retired nutritionist mentioned in an earlier post. Lynn originally volunteered her valuable skills to a local Native American community in the Phoenix area.  Her sole goal was to do some good.

After several months, she was asked is she could help other communities throughout the state.  Only this time, she would be paid. Unknown to her, a grant had been secured to support her efforts. She said yes, and truly had some fun, did some good, and made some money. And she  nicely augmented her retirements savings, too.

Make some money… Although third on the list, this is the ultimate goal of any business. Even non-profits need money to fund their efforts and pay their expenses. Nothing wrong with not making money, but if you do that all the time, you probably have a hobby — not a business. Even the IRS looks at it this way.

Not every project needs to make money right away. For example, you may be testing a concept or idea, and find that you lost money on the initial try. If that happens, don’t despair — take the lessons learned and try again. After all, you paid for the lessons.

However, you eventually want to make money on your consulting projects. Don’t just focus alone on having fun and doing good. Without profits, you don’t get to stay in the game. See the advice from my friend Marv.

Finally, if you end up making a lot of money and still want to change the world, you can always give it away. Look at  Bill Gates — his foundation has done a lot of good, and I can’t help thinking he has had a lot of fun along the way.

Although you’re not Bill Gates, you can still have some fun, do some good, and make some money with your business.  Comments?

© 2011 – 2017, All rights reserved.

Age Matters When Marketing…

When dealing with prospects or clients, age is a very important parameter. One size (or approach) does not fit all.

According to many authors, there are four major age groups that coexist today, each with their own distinct culture and ways of doing things. All were influenced by the conditions when they were growing up.

This distinction is particularly important when marketing, as you need to tailor both your message and your methods to your target clients. If you serve multiple age groups, you may need to use multiple methods and approaches.

Here are the four age groups, along with some comments:

Traditionalists – Born between 1925 and 1945, they grew up with the Depression, World War II, Korea, and the Cold War. They are often frugal, and value dedication and discipline. Most are now retired, but many continue to work or are “emeritus” employees. Some are computer and technology literate, but many more are not.

A good way to market your services is in live groups, such as short presentations or seminars. This approach is popular with consultants serving senior citizens, such as financial or estate planners. Another way is written communications, such as magazine articles or even newsletters. Electronic methods such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, web-sites, and e-mail are likely not very effective for this age group.

Boomers – Born between 1945 and 1964, they grew up with Vietnam, civil rights, and Watergate. They are generally optimistic, team oriented, and independent. Many boomers are also “workaholics.” Since many are approaching retirement, financial security is important. Most are computer literate, but may or may not not be involved with the latest in social media.

A good way to market your services is a hybrid of live/written communication, such as live seminars or webinars, and written magazine/newsletters combined with web sites. E-mail is less effective due to the high levels of spam. Blogs are probably a good method for the computer literate in this age group, but other social media may be less effective.

GenX – Born between 1965 and 1982, they grew up with layoffs, divorces, and daycare. As such, they often challenge authority and seek a work/life balance. The readily multitask, and value  independence, tolerance, and diversity. As the first generation to grow up with computers, most are highly computer literate.

A good way to market your services is through web sites and interactive social media, such as blogs,  Facebook, and Twitter. For most, print media such as magazines and newspapers are not as effective as on-line newsletters and e-zines.

GenY  – Born between 1983 and 2000, they grew up with the Internet, terrorism, and globalization, They tend to be creative, busy, and highly social. As the youngest, they also typically have the fewest family responsibilities. In fact, many are in an extended adolescence.  This age group is both highly computer and highly Internet literate, and generally very comfortable with the latest in technology.

A good way to market your services is through web sites and interactive social media, or more personal alternatives such as meet-ups. This is the Twitter and texting generation — if you can’t describe your offer in 140 characters or less, you’ll likely miss the target.

Finally, a personal anecdote. When we first used e-mail in the early 1990s, most of the younger engineers would contact us via e-mail, while the older engineers would call on the phone. Within a few short years that changed, as e-mail became the preferred medium. But even today, our newsletter list is still split about 50/50 between e-mail and snail mail.

If you are serving client across different age groups, you may need multiple methods to reach them. Finally, it is your client’s age that matters, not your own.

© 2011 – 2012, All rights reserved.

Lead Generator # 6 – Websites

Do you need a  website, particularly if you are just starting out in consulting?

YES! Just like you need business cards, letterhead, envelopes, and some sort of brochure. Not only does a web site (and other simple collateral) provide information, but it shows that you are serious about being in business.

Think of your web site as your on-line ambassador, spreading good will about your practice.  Although passive, web sites are often combined with a blog and newsletter to make them more active marketing tools. All three can increase your visibility/credibility.

One important caveat. Make sure your web site (and blog/newsletter) appear professional. A sloppy or poorly maintained site can do more harm than good.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, hire a web/blog designer. Thanks to advanced technology, web designers are relatively inexpensive. Your time is valuable, and you probably already use other professionals like a lawyer and accountant.

I hired a web designer for both this blog and our engineering consulting website (, and I’m glad I did. He saved me much time and frustration, and the final product was much better than I would have produced anyway. (Thanks, Sunil!)

Another caveat. Don’t count on your web site to get the phone ringing off the hook. A web site alone is passive. You still need to pursue active marketing, such as articles, networking, speaking, direct mail, and more.

As mentioned in an earlier post (20 Ways to Attract Clients), getting leads is like fishing — the more lines you have in the water, the more bites you will get.

Finally, don’t worry about the numbers. For many web sites (and blogs,) counts become a matter of pride. Am I getting more traffic than yesterday? More than my competition? But as a consultant, do you really care?

You are not an on-line marketer hawking the latest gimmick —  rather, you are a professional making your presence known to those who might benefit from your expertise. You are a niche player, not a jack-of-all trades.

Getting started. Here are some suggestions for your web site:

  • Register your own domain. Yes, it may cost a few dollars over using a free site, but your own domain makes you look serious and professional. While you are at it, register the same name with similar extensions (.net, .org,  .info, etc.) This prevents squatters from setting up a similar site. Had this happen some years ago,  and it was expensive to resolve (lawyers and all…)
  • Provide contact information. One of my pet peeves is having to hunt for address, phone, or e-mail information on a web site. On every page, you should have either a Contact button or your full contact information. You also need a Contact tab at the top of the page with full contact information (including an e-mail form). Make it easy for your visitors to contact you!
  • Make the site easy to navigate. I prefer tabs across the top of the page, with a few simple sidebars. A simple site map can be helpful. For an initial web site, you only need a few tabs, such as Home, About, Services, and Contact. I like to augment those with Welcome, FAQ, and Resource tabs. The latter provide both a personal touch and additional information. However, don’t get too carried away — keep it simple.
  • Consider a combined blog/website. With static pages and a blog platform, you can have both.  If you don’t want to blog right away, just make all the pages static. You can easily add a blog later, and all the tools will be there. This site uses WordPress (with a custom theme), and I am very pleased. WordPress is widely  popular, and has an almost endless variety of “plug-ins” for future expansion and features. (See my earlier post on Blogs.)
  • Consider adding a newsletter. Building a client list is crucial to building your business. We’ll cover this in more detail in a future post, but adding a newsletter to your web site is a quick way to start gathering names. You can purchase “plug-ins” or use external services (AWeber or Mail Chimp) to facilitate this. I must confess that I haven’t done much with a newsletter on this site (plans are brewing), but have found a list to be very effective on our engineering consulting website.  (See my earlier post on Newsletters.)

As your business grows, you’ll likely want to add other features to your web site. The possibilities are almost endless, but make sure anything you add is useful to your clients. Don’t do it just because it is the latest “cool” thing to do.

For example, here are some extra features we added to when we updated last year. This represents the current status, but as a “work in progress”, more updates are coming.

Incidentally, the consulting web site runs on Joomla rather than WordPress, as it is a bit more complex.  (As an aside, I’ve found both Joomla and WordPress easy to maintain.)

  • On-line Store – Three books, and a software product we developed. One of the books was out of print, so we offer it as an E-Book. Linked to Paypal and e-junkie for payment and fulfillment.
  • On-Line Registration – Allows sign-up and payment (Paypal) for our public seminars and webinars. Works well, and has simplified business.
  • Blog – Short technical articles of interest to our readers.  The blog postings are now mirrored on an industry publication, giving us wider exposure.
  • Resources – Past newsletters (20 years worth) and a detailed technical bibliography of publications, web sites, and other resources unique to our niche. Considering more stuff in the future. The goals — help our clients, and keep them coming back.

So, make a web site a high priority if you are considering a JumpToConsulting. You can start out simple, and grow it as needed. Finally, get some professional help — don’t try to do it all yourself.  After all, as a  consultant, that is what you are advising your clients to do.

Comments or questions? I’d love to hear from you.

© 2011 – 2016, All rights reserved.

Don’t wake up at 60 wishing…

Adding a new category to this blog — Encouragement. The original intent of this blog was to provide “nuts and bolts” information for those considering making the JumpToConsulting. You know — if you just knew how to do it (or how others had done it), the rest would be a piece of cake.

But recently it hit me that fear and uncertainty were even bigger issues. Not that I’ve never been afraid, but I don’t recall being paralyzed by fear either. Particularly in business situations — after all, as Bob Parsons (founder and CEO of GoDaddy) says in his Rule #4 , “…if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you…”

The epiphany occurred at a recent one day workshop by Alan Weiss, the Million Dollar Consultant (TM.) It was part of his Friday Wrap (TM) program, which I enjoy as a thought provoking weekly tonic on the consulting business. When he brought up the importance of self-esteem, however, the floodgates opened.

I sat there amazed as several very successful and intelligent attendees confided their irrational fears. Some were concerned about achieving success (Can I do it?), and some were concerned about handling success (Do I really deserve it?) One even confessed fears about losing it (What if I can’t repeat it?)

Thus, the new category — Encouragement. No, this won’t be rah-rah stuff, but I’ll occasionally share some ideas, along with some helpful references.

To kick this off, here is a reply to a recent posting by Chris Gullibeau at the Art of Non Conformity (a favorite blog of mine.)

Chris tells of Rachel, his young seat mate on a recent international flight. She was very successful, but quite discontented with her job. The problem —  it was a “good job” and thus hard to leave. If nothing else, what would people think? After all, she had spent years to get two financial degrees, and was now jetting around the world for her employer. She was a “success,” but clearly unhappy.

Judging by the numerous replies, many others felt the same. So, to offer some encouragement, I submitted the following:

  • It seems like only yesterday I pondered these questions. One guiding principle for me – “I didn’t want to wake up at 60 and regret not even trying…”
  • So I made changes. Scary at times, but most worked out fine.
  • At age 30, left a comfortable job as an engineer to try sales. Scary at first, but had fun. Made some new friends. Learned a lot.
  • At age 34, left to join a startup. Fun a first, less fun later, lost money. (Even got fired one day.) Learned a lot.
  • At age 36, started a consulting firm. Failed. Crawled back into a corporate job. Learned a lot.
  • At age 38, went back into field sales. Great fun, made good money, made more friends. Learned a lot.
  • At age 41, started consulting company again. Market crashed the first day in business. Succeeded anyway. Been a blast. Made more friends. Learned a lot.
  • Age 64, still consulting. No regrets. Financially secure. Also raised two sons, married 43 years. Still learning, still having fun. But where has the time gone?
  • Big lesson to share Life is way too short to waste doing something you no longer enjoy! Don’t wake up at 60 wishing…

In short, I did it, and you can too. No horn tooting here — just offering some encouragement.

So let me know if you found this helpful. And remember what Franklin Roosevelt said the day after Pearl Harbor — “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” True in 1941, and still true today.

© 2011 – 2013, All rights reserved.

Resource Review – Enchantment (and more)

This resource review covers three books by best selling author Guy Kawasaki.

The original intent was to review his latest book, Enchantment. But after reading it, I decided to include two more books: The Art of the Start, and Reality Check. These three nicely combine both the practice and the philosophy of starting businesses.  They are recommended for anyone contemplating a business — consulting or otherwise.

Guy is an entrepreneur supreme. He started as a technology evangelist at Apple, and was very instrumental in the success of the Macintosh. Later he co-founded (an on-line magazine rack) and Garage Technology Ventures (a venture capital fund.) Along the way, he wrote ten books. In his spare time (???), he plays hockey and enjoys life with his wife and four children.

Guy also graciously shares his insights and experiences. When I mentioned him in a previous blog post, he responded with an offer of his new book, Enchantment, just hot off the press. When it arrived, I couldn’t put it down — it was truly enchanting!

Having already read Reality Check, I then decided it was time to read the Art of the Start too.  It had been on my “To Read” list for a while anyway. Glad I did. Here are my comments on the three books:

  • Enchantment is about changing hearts and minds to create an affinity for your products or services. The early chapters address issues such as likeability and trustworthiness, followed by chapters with practical marketing information. Finally, you don’t need to be on our own — he even includes a chapter on enchanting you boss — and more. A quick and worthwhile read.
  • The Art of the Start is a practical guide for anyone who wants to start anything. While the sections on pitching and raising capital are not directly applicable to consulting startups, the details on branding and rainmaking are very relevant. Good business advice for any small business.
  • Reality Check focuses on critical strategies for startups, with chapters on innovation, marketing, selling, communicating, competing, and even beguiling. While much of the focus in on product firms, the lessons are applicable to service firms too. Almost 500 pages of great stuff.

As you may have noted, his books are aimed at small business startups in general, not service firms in particular. The details on marketing and sales, however, are invaluable for anyone  considering a JumpToConsulting. Remember, this is the Guy who put the Macintosh on the map against some pretty stiff odds.

Guy also shares his expertise on line through his blog at the AMEX Open Forum. Visit his home page at for a link to his blog and other resources. I’ve not met Guy, but certainly look forward to meeting him in the future.

All three books by Guy Kawasaki:
-Enchantment – 2011- Portfolio/Penguin – ISBN 978-1-59184-379-5
-The Art of the Start – 2004 – Portfolio/Penguin – ISBN 1-59184-05602
-Reality Check – 2008 – Portfolio/Penguin – ISBN 978-1-59184-394-8

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Location Independent Consulting

Sick and tired of your daily commute? Ever dreamed of running a consulting firm from a cabin in the mountains or a condo on the beach? Or maybe an RV, or even an overseas location?

Well, some people are doing that already, as “location independent consultants.”

Thanks to the Internet and other advances in technology (powerful lab top computers, cell phones, satellite access) the dream is not only feasible, but practical as well.  By relocating to a less expensive area, you could even save  money and make your start up more financially viable. Here are several examples of people practicing location independence.

The Woodwards ( – When Lea and Jonathan Woodward got fed up with the rat race in the UK, the decided to set up their own Internet based business. Lea had started out as a London based management consultant, and Jonathan was graphics designer.

Both had gone through some rough times, including the death of a parent and a job loss.  Either of those events can cause you to take a fresh look at life, and where you are going. Looking for less expensive digs, they left the UK in 2007 in search of a new home and a new lifestyle.

Then the unexpected happened — they discovered they liked being nomads, and ended up living and working in the Caribbean, South Africa, and Thailand. They started a blog and newsletter about their experiences, and wrote several detailed guides (all available on their web site.) The guides sell for a nominal cost, proving you can also make a living as trailblazers, helping others to follow your lead.

Geeks on Tour ( – Since 2003, Jim and Chris (along with Odie the perfect poodle) have lived full time in their RV as they toured the country. No, they are not retired — they run a popular computer consulting and training business serving the RV community.

In addition to their information packed blog, they provide computer seminars at RV parks and rallies, on line video tutorials, and install the popular Datastorm satellite dishes. As full time RVers themselves, they are both knowledgeable and well respected within their “target market.” What an interesting niche for a couple of fellow geeks!

As they state in their blog, they are still dependent on their savings, but they are on a path to a self-sustaining lifestyle. In the meantime, they are living their dream, not just thinking about it.

Your truly –( – As part of a two person engineering consulting firm, my business partner and I often joke that we may be the smallest company with two corporate headquarters — one in Minnesota and one in Arizona. Yet, thanks to today’s technology, our dispersed firm works very well. With broadband Internet and FedX, it is not much different than being down the hall or down the street from each other.

But wait – there’s more.
On a recent plane trip, I discovered my seat mate was a fellow consulting engineer. He was heading back to his single person office in China, where he was part of a  mechanical engineering firm with single person offices in China, Singapore, India, and the US.

When I asked what led him to China, he explained that after working with a client there, he decided to try living there for a few years. Incidentally, he was about 60 and had escaped from corporate life a few years back. No rocking chair retirement for him – he was now having a blast.

So, if you have the wanderlust or just want to try a new location, location independent consulting might be right for you. Check it out.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Management vs. Technical Consulting

Consultants come in all types of sizes, shapes, and specialties. However, most fall into one of two broad categories — management consultants or technical consultants. While both provide services and advice aimed at helping the client, there are some significant differences.

As a consulting engineer, I am more familiar with the technical category. Nevertheless, I’ve known and worked with a number of management consultant over the years, so I feel comfortable sharing observations on this category as well.

Technical consultants are usually problem-oriented, and typically live in a “concrete” world. Most are specialists by education (engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, etc.) with years of advanced professional education and experience.

  • Most technical consultants focus on solving technical problems or addressing compliance issues. (Think doctors, accountants, lawyers, and most engineers.)
  • Other technical consultants, however, focus on creating new ideas, concepts, and products. (Think architects and design engineers.) They all apply hard science, logic, and even art to achieve results.
  • Technical consultants often need to be licensed by government boards before they can offer their services to the public. The licensing requirements are strict, and require in-depth examinations combined with suitable professional experience. As such, they can confer a high degree of credibility.
  • A word of caution. Non-licensed professionals can be censured or even jailed for practicing without a license. Don’t even think about practicing medicine or law without a license.

Management consultants are usually process-oriented, and typically live in an “abstract” world. Most are generalists by education (business, liberal arts) but may have extensive experience in business specialties (marketing, advertising, personnel, etc.)

  • Most management consultants focus on solving business problems or improving business processes. Profitability and ROI are major measures of success (or failure) for management consultants.
  • Management consultants are typically more “people oriented” than technical consultants, and often apply soft science (psychology or market research) and emotional appeals to achieve results.
  • Management consultants rarely require specialized legal licenses, but may still need simple business licenses.
  • In order to enhance credibility, many  management consultants pursue certifications by nonlegal entities. Depending on the client, these credentials may or may not have meaning, so choose your credentials with care.

Two different types of consultants — two different cultures. In my experience, the two types sometimes even distrust each other, but much of this is due to misunderstanding. Personally, I have great respect for both types of consultants. Hopefully this post has promoted some tolerance regarding these cultural differences.

As a final thought, consider opportunities where the two cultures collide. For example, if you have a technical background combined with marketing or finance experience, you’ll have a big advantage with high tech clients over the liberal arts major.

The same is true if you have management background combined with legal or medical experience — you’ll have much more credibility in your core community than a generic consultant. I’ve seen successful examples for both.

The bottom line — understand the differences, and then build on your own unique strengths and experiences.

© 2011 – 2012, All rights reserved.

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