Monthly Archives: July 2011

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.

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