Monthly Archives: January 2012

It was not Obama’s fault that you failed…

Nor was it Bush’s, or Clinton’s, or anybody else’s. If your business failed, it was YOUR fault. But don’t sulk about it — figure out what you did wrong, fix it, and try again!

This rant was precipitated by a recent comment on a business blog. The author whined that his new venture failed because Obama had “tinkered with the health care system.” What a crock — I just wanted to reach out and slap some sense into him.

Time to grow up or shut up!

Just for the record, it took me two times to get the consulting business right, and four times to get the training part of the business right. And there have still been the occasional rocky times since then.

In 1987, on the first day in full time business (the second time around) for my consulting business, the stock market crashed. Scared of failing again? Yes, but this time we succeeded, and we now joke, “The first day in business was the worst day in business.”

Failures are merely learning experiences. Sure, they may hurt at the time, but if we let them, they almost always teach us something. Furthermore, I don’t trust anyone who “never failed.”  Either they are lying, or they are very good at placing the blame on others. (Had a boss like that once… one reason I went out on my own.)

Here is a quick story that has served me well over the years. It was my first engineering sales job, and my new boss sent me to a multi-week sales training class. One evening at a break, I asked an older (wiser) and very experienced salesman how he handled the inevitable setbacks and failures.

  • He smiled, and said, “Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.”  He went on, “If you never fail, you’ll never learn, and you’ll never make progress. By the way,” he added, “I’ve been at this for over twenty years, and I still fail to make the sale more often than not.” His advice alone was worth the price of the class.

So if you are serious about running your own show (consulting or otherwise), expect failures along the way. Try to manage the risk and minimize the damage, but know that you WILL have failures. And when you do, LEARN from them.

But don’t blame Obama, or anyone else! Finally, remember the immortal words of Harry Truman, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” And I’d like to add, “If you can’t stand the failures, don’t start a business…”

P.S. Off to DesignCon 2012 in Santa Clara to present “Consulting for Geeks”. Watch my blog for follow-on webinars on consulting.

© 2012, All rights reserved.

We hire people to solve problems…

So said a favorite boss, many years BC (before consulting.) His advice that day has stuck with me over the years, and has served me well. I’ll elaborate shortly.

The catalyst for this was a recent post by Seth Godin (another bald guy fascinated by small business.) He talks about solving problems, rather than just identifying them. He also advises that you “go find the help your organization needs to solve them.”

Thank you, Seth. That sounds like a solid endorsement for consultants.

Back to my old boss. It was almost thirty years ago, and I had been hired as a Field Sales Engineer. I’d only been there two weeks when told I needed to submit a monthly status report. The format was one page, with three problems and three successes.

Not sure what to do, I approached my boss. “What’s this all about?” I muttered. “I haven’t even been here a month. No successes to report. Furthermore, admitting problems at the last place I worked was like giving somebody a knife to stick in your back.”

  • John smiled, and then said, “Let me share my business philosophy. Businesses have problems. We hire people to work on those problems. If you’re not working on solving those problems, then what are you doing here?”

I quickly replied, “John, I think I’m really going to like working here!” What a refreshing approach. Sure was an improvement over the last place.

  • He went on, “The only way you’ll ever get into trouble with me is if you sit on a problem too long. If you need help, just ask. By the way, I hired you because I sensed you like to take the ball and run with it — please do so now.”

I worked for John several years, and enjoyed it immensely.

I’ve shared this story many times with clients in trouble. This can be particularly helpful when someone feels they are to blame. Problems in business? Don’t be upset or embarrassed – problems are perfectly normal.

My attitude — now that you’ve brought me in as your consultant, let’s work together to solve those problems. Like puzzles, the problems often turn out to be interesting, and a great chance for everyone to learn and grow.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of advice. So what problems are you working on?

© 2012, All rights reserved.

Consulting for Geeks…Live Presentation

You are invited to join me… at an upcoming talk at DesignCon 2012 on Consulting for Geeks. This is an update of a talk I gave at last year’s IEEE EMC Symposium.

Sixty people showed up for that presentation — as the LAST talk of the LAST session on the LAST day. Turns out a lot of my fellow geeks are seriously curious about consulting!

Here are some details:

  • What – Consulting for Geeks – So You Want to Be a Consultant?
  • When – Wednesday, February 1, 2012  – 1 – 1:45 PM
  • Where – ChipHead Theater at the Santa Clara Convention Center

DesignCon 2012 is hosted by UBM (United Business Media) , a major technical publisher serving the engineering community.  Among others, they publish EDN Magazine, Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (MDDI), Test and Measurement World, and EE Times. We’ve happily written for all four publications over the years.

One very rewarding publishing effort was the EDN Designer’s Guide to Electromagnetic Interference, first published in 1994 and updated in 2000. When this 100 page supplement (written entirely by us) went out to EDN’s 120,000+ readers, it immediately moved us from a local firm to one with national prominence. It was a LOT of work, but worth it. (And still timely – reprints are available on the EMIGURU web site.)

We also now have an on-line column at EE Times (Planet Analog.) This grew out of the EMIGURU site blog, and has been well received. This has also been good for visibility, and is a great way to share our technical insights and experience with our fellow engineers.

So, if you are in the Santa Clara area on February 1 and can make it to DesignCon 2012, please join me! Attendance is FREE – just sign up for the FREE Expo Pass at DesignCon2012.

If you can’t make the live session, watch my blog here or watch EE-Times for some future related on-line events.

P.S.  Been a bit sparse recently with the posts. Not to worry — there have been some interesting and exciting developments that have grabbed my time and attention. All good, by the way.  This is one of them.

© 2012, All rights reserved.