Yearly Archives: 2013

2013 Annual Review…

Well, another year gone by, and time to reflect.

Got this idea from Chris Gullibeau of The Art of Nonconformity. He does this each year, and each year challenges others to do the same. Great idea!

So once again, I’ll review three categories:

But first, a quick overview…

The Jump-to-Consulting project is now THREE years old. 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 made me both location independent and financially independent. Best of all,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 JumpToConsulting. 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 experience in the consulting business.

HIGH-LIGHTS in 2013..

Jump-to-Consulting – The blog is up to 120+ posts. Had hoped for a few more, but still proved that I can keep a blog going. No burn out, and no plans to stop.

Not many readers (it is a pretty tight niche), but it has helped several make their own JumpToConsulting. (Way to go!) So don’t be bashful — your questions and feedback mean a lot, and they do inspire me to keep going.

EMI-GURU – Not much to report here.  Although business is slow, had some interesting consultations during the year. Also taught a bunch of classes — both in-house and public. Teaching is a primary passion.

Personal – Finally finished all the patio home remodeling, so now we can just enjoy it. The final touch was the little hot tub on the private patio. Best enjoyed with some wine.

Lost over 40 pounds! Woo hoo! Now on the SEC (stop eating crap) diet, and it is working well. Combined with the workout routine, I have more energy and feel years younger. Should have done this a long time ago.

LOW-LIGHTS in 2013…

Jump-to-Consulting – Still no book, but not sure another formally published book is that important to me right now. Been there, done that. Intrigued, however, by E-books.

EMI-GURU – Business still slow, but at this stage in my life, I’m content with the business levels. Leaves more time to goof off. No desire to return to the 30-40 trips per year of a few years back.

Personal – A planned RV trip to Alaska got cancelled at the last minute, but we did have several shorter trips that were fun. One was a trip around Lake Superior, which we had not done for almost 40 years. Beautiful scenery and a very good time.

LOOKING FORWARD to 2014…

Jump-to-Consulting – Keep on blogging. Considering an E-book or two, along with offering some on-line classes. Nominal fees may be involved to offset the costs of running the site.

EMI-GURU – Continue teaching the technical classes, which I really enjoy. As an old codger, there is nothing like seeing a younger engineer (and even an old timer) suddenly “get it.”  Love to share what I’ve learned. Will still accept consulting opportunities, but will no longer actively pursue them. Happy to help when I can.

Personal – Spend time with the grandchildren, along with reading, writing, and more travel in our little RV. Stick with the weight loss program – this is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Goal is to lose another 60 pounds so I can join the centennial weight loss club.

Wishing you all the best in 2014! And THANK YOU for reading my blog.

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Lead Generator # 19 – Gimmicks

Generally not in favor of gimmicks here – thing like coffee cups, key chains, T-shirts, etc. Frankly, I’m not sure they are appropriate for most consulting practices.

But the RIGHT gimmick can be an effective marketing tool, as long as it is practical and useful.

Planning calendars are a good example — and they keep your name out there all year. I’ve been the recipient of desk planners and pocket planners, and appreciated them both. And when using them, I was always favorably reminded of the calendar donor.

While we’ve not given out calendars ourselves, we have used two other gimmicks with success. Both are useful, and one even includes a bit of humor. Neither is expensive, and both are keepers — having a much longer potential life than calendars.

Useful Bits of Information (UBI) – This is a three fold mini-brochure that fits a shirt pocket. The inside panels contain several tables of engineering information relevant to our business, while the outside panels brief descriptions of our services and backgrounds. Most important — both sides contain our full contact information.

Our fellow engineers love stuff like this (and we do too.) While our business cards may get tossed, UBI may be saved for years. If/when a need for our help arises, the contact information is readily available — including our toll free 800 number.

UBI was conceived many years ago as an inexpensive handout for talk at a trade show. When people began stopping us in the halls to get their own copy of UBI, we knew we had a winner. We now hand these out with our business cards, and also in our classes.

To date, several thousand UBIs are out there, silently marketing our services while helping our engineering colleagues.

EMI-GURU Button – This is a two inch metal button one can wear. It is bright red, like the Staples “Easy Button.” Since we were first, we’ve often joked that Staples must have copied US :-).

Our fellow engineers like this too. After all, who doesn’t want to be a guru? Like UBI, the button gets saved. We’ve even seen them pinned on cubicle walls – advertising our services to other engineers at the same time. More silent marketing.

A narrow white border has both our web site (WWW.EMIGURU.COM) and our toll free phone number (1-888-EMI-GURU.) As an aside, ALWAYS include your contact information on ANY marketing materials.

The button was conceived as a handout at a show to announce our website and phone number. Like UBI, we knew we had another winner when people were stopping us in the halls. Appreciating the humor, we even had several of our friendly competitors wearing our button.

Incidentally, the button was instrumental when we trademarked “EMI-GURU”, as it established legal proof of the use of our trademark. Or so our lawyer explained. We also pass out the buttons in our classes, making our students “deputy EMI-GURUs.” Good fun.

So don’t overlook gimmicks, but do make them useful or fun. Most important, they can generate leads when you least expect it!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

SOS to Boomers…

Here is some boomer humor that arrived recently via an E-mail.

A C-130 was lumbering along when a cocky F-16 flashed by.

The jet jockey decided to show off.

The fighter jock told the C-130 pilot, “Watch this!’  and promptly went into a barrel roll followed by a steep climb.

He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier.

The F-16 pilot asked the C-130 pilot what he thought of that?

The C-130 pilot said, “That was impressive, but watch this!”

The C-130 droned along for about 5 minutes and then the C-130 pilot came back on and said: “What did you think of that?”

Puzzled, the F-16 pilot asked, “What the heck did you do?”

The C-130 pilot chuckled.  “I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, took a leak, then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll.”

When you are young & foolish – speed & flash may seem a good thing!

When you get older & smarter – comfort & dull is not such a bad thing!

Us older folks understand this. It’s called…

S.O.S.

Slower, Older and Smarter….

Good advice for old consultants, too. Put’s it all in perspective…

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Lead Generator # 18 – Collaborate…

“No Man is an Island…” beings a poem by John Donne. Written almost 400 years ago, it is still true today. True in life, and true in your own consulting practice.

In this post, we’ll look at leveraging your business by collaborating with others. We’ll examine several facets of collaboration — marketing (lead generation), production (joint projects), or a combination of both. We’ve done all three over the years with success.

-Marketing Use joint efforts to promote your businesses. These can be simple, like cross referrals on web sites or guest blog posts. They can be more sophisticated, like forming a group to provide cross marketing. An example of the latter is the Forensic Group, a local engineering group in Arizona who help each other as expert witnesses.

-ProductionCall in colleagues for help. Maybe you get the huge job, but can’t handle all of it or don’t have all the necessary expertise. A common example is the remodeling contractor. While the contractor may do much of the work, he/she calls in preferred plumbers, electricians, or concrete finishers to take care of special tasks.

-Combo marketing & productionThink temporary  partnerships. That means the relationships don’t need to last forever, but they do need to benefit all parties involved. These are often complimentary businesses, but can even include friendly competitors.

Here are several examples of successful collaborations for us:

  • Teamed with TUV Product Service (a local test lab) on a mini-trade show. Started in 1986, the annual Minnesota EMC Event is now 26 years old. It was our fist collaboration, and gave both firms great visibility in our local MN market.
  • Teamed with Tektronix (a large test equipment manufacturer) on public training seminars. Started in 1993, this successful partnership is now 20 years old. This gave both firms national visibility in our specialty.
  • Teamed with EDN (a major engineering magazine) on a 100 page design guide. Not only did we write all the content, but we helped solicit the advertisers. As a result, it was highly successful for the publisher. And with over 130,000 copies, it gave us worldwide visibility and credibility. The guide eventually became a book, which we now sell on our website and hand out in our classes.
  • Teamed with a consulting colleague on a specialty web portal. This turned out to be a poor fit for our consulting businesses, but it was good fit for a magazine publisher who subsequently purchased it. For the publisher, it was a make or buy decision, and we had already done the heavy lifting.
  • Most recently teamed with the Applied Technology Institute on a specialty class. ATI specializes in technical training programs for the military/aerospace market. We tailored an existing in-house class for their market, plus they promote our existing public classes. Definitely a win-win for both firms.

Don’t want to mislead you — all of the above involved substantial efforts. Yet they have all paid off rather nicely. As with most marketing efforts, be prepared to a lot of work.

Here are some additional do’s and don’ts on collaboration:

  • DO seek a win-win-win – You must benefit, your partner(s) must benefit, and your clients/customers must benefit. The benefits need not be purely financial. Increased visibility alone may justify collaboration, particularly when you are starting out.
  • DO get something in writing – We prefer a memo of understanding. You don’t need a formal contract (which may mean lawyers), but you do need to document the relationship and expectations This is particularly true if money is involved — who does what, costs, and profit splits.
  • DON’T call up and ask for overflow  business – This is begging, not collaboration. We occasionally get these calls, and frankly find them rather annoying. Bring something to the party first.

Finally, collaboration allows small firms to leverage their strengths and multiply the results. Just make sure there are benefits for everybody!

PS – Fellow Arizona blogger Pam Slim (Escape From Cubicle Nation) offers a nice on-line class on collaboration. Check it out here.

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Should you guarantee results???

That question was recently posted at Consulting Success, a useful blog for aspiring and practicing consultants.

While Michael Zipursky recommends offering a guarantee, I don’t fully agree. YES for products. but NO for professional services. Here is my partial reply:

As consulting engineers, we do not guarantee our results. Lawyers do not guarantee you will win the trial, and doctors do not guarantee you will get well. We do, however, promise to provide our best professional advice.

For us, it is about setting expectations, and being brutally honest about it. Like a doctor, we can not to assume client’s “disease” — all we can do is try to help. If a potential client can not accept that, then we’re both better off not doing business in the first place.

Finally, we do offer a “no questions asked” guarantee for our software and printed materials. But not so for our time and advice.

Over the years, we have had a few potential clients “insist” on a guarantee. (Often the lawyers trying to shift the risk to us.)  When we explain our policy, most agree and we do business. Those that don’t agree, we turn down.

Incidentally, prospective clients who ask for a guarantee raise a flag with us. It suggests they are either a bit naive about electronic product design, have unrealistic expectations, or are on shaky financial ground. It is just good business to resolve such issues prior to providing consulting help.

A quick example. A prospective client once asked us to guarantee they would pass a government required test. A marketing shell, they had outsourced both the design and manufacturing overseas. As such, we would have no control over the implementation of any recommendations we made. We quickly passed on that one — a potential nightmare!

The bottom line – we do NOT guarantee results for our consultations, but we DO guarantee our products. After 26 years in full-time practice, that policy works for us.

P.S. If you have not visited Consulting Success (formerly Business Consulting Buzz), I recommend doing so. Although it focuses on management consulting  rather than technical consulting, I find it useful and interesting.

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Success Story – Bob Bly, Copywriter

Always love it when a former engineer does well! And Bob Bly, a chemical engineer by training, has done very well as a marketing consultant who specializes in copywriting and related services.

Bob also shares his knowledge and ideas through a free e-mail newsletter, which I have received for several years. He has written 80 books, and sells numerous educational packages through his newsletter and web site (www.bly.com).

Like so many of us, Bob did not originally plan on becoming a consultant. But his love of writing soon caught up with him. Although a degreed ChemE, his first employer hired him as a technical writer. He then moved into technical marketing, and the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.

Bob combines the analytical mind of an engineer with the creative mind of a writer. How is that for a niche? He is also an astute business person, and at 56 is financially secure. But he still works 12 hour days, which he describes a pure fun.

Here are Bob’s responses to my Success Story questionnaire. Very succint!

(1) What prompted you to consider consulting (running your own business?) Was there an event, like a layoff, or was it just the itch to be on your own?

My boss asked me to move from NYC to Wichita Kansas in 1981 and my fiancee would not go. So I quit my job.

(2) How has it been going? Looks like you’ve been at it a while, so obviously you are established in your business.

Full time freelance copywriter since February 1982.

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting (your own business?)

Writing copy for my clients– copywriting is what I love to do.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting (your won business?

Advising clients who know less than me, are not successful, and need help, but then when I advise them, argue with me.

(5) How do you get your clients? (BTW, the number one question I get asked when someone finds out I’m a consultant.)

I have been around so long people know who I am and where to find me — I get more inquiries than I can handle every week of the year.

(6) How do you set your fees? (Second question I get asked.)

My fee schedule is attached. (Note – Please contact Bob directly for his rate sheet at rwbly@bly.com.)

(7) How did you decide what to consult about (or focus on?) And why? (Third question I get asked.)

I am a copywriter and do that because when I had staff positions, that was the only part of the job I enjoyed.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

Most clients won’t take most of your advice most of the time.

(9) What next? Do you plan to do this the rest of your career (like I did?) Or is this a stepping stone to other things?

I plan to do this until I no longer can.

(10) Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to our fellow engineers who might be thinking about consulting (or going out on their own?)

There is a lot of competition today. What will set you apart from the rest of the pack? If you don’t know, then don’t do it.

Thank you, Bob, for sharing your story! Although I’ve not personally met Bob, we’ve exchanged e-mails, and I’ve found him to be a very gracious person.

PS – Just purchased Bob’s latest Kindle book (Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy –  And Other Grumblings From a Cranky Curmudgeon). Could not put it down… 75 of his favorite pearls of wisdom. Humorous yet blunt… Bob is another Andy Rooney!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Newbie Success Story…

This recently arrived in my mail box, and I wanted to share it. It certainly made my day!

This is from Catherine at ViewThatData.com, who I featured a few months back in an earlier post. Sounds like she is making great progress towards her goals of both occupational independence and financial  independence.

Hi Daryl,

I hope this finds you well. I am doing fine.

I am very hopeful, enthusiastic, and excited to jump to this next phase in my life and career.

I wanted to take a minute and give you a brief update. You have been so helpful and inspirational in my jump to consulting that I wanted to keep in touch.

As you may remember – I took your advice and set my business up as an LLC. I am currently working on getting my application together for both the minority business enterprise as well as a veteran owned business. I recently got certified in my profession as a GISP (GIS Professional).

I finally got the go ahead with that church and finished their project (who I thought was going to be my first client but they weren’t).

I represented a friend at a book fair to sell her book and the man in the table beside me is a historian and turns out he often needs maps for his books so I gave him my business card. Within a month he contacted me and I have since completed 3 maps for his new book.

I have 2 nonprofits that within the week have given the word that they want to move forward with their proposals. With one of them saying not only did they want to do the training I proposed but wanted to know if I would be interested in fee-based task services for things they needed help with.

So it has been utterly amazing – every proposal I have put out has gotten approved so far (there have been 6 so far). I know that this won’t always be the case but it is a great start, plus all invoices have been paid with promptly.

And honestly I haven’t even began marketing full force – I have been concentrating on admin activities like setting up my books, professional certifications, minority and veteran certifications, etc.

We have had a major life change in my family and my goals have now changed in relation to them. My new goal is to be able to go full time with my business and become a full time consultant within the next 1 – 2 years and work from my home.

Part of the dream with that avenue is to work hard when I’m working and have the flexibility to travel several times a year as opposed to the vacation leave limits I currently have.

Here is my reply:

Hi Catherine,

Congratulations on all the progress — that is great!

But don’t let up on your marketing. BTW, your certifications and applications for minority/veteran business status are marketing efforts too. Consulting is all about “credibility and visibility.” Sounds like you’ve been doing a good job on both.

In any event, it occurred to me that your email would make a nice blog post — perhaps offering some inspiration to others who might be on the fence regarding consulting. An update from “them that’s doing.” I like to do “success stories” and yours certainly falls into that category.

Glad to hear things are going so well!

Daryl

Way to go, Catherine!

P.S. Been a little lax on blog posts here – October was busy with both work and fun stuff, including an RV trip following the old Santa Fe trail as we returned to AZ from MN. The consulting biz lets us be location independent too — and the independence is great!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Veteran’s Day Story…

Three rifle volleys, followed by the mournful sound of Taps. The folded flag was presented to his widow, and then it was all over.

He was laid to rest among his comrades at Fort Snelling, right next to the Minneapolis St. Paul airport. That seems appropriate for this old B-24 crew member from World War II.

It was cold that December day, about 20 degrees below zero. The air was clear, and the bitter wind blew across the prairie, just as it had when he was a young farm kid from northern Minnesota. Like so many others, he simply answered the call to serve.

When the war was over, he used the GI-bill to get a teaching degree. For over thirty years he taught Industrial Arts at inner city schools in St. Paul, MN. The farm kid teaching city kids how to make things. Beautiful things, too. And also molding them into young men.

He married and fathered two daughters. Then cancer struck down his wife, and he was alone. But he was smitten by a young librarian at his school, who he courted the old fashioned way. She was smitten too, and they soon married.

That is when I met Bob. Our wives were sisters, so we became brothers-in-law. There are many good memories with this quiet man who was also old enough to be my father.

Being modest, he never talked about the war. Nor did he ever wave the flag or even participate in veteran functions. No bragging or grandstanding. When the war was over, he simply got on with his life.

The last time I saw him, he was suffering the ravages of Alzheimer’s.
His short term memory was shot, but his long term memory was still intact.

When we stopped by for a quick visit, he was paging through a book on the B-24 Liberator. Being a history fan, I asked him about it.

With some gentle prodding, he was soon telling stories of his wartime experiences. About the bombing missions over the Romanian oil fields. About seeing a strange and very fast German fighter with no propeller. About being a ball turret gunner. And more.

All fascinating stuff. Later, my wife told me her sister confided, with a tear, that he had not talked like that to anyone for over a year. Two weeks later, a heart attack mercifully ended his final battle. I still treasure that last conversation.

So what does this have to do with consulting?
Nothing, really, but somehow  it just seemed right share this story on Veterans Day. Rest in Peace, SGT Melbye.

And thanks (from a non-vet) to ALL who have served!

© 2013 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Rating your clients…

Do you treat all clients the same? That question was posed recently on Succeed, a small business forum on LinkedIn. Always ready to share my opinions, here is the answer I posted there.

Like so many have said already, we strive to treat all our clients with respect. But in reality, some clients are better than others.

So, we divide our clients into three categories: A, B, and C.

Everybody starts out on the “A- list”, regardless of income potential. Size doesn’t matter. We’ve had small clients turn into large clients and/or great referral sources.

— Those who pay promptly and are pleasant stay on the A-list.

–Those who pay late drop to the B-list.

–Those who pay REALLY late or are difficult in other ways drop to the C-list.

Since much of our business is repeat business, it helps us prioritize our responses. Most of our clients are a sincere pleasure to work with. As for very few who are not — well, life is too short to put up with them.

Some further clarification. Just because they look like a good client does not make them one. Over the years, we’ve had to move a couple of well known companies to the C-List. Usually the problem lies with the bean-counters, not our direct clients.  But getting paid on time is important – and it shows appreciation and respect for your work!

Take care of your GOOD clients — and they will take care of you!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A success story – Kellie Hedrick, PE

Time for another interview with another successful consulting engineer — Kellie Hedrick, PE, of Environmental Process Solutions PLLC.

Kellie is a Civil Engineer and a Registered Professional Engineer (PE), and specializes in wastewater treatment. How about that for a unique consulting niche? She has been in full time practice since 2010, and is located in Charlotte, NC.

I first connected with Kellie on a small business forum on LinkedIn, so I asked her to share her experiences and advice here.

Here is the interview:

(1) What prompted you to consider consulting? Was there an event, like a layoff, or was it just a general itch to be on your own?

Like a lot of people in 2008/2009, I was laid off. After looking for a job for about a year, I found that it seemed people needed my assistance on more of a part time basis.

After contracting a little bit, I decided it would be better to form a company and start consulting, so I officially launched my company in 2010.

(2) How has it been going? Looks like you started in 2010, so obviously you are established in your business.

Business has been reasonably good. I really enjoy working with industrial wastewater and helping my clients gain or maintain compliance with their discharge permits.

It makes me incredibly proud to solve problems my clients are facing and the fact that I can get paid to do what I love makes it the perfect situation for me.

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?

I like working with different companies and solving different problems. I tend to get bored working on the same thing all the time, so the variety I get with my company is very nice.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?

I was never fond of the typical engineering consulting format. I prefer more of the contracting type jobs where I’m providing a routine (or maybe not so routine) service over a long period of time.

The typical engineering format seems to be to get a project, design something to fix the problem, possibly oversee installation and move on. The design aspects take so long and require more office work that I really like to do.

(5) How do you get your clients? (BTW, the number one question I get asked when someone finds out I’m a consultant.)

The majority of my clients have come from referrals either from former co-workers or from vendors I work with on a routine basis. I have gotten one or two random client calls and it seems that they usually originate from them finding my Manta page.

(6) How do you set your fees? (Second question I get asked.)

I did a lot of research initially and based my starting fees on information I found on the GSA website for government contractors. From there, I have adjusted a little to try to be generally in line with firms in my local area.

(7) How did you decide what to consult about? And why? (Third question I get asked.)

I had my area of expertise and there are many consultants working in the environmental industry, so with my focus on wastewater engineering and operations, I decided I’d see if I could make it on my own.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

Networking is extremely important.  As is keeping your name out there online.

As a business owner, you start out doing all jobs and so far, I’ve found that Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited book to be extremely accurate in the depiction of a person who starts on their own with a love for what they do in their business and how much of a struggle it is to expand into actually running a business rather than managing a job.

(9) What next? Do you plan to do this the rest of your career (like I did?) Or is this a stepping stone to other things?

At this point, I’m enjoying what I’m doing and where I am with growing my business, so I’m likely to stick with it for now. I haven’t made any long term plans other than the fact that I plan to work forever and never retire.

(10) Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to our fellow engineers who might be thinking about consulting?

Make sure that you learn the business side of setting up a consulting company. I’ve been at it for about 3 years now and still have a ton to learn about the business side. I love learning, so I’m still going for it.

I think I’ve been lucky to have good networking groups in Charlotte, NC where I can attend a learning session along with meeting lots of new people.

Thank you, Kellie! Perhaps your story will inspire and encourage other engineers wondering if they too could make their own JumpToConsulting. (One of the secret objectives of this blog.)

Finally, in closing – a bit of engineering humor. When I once chided my brother (a retired Civil Engineer) about his own wastewater projects, he responded “Well, it may be sewage to you, but it is MY bread and butter.”  Gotta love that engineering attitude…

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

On “firing” clients…

Here is a reply I posted over at RainToday.com on an article by Michael W. McLaughlin titled “Should You Really Take On That Client?”

In my 30+ years as a consulting engineer, I’ve had to “fire” a couple of clients. Like you, I apply the “life is too short” rule to put up with deadbeats or bullies.

The first firing was actually a long term client who kept delaying payments. Although I enjoyed working with them, it was frustrating getting paid, so I eventually dropped them. Not long after, they went bankrupt, stiffing many vendors for thousands of dollars. Fortunately, I was not among those who suffered a loss.

The second firing was a short term client who apparently had anger issues. A VP of engineering, he bullied his employees. When he yelled at me over the phone because he did not like my approach to his problem, I simply suggested he find another consultant. Ironically, the proposed solution would have worked – I had solved that problem before.

However, most of my clients have been great to work with, and a few have even turned into long-term friends.  It is tough to turn down business, but sometimes it is the best course of action.

The bottom line – not every client is the right client. Mr. McLaughlin’s article covers seven things to consider before taking on a project.

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Questions from a CPA trying to break free…

This question was posted recently on LinkedIn. Can’t help myself … I just had to jump in… marketing a consulting practice is a favorite topic!

I am a CPA who would like to would like to own my own CPA firm, but clients have been hard to come by.  Any ideas on a proven marketing program?

Here is my reply:

Yours is the first question asked when people find out I’m an independent consulting engineer. But after 30+ years in business, I’ve concluded there is no “magic bullet” or “proven marketing program.”

But don’t despair – you can do it as many have before you. It just takes time and effort.

One big advantage you have is a professional license, in an area where almost everyone can use your help. The big questions are WHO do you go after, and HOW how do you reach them?

The key is to focus. You need both strategies and tactics.

STRATEGIES — Try to define your ideal market(s), subdividing into niches. For example:

  • Business (B2B) or personal (B2C)?
  • Local or nationwide?
  • Special services like tax, audit, financial planning, estate planning, or???
  • What about specialty markets, like accounting for medical practices, or??? (Heard of one accountant who specialized in homeowner associations, and owned his local market – now that is a clever niche.)

TACTICS – Its all about credibility and visibility. That can be done through:

  • Speaking (such as local professional groups)
  • Writing (focused tutorial articles or white papers)
  • Teaching (adult education,seminars, webinars)
  • Networking (LinkedIn of course, along with cultivating live contacts.)

It won’t happen overnight, but it is worth it. Pick a couple and start working on them.

Incidentally, many of these can be done while you are still employed. We spent several years “laying pipe” before breaking free in 1987. Even though the market crashed (the very first day in business!) we still survived thanks to those previous efforts.

So it is doable, but it takes work. Is it worth it? I certainly think so – no regrets here!

Several other replied, but here is my favorite, from Carl Harrington, another tax accountant. Great nuts and bolts advice – my favorite kind.  These ideas apply to other disciplines too.

Couple of brief comments based upon my myopic view.

1. People don’t want to pay CPA’s to do the tax work because they didn’t want to pay the taxes in the first place.

2. Many people don’t understand the limited FAT privilege. The people who need you the most (in trouble) can’t hire you or share with you as you are not privileged. I would target every tax attorney in town and offer assistance, to come and meet the client at their office as part of their virtual staff or under a kovel letter. I would do this for free, or else you are not helping to facilitate their employing you.

3. You have a great chapter 9 going on in Detroit, probably with enough accounting and audit work for 30 CPA’s. Have you scoped it out yet? Why not? That work is not only huge, it would be fun too. They are re-negotiating thousands of contracts…..

4. Start volunteering with VITA, Start volunteering with public law firms who do things for indigent people. Soon your reputation will precede you. Go to small business meetings, become a volunteer for SCORE and other similar organizations. Teach classes on tax and accounting. Teach areas of taxation for attorneys, CPAs and EAs.

5. Shadow the local CPA; EA; TAX ATTORNEY meetings. Look for office space opportunities (a) to find what’s out there, (b) as a pretext to meeting new people.

6. Get the tax prep software (demos) and become familiar. Take free training from Drake etc. Get all your computers organized to go into business and clone everything so that you will have backup.

You will have a lot to do, and you will be able to open the CPA office “naturally” as you become so in demand that it is the greater of your choices.

Get busy and sustainedly busy before you launch.

Lot of work to do this……no time to slack off…….but you will be in demand…..

Of course, I invited Max and the others following the discussion to visit us here.

If you are one of those readers, welcome.  If not, you are also welcome!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Lead Generator #17 – Sales Agents & Reps

Using a sales agent sounds like the ideal method for those who don’t like sales and marketing. Just pay someone else to do it, right?.

Unfortunately, nobody cares for your business like you do, so I do NOT recommend this as a primary source of business. To be blunt, if you are not ready and willing to market and sell, you are not ready to start a consulting practice!

But done correctly, agents and reps can generate incremental business. It has worked for us, and we are even included on one manufacturing rep’s line card. We are also listed in a training catalog. While neither is a major source of business, it is still good business and much appreciated.

Here are some comments on dealing with sales agents and reps, based on my 25 years as a full-time consultant — 7 years as a field sales engineer — and 2 years managing independent sales reps.

  • Synergy – Look for someone already in your market niches. For example, both our rep and our training firm serve the same business niches we do. They are already in front of the right people, so it is easy for them to offer our services as an add-on.
  • Share of mind – Good sales people are busy. Keep in contact — out of sight, out of mind — but don’t overdo it. An occassional e-mail or phone call will suffice. If/when the opportunity arises, offer to buy them lunch or dinner (or even a beer.)
  • Support – Good sales people value their time. It is a precious resource. Make it easy for them — provide materials, answer questions, and follow up right away. And don’t be bossy — rather, ask what they need and how you can help them.
  • Payment – Good sales people are motivated by money. Don’t expect things for free. We pay commissions as follows:
    –10% on a lead. We follow up, close the business, do the work, and bill the client.
    — 20% on a purchase order. We do the work and bill the client.
    — 30% on paid business. We do  the work, then and get paid for it.
    Our payments are based on fees only, but not expenses. They get paid when we get paid. And we mail their check out right away — no delays.
  • Agreements – You need an agreement or memo of understanding that spells out terms and responsibilities. Keep  it short, but it must be signed by both parties.

So how do you find a suitable sales person? Network and cultivate contacts.

A good place to start is trade shows. Ask companies in your market place who they use. This is particularly useful if you are targeting a specific locality. Most people will share this, as long as you are not seen as a potential competitor.

Another good place is professional organizations. That is how we met our manufacturer’s rep, along with several clients. Local  chapters are particularly effective — they are like watering holes where everybody regularly meets to quench their business thirsts.

What kind of sales person are you looking for? Briefly, here are four classes of sales personnel:

  • Reps – Also known as manufacturer’s representatives. These are often small independent sales organizations who focus on both a business niche and a geographical niche. They usually operate on full commission, do not carry products for sale, and are paid upon sales/delivery. We are on the “line card” of one rep who serves our business niche.
  • Resellers – Like reps, there are often smaller firms that specialize in marketing services to specific business niches. One example is firms who match-make expert witnesses with law firms. Another is training catalogs, a method we use. Like a rep, both make their money upon the sale.  (Unfortunately, there are charlatans who want advance payment — my advice — don’t do it.)
  • Distributors – These are usually larger organizations, but may also focus on business niches. They usually carry products for sale, and may offer ancillary services. The latter is where you may fit as a consultant, particularly if you serve a special niche. We’ve done business this way.
  • Field sales – These are full time company employees, and likely can not represent you, but may provide contacts as they have a lot of visibility into their territories. I was a field sales engineer (Intel & Tektronix) for seven years, and often passed along leads to consultants as a courtesy (no fees.). In return, they advised me of potential sales opportunities.

Don’t overlook other professionals or similar businesses. Depending on the business, fees may or not be the norm. If no fees are involved, do your best to return the courtesy. Don’t take without giving back.

Finally, avoid conflicts of interest. As Registered Professional Engineers (PE), we do NOT pay fees to non-sales organizations, nor do we accept fees for referrals. Neither are allowed by our rules of professional ethics.

We do pass leads and recommendations along as appropriate, and we make sure our clients understand that no money changes hands. Keeps it clean and simple.

Hope his has given you some ideas on how you might use existing sales organizations. But you still need to do the bulk of the sales and marketing yourselves — at least if you want to stay in business!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Do You Own a Business… or a Job???

Here is an interesting comment recently posted on LinkedIn that I thought might be of interest:

Do You Own a Business or Do You Own a Job?

This question was posed to me not long ago. I have often considered whether “I owned a Business or it Owned ME!”

But when I was asked the above question I must admit I was taken back for a few minutes trying to decide just what I was being asked.

When I asked for clarification I was then asked what would happen to my business if I were to walk away from it for 4 to 6 weeks. My response was it would stall out and likely crumble to nothing.

At that point I was TOLD I owned a Job! If I had a true business regardless whether I was out sick or just on vacation the truth was a business would run without me, maybe not as good or efficient .

But truth being told I was the business or in short I Owned a JOB!

More on LinkedIn…

Here are my comments:

I’ve heard this “argument” before, and frankly, I consider it a put-down.

What was the questioner’s agenda? Were they trying to sell you something? Or were they simply jealous that you were independent, while they were not?

So What? It’s YOUR business, job, or whatever you want to call it. It’s YOUR life too. Do what makes sense, and what makes YOU happy. If you want to grow, go ahead. If you want to stay small, that is fine too.

As a consulting engineer (partner – two person firm), I’ve spend the past 25+ years doing the latter. Some days it is a job, some days it is a business, but EVERY day so far has been a joy! No regrets either!

Finally, it sounds to me like you have your act together. Ignore the naysayers, and enjoy the journey, regardless of what you call it.

My sincere best wishes!

PS – Now blogging (sharing my experience) on how to start a consulting practice… or is it a business… or is it a job … or is it a lifestyle… or ??? 🙂

A subsequent comment quoted Michael Gerber — the E-Myth guru – who said “Most small businesses are owned by technicians who suffered an entrepreneurial  seizure.”

Gerber is a strong advocate of growing a business so you can sell it. (He even built a consulting firm around the concept!) Good info if that is your ultimate goal. Not so good if you just want to stay small and independent.

Here are my additional comments:

Read the E-Myth a few years ago, and found it interesting. But I was a little annoyed on his view of “technicians.” Not everyone wants to be a manager — many want to be producers. Society needs both.

What if every doctor wanted to run a hospital? Who would do the surgeries? What if every engineer wanted to manage? Read Dilbert lately?

About a dozen years ago, my business partner and I seriously considered growing our consulting firm. Business was good, and we were already subcontracting our overflow business.

But then we decided not to. Why? We both realized that while we enjoyed working directly with our clients, neither of us particularly enjoyed managing others.

Was it the right decision? For us, yes. Would we have made more money growing the firm? Not sure — but we were not making much money on the subcontractors anyway. But it doesn’t matter, as our little “technician” business eventually made us both financially independent.

So, grow if YOU really want to. Gerber’s book can help. But don’t do so just because some business “guru” (or anybody else) says you should.

Hope this helps!

An interesting discussion, and all very polite. So, what are YOUR thoughts?

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Consulting as a Side Hustle…

Thinking about consulting, but not ready to go full time? Then consider consulting as a side hustle. You will learn a lot, and it will be much easier if/when you make your full-time JumpToConsulting.

First heard this phrase back in 2010 from fellow Arizona blogger Pam Slim at Escape From Cubicle Nation. I’ve sung her praises before, and will continue to do so. Unlike too many Internet bloggers/marketers, Pam is the real thing —  genuine, caring, and full of great advice and insights on starting ANY business.

But enough of the accolades. When I heard the term, it immediately resonated — for that is exactly how I got started in consulting over 30 years ago. Not ready to jump in full time, the part time route was a great way to test the waters to see if I would even like consulting in the first place.

The side hustle also brought in some extra bucks. With two kids at the time, any extra moolah was welcome. It even provided a tax shelter of sorts, by investing profits in some new fangled personal computers. (Have we come a  long way from that first Apple II…)

But most important, the side hustle provided a place to try ideas. Some worked, and some didn’t. The biggest disaster was a foray into computer seminars — but I learned an important lesson about barriers to entry. The biggest success was learning how to market consulting —  different from most traditional businesses.

So what was the original side hustle? We began teaching adult evening electronics classes at a vocational school (now part of the University of Minnesota system.)  My business partner had just started, and recruited me when another instructor had to drop our at the last minute.

Although I never taught before, it sounded like an interesting challenge. The challenge turned out bigger than expected, but I survived (as did my first students.) Actually, we all learned together, and my class reviews were positive.

That following spring, the school asked for help in organizing their evening electronics curriculum (a bit of a mess.) Recognizing an opportunity, we submitted a proposal. We had just  recently attained our PE (Professional Engineer) licenses, so we felt a nominal fee was warranted. We called ourselves Kimmel Gerke Associates.

The school jumped at it. When the dust all cleared, we probably earned a few dollars an hour. But we had tasted blood, and we had our first job under our belts.

We did many subsequent projects for the school (at improved rates). These included developing/presenting on-site training for several local companies (anybody remember BASIC?) The capstone was winning a state grant to develop a multi-year program on printed circuit board design, which was a nice chunk of change.

Other consulting projects began to emerge too. We were approached by a local county medical society to help them select a computer system. A small manufacturer asked us to develop a marketing white paper. Our side hustle was starting to generate some serious side income.

So why didn’t we break free? Well, actually I did — for three months. It took that long to realize I still needed to learn a LOT more about consulting, and I also needed to have a LOT more money in the bank.

Back to the corporate world I went, sadder but wiser — and also more determined that ever to make my own JumpToConsulting. It finally happened several years later, but it might never have happened without the original side hustle.

What about YOUR side hustle? Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you enjoy it? No sense doing it if it isn’t fun. After all, it is YOUR hustle.
  • Can you make money at it? The  bottom line.  But if your are not sure, a side hustle can be a good way to test a market without risking everything.
  • Any conflicts of interest? This is both an ethical issue, and a practical issue. Not a good idea to risk you day job over a side hustle. Keep it legal too.

Make a list of possibilities. A good place to start is Pam Slim’s original post, “What’s Your Side Hustle?” Be creative, and add your own ideas – even if the seem esoteric. Who knew there was a market for a couple of Electromagnetic Interference engineers?

Finally, give some thought to WHO your potential clients are, and HOW you would reach them.  This is called marketing — the linchpin of small consulting practices. No clients — no business.

Hustle on!

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A success story… ViewThatData.com

Just got this e-mail from “C,” who you have already met in previous posts. We kept her name private, but she is now happy to share some details of her brand new consulting practice.

Catherine helps organizations better organize, analyze, and use their client/member databases using mapping technology. This is based on her years of experience providing this service for government agencies.

What an interesting consulting niche! And what a great example of leveraging specialized experience, and transferring specialized technology to new markets.

Hi Daryl,

I’m sure it seems like I dropped off the face of the earth, but alas I got my first check for my very first client this past Friday.

Which was a totally different client than the one I thought was going to be first. (They are still interested so they claim but are not moving forward.)

My first (real) client wanted a poster size map of their family farm with boundary lines, aerial photo, and topography.

I had invoiced them on June 17 and when 30 days went by with no payment (the payment terms on invoice) I had to give a little nudge but check was delivered on Friday July 26.

So I am OFFICIALLY in business 🙂

All the best — Catherine

Here is my reply:

Hi Catherine,

CONGRATULATIONS! Yes, you can now say you are OFFICIALLY in business. Feels great, doesn’t it?

Not terribly surprised that the first one didn’t pan out right away – that is often the nature of this business. You need to keep on turning over new rocks.

And now, onward and upward to the next client, right?

Thanks for sharing your success! — Daryl

We first connected via Mr. Money Mustache, my favorite blog on financial matters. Written by another engineer who achieved financial independence at the tender age of 30.

No magic either — just a combination living below his means and stashing away as much as he could for several years. Similar to the focus and discipline it takes to start a consulting practice (or any other small business.)

Catherine is following the same path, and is using her part-time consultancy to improve her retirement stash. Way to go, Catherine!

Since then, we’ve exchanged a few e-mails, some which are summarized in my blog.

It delights me to hear of her success… it’s one of the reasons I started this blog!

To find out more, visit Catherine’s web site at ViewThatData.com. So, any success stories YOU would like to share?

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Lead Generator # 16 – Referrals & Testimonials…

No doubt about it, referrals are a leading source of leads for established consultants. But how do you get leads and testimonials when just starting out? Simple… ask for them!

Yes, I know that asking for something scares a lot of people. What if they reject you? Don’t worry — most people won’t. If they know you and like you (and your work), they will be happy to help.  Who doesn’t like passing along a favorite doctor, accountant, mechanic, or even a restaurant?

And if they do turn you down? So what – just move on. Incidentally, this often happens if you deal with sensitive issues. But you still may be able to get a passive referral.

The secret is to make it as easy as possible for others to help you. In this post we’ll look at several avenues — active referrals, testimonials, passive referrals, and references.

Active referrals –  You’ve just finished a project for a client, and they are pleased. This is the ideal time to simply ask “Do you know anybody else that might benefit from my services?  If so, can you share their name?”

Next, follow up with a short letter to the referral. I prefer this to an e-mail (which can end up in the spam folder anyway) or a phone call (which can be intrusive.) Mention the referral source, briefly introduce yourself, and include your brochure and business card. Invite them to visit your web site.

You don’t have a brochure? See my post on collateral. A simple three fold brochure is ideal — keep it simple. You don’t have a web site? Well, what are you waiting for?

About a week later, follow up with a brief phone call to verify receipt. Don’t push. If you have a newsletter, ask if you can add them to your mail list (the polite thing to do.)

This may not lead to immediate business (and probably won’t), but it does plant a seed for future business. And it only takes a few minutes, and the courage to simply ask.

Once in a while, though, you’ll get some immediate work. So keep at it — particularly if you are just starting out.

Testimonials – This is a variation on referrals that can be very effective. In this case, you ask if your client would be willing to endorse you on your web site.

You need to do the leg work. Write up a two or three paragraph summary of the project, and what was accomplished. Be specific. Did you solve a vexing problem? Did you increase sales or reduce costs?

Make it simple for the client – don’t ask them to write the summary – it will likely never happen. But do have the client review and approve the testimonial prior to publication. No embarrassments that way. Ask for a personal comment or two.

In some cases, the client may be uneasy with a live testimonial (complete with their name & company.) The fact that they have used a consultant may be sensitive. We run into this in our engineering practice, and often sign nondisclosure agreements promising to keep the consultation private.

The alternate is a anonymous testimonial. You write this, but keep it general so nobody can identify the client. However, try first for a live testimonial — much more effective.

Passive Referrals – Similar to active clients, these are non-clients who can still refer business. These include friends, business/professional colleagues, vendors, and more.

If you haven’t done so, you need to develop your networks. It is important to keep  in touch with these contacts. We’ve found our newsletter to be very effective.

We also spend time with the vendors at conferences, and support them whenever we can. Sales people are an excellent source of leads, as they are in the marketplace every day.

Should you pay for referrals? It depends (see my recent post on Referral Fees.) To avoid conflicts of interest, we do not pay (nor accept) referral fees from clients or colleagues.

We do pay fees to bona-fide sales/marketing companies. These include a manufacturer’s rep (we are on their line card) and with training firm (we are in their catalog.)  All other referrals are exchanged on a courtesy basis.

Incidentally, most of our engineering business now comes from passive referrals, along with former clients and students. But we’ve been at this full time for over 25 years – one of the few benefits of getting older 🙂

References – The  most generic, a list of references can be effective. But if you are just starting out, you may not much of a list. As your business develops, however, you’ll want to include a list of references.

Many consultants include a list of client names (thinking the more names, the more impressive.) If you do this, make sure you have everybody’s permission first. Many companies are very sensitive about their names appearing in your marketing materials. You don’t want to hear from anybody’s legal department.

My recommendation – don’t use client names. Instead, use a project list. Most prospective clients don’t really care who you have worked for — they care what you can do for them — and what you have done in the past.

A project list does this, and protects client confidentiality. It also sends a subtle message that new clients will be treated the same way. Here is our project list.

What if somebody wants a live reference? We will provide them, but only after first contacting the prospective reference. To keep it simple, we usually provide two names.

When starting out, you may need to have some names ready to go. After all, you are still an unknown. This will diminish as you become established.

In closing, referrals and testimonials are very effective… and should be an integral part of marketing  your practice and generating new leads. Keep at it, as referrals become even more effective over time!

© 2013 – 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

On Not Being A Good Corporate Rat…

Or, one reason I finally became an independent consultant… I chuckle to myself every time I’m reminded of this story.

Recently posted this as a reply at Perry Marshall’s blog. Incidentally, Perry is another engineer who broke the corporate bonds and went on to found a very successful Internet marketing business.

Thought I was in big trouble – but actually got rewarded…

Prior to starting my own engineering consulting firm in 1987, I was a Field Sales Engineer for Intel. It was a great experience with a great company, and proved very helpful when running my own  business.

But it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Like any large company, the bureaucracy was always there. Unfortunately for me, I never got along well with bureaucrats. Guess I wasn’t cut out to be a good corporate rat.

So, when a new monthly reporting form came out, I first chose to ignore it. Known as the “Disti Report”, it asked for a detailed forecast on sales through distribution for my accounts.

Since almost all my sales were direct, why waste my time filling out a report that had no meaning anyway?

But Chris, my sales support, came to my rescue. She reminded me that I had not submitted the report along with the monthly status report.

“So what?” I said. Being wiser in the ways of bureaucracies, she said, “Hey, just do it. It will only take you a minute.”

So I grabbed a form, made up some numbers, and handed it back to Chris. It took about thirty seconds.

She grinned, and attached it to my status report.

The following month we went through the same exercise. Chris asked, “Where is your Disti Report?”

I replied, “Do you have last month’s report?” After she handed it to me, I made a photocopy, handed it back, and she sent it in.

She grinned again.

The next month, she asked “Should I just make another copy of the Disti Report?” I replied, “Yes – and you don’t need to even ask me anymore.”

So for the next twelve months, she just attached copies of the unaltered Disti Report to my monthly status report. I even think she made photocopies of the photocopies, so they were starting to fade.

Then one day, our Regional Sales Manager came to town for a meeting. When he passed out an agenda, one item stood out – Disti Reports.

I winced – looked at Chris – and she winced back. I figured my impudence had caught up to me, and I was about to be severely chastised.

We finally got to the Disti Report on the agenda. The Regional Manager started out, “We have a big problem with Disti Reports, folks.”

I closed my eyes – wait for it, I thought.

Then he continued, “Nobody in this office is filling them out, and we need that information. No wait, Gerke has faithfully filled his out every month — but he doesn’t even sell anything thorough distribution!”

I snuck a look at Chris. It was all she could do to keep from bursting out laughing. Me, I just  breathed a sigh of relief. As far as I know, we were never found out.

So what was the big lesson here? If it only takes a minute or two and is not that important, just go ahead and play their silly games.

But the games did finally grind me down. Two years later, I started my own firm and last fall completed 25 years in business.

And no, we do NOT have Disti Reports…

So how about you? Are you a corporate misfit like I was? If so, running your own business may be the answer. Consulting is just one of many possibilities.

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Consulting as a Path to Financial Independence – Part II…

In my last post, I discussed how consulting eventually led me to Financial Independence. The primary focus was prior to making my JumpToConsulting. In this post, I’ll elaborate on things done at and after my break for freedom.

First, I put away a startup stash. This is key, as there is nothing worse than having to give up too soon because you’ve run out of money. In my case, I had enough for six months with no revenue, or a year with half revenue.

Although I was pretty sure I’d make it this time (after a false start a few years earlier), a safety net still made sense. That also made Mrs. JTC more comfortable, although she was behind me right from the start. Plus as an engineer, it is always good to have a Plan B.

As it turned out, we never really needed to dig into the startup stash. Thanks to all the plans and a couple of startup contracts, we ran in the black right from the start. And although I stepped out first, my business partner was able to join me in a few months.

Next, we watched our income/outgo like a couple of hawks. No fancy offices – we both used spare bedrooms in our homes. No fancy cars either. Neither were really necessary, as most of our business was on-site, and often out of town.

Each month we would review both our bookings and our billings. The latter is really important for cash flow. Unfortunately, clients often delay paying (particularly their smaller vendors), so you need to stay on top of your the payables.

We did spend money on necessities, such as collateral (business cards, brochures, etc.) but even then we did not overspend. No fancy multicolor brochures — just two colors (blue and gray) on gray stock. We did hire a graphics artist for a logo and typesetting, and it all turned out very professional looking.

After two years, we set up retirement accounts. By that time, we knew we were going to make it, and the income was more predictable. Our accountant suggested Keogh plans, which let us put away up to 25% of our income in tax deferred accounts.

To even out the personal cash flow, we both drew modest salaries – about 80% of our previous corporate salaries. This forced us to be frugal, and helped maintain a cushion in the business account for slow months. It also assured that the Keogh funds would be available at year end.

Any additional profits were distributed as a bonus. Since we were a Subchapter S corporation, these were not “retained earnings” so we paid taxes on the bonus. These funds were put into our regular savings/investments.

At our accountant’s advice, we eventually hired a “fee only” financial advisor. Good thing we did — when the market went sour, he minimized our losses. That lets us focus on making money, while he manages it. Like us, he is a professional who knows his stuff and does his job well. We consider it money well spent.

A word of caution! You need to discuss these issues with financial professionals – your accountant, attorney, and financial advisor (if you have one.) The laws are constantly changing, and unless you are a financial professional yourself, you need their advice. The last thing you need is to tangle with the IRS.

Finally, we didn’t win the lottery — our incomes were comparable with corporate salaries for engineers, plus a reasonable profit for our risk. It was the combination of regular savings in the tax deferred retirement plan plus self-enforced frugality that eventually led to Financial Independence.

You can do it too, and you don’t need to be a consultant. But you do need to exercise some financial discipline and planning. Trust me, it is worth it! Good luck…

© 2013 – 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.