Monthly Archives: January 2013
Recently ran across this web site and newsletter, and wanted to share it here. In addition to being a useful resource, it is also a delightful success story.
In 2000, Michael Katz launched Blue Penguin Development, a one man firm that teaches professional service providers how to position themselves as “likeable experts.” Much of his emphasis is on newsletters (a favorite technique of mine) and social media.
Following his own advice, he has published over 275 issues of “The Likeable Expert Gazette,” a weekly E-Newsletter with over 7000 subscribers around the world. Just added my name to his list, and really enjoy his musings. Light, refreshing, and easy to digest. (Gee, I sound like a food critic.) Nutritional, too.
Michael has a BA in Psychology, an MBA, and a past career as a columnist and humorist before going independent twelve years ago. He started about age 40 (boomers take note) and is still going strong. Best of all, he is as bald as a billiard ball, which always sits well with me. Hair is way overrated…
His services range from writing newsletters to helping with marketing. He does this through books, webinars, and individual consulting. If you sign up for his newsletter, he’ll even send you a link to his free E-Book, “It Sure Beats Working – 29 Quirky Stories and Practical Business Lessons for The First Time, Mid-Life Solo Professional.” Loved it!
I’ve not met Michael Katz, but hope to at some point in the future. It is a real pleasure to recommend him to those of you considering your own JumpToConsulting.
The Likeable Expert Gazettete, by Michael Katz – www.BluePenguinDevelopment.com
© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.
I’m living proof. No MBA, and in fact, I’m an MBA dropout. But more on that later.
His advice is right in the title – Don’t Delay Your First Startup to Get an MBA. I could not agree more — don’t delay a JumpToConsulting for the same reason.
Now my personal dropout story.
I had just started a new job as a Field Sales Engineer. My new boss, who I admired, was an EE with an MBA from a local university. When asked, he spoke highly of the program, and encouraged me to take advantage of the evening program and the tuition reimbursement.
So I enrolled. The first courses were interesting, and I learned some good stuff about finance and accounting. However, it was apparent that the MBA was designed to prepare one to move up in the corporation – not to start your own venture.
By that time in my career, I was already smitten with the entrepreneurial itch. Unfortunately, you can’t shake it.
So I was faced with a decision — spend the next two years studying to become a corporate rat, or spend the next two years plotting and planning my eventual escape to independence through consulting. As you may have guessed, I did the latter. Damn glad I did, too!
Incidentally, this is not meant to disparage the MBA, or any other advanced degree. (My older son has an MBA, and it has helped him immensely.) If you already have one, toot your horn. After all, you worked hard for it and you earned it!
But as Martin points out, if you are itching to be an entrepreneur, more education may actually slow you down. Unfortunately, many people use getting an advanced degree as a crutch in lieu of just jumping in and starting something.
Some advice for my fellow geeks. I agree with Martin — if you have NO business background, the MBA can give you basic business knowledge. But so can a few good business books.
Or, you can do like I did, and get a job as a Sales Engineer. I learned more about business, sales, and marketing in the first year that I had in the previous ten years as a design engineer. Plus the real world sales experience was far more valuable than any theoretical MBA class could provide. Nothing quite like doing it to really learn it!
Finally, if you really want an MBA, the go for it. But just make it will take you where you want to go.
PS – If you have the entrepreneurial itch, sign for Martin Zwilling’s blog. It is a daily dose (yes, every single day) of solid business advice from a fellow Arizona Baby Boomer with a ton of experience as a successful entrepreneur.
© 2013 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.
Boomers and geeks take note! Close to retirement, and wondering about consulting? My long time friend Don shows you a way.
Fresh out of engineering school, Don and I worked together in the late 1960’s at Collins Radio. In addition to both being EEs (Electrical Engineers), we shared a common interest in amateur (ham) radio – a hobby that got both us both started in electronics.
Within two years, we went our separate ways. Don headed back to his hometown of Chicago to work for Motorola, and I headed north the Minneapolis/St. Paul to work for Sperry Univac. We both remained involved with radios — Don as a systems engineer with VHF/UHF radio systems, and me as an EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) engineer.
Due to our mutual interests, we stayed in touch. Don progressed up the ranks, eventually becoming a Staff Engineer in charge of planning and installing sophisticated communications systems, including one at the White House. He enjoyed what he was doing, and never really considered being on his own.
But a few years before retirement, his company fell on hard times. Offered a lucrative buyout, Don took it. But not ready to hang up his spurs, he wondered what to do next.
This is where Uncle Daryl enters the scene. You see, I’d been bugging Don to consider consulting for some time. He had a wealth of experience, tons of credibility, and the right credentials — both FCC licenses and a PE (Professional Engineer) license.
But Don was still unsure. Almost forty years of corporate living can do that to you. So, when I called to inquire how things were going, he mentioned he was taking a short class on resume writing.
“What!” I exclaimed. “I thought you were hanging out your consulting shingle.” He hemmed and hawed, so I said, “You know a lot of people in this business. Geez — just make a few phone calls and see where it leads.” He agreed to give it a try.
Actually, he didn’t even get that far. A colleague had just heard he had “retired”, and called Don to inquire about his availability. A nearby county was upgrading their public safety communications system, and invited Don to manage the project — and for a rather attractive fee at that.
Thus began Don’s consulting career. He kept busy for the next several years on a number of similar projects. Most of his leads were referrals from former customers, colleagues, and even old ham radio buddies.
Thanks to all his hard work over the years, he had a ready made network. His marketing was minimal — all he needed to do was let the network know he was available.
One of those referrals came from Yours Truly. A former client called looking for some help with some VHF/UHF radio systems. Based on their problem, I immediately thought of Don. He took the job and solved their problem, making both of us look good.
The project required a mountain top visit — not your usual consulting job. I had visited the same mountain top for a radio frequency safety survey. There were also some strange radio phenomena on the mountain that needed Don’s attention.
We both agreed these were probably some of the more interesting projects either of us had undertaken. And the views from the mountain top were priceless!
Don finally decided to fully retire (no more mountain climbing.) He enjoyed his stint as a consulting engineer, and enhanced his retirement funds at the same time. He now enjoys his free time playing with his radios at his new retirement home in Tennessee.
So, is there a lesson in all this?
Yes, of course. If you are approaching retirement (or are already retired), you have plenty of very valuable expertise — probably more than you realize.
Consulting can be a good way to leverage all your years of experience. It can keep you involved, and it can help fund a lot of fun retirement stuff too!
© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.
Not my favorite approach, but when times are desperate…
I’m with luminaries like Alan Weiss, Howard Shenson, and Perry Marshal on this method. Much better to have potential clients call you, rather than the other way around. As Shenson once said, your marketing goal should be have clients clamoring for you.
Think about it. As a professional, does you doctor call you to see if you want to buy a penicillin shot today? Does your lawyer call you to see if you want to buy a will today? No, they create both the credibility and visibility so you will first call them.
But there are times when cold calling can help. If you are just starting out, for example, you could (and should) call everyone you know to announce your new business. You can ask if they know anyone who might need your services. Just don’t push your services on them — if interested, they will let you know.
One important suggestion. Don’t rely on e-mails alone for the initial contact. Most of us get a hundred or more cold-call e-mails every day, and we are all good at zapping them to the delete folder. That is, if the spam filters don’t catch them first.
Consider a personal letter. No, snail mail is not dead, and a well written personal letter will stand out. Use it to break the ice, and then follow up with a personal phone call. I think you will be pleased with the results from this two step process.
Pick a number – say 20 per week – and work your way through your list. It is said that most of us know around 200 people. Make 4 calls per day, and in ten weeks you’ve personally contacted all of them. If lucky, you may even have snagged a project.
But don’t stop there. If you publish a newsletter, ask to add them on your list. You’re not publishing a newsletter? Well, time is a wasting. Consider a short e-mail letter. Now that you’ve made the personal contact, the e-mail follow up is fine and very inexpensive. You want to keep in touch.
Technically, the cold calls above are really warm calls. Since you already know the person, you have a reason to call. But what about complete strangers?
This is where targeted cold calls can work. For example, you just read that the XYZ company just won a contract where your area of expertise could help. Get on the phone and find out who would be a good contact. Check out your contacts on LinkedIn too.
When you find the right person, give them a call or send a letter. But do your research first. Don’t waste their time “exploring what keeps them up a night” or other similar nonsense. Rather, offer some ideas or examples of how you have helped others. After all, that is what consultants do.
Here are two examples of cold/warm calling...
The first is Dr. Gary Blank, a fellow consulting engineer. He tells a great story of how he quickly transitioned from corporate employment to full employment as a consulting engineer.
When told of an impending job change, he decided it was time to hang out his consulting shingle. Highly motivated, but not sure where to start, he sent out personal letters to everyone he knew. Within a month he landed his first project.
Dr. Blank shared that story many times with prospective consulting engineers through his activities with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Consulting Engineers Network. As a result of his hard work and visibility, he was recently elected the President of IEEE-USA, a capstone to his fulfilling career.
The second is Your Truly. Thirty five years ago as a young sales engineer, I tried a similar approach with some success. Involved with the launch of a new design system, I scoured the want ads (remember those?) for companies seeking design engineers who might use our system.
It only took a few minutes of searching every week, followed up by a short letter with a brochure, and later a phone call. Although not my main source of leads, it did result in a couple of sales. Not only that, my boss even commended me in my next review.
Finally, most people shy away from cold calls. But highly targeted cold calls work, with both acquaintances and strangers. They work best when you first warm them up, and they can be very effective when you start out.
© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.
The tough part is making it a success.
Recently ran across a blog post on business startups. The author suggested consulting, since it was so easy that anybody could do it. Of course, the author had never started and run a full time consulting practice himself. Go figure.
So, time for a short rant…
But the author is right. You can start a consulting practice right this instant. Just call yourself a consultant, order some business cards, and you’re in business. The telephone should start ringing any minute, right?
It really is that simple. Except it isn’t.
Unfortunately, this is a common misperception, particularly by those with lots of credentials (letters that can be put after their name.) Having already achieved some career success and prestige, they assume the rest of the world will immediately recognize their expertise and abilities.
It is the mousetrap syndrome. You know, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Wonder who cooked up that piece of fiction?
No, it doesn’t work that way. You need customers. Furthermore, you need customers who are willing to pay you, too. For solutions. Not ivory tower lectures or esoteric theories, but real world solutions to their real world concerns.
So how do you get those customers? You market. You sell. You peddle your butt off. Hmmm, not so simple anymore.
Maybe, like any business venture, it takes some plotting, planning, and old fashioned hard work. Sorry, THIS blogger is not offering any magic miracles today.
At the fundamental level, all businesses have three components:
- Products or services to sell
- Customers or clients who will buy those products and services.
- A way to connect the parties (aka a marketplace.)
Really, that’s it. Congratulations, you’ve just earned your One-Minute MBA.
Now let’s dig a little deeper, using the old reporter’s method of 5W/H – what, who, why, where, when, and how.
- WHAT do you have to sell? As a consultant, it is your expertise and advice. So what do you have that others might want and be willing to pay for? What are you really good at, AND that has value in the marketplace?
- WHO might buy your expertise? Ah, now you are starting to identify your market or markets. Can you identify niches? i.e. – business/consumer, local/national, demographic, etc.
- WHY would they buy your services? Do they have problems to solve? Or prevent? Do they have dreams to pursue?
- WHERE do your customers hang out? Can you identify groups or organizations do they belong to? Media they read – magazines, newspapers, web? Do they use social media?
- WHEN do they buy? Short or long sales cycle? Seasonal? Impulse?
- HOW do you reach them? Having answered the 5W questions, you may already have a good idea HOW to start. But starting is not enough — you need plan, and then you need to execute the plan, over and over. Wash, rinse, REPEAT.
Ride along here and I’ll do my best to help you understand and address these questions. Ultimately, however, the specific answers will be yours. Incidentally, I’ve been at it this game for over 30 years, and I still ask these questions myself.
Thus ends the rant.
Yes, it IS easy to START a consulting practice, and anybody can do it. The real question is can you BUILD and MAINTAIN a successful consulting practice? It takes time and effort. Just like anything else worthwhile in life.
Happy New Year! Is 2013 the year you make your JumpToConsulting?
P.S. Signup for our newsletter. In 2013, we plan a regular mailing with recent posts and other relevant information. Don’t worry about spam — our list is PRIVATE.
© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.