Monthly Archives: December 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.