Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Success Story – Marty Zwilling…

As promised in a recent post, here is Marty Zwilling’s “success story.” His story should be of special interest to boomers, as he started his consultancy after he retired – the first time. Geeks too – he was part of the team behind the IBM PC.

Marty specializes in helping new entrepreneurs get started. Thus, the name of his firm – StartupProfessionals.com.  Great resources – books, packages, personal mentoring, a daily blog, and more. Good advice for all entrepreneurs – consultants or otherwise.

(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?

I chose consulting with startups as a way to scale back from a full-time job, and be in control of my own schedule.

I had spent many years with IBM, then several years in Silicon Valley working for a couple of startups, so I thought it was time for me to share some of that experience helping people struggling to turn their dream idea into a business.

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

It’s working well for me. I learned to use social media through blogging, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as a source of leads, so I’ve been able to build my brand (Startup Professionals) with essentially no money spent on marketing.

I have enough work to keep me as busy as I want – I tell my wife that I only work half-time, only 40 hours per week. 🙂

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?

I enjoy my total control over the jobs I accept, the rates I charge, and not having to manage other people.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?

As a consultant, you always have to be looking ahead and thinking about getting new work, especially since most of my gigs are short-term. Back in IBM, it was nice getting that salary check without thinking about it every couple of weeks.

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

Naturally I have a website listing my services, with contact info, but many clients come from referrals of previous clients and related business professionals, like investors, that I meet through networking.

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

Fees are a function of your skills and expertise, and what the market will bear. I recommend that any consultant start low, and raise fees as reputation/demand goes up.

This is the inverse of what I recommend for product businesses, where you might start at the high end and lower prices to be more competitive.  In either case, you need to avoid prices that are so low that they suggest minimal value or quality.

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

That’s easy. You should only consult in some functional area you love, and one that you have something of value to offer.

I’ve had a lot of experience starting small businesses, and managing larger ones, so I felt I could help new companies get started, and grow to mature companies.

I also have an degree in accounting, so I can read and build business plans as well. I do it first because I love to see new entrepreneurs succeed, and I’m really in the give-back stage of my life.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

I’ve learned a lot about dealing with people, and how to read people. Everyone has their own way of thinking and getting things done, so I quickly try to adopt and adapt to their style.

I’ve become more and more convinced that success in being an entrepreneur is mostly about the person, and not about the quality of the idea they are trying to make a business out of. I have found that entrepreneurs with the right attributes can take almost any idea and succeed, while others will run even the best idea into the ground.

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

I take life a day at a time, so I don’t try to predict what tomorrow will bring. I don’t have any master plan, and I see many different jobs out there that I might enjoy.

I’m one of those lucky ones who have always enjoyed the work I do, and I’ve done many things, but there is much more to learn and try. One of the reasons I like consulting is that I can change my focus in any way that I want without anyone second-guessing me.

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

Being a consultant is all about being an entrepreneur. That means the buck stops with you, and you have to make decisions, take risk, and you can’t count on anyone else to solve problems for you.

Everyone should take a hard look in the mirror before they start down this path – if the requirements scare you, then don’t start down this path – you won’t be happy.

If you don’t like dealing with people, then consulting is not for you. There is nothing wrong with working for someone else, doing your job well, and getting that regular paycheck without worry.

Life is too short to go to work unhappy every day. Have fun!

Thank you, Marty, for sharing your story – and your encouragement!

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Resource Review – Body of Work, by Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim’s second book nicely complements her first book (Escape From Cubicle Nation), and it greatly enhances her own personal Body of Work.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know I’m already big fan of Pam – blogger, career coach, and fellow Arizona desert dweller. Plus her husband is Darryl – how could you NOT like somebody married to another Daryl? 🙂

Her first book focused on making the jump to small business. But unlike most business books, she also addressed the emotional side of starting a business – the fear, uncertainty, and even how to tell your spouse and/or family what you really want to do.

Her second book examines at a much wider range of career options – as entrepreneurs, corporate employees, non-profits, and more. The focus here is on finding your own way and creating your own story.

As Guy Kawsaksi says, “”Pam Slim shows you how to thrive by building a body of work out of your experiences, knowledge, and accomplishments… (leading to) fulfillment, joy, and inner peace.”

But it is more than philosophy and touching success stories. The book also includes work sheets and exercises to help you figure out how to develop your own personal body of work. (Nicely complements the classic What Color Is Your Parachute?Good nuts and bolts stuff from an accomplished author and career coach!

Body of Work, by Pamela Slim
Potfolio/Penguin – 2013 – ISBN 978-1591846192
www.escapefromcubiclenation.com

P.S. After reading Pam’s new book, I reflected on my own Body of Work. Or more precisely, Bodies of Work.

Body of Work I represents my engineering career – at least the past 30+ years as a consulting engineer. It includes writing three technical books and over 200 technical articles (co-authored with my business partner), training over 10,000 engineers, and solving/preventing hundreds of engineering problems.

All aimed at improving electronic products and systems across a wide range of industries. As I look back on my consulting career, it is very satisfying.

Body of Work II represents the JumpToConsulting project – still very much a work in progress. The blog continues to grow, and plans are in place to share more information/ideas in more ways with those interested in starting/building/managing a professional consulting practice.

I’ve already been privileged to help several aspiring consultants begin their journey into the wacky world of consulting. That too is very satisfying-and thanks for riding along!

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Coffee with Marty@StartupProfessionals.com

Had coffee today with Marty Zwilling, of StartupProfessionals.com. It was a great time meeting with a fellow “boomer-geek-blogger-entrepreneur” from Arizona.

As the name suggests, Marty specializes in helping new entrepreneurs get started. This includes advice on business plans, funding, angel investors, patents, incorporations, and more. He also writes a daily blog, and has written two (about to be three) books.

His primacy focus is on nurturing and building small businesses that want to grow. But his site is a great resource for prospective consultants, too.

The catalyst for today’s meeting was a recent blog post One of These Days You May Not Be An Entrepreneur. Marty listed eight reasons why many never make the jump to starting their own business. The same reasons prevent many from making their own JumpToConsulting.

Incidentally, Marty has impressive credentials. With a background in accounting, he worked in high-tech most of his career. His first taste of entrepreneurial success was at IBM, when he part of the “skunk works” project that spawned the IBM PC.

From then on, he was hooked on small high tech businesses. Even after retiring, he couldn’t give it up. (See Two Cures…). First he volunteered at the Arizona State University business school, and subsequently started his blog and consultancy.

Did I mention he has over 700,000 Twitter followers? A great marketing story by itself. Considered a thought leader for startups, he also writes for Forbes and others.

We spent an hour together as we pondered and commiserated about why so many “wannabees” can’t or don’t make the transition.
Many are refugees from larger businesses, with the requisite  experience and knowledge to succeed.

So what is holding them up? Two major issues seem to be fear and perfection.

–Fear – Some people fear failure, while others actually fear success. Both stem from a fear of the unknown. As for failures, I consider them great learning opportunities. And I never trust anyone who claims that they never failed.  Either they are lying, or they were good at blaming others. (Once had a boss like that – in a startup no less.)

The secret is to face it and even embrace it. Don’t be foolhardy, but don’t let it paralyze you either. Ask “What is the worst possible thing that can happen?” Have a backup plan, but then move ahead.

–Perfection – This is a big problem with my fellow engineers. But a product doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to good enough. Same thing with a consulting service – you don’t need to outrun the bear – just the other guy.

In either case, you can always tweak the product/service later. Furthermore, the market will guide you in making those improvements.

Finally, overcoming the two hurdles of fear and perfectionism is not enough. But they are the necessary first steps in making a jump to any small business – consulting or otherwise!

P.S. – In a future post, we’ll cover Marty’s “success story.”

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Do you worry what people think of you?

Here is a recent comment I left at the Art of Non-Conformity, a favorite blog by Chris Gullibeau – author, entrepreneur, and world traveler (he visited EVERY country in the world by age 35.)  If you haven’t discovered him, now is a good time to do so!

The topic was The Virtue of Insecurity, where Chris ponders the question, “Do you worry about what people think of you?”

So here is my two cents worth (and worth every penny you paid…)

As an old codger, here is one of my favorite sayings:

–When I was 20, I worried about what others thought…
–When I was 40, I no longer cared…
–When I was 60, I finally realized that nobody else gave a damn in the first place.

So, go live life on your terms. That’s what I’ve done. Mistakes? Yes. Regrets? No.

One of the few advantages of getting older is that you start top put things in perspective. Those perspectives, by the way, can make you valuable as a consultant!

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.