Monthly Archives: April 2014

On Becoming and OLD Warrior…

Not sure when it happened — or when I even first realized it had happened.

But one day I woke up and recognized that I was no longer a young warrior, but rather had become an old warrior.

So what’s the difference? And does it matter?

Well, the old warrior’s main purpose is to now teach the young warriors — sharing the experience and knowledge with those who would receive it. Just as an earlier generation of old warriors graciously shared with him or her.

  • The old warrior no longer runs as fast as the young warriors. But thanks to years of experience, the old warrior often knows how to better sharpen the spears.
  • The old warrior also understands when to move forward, and when to hold back. Better to conserve your strength and energy, and to pick and choose the battles you can win. Or at least have a reasonable chance of winning.
  • The old warrior’s offerings will not always be accepted, but those who do so will likely be enriched. Sadly, the hubris of youth can get in the way of the wisdom of the elders. Often with disastrous results.

So, if you are an old warrior, don’t despair about your age or physical frailties. Rather, relish your  achievements. Now is the time to share your wisdom and knowledge with a new generation of young warriors.

And if you are a young warrior, seek out old warriors who can show you paths to success. And remember, someday you too will become an old warrior. Probably sooner than you think!

P.S. The late Howard Shenson observed that around 35-40 was a good age to start consulting. By that time one had figured out what they liked and what they didn’t like — and what they were good at and what they were not so good at.

The secret, he said, is to focus on the former, and disregard the latter. As a result, many independent consultants are old warriors — or at least middle-aged warriors 🙂     

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Seven Steps in Selling…

The lead generation worked… the phone rings… now what?

Let the sales process begin… This is where the rubber meets the road — or where the consultant finally meets the client. Many people see sales as mysterious at best, and manipulative at worst. Neither are true for selling consulting services.

Consulting is a helping profession…

You’re not peddling products, or trying to meet a quota. You’re not manipulating, or being sleazy. Rather, you are simply trying to help your clients.

Like a doctor, you are solving problems. Or like an architect, you are turning dreams into reality. Either way, your helping improve your client’s life!

Looking at it this way makes it worthwhile, right?

Sales is a process…

If you’ve never been in sales, it may seem mysterious – even scary at times. But you can learn to sell– just as you can learn to paint, play a musical instrument, or write software.

Once you understand the process and the underlying principles, it all starts to make sense. It’s simply not a big deal. So don’t let the fear of learning a new skill stop you. And once learned, you may even start to enjoy the process. I certainly do.

But I’m an introvert, you say – not some back slapping extrovert. So what? Most consultants and professionals are at least somewhat introverted. After all, we live in a world of dreaming, pondering, diagnosing, creating, and reflecting. We’re thinkers!

As an aside, some of the most successful sales people I’ve known are introverted – some even highly introverted. They are also highly professional, with a passion for helping their customers. Just like good consultants.

Selling consulting is different…

–First, you’re not selling a tangible product — you’re selling an intangible service. As such, you typically need to develop a higher degree of trust with potential clients.

Your goal is not to sell another car this month and move on — rather, your goal is to be a trusted adviser, and hopefully for the long haul.

–Second, you need to deliver what your client bought. Remember — nobody likes to be sold — but we all like to buy — so make it pleasant!

And unlike product sales, the sales process does not stop when you get the order. You still need to deliver, and your long term business success depends on how well you execute this part of the process.

My seven steps in selling…

Hundreds of books have been written about selling, and most include a simple multi-step process. I’ve read dozens myself, plus I’ve been subjected to numerous sales training classes as a former sales engineer.

Some books and classes were better than others, but all helped form my ideas.

One drawback of many of these books and classes is their focus on products. (An exception is Rainmaking Conversations, reviewed here.) Most have four or five steps, and most assume the sales process is over once the order is received.

So I decided to expand things. I’ve used the popular AIDA model (Attention- Interest – Desire – Action) and added three additional steps – Delivery, Follow-up, & Referrals.

(1) Attention (Establish Rapport) This is the initial contact phase, and the time to build rapport. It is also the time to address any client concerns or fears. These are particularly important if the client has not or does not use consultants on a regular basis.

I usually begin by asking about the problem, followed by asking how they heard about us. The latter gives me some insight into the trust level.

If it is a referral, the trust is already high. If they’ve found us on a web search, it may be lower, so some reassurance may be needed.

(2) Interest (Qualify)The next step is to determine if you can help, and can they buy. In the former, don’t be afraid to turn business away if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

If the fit looks good, ask about schedule. If asked, you can also provide a budgetary estimate (go on the high side), subject to change pending more details.

(3) Desire (Diagnose & Prescribe) – At this stage, you may be able to offer preliminary diagnosis and recommendations. If not, ask more questions.

For example, I may say, “Based on what we’ve discussed, I suspect XXX, which we’ve seen before. We can handle this several ways… ”

(4) Action (Quote/propose) – The next step is to ask for the order! This is where many consultants fall down, due to fear of rejection. This is also known in the sales world as closing.

For simple projects, I usually just ask if they would like a quote or proposal. If they agree, I quickly review the tasks and schedule for consensus, and then provide a one-two page quote. Often, a purchase order will be issued based on the quote.

For more complex projects, we may decide on an additional meeting for further explorations. This may also mean detailed contracts, which we’ll discuss later.

(5) – DeliverTime to provide what you promised. If working on-site, show up as scheduled and suitably attired. The latter depends on your client, but business casual is usually safe. If unsure, ask ahead of time. Be professional!

Check with client as you progress – don’t wait until the end of the project to find out you were going down the wrong path. Keep the appropriate management in the loop.

An important part of delivery is getting paid. For simple projects, we accept purchase orders, For more complex projects, we may request progress payments or retainers.

(6 )- Follow up – Assuming a successful consultation, ask if there are other things you might help with.  Specific projects? General training? Don’t assume the client is aware of your other services.

As any experienced sales person will tell you, subsequent sales are always easier than the first.  Assuming you’ve done a good job, you’re now a preferred vendor/adviser.

As a minimum, get permission to add you client to your mail list for periodic follow-up. Newsletters work great for keeping in touch.

(7) – Referrals
– Ask for permission to share their name with future prospects. To protect confidentiality, we do not list clients on our brochure, but we do list past projects. If a personal reference is needed, we still call to confirm as a courtesy. (Our business can be sensitive.) Never been turned down.

Depending on your business, written testimonials are great marketing tools — particularly on your web site. And don’t hesitate to ask if there are others who might benefit from your expertise.

So now you have Uncle Daryl’s Seven Steps in Selling. We’ll examine each of these in more depth in future blog posts.

Please comment or write if you have specific questions! Happy selling…

© 2014 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Setting up shop… some questions…

From the mailbag: Just last week an engineering colleague (and reader of this blog) announced he was making his own JumpToConsulting. Way to go, Glen!

His announcement e-mail also had several specific questions. After addressing them, I decided to share my comments here.

(1) Quotations & Proposals

We use a two page format. The first page defines the project and tasks, and the second contains “boiler plate” such as terms, rates, etc. That makes it easy to respond – just fill in the blanks on page 1.

Here is a sample, which we send on a letterhead:

****** Quotation ******

Client: XYZ Corp.
1234 Main Street
Somewhere, AZ XXXXX
ATTN: John Smith

Purpose: The client designs and manufacturers military doodads, and is failing MIL-STD-461 radiated emissions tests.

Tasks: The consultant, an electrical engineer specializing in EMI/EMC design and troubleshooting, will assist XYZ as follows:
— On site troubleshooting and reviews at XYZ facility in Somewhere, AZ
— Optional summary report (4-8 pages typical)

Schedule: By mutual agreement (or actual date if scheduled)

Budget: $XXXXX, based on 5 days (4 days on site plus 1 day travel time) plus estimated travel expenses of $2,500. Add $XXXX for optional report.

Please note this is a budgetary estimate. Actual time and expenses will be invoiced. Quotation will not be exceeded without prior client approval.

Terms: Net 30 upon invoice. Purchase order and advance travel retainer of $2500 prior to travel. Quotation valid for 60 days.

Daryl Gerke, PE                                                              April 3, 2014
Kimmel Gerke Associates, Ltd.
EMC Consulting Engineers

I don’t believe in lengthy contracts (keep it simple.) But if you are doing a longer term project, more detail might be needed such as progress payments, etc.

Some companies will have their own consulting agreements. Don’t hesitate to change them if there is something you don’t like.

For example, we remove any limitations on working for others. There is nothing proprietary about what we do. If we limited ourselves to one computer company/one medical company/etc. we’d be out of business in a year.

We do sign standard NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) as long as they do not contain any non-compete restrictions.

(2) Business Insurance

You will probably need a General Liability insurance policy, which most companies now require. We got ours through an insurance broker – about $800/year for two of us. Your accountant or attorney can recommend a broker.

You may or may not need Errors and Omissions insurance. Also known as malpractice insurance, it depends on your area of expertise. Although we are engineers, we don’t carry O&E as our area has little risk of litigation. If we were civil engineers or architects, however, we’d carry it.

(3) Business Bank Account

You also need to set up a separate business bank account. You may need to wait until you have incorporated depending on the bank.

Incidentally, I recommend having an attorney handle an incorporation. Don’t do it yourself to save a few bucks. The attorney will recommend the best legal structure for you – LLC, Sub-Chapter S, C Corporation, etc. The attorney can also handle filings, registrations, and tax documents and IDs.

Finally, these administrative details are pretty simple. The big issue is the marketing – getting the business. But for smooth operations, now is the time to get these details in place.

P.S. Got a question? Drop me a line through the ASK DARYL page.

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Top 5 Reasons to Consult in Retirement…

So you’re approaching retirement, and wondering what to do next. Or maybe you’re already retired, and getting bored out of you mind. After all, you can only do so much golfing or fishing (see Karl the engineer.) What next?

How about consulting? If you enjoyed your career, you just might like this. After a long career (or careers) you have valuable knowledge, experience, and contacts.

The extra money might be nice too. But do you really want to go back into the full time rat race? Consulting may be the answer!

Here are five top reasons to consider consulting in retirement. Full disclosurethis is a homework “challenge” for a the Problogger program I recently joined (write a “Top 5” Post.). After 3+ years and 140+ posts, time to take my blog to the next level.

1. Stay engaged … If you’re reading my blog, you probably are in (or were in) a business or professional career. You may no longer want to work full time, but wouldn’t mind staying involved, minus the politics and responsibilities.

This is exactly what my college roommate Ron is doing. After retiring as the county attorney in a large city, he and his wife spent the next for two years relaxing and traveling. But after a dozen or more cruises (which he highly recommends), he wanted to reconnect with his profession.

So he now consults a couple of days a month for the county tax board. No stress and he stays connected with professional colleagues. As he says, “If I didn’t do this, I’d probably go to seed.”  He doesn’t need the money — he does it solely for satisfaction. And he still takes cruises.

2. Travel… Many retirees (or soon to be retirees) dream about travel but may feel financially constrained. How about letting somebody else pick up your travel expenses?

This is exactly what a recently retired colleague Joe is doing. In fact, he and his wife just got back from several weeks in Europe. He has been providing part-time engineering consulting guidance on a project for a former employer with business partners in France.

Unlike typical engineering projects, he has little stress. As Joe says, “I now just advise. If they don’t follow my advice and fail tests, I don’t catch the heat like in the old days.”  C’est la vie.

3. Do some good… Many retirees decide to volunteer for causes they deem worthy. Often done gratis, and purely for the satisfaction of helping others.

This is exactly what our friend Lynn did. After retiring as a nutritionist, she volunteered at a local reservation in Arizona. She was so well liked and appreciated that the administrators obtained a grant, and asked her to expand her consulting services to other Native American communities throughout the state.

She agreed, and enjoyed making her contributions for several more years. Thanks to the grant, she also enhanced her retirement savings. Lynn has since retired – again.

4. Make some money… Nothing wrong with making money, even if you don’t need it. After all, you can always contribute it to favorite charities.

This is exactly what another retired colleague Don did. Offered an early buyout, Don took it. But he really wasn’t ready to retire, so he hung out his consulting shingle (after some gentle prodding from Uncle Daryl.) Thanks to Don’s credentials and contacts, he had his first project in days.

Don continued on this path for several years. Financially secure and with no kids, some of that extra income will go toward an endowment at his beloved alma mater.

5. Have some fun… If it isn’t interesting or fun, why do it? Particularly when retired.

This is a major factor in all of the above cases. This has always been a major driver for me throughout my engineering career (both corporate and consulting), and it will continue.

So what about Uncle Daryl? Is he retired? Semi-retired? Or what?

  • Not really sure what my status is. Thanks to my consulting career, I’m financially secure and now collecting Social Security. So maybe I’m retired.
  • Or maybe not. I’m still involved with the engineering practice, but not as aggressively as in the past. I still take projects that interest me, and dream up others (like this blog.) So maybe I’m just semi-retired.
  • Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just a freedom loving independent consultant living the good life that began 25+ years ago for me. So maybe I’m still employed – or – maybe I really retired 25+ years ago!

Finally, if you are retired or contemplating retirement, maybe this has sparked thinking about YOUR next chapter in life. Please let me know if it has!

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Hi tech shifts to independent workforce…

So says a recent article in Computerworld — Your next job, next year, may be self employment.

According to Emergent Research (a firm focused on small businesses trends) approximately one million IT (Information Technology) workers today are self-employed. This represents about 18% of the IT workforce.

Not only that, the independent IT workforce is growing at about 7% per year (versus 5.5% for all independent workers – which is still not too shabby.)

According to Steve King, a partner at Emergent, this growth is driven by companies that want to stay ahead of the game. “In today’s world, change is happening so quickly that everyone is trying to figure out how to be more flexible and agile, cut fixed costs and move to variable costs,” said King.

These statistics bode well is you have the itch to hang out your shingle – particularly for my fellow high tech colleagues. All this sounds like fertile ground for new consultants!

King goes on, “For people with skills… there is there is a lot more opportunity to find part-time employment and set up your own shop and work as a consultant and contractor than there has been in the past.”

This last comment suggests a side hustle strategy, particularly if you are not ready to go full time.That is how we made our JumpToConsulting. It is also a good insurance policy -and certainly better than depending on luck.

Personally, I’d rather my income and financial well being depend on my own skills/experience/contacts rather than on some impersonal bureaucracy. But being laid off twice in my pre-consulting career has no doubt affected my perspective.

So stick around here and I’ll share my ideas and encouragement -geek or not- on how to make your own JumpToConsulting.

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.