Monthly Archives: December 2016

2016 Annual Review…

One more year gone, and once again time again to reflect.

Got this idea from Chris Gullibeau of The Art of Nonconformity. Great idea!

So as always, I’ll review three categories:

But first, a quick overview…

The JumpToConsulting project is now SIX years old. With today’s economy, many people are considering career options such as consulting. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

One of the most satisfying results has been helping several engineering colleagues make their own JumpToConsulting.

It has also been fun to learn more about about blogging and writing. That curiosity and drive to learn is what led me to consulting in the first place.

The EMI-GURU project is now almost FORTY years old (full time since 1987.) It has been great fun, and quite successful. I made a lot of friends, and traveled the world.

Best of all, it let me to practice my profession as an Electrical Engineer in a ways I could not even imagine as a college student or young engineer. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Much of what is discussed here is based EMI-GURU experiences. The stuff I talk about is not theory — rather, it is real world and based on almost 40 years of consulting!

LOOKING BACK on 2016…

Jump-to-Consulting – The blog is now over 200 posts. In July, shared my ideas in a live presentation on consulting at an IEEE engineering symposium in Ottawa. Great feedback.

Although serving a pretty tight niche, the blog has helped several colleagues. That includes both genders – consulting is a great way to break ceilings and stereotypes.

So don’t be bashful — your questions and feedback mean a lot, and they inspire me to keep going.

EMI-GURU – The sadness and shock of losing my good friend and business partner in 2015 is pretty much behind me. I still miss him, of course, but life goes on.

With rare exceptions, I’ve ceased consulting and refer business to select colleagues. I remain committed to technical classes, doing six this year. .

Personal – A sad year, however, as we dealt with my sister-in-law’s Alzheimer’s. After many years of independent living, we finally had to move her to full memory care. Quite an ordeal, but things are finally better for everyone.

Otherwise, life is good. Sami the rescue mutt continues to bring joy, along with daily exercise as a “personal trainer.” Hope you enjoyed her Holiday Greeting.

LOOKING FORWARD to 2017

Jump-to-Consulting – Keep on blogging, with at least one post per week. Also considering other enhancements. Watch my blog for more details. Better yet, drop me a line!

EMI-GURU – Continue teaching technical classes, but not more than once month. There is nothing like seeing a student suddenly “get it.” Teaching remains a passion.

Personal – Spend time reading, writing, and traveling in our little RV. Restart the SEC diet and exercise. Fire up the ham radio. Play with the mutt, and just goof off!

Wishing you all the best in 2017 — and THANK YOU for reading my blog!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Sales Step #5 – Deliver…

In traditional sales, step # 4 is the final step. Once you get the purchase order or signed contract, your job as a salesperson is complete.

Of course, you follow up with customers to make sure they are happy, but its time to move on to the next sale. (We’ll address that for consultants in Step 6.)

Not so with the small consulting practice. You just “sold” yourself, and now it’s time to deliver. This is the fun stuff — doing what you wanted to do in the first place!

As a small businessperson, you are still in sales mode, albeit lower key. Not only do you want to have a happy client today, but you want to pave the way for future business and referrals tomorrow. .

Here are some suggestions, particularly for a first time consultation.

(1) Show up as scheduled. As a colleague once said, “If you are not ten minutes early, you’re already late.”

If you run into problems, such as a traffic jam, call your client right away. Thanks to cell phones, there is no excuse for not doing so.

If out of town, don’t take the last flight out. If things get screwed up, you may be able to recover. This is particularly important if you have a meeting with several people.

If you’ve never been to the client location, map it out ahead of time. If out of town, make a dry run the night before. (You did take an earlier flight, right?)

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

(2) Show up suitably attired. This depends on your client, but business casual is usually safe. But ask – you don’t want to show up casual if the company norm is suit and tie.

For years, I struck a happy medium with a sport coat, slacks, and tie. If nobody was wearing a tie, I quickly removed it.

But times change. Since I’m dealing with fellow engineers, I now wear slacks, a short sleeve dress shirt, and carry a tie with me if needed. If we’re going to a test lab or on the factory, I usually go with jeans and a golf shirt – just in case we need to get down and dirty.

Don’t be like one client I met. He showed up in the lobby wearing torn jeans, a cartoon T-shirt, and sandals. His boss, however, was wearing a tie. He may have been a good engineer, but I fear he was limiting his career advancement.

How you dress can be as important as how you perform. 

(3) Involve your client. Review the situation, and ask preliminary questions. Don’t jump to conclusions, even if you are pretty sure of the diagnosis. Keep an open mind.

Find out if there is a preferred approach. In my business, I asked “Do you prefer a circuit board fix, or a box level fix?” If the circuit board was purchased, that often precluded making changes. On the other hand, if they were about to redesign the board, we’d start there.

Check with the client as you progress. Nothing worse than getting to the end of a project to find you were going down the wrong path.

Keep the appropriate management in the loop.

(4) Offer a summary report. Done right, this is an effective sales tool. Not only does it document your efforts, but it remains long after the consultation. We had calls years later based on an earlier report, so make sure you contact information is on every page.

Our policy was to charge a flat fee (one day) for a report. They typically ran 5-10 pages.

The first page was a title page (contact information), and the second was a ONE PAGE summary. This summary is important, as it is what management will read. Keep is simple.

The remaining report contained the details. If test data was involved, we included that in appendices. Recommendations were in bullet form, to make them easy to follow.

Your report is your LAST impression – every bit as important as the FIRST impression.

(5) Getting paid. As my late business partner said, “The project isn’t complete until the check clears the bank.” We’ll discuss this more in a later post, but make sure you have a purchase order or contract before proceeding. For larger projects, you may want progress payments or retainers.

Next up – Sales Step #6 – Follow Up – and how to facilitate the next sale (and the next one after that.) Remember, a happy client is happy to buy additional services!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Holidays 2016…

Happy Holidays, and all the best in 2017!

sami-xmas-1

Thank you for your interest in my work at both JumpToConsulting and EMIGURU. Life as a consultant has been great for me, and I wish you happiness and joy in your lives too. Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours… Uncle Daryl, Mary, and Sami the ShihTzu

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Sales Step #4 – Quote/propose…

The next step is to ask for the order! This is also known in the sales world as closing.

This is where many consultants fall down, due to fear of rejection. You are not alone – even full time sales people don’t like rejection. But they face it and deal with it – one reason why sales people are paid so well.

For simple projects, just ask if they would like a quote or proposal. If they agree, quickly review the tasks and schedule for consensus, and then provide a quote. A purchase order will often be issued based on the quote.

For more complex projects, you may need additional meetings for further clarification. This can happens when approval from a committee or higher management is needed.

In our practice, simple quotations worked most of the time, but we did have occasional contracts for larger scale projects.

Quotations

As a small specialty (boutique) consulting firm, we generally used quotes. Most of our projects were between a week and a month long.

As such, the budget was usually well within a manager’s signing authority. Seldom did our projects need to go to the CEO or a board.

Our typical project schedules were either immediate (troubleshooting or design reviews) or longer term (training.) The former led to a purchase order, and the latter often led to being put in a future budget. Neither required detailed contracts.

So keep it simple! We used a two page format. The first page contained a short description of the objectives, responsibilities, schedule, and cost. The second page contained the “fine print” that did not change from project to project.

With this simple format, we could prepare a quote in minutes. Clients appreciated the quick response, and our quote was often attached to the client purchase order. No need to get the lawyers involved in simple projects.

Here is a sample quote for a short consultation. The second page includes the “fine print.” We used a similar quote for training projects with minor changes.

****** 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 + 1 day travel) plus estimated travel expenses of $2500. Add $2000 for optional report .

Please note this is a budgetary estimate. Actual time and expenses will be invoiced. Quotation will not be exceeded without 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
Kimmel Gerke Associates, Ltd.
NARTE Certified EMC Engineers

December 13, 2016


Policy Statement & Business Practices
(Consulting & Troubleshooting)

Our clients often have questions about our business practices and policies. This document addresses the most common questions.

Our intent is to help you understand our practices, so that we can better serve your needs as professional consulting engineers.

Thank you for considering us to help you.

Rates -Our rates are $XXX per hour ($xxxx per eight hour per day), plus expenses. We have a four hour minimum for local work, and an eight hour minimum outside for non-local work.

Our rates are subject to change, but purchase orders received within the quotation validity date will be honored as quoted.

Expenses – All expenses will be billed at actual cost, with no markup. These expenses include all travel costs and other expenses incurred for the client.

Travel – Travel time is charged at our regular rates, as follows:
-Local – No travel charge for full day consultations. For less than a full day, time will be billed portal-to-portal with a 4 hour minimum.
-Out of town (Air Travel) – One full day labor is added to consultation fee for travel within the contiguous 48 states.
-Outside Contiguous United States – To be determined.

Travel estimates will be provided in quotations, but all expenses will be invoiced at actual costs. We normally make our own travel arrangements, but if made by client, they are subject to our approval.

We normally purchase “no-penalty” coach airline tickets. Overseas travel is “business” class.

Quotations – Quotations are valid for 60 days, unless otherwise stated. All quotations are budgetary – not fixed price – actual time and expenses will be billed. The quotation will not be exceeded, however, without client authorization.

Terms – Our efforts can proceed upon receipt of a purchase order or letter of authorization., plus an advance travel retainer of $2500. Payment terms are net 30 upon invoice for clients with established credit.

Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure – All client information and communications are held in strict confidence. Client Non-Disclosure Agreements to this effect are normally acceptable, provided they do not contain clauses restricting our right to do business with others.

In addition, client names are not released without prior approval , nor do we use client names in our marketing materials.

Certifications and Insurance – If information disclosure, certifications, or insurance are required by the client, these must be forwarded to us for evaluation prior to issuing a quotation.

Conditions transmitted subsequent to the start of work will invalidate the quotation, and subject the client to any incurred expenses.

Specifically, the following conditions apply – (1) we do not disclose names or information (technical or financial) about any client without express consent of that client, (2) we do not submit to financial audit to any agency, public or private.

Performance and Cost Guarantees – Due to the highly uncertain nature of most EMI problems, we are unable to provide guarantees of success, nor are we able to provide precise pass/fail guidelines.

Often, the extent of the problem is not known until an initial evaluation has been made. As such, all cost estimates are based on a level of effort, but estimates will not be exceeded without your prior approval.

You will always, however, receive our best professional efforts and advice in any consultation.

December 2016

Contracts

For larger projects, a contract may be appropriate. On average, we did several contracts a year. In the simplest form, the contract could be an expansion of the two page quotation.

It might include milestones, deliverables, progress payments, and contingencies. Even so, try to keep it simple and clear.

You may need legal advice, but rather than ask your lawyer to prepare a contract, do a rough draft yourself. Include all the details discussed above. Then have your lawyer review it for proper legalese. You will save money, and your lawyer will appreciate it too.

As an alternate, your client may send you a multi-page contract with all kinds of stipulations and restrictions. This is more likely with large companies with a legal department that needs to justify its existence.

If offered a contract, review it before signing. If complex, run it by your own lawyer first. As my lawyer told me may years ago, “If you have a questions, ask me before you sign anything.” He continued with a grin , “I’d rather keep you out of jail, than get you out of jail.”

Either way, don’t be afraid to remove or change things you don’t like.

One stipulation we always removed was a non-compete clause. Our projects were short and generic – if we agreed to serve only one computer company or one military contractor, we’d be out of business in a year.

A non-compete clause, however, may be appropriate for a long term project. If the client is paying you for unique results, they want to protect that. The same is true for nondisclosure, designed to protect proprietary information.

Don’t be afraid to question the need for a contract. A client once send me a twenty page contract for a five day troubleshooting consultation. When I questioned it, he apologized and sent me a simple non-disclosure agreement. Seems his office administrator sent me the wrong paperwork.

Finally, if you are doing business with the government, expect detailed contracts. Accept it as part of the business. Bureaucracies thrive on paperwork – the reason many of us left corporate or government jobs to become consultants in the first place 🙂

This sales step isn’t complete until you receive a purchase order or contract!

So be prepared to follow up. Ask for an anticipated date, and if you don’t have the requisite paper work by then, call and find out the status.

You MUST do this. Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you. Yes, maybe the project has been sidetracked or dropped, but you need to know.

But don’t be a pest. Our policy was two phone calls. If no answers after two calls, we decided it was time to move on.

Finally, if rejected, be polite. Over the years, many “lost” clients came back for future help After all, the client was interested in us in the first place.

Next up – Sales Step #5 – Deliver. Unlike product sales, the sales process for consultants does not stop with a purchase order or contract. Done well, you can turn a project into a long term client, and in some cases, even a long term friend.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Sales Step #3 – Diagnose and Prescribe…

Now that you have qualified the prospective client, you are ready to provide a preliminary diagnosis and prescription.

The goal is not to actually solve the problem, but to create the desire to have you help. You want to reinforce your credibility, while suggesting a course of action.

Here are three theoretical examples:

  • A doctor might say, “Based on your symptoms, I suspect XXXX. The next step would be a CAT scan, perhaps followed by surgery. I’ve done this surgery many times before with good success. But we’ll make a final decision after the CAT scan. Would you like me to schedule the CAT scan? “
  • A lawyer might say, “Based on our brief discussion, it sounds like you have a case. The next step would be an in-depth meeting in the office. I’ve handled these cases many times before. But we’ll make a final decision after the meeting. Would you like to set up a meeting? “
  • As a consulting engineer, I often said, “Based on our discussion, I suspect a problem with XXXX. We can handle this several ways. The best would an on-site review. I’ve done this many times for others. Based on the review, we will either solve the problem, or provide a course of action.”

Note than all three examples, you have not actually solved the problem In fact, at this stage that might not be possible anyway. But you have moved the sales process forward.

Here are three steps:

Reinforce credibility“Based on XXXX, I suspect YYYY” shows you have listend to the client. Later, “I’ve done this many times before” reinforces that you are capable and have experience in dealing with the problem at hand.

Course of action“The next step…” shows you have a recommended solution, pending further action by the client. It also leaves you wiggle room if you need to change your preliminary diagnosis at a later time. This may well happen when you dig into the problem.

Trial close –Would you like to proceed?” If the client says yes, then move forward. If no, you need to ask why not? Perhaps questions remain that need to be answered. Perhaps the client is just shopping. Perhaps there is a schedule or budget concern. Ask why.

But don’t be manipulative! This is where traditional sales training says you must “overcome objections.” I disagree. Selling professional services is about helping, not manipulating.

What if the problem is very simple — something you can handle easily over the phone? Should you give away free advice, or should you hold back to sell your advice?

In those cases, our policy was to make those simple suggestions – at no charge. (Take two aspirin, but call back if the pain persists…) If the simple solutions worked, it created tremendous good will, and virtually guaranteed future calls as well as references. We looked at those cases as cheap and very effective marketing.

Others may disagree. An alternative would be to bill a nominal amount for your time, or set up a set fee for quick questions. Me – I always wanted to be approachable, and didn’t have the guts to charge thousands of dollars for very simple advice.

One final example of giving away free advice. Several months ago a call came in for some in-house training (which I still do.)

No hassles – they just wanted to know when I could come to their facility, and how much would it cost so they could issue a purchase order. What an easy sale!

Upon arriving, my client told how my late business partner had given free advice several years ago. When the advice worked, Bill would not accept payment for his few minutes of time (our standard policy.)

So when the client wanted a training program, he called nobody else, and he told me how much he appreciated our business practices. You can’t buy advertising or references like that!

Next up – Step #4 – Asking for the order. We’ll discuss the mechanics of quotations and proposals, and how to keep them simple and effective.

P.S. When selling professional services, think like a doctor, not like a used car salesman. Diagnose, prescribe, and never manipulate!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.