Yearly Archives: 2017

2017 Annual Review…

Another year gone… and once again time to reflect… and to look forward. 

Got this idea from The Art of Nonconformity, and have done it each year since 2011.

So as always, I’ll review three categories:

But first, a quick overview…

The JumpToConsulting project is now SEVEN years old. What started out in 2010 as questions from my son, has now expanded to over 250 posts on how to start,build, and maintain a small consulting firm.

Many of these posts are the result of your questions, so please feel free to ask. Your questions and feedback inspire me to keep going. And stick around — I’m hatching plans to expand things in 2018.

JTC has been a labor of love. After thirty years as an independent full time consulting engineer, I’m happy to share what I have learned — and am still learning 🙂

JTC has also been fun. A good way 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 also has been great fun, and quite successful. I made a lot of friends, traveled the world, and am comfortably “semi-retired” – whatever that means.

EMI-GURU  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 those 40 years of consulting!


Jump-to-Consulting – The blog is now over 250 posts. The blog has helped several new consultants. That includes both genders – consulting is a great way to break ceilings and stereotypes. Along with a great way to become independent and free – the big driver for me.

Launched a bi-monthly newsletter. It both lists recent blog posts plus additional tidbits. Sign up here and you get a FREE copy of my white paper “So You Want To Be A Consultant?

Special thanks to Michael Katz at Blue Penguin Marketing for his excellent on-line course. (Disclosure — I have NO affiliation with Michael, other than I love his stuff.)

EMI-GURU – Continued to wind down the consulting firm, as it morphs more fully into a training firm. No longer consulting, I refer inquiries to colleagues. However, taught four live classes this year, with another one scheduled in two weeks.

Teaching is another love – nothing like seeing a student suddenly “get it.”

Personal — Continued the semi-nomadic life of heading north to MN in the summer (where there is family) and heading south to AZ in the winter (where there is no snow.)

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


Jump-to-Consulting – Got some exciting plans. An e-book is about to release, along with an on-line webinar. Both are  in conjunction with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), my professional. Incidentally, both are applicable to non-technical consultants too.

Looking into expanding the webinar into a more in depth on-line class. Also considering other enhancements, and will stay blogging of course.

Watch the blog for more details. Better yet, drop me a line!

EMI-GURU – More plans here. Continue teaching technical classes, but not more than once month. At the same time, looking on-line training based on existing materials. About to sign up for a detailed class on the process.

Decided 2018 is the year to expand into on-line education, which rather excites me.

Personal – Along with learning and implementing on-line programs, spend time time reading, writing, and traveling in our little RV. Fire up the ham radio. Play with the mutt, and just goof off. Life is good here!

Wishing you all the best in 2018 — and THANK YOU for reading my blog!

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Happy Holidays 2017…

Have a Merry Christmas … or else…

Thank you for your interest in my work at both JumpToConsulting and EMIGURU.  Wishing you the joy, peace, and happiness of he season, and all the best in 2018!

From our house to yours — Uncle Daryl, Mary, and Sami the Shih Tzu.

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Just Say No…

Sometimes just saying NO is the best thing you can do. It worked for me when at a career fork in the road 33 years ago.

The post was inspired by Cubert at Abandoned Cublicle.  Cubert is a young family man on his quest to financial independence, who blogs about his journey. For obvious reasons, he keeps his identity private.

Here is my reply to his most recent blog post on saying NO: 

Here is a favorite personal “NO” story:

Started a new job with a great boss. Like me, an engineer, and who also had an MBA. He kindly encouraged me to do the same, as the company would fully reimburse for the MBA. The school had an excellent reputation, and many years later my older son got his MBA at the same school.

But I had this terrible itch to start my own engineering consulting firm. Not yet FI (financially independent,) I was seeking OI (occupational independence.) BTW, the OI soon led to FI. It also led to LI (location independence.) Funny how those things work out.

Back to the story. After one class, which I enjoyed, it was apparent my fellow students were primarily interested in climbing the corporate ladder. I was not. So I said “NO” to the MBA, and devoted my time to learning how to start my own firm while beginning to build a client base through moonlighting. (BTW, I was VERY careful to avoid conflicts of interest.)

Three years later, about the time I would have received the MBA, I hung out my consulting shingle. That was 30 years ago, and I NEVER regretted saying NO the the MBA. Instead, I said YES to what I wanted to do. Not only satisfying, it has been financially quite rewarding.

Finally, this is not a knock on MBAs or any other degrees. (Both sons have advanced degrees that have served them well.) But just make sure they will take you where you want to go. And don’t be afraid to say NO.

I had the pleasure of coffee with Cubert recently when in MN* – he is well on his way to independence. If you are interested in independence (FI, OI, FI, or ???) hop over to his blog.  Stick around here and I’ll share my advice too.

* For 20 years , LI for me has meant winters in AZ and summers in MN – another bonus of saying NO.

Today’s Take-away – Saying NO to something means saying YES to something else…

Here are some past posts you may find relevant to this post:

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Showing some gratitude…

Thanksgiving is here again, and it is good to show gratitude. Sadly, that seems to be lacking in today’s polarized world. But here are some things I am grateful for:

My parents — Although both gone, they poured their love into my brother and me, and offered us the encouragement to be whatever we wanted to be. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

My wife Friend, confidant, life-partner, and lover for almost 50 years. Without your support, I would not be writing about my consulting adventures. Thanks, Mary!

My sons —  You both make us proud, not only of your accomplishments, but also for the wonderful fathers and husbands you have become. Thanks Darren and Chris!

My grandchildren — You brought us joy, and the hope and promise of a bright future for the world. Thanks Raymond, Maxine, Thomas, Joseph, Chloe, and Charles!

My little mutt Who knew 18 pounds of fur could bring so much happiness? And who rescued who anyway? Keep wagging that tail, Sami!

My clients — It has been a sincere pleasure to work with you. Not only have you allowed me to live a dream life, you have taught me so much. Thanks to each and everyone of you!

My colleagues –– Your gracious sharing of information and ideas enhanced my abilities to serve my clients. Thanks especially to my late business partner Bill, may you rest in peace!

My advisors You guidance has kept me on the path to success and prosperity, which I now enjoy in my “golden years.” Thanks to all of you!

My friends — Last, but not least, thanks of all of my friends over the years – many who are in the above categories. Thanks for the simple gift of friendship!

In closing, here is a quote I recently ran across:

Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf.

If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished.

To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there is a blessing in everything.

— Alan Cohen

Happy Thanksgiving to all! — Uncle Daryl

P.S. So what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

P.S. Here are three Thanksgiving related posts:

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Veteran’s Day 2017…

Just hung out the flag – something we do each Veteran’s Day.  We do so to honor our veterans – two in particular – my brother-in law, and a college friend. 

  • Rest in peace, Sgt. Melbye. You can read a tribute to my BIL – A Veteran’s Day Story.
  • Rest in peace, Pvt. Novak. Vietnam took you way too soon – hope you enjoyed the pivo we poured on your grave at our recent college reunion. It just seemed right.

Thank you to all who have served!

© 2017, All rights reserved.

The Law of Triviality…

Ever been in a meeting where some jackass wastes everyone’s time with trivial arguments? Just happened to me at a recent HOA (Home Owner’s Association) meeting. Thus, this blog post…

As consultants, it is often our job to keep meetings on track and to keep clients focused on the important issues — not the trivial.

This is not a new business problem. Way back in 1957, C. Northcote Parkinson coined Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, or PLOT. This is the same Parkinson who created the more general Parkinson’s Law. In essence, PLOT says:

People argue most about the things that matter least.

Also known as the “bikeshedding,” Parkinson observed organizations give undue weight and attention to trivial issues. He demonstrated this with two examples: the cost to build a bicycle shed, versus the cost to build a nuclear reactor. While experts on reactors are rare, everyone feels knowledgable about building a shed.

Thus, minutes may be spent on a critical decision on the reactor, but hours may be spent on trivial decisions on the shed. Not only that, the less informed often feel the need to compensate for their reactor-ignorance by spouting off on their shed-expertise – trivial though it may be.

So how does one handle that as a consultant? 

Robert’s Rules of Order can help. But even when following RRO, so here are some additional suggestions:

–Have a printed agenda – If somebody goes off topic, gently bring them back by pointing to the agenda

–Send the agenda in advance – Insist that attendees review the materials ahead of time.

Resolve in advance –  If issues can be resolved off-line, do so and report the results.

Highlight decisions that need to be made – This keeps the focus on the important issues.

Limit speaking time – If someone blathers on, politely shut them off. (I suggest three minutes, but be flexible.)

Ask why – This is particularly useful if someone want to ramble on about “sheds.” Ask “why is this relevant?” or “why are we spending valuable time on this?”

 Does all this work?

Much of the time, but not all of the time. But my asking “why” shut down a showboater at our recent HOA meeting. She was upset, and let me know, but several attendees thanked me later for politely cutting her off.

Finally, if you are running a meeting (or even just attending), remember Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Don’t let some ignorant jackass spout off about bike sheds.

P.S. Here is Parkinson’s better known law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Solve problems and report the results…

As a history buff, I found some real wisdom in a recent article about General George C. Marshall, a man highly revered for his management, wisdom, and consideration of others.

One week after Pearl Harbor, he placed then Col. Eisenhower in charge of military planning and operations. Here is Eisenhower’s recollection many years later.

Just before dismissing me, he gave me some brief instructions that I have never forgotten. I can repeat his words almost verbatim:

“Eisenhower,” he said, “the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for a final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.”

Although not at war, I had a similar experience in my career (before consulting.) Having just started a new job as a sales engineer, my new boss gave similar “marching orders.” Like Ike, I remember the words almost verbatim too:

“Daryl,” he said, “the only way you will get in trouble with me is if you sit on a problem too long. First, do whatever you need to do, but if you finally run into a brick wall, come get me. In the meantime, please take the ball and run with it and tell me about it later.”

My response was, “John, I think I’m going to like this job.”  And I did, only leaving the company to follow the dream of starting my consulting firm.

This is great advice for consultants too. It is not enough to merely identify problems. While you do need to keep the client “in the loop”, you must be ready to solve the problems and report the results!

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Apologize… and fix…

A critical test of a business is how it handles mistakes. Done right, you will have a customer for life. Done wrong, and you will lose them forever. 

That is what is so perplexing about Donald Trump – who never apologizes. As a “successful” businessman, you would think he would know better. But apparently not.

The latest fiasco with Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, the soldier killed in Niger, is just another in a string of self-inflicted wounds on his credibility, and that of the Republican party. It was only compounded with General Kelly’s added comments on Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

The simple solution for both is to man up, apologize, and ask for understanding and forgiveness. Not “punch back” or lie about it. Simple apologies would solve the latest crisis.

This was not meant to be a political rant, but rather a learning moment. If you screw something up, apologize and fix it — fast — even if you feel you are not completely at fault, and even if it costs you. Think humility, not ego.

I’ve done so several times over the years. Here are three examples:

  • When we misspelled a company name on a report (not entirely our fault) we immediately reprinted several hundred copies at our expense. Lost money on the small project, but future work made up for it.
  • When a student was given the wrong hotel for a class (not even my mistake as I was a contract instructor), I arranged for a local room, transportation, and took him to dinner. He went from upset to grateful and happy.
  • When my company (as a sales engineer) shipped a lemon to a customer, I yanked it and replaced it. At first my boss was upset (we had “procedures”) but later praised me for the decisive action. The customer bought many more products from us.

As a consultant, your future business depends on your reputation. It’s easy — just follow the Golden Rule. If you make a mistake, don’t be a jerk — just apologize and fix it! 

P.S. Consider this a quick test. If you are upset that I stepped on your political toes, I suggest you forget about consulting. Ego will kill your business even before it starts.

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Happy Liberation Day!

It was 30 years ago today – the day the market crashed in 1987 – that I began consulting full time. Talk about timing! I’ve often mused the FIRST day in business was the WORST day in business. All that followed were better!

No, I don’t think Kimmel Gerke Associates caused the market to crash. But who knows? Maybe it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Doesn’t matter anyway — what DOES matter is that we took the chance —  and better yet, succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Yes, it was scary. But we survived, thanks to preparation and planning. I stepped out first, and a few months later, so did my late business partner. That was the plan — we didn’t want to sink our little start-up, but it was soon apparent it could support two of us full-time.

There had been a false start several years earlier. After three months, it was obvious the timing was not right, and that there was a LOT more we needed to know about starting and running a full-time consulting business. This after nine years of moonlighting.

This time, however, the timing looked good. Thanks to the personal computer explosion and new government regulations, the opportunities were there for our specialty — designing for Electromagnetic Interference & Compatibility (EMI/EMC). Quite the mouthful, right?

Already an esoteric niche, there were few other consultants, and most specialized in defense projects. We too shared a lot of defense experience, but decided to “go where the others ain’t.”  Pursuing an untapped market niche with needed experience spelled success.

Over the years we expanded into other niches – medical devices, industrial controls, vehicular electronics (planes/trains/automobiles/farm machinery), facilities, telecommunications, electrical power, and more. All the while expanding our computer (micros to super-computers) and defense niches (submarines to outer space.)

Eventually we also expanded from a local firm to a nationwide firm, even doing the occasional international project. This was aided by a book/supplement to a national engineering magazine, along with a seminar program teamed with a major test equipment company. The latter turned us into a training company too.

So how is the view looking back on 30 years? Absolutely beautiful, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Not only was it great fun, we made many friends along the way. Including our financial advisor (another consultant) who manages the money we both socked away for our golden years. (Thanks, Tom.)

As many of you know, Bill Kimmel, my good friend and business partner passed away in 2015 from cancer. At my last visit with him, we reminisced about the good times and how satisfying it was to practice our engineering profession as independent consultants.

With tongue in cheek, Bill did wryly express one regret — maybe we should have made our JumpToConsulting even earlier!

So what next for me? I’ve cut back on consulting projects, and refer them to (mostly) younger colleagues. It helps them like I was helped 30 years ago. I still teach multi-day seminars, but at a reduced frequency. Next one in December.

Call it multi-person consulting, it is something I have always enjoyed.

I also stay involved with professional activities and other interests like the JumpToConsulting project. By year end, I hope to have an e-book on consulting available through my professional society, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers.)

Small payback for the many benefits received over the years from this fine organization.

So please join me in celebrating my Liberation Day. And if you are so inclined, start planning yours!  Stick around here and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Peace — Uncle Daryl

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Good Advice from the “Million Dollar Consultant”

Good advice from a consulting newsletter by Dr. Alan Weiss, the “Million Dollar Consultant.”  He graciously allowed me to reprint it here. 

I remember working in my early years as a consultant with a company that had a defective product problem. They responded by sending two of the products for every one returned. That’s right, they sent two defective products to atone for the original defective product. My company told them to find the cause of the defect, but they got all tangled up in blame and politics, and the company went under.

We often pride ourselves on “contingent” action. That is, we’re proud that we corrected ourselves once we found we were lost. Or we spend a lot of money on fire insurance. Or we jury-rig something to work that wasn’t assembled correctly the first time. And those are, of course, important traits.

But they aren’t the most important traits. We waste time being lost and may be late or inconvenience people. We won’t prevent fires with insurance, especially if we have poor building codes or allow people to smoke in dangerous settings. The jury-rigged will never perform as well as the original assembly’s integrity.

It’s important to do things right the first time, or at least to find out why we didn’t so we don’t repeat the error. That’s important with raising children, forming relationships, and determining your future. You want to steer your kids away from trouble, not have to “rehabilitate” or treat them later. You want to deal with relationship issues without have to wind up in a therapist’s office. You hope that the sprinkler system and fire insurance is never needed because you’ve been attentive to preventing fires.

Contingent action—which address effects, not cause—is expensive, time consuming, and embarrassing. And it’s nowhere near as effective as preventive action—addressed at possible causes. After the sprinkler system does what it must, the furniture is ruined. After you get back on the right course after being lost, you’ve still squandered a lot of time.

Take a look around. Do you find yourself, at home or at work, spending a lot of time dealing with symptoms and effects you’d rather have avoided altogether? If so, change your focus to preventive action. Stop fighting fires and start preventing them.

Copyright 2017 – The Balancing Act (R) Newsletter – Alan Weiss PhD

I’ve followed Dr. Weiss for many years, and made him one of my first resource reviews in 2011. He has written over 30 books on consulting, has several newsletters and a blog, and conducts workshops around the world.

Although his primary focus is business/management consulting, his ideas are valuable to technical consultants too.  Like a Dutch uncle, he can be blunt but his advice is always sound. Thanks for sharing, Alan!

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Some marketing references…

Here are some marketing references from Michael Katz, the Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, a marketing service firm for solo professionals. 

Although I’ve never met Michael, I have been a fan for some time. Last summer I even supported an on-line broadcast for the Blue Penguin Content Club.  

Unfortunately the Content Club has been discontinued, but you can still catch the broadcast here. (30 minutes on writing magazine articles.)

Full Disclosure — No affiliations with Michael, other than I really enjoy his newsletters (and his humor.) I recommend signing up for his newsletter. Also, check out his on-line courses. 

P.S. – Read my original 2013 Resource Review on Michael here.

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Sales as a bridge to consulting…

Contemplating consulting, but unsure how to get the business? Consider a stint in sales as a bridge to consulting. That is what I did as a Sales Engineer, and am I ever glad I did.

Since sales & marketing are central to starting and building a consulting firm, the experience was invaluable. Without the sales experience, I doubt I would have made my own JumpToConsulting.

  • Prior to the jump, I spent seven years as a Sales Engineer, and three years as a Technical Marketer.
  • This after ten years in Design & Systems Engineering, where I learned the technical craft of EMI/EMC (electromagnetic interference/compatibility) – the focus of my consulting expertise.

Technical experience is often not enough- you need business experience as well. My combination of design, systems, marketing, and sales all contributed to my later success as an independent Consulting Engineer. 

For me, Sales Engineering was my bridge to consulting. Works for non-technical consulting too.

Read more in my recent magazine article “Sales Engineering — Is it for you?”

P.S. As an aside, I moonlighted during my sales/marketing time to keep my technical skills sharp. The key was to avoid conflicts of interest. 

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Bigotry and business don’t mix…

Time for a mini-rant… While I try to stay politically neutral, this seems particularly appropriate these days… 

Don’t mix business with bigotry!

Last year I read about a pizza place that was under fire for saying they would not serve at a gay wedding. Then they whined that the press was out to crucify them. Really?

What if they had refused to serve Blacks…or Jews…or ??? Didn’t we get over that in the last century? (Based on recent events, maybe not…)

Furthermore, how foolish! With the country equally divided on so many social issues, why alienate half your potential customers?

But let’s be positive.

What would have happened if they said they WOULD serve such customers? Let me share the Pittsburgh Willy story.

In 2012, I wrote about Randy’s success as a successful Arizona hot-dog entrepreneur. Yes, he is not a consultant, but I love his hot dogs… and his stories.

One of my favorite stories was how Randy became a preferred vendor in the local gay community. Sorry to say, Arizona is not the friendliest place for gays. But when asked to support the Gay Rights parade several years ago, he readily agreed.

He and a friend even carried a banner. He joked they were a minority — perhaps the only two straight guys in the parade. Later he served gourmet dogs from his hot dog cart to a hungry crowd – the only hot dog vendor to do so. Pretty good business decision, huh?

In addition to being a good businessman, Randy is an very friendly and funny guy. So when asked to support a gay event in Bisbee AZ, once again he agreed. He was the only hot dog vendor invited to the event. As an aside, one of his gourmet hot dogs – the Big Willie – was a huge hit 🙂

Randy graduated from the hot dog stand, and has since opened a restaurant in Chandler, AZ. The dogs are great, and EVERYBODY is welcome there. Just good business!

So as a consultant (or any other businessperson) I suggest you do not tolerate discrimination or hate of any kind.  DON’T add bigotry to the mix! 

<End of rant>

P.S. If this post offended you, don’t consult. If you can’t look beyond your own views, you don’t have what it takes to succeed as a consultant.

(More here from folk musicians Peter, Paul, and Mary.) 

© 2017, All rights reserved.

An Interesting Quote…

Picked this quote up from a consulting blog I follow:

We learn from the top 10% of our highest performing clients. For the other 90% of clients, we need to lead.

While the author is a management consultant (and self-proclaimed non-technologist), it also applies to technical consultants.

P.S. Keep learning. And remember to feed BOTH bank accounts.  

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Lessons in Leadership…

Last week I got some lessons in leadership. Not from a client, but from a chance meeting with the mayor of a small city in Indiana.

Some background…

In town to teach an engineering class, I decided to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. A history buff, it was great fun to stay in a historic mansion built in 1859. That alone would have been enough, but the host was also an avid fan of history. And he was the mayor.

The mayor has now been in office five years. Like me, he has a background in small business. When elected, the city had their share of challenges. But thanks to his leadership, planning, and hard work, things are much improved.

Last year I was elected to an HOA (Home Owner’s Association) board. The community is aging and has numerous challenges. As such, I’ve been involved in politics at a very local level, calling on my business and consulting skills.

The two common area of interest — history and politics — led to some interesting discussions and sharing of ideas. The last night we stayed up to midnight. Kind of reminded me of my college days.

Some lessons…

Here are some pearls of wisdom he shared. The first dealt with attitudes, and he coined a simple mantra:

  •  Leaders solve problems
  •  Leaders serve people

He even created a medallion that he passes out to his team and others to remind them of this underlying philosophy. He gave me one, which now occupies an honored place in my office.

He also shared a quote from St. Francis of Assisi:

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

As consultants, we are called to leadership — both advising leaders and providing our own leadership. I hope you find these simple lessons as inspiring and refreshing as I did.

P.S. If you are ever in or near Huntington, Indiana (20 miles from Fort Wayne) I heartily recommend the Purviance House. Brooks and Barb Fetters are gracious hosts. If you like history, you will love talking to Brooks. And you will surely enjoy Barb’s wonderful breakfasts!

I hope to make it back — next time with Mrs. JumpToConsulting.

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Summer break…

Taking a summer break.  But have a bunch of ideas in the queue, so stay tuned.

Fun times with grandkids at a water park for several days over July 4. Now off to teach a class – staying involved with the consulting firm at a slower (but still lucrative) pace.

Have a great summer yourselves!

Uncle Daryl

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Do I Need a License to Consult???

Some times yes … sometimes no… sometimes maybe… Here is a quick overview:

–If you are a business consultant, you probably don’t need a license other than possible tax licenses. There are no licensing boards for business consultants.

–If you are a professional consultant, however, you may need a license before offering your services to the public. In certain professions it is mandatory – don’t even think of practicing medicine or law without a license.

In other professions like engineering or accounting, while legally mandated it is not always enforced. But don’t use the title PE (Professional Engineer) or CPA (Certified Public Accountant) unless you are licensed – you will invite the wrath of licensing boards.

Nevertheless, I often encourage my engineering colleagues to pursue a PE license. The following comment expands on why I do so. This was in response to a rather heated discussion on an engineering blog on the necessity of a PE license.

Glad to hear of your success against some clearly overreaching bureaucrats.

I say that as a PE/EE. Did getting my PE license make me a smarter engineer? No, but it did provide credibility when I started a consulting engineering firm 30 years ago, just like a CPA does for an accountant. It also has opened more than a few doors.

The PE license is valuable if you work for a consulting firm. This happened to an electronics design colleague (PE/EE) some years ago. He obtained his PE as a personal goal, not needing it while working for defense contractors.

Laid off in a slump, prospects were grim. That is, until he inquired at an engineering consulting firm, where most of their PEs were in electrical power. The firm was ecstatic to hire a PE/EE with electronics experience, to handle building electronics systems. Thus began a new and satisfying career.

As such, I often recommend the PE license — you never know when it might be useful. (Says the engineer who was laid off twice before he finally wised up and started consulting.)

More details on the engineer above here. Remember, when consulting it is all about credibility and visibility. Licenses and other valid credentials enhance that credibility.

P.S. Will be slowing down for the summer. Have grandkid plans, and hope to get in some RV time too. Best wishes for your summer too!

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Consulting Fee Study…

Here is a link to a recent fee study by Consulting Success.

While this blog focuses on general business consulting, technical consultants should find this of use as well.

FYI, typical fees at Kimmel Gerke Associates were project based. Typical projects were in the $5,000 – $20,000 range and up. Typical annual compensations exceeded our corporate salaries, plus providing retirement funding, profits, and tax benefits.

As such, we did better than staying “employed.” Plus we had a lot more fun and freedom.

Not bragging — just saying it can be done. But it doesn’t happen overnight or without some work. You first need to build “credibility and visibility.”

Never too soon to start the process, so ask “What can I do TODAY?” Best wishes…

Here are three posts to help you start…

P.S. May slow down here for the summer, but stay tuned as I continue to share  thoughts on making your own JumpToConsulting.

© 2017, All rights reserved.

On Competitive Advantages and other Buzzwords…

Time for a mini-rant, against advice often promoted by those wanting to sell you something.

For years, it was very popular in marketing circles to identify your USP (Unique Sales Proposition.) Large management consulting firms and their MBAs loved the term.

Later, that morphed into the UBP (Unique Buying Proposition) as the marketers realized the focus should be on the customer, not the product or service. At least it was a start.

Today, I read yet another marketing blog post that emphasized more buzzwords. (Be Unique, be the Thought Leader, blah, blah, blah…) The post segued into Positioning, Differentiation, Branding, etc. It even offered a comprehensive course on the topics.

But does all this apply to the small consulting firm? Often not, in my opinion. In fact, I suspect the overemphasis on buzzwords may prevent some considering consulting from actually jumping in. Paralysis by analysis.

Consider a surgeon. Does he/she need to be unique — the only specialist in the field or the most highly renowned surgeon in the world? Of course not. The surgeon simply needs to be able to help the patient. Isn’t that what consulting is all about?

Like the overworked Thought Leadership term, these attributes are not be necessary to start a small consulting firm. All you really need is Visibility & Credibility. These can be easily achieved with a bit of effort and some simple lead generation techniques.

So don’t let the fear of not being Unique, Differentiated, or Positioned stop you. While the buzzwords may apply to large consulting firms, they may not apply to you.

Pick your niches, start your marketing, and jump in. Time better spent than mastering another buzzword.

<End of rant>

P.S. Still not sure? Jump in part-time as a side-hustle. I did that for almost ten years, which greatly facilitated my full-time JumpToConsulting thirty years ago.

© 2017, All rights reserved.

Success Story – Ken Wyatt – Wyatt Technical Services

Time for another success story. This one is about Ken Wyatt, who started his engineering consulting business upon early retirement, and who consults in the same area as me.

Do I consider him a competitor? No more so than a doctor considers another doctor a competitor. He is a friend and valued engineering colleague, and it is a pleasure to share his story here.

I first met Ken some years ago through our professional society, and later as a client. An EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) Engineer with Hewlett Packard, he harbored “the itch.”

Upon retirement, he planned to do photography. But when that didn’t work, he went to Plan B – consulting. As an engineer, always good to have a Plan B.

Slowly the business grew. He wrote articles (a favorite method of mine) and tapped his professional network. One very effective method was starting a group on LinkedIn, which he discusses.

He now keeps a busy as he wants to be. His writing and visibility attracted a major technical magazine, which led to a technical editor assignment.

To put it bluntly, he is “doing good, having fun, and making money” in his retirement.

Here is Ken’s success story:

(1) What prompted you to consider consulting (running your own business?) Was there an event, like a layoff, or was it just the itch to be on your own?

I’ve always been the entrepreneur type – even as long ago as high school. Televisions were transitioning from B&W to color and our neighbors were pitching their old sets.

Every week, I’d raid the local trash cans looking for electronics. I’d cut out the resistors and capacitors and sell them to the others in my electronics class.

Later, I’d buy surplus components by the pound from where I worked at Rockwell International (they had a wonderful employee store!) and take boxes of parts to the famous TRW Swap Meet in LA and sell them by the piece.

I’d spent the first 10 years of my career at various aerospace firms and finally ended up at Hewlett Packard in Colorado Springs. This was their oscilloscopes division, and in 1999, eventually spun off as Agilent Technologies.

I spent 21 years there, eventually qualifying for a partial retirement package. Once I’d decided to “Jump To Consulting”, I gave my manager two years notice and asked for and received permission to hire my own replacement.

After nearly a year of searching and evaluating recent college grads (another story), I finally found a suitable candidate (a PhD) at the University of Missouri – Rolla. I left Agilent January 2008 – just a few months ahead of a major economic crash (good timing, Ken!)

It took a couple years before companies started hiring me, but it’s been a hoot since then.

(2) How has it been going? You’ve been at it a while, so obviously you are established in your business.

Once the economy turned around, it’s been pretty steady business – an average of two clients per month and around a weeks work per month. This allowed my wife and I to do quite a bit of travel in between jobs.

Of course, I also invested a lot of the time marketing my services, writing articles and blogs, networking via LinkedIn and attending IEEE and other engineering events.

In December 2015, I accepted the position as senior technical editor for Interference Technology – an annual directory and design guide that started publication in 1971. I had subscribed to this in college in the mid-1970s, wrote for them through the years and it’s been a privilege to now serve as editor.

I work for them half time and spend the other half time consulting. Needless to say, I manage to stay pretty busy.

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting (your own business?)

I love helping companies overcome their EMC issues. Most of the product design issues are the same handful of problems; poor shielding or filtering, poor cable shield termination, and poor PC board layout.

I love the troubleshooting process and the challenge of finding the lowest-cost and most manufacturable solution.

I also enjoy teaching and developed a two-day seminar to help product designers learn EMC basics and avoid the obvious design issues.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting (your own business?)

All the book keeping and taxes. I contracted that out to my CPA and what a relief!

The cost is around $300 per quarter for the accounting and personal and business taxes run just under $1000, but to me, it’s not worth the time taken away from clients. Besides, it’s a very small part of my total income – basically in the “noise level”.

The accountant set up the chart of accounts and has access to my business account. They transfer all the transactions into QuickBooks and handle all the quarterly reporting and taxes. All I do is write a few checks each quarter.

(5) How do you get your clients? (BTW, the number one question I get asked when someone finds out I’m a consultant.) (Touch on LinkedIn as I know that has worked well for you.)

It can be a slow process. Marketing yourself through writing and networking is really important – especially these days of the internet.

I started writing for magazines while in college and it made a huge difference when the recruiters came. The same holds true any other time. Those who take the time to document what they know are head and shoulders ahead of those who don’t.

I’m also active on LinkedIn and send a personalized message to those who wish to connect. I also connect only with product designers, others in my field, and their managers. Head hunters, real estate agents, and other non-engineers need not apply.

This vetting keeps my connection list pertinent to what I have to offer. I also try to send out at least one message or link to an article per week in order to keep my connections on top of my latest activities. In turn, I keep track of what my connections are up to and respond with notes or “atta boys”.

A couple years ago, I decided to start my own group EMC Troubleshooters, with the idea of providing free assistance to those who needed pointing in the right general direction with some sticky problem.

The business I receive attributed to LinkedIn varies each year, but has ranged from 10 to 40% of my gross income.

Above all though, the quickest way I got started was to partner with a local test lab so they could refer their “tough compliance cases” to an expert. In turn, I’d refer the test lab to those clients who were looking. (Good idea – I did the same 30 years ago – Ed.)

The income from this partnership ranges from 30 to 40% of gross income.

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

I asked other top consultants what they were charging. I initially made sure the rate was sufficient to handle all the overhead costs associated with running an independent consultancy.

I also participate in the annual IEEE Consultant’s Survey. A couple years ago, I set my hourly rate at about 80% of the high end of that survey.

(7) How did you decide what to consult about (or focus on?) And why? (Third question I get asked.)

I really enjoy the challenge of EMC, so decided to stick to what I knew.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

Don’t be afraid to accept a job that may challenge your skills. That’s the best way to learn. However, “a man’s got’ta know his limitations” (Clint Eastwood), so occasionally I refer a client to someone I know is better versed in a particular subject or issue.

Also, some clients tend to delay their payments. I have a wonderful invoicing program that flags all late payments. Not quite half of my clients need me to send them a “friendly reminder” follow up invoice after the “NET 30” date..

It’s very important to keep “reminding” clients you’re out there and ready to help.

Writing articles and blogs helps. I also keep an eye out for other articles or technical papers that might help a client and forward them on to them.

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

Like I mentioned, I love this job. While it does keep me busy some times, its great to have the freedom to call my own shots. At this point I’ll die with my boots on.

(10) Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to our fellow engineers who might be thinking about consulting (or going out on their own?)

Not everyone will have the wherewithal to strike out on their own.

If you don’t already have them, you’ll need to develop skills in business, accounting (unless you wish to contract this out), networking, writing, marketing, and sales.

While in college, I worked as a salesman at Radio Shack. It was a fantastic opportunity to deal with people, learn sales skills, do the daily bookkeeping, and manage inventory.

Above all, you need to have a passion for helping people. Your enthusiasm will show!

Thanks, Ken.  It has been great fun watching you start and grow your consulting practice. So glad you made your JumpToConsulting, and set such a good example for our engineering colleagues.

Here is Ken’s contact information. BTW, I’ve been sending work his way as I wind down my consulting practice. I know he will take good care of my clients, and he has.

Kenneth Wyatt
Wyatt Technical Services LLC
56 Aspen Dr.
Woodland Park, CO 80863
(719) 310-5418

I’m here to help you succeed! Feel free to call or email with any questions related to EMC or EMI troubleshooting – at no obligation. I’m always happy to help!

© 2017, All rights reserved.

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