Monthly Archives: January 2018

Do The Hard Stuff … Not The Cool Stuff…

When trying to decide on what to consult… don’t go with the cool stuff that everybody else wants to do (and thus won’t pay for)… rather, go with the hard stuff that others don’t want to do (and will gladly pay for.)

We learned that lesson thirty years ago transitioning from part-time to full-time consulting. As engineers, we would hear about design projects that sounded cool. But those were the projects that in-house engineers kept for themselves.

On the other hand, clients were happy to farm out the not so cool jobs — such as EMI (electromagnetic interference), and area where we had years of experience.

So we decided to focus on the “table scraps” of EMI. But those table scraps proved lucrative, and we both made small fortunes doing what others did not want to do. And we got to do it as independent consulting engineers.

Another bonus was most clients did not need full time EMI help. So we moved from client to client, quickly picking up new experience and knowledge. We also escaped corporate politics, a major reason for making our JumpToConsulting in the first place. Freedom rocks!

Others have stumbled into the same solution. When engineering colleague Ken Wyatt approached early retirement, his original plan was to teach wildlife photography, a long time passion. But he quickly found little interest — although cool, nobody was was willing to pay serious money for something they could learn on their own as a hobby.

So Ken went to Plan B. (As engineers, it is a always good to have a backup plan.) He began consulting in the same area as his old job (EMI.) Was he going back to work? No, he was building a new business the has proved quite successful. And like me, he enjoys his freedom.

Incidentally, we were delighted to have Ken join us in the EMI fray. It was like having another doctor in a town full of sick people. With my business partner’s passing and my pulling back, I now regularly refer business to Ken. Would not have happened if had stayed with the cool stuff.

This is good advice for all — not just consultants. A recent magazine article told how high-tech companies often struggle to find programmers to work on the tough problems — while there is an abundance of those who can write simple phone apps. The former is hard — the latter is cool.

One last example — my older son, the catalyst for this blog. With an MBA in finance, he loves business and is now a CFO. At one time, he hung out his consulting shingle, until a client made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. A side benefit of consulting — high visibility into opportunities you might never see otherwise.

Early in his career, he worked for an accounting firm. Lacking his enthusiasm for finance, I commented, “People like me will pay people like you good money to do their taxes.” He just laughed. It may not be easy —it may not be cool — but it pays very well and he enjoys it.

Finally — as a consultant, remember that people will pay YOU good money to solve their HARD problems — but not their COOL ones.

Last year, millions of 1/4 inch drill bits were sold — not because people wanted to buy 1/4 inch drill bits — but because they wanted 1/4 inch holes.

Other posts you may find of interest:

© 2018, All rights reserved.

The Synergy of Training and Consulting…

If you are a consulting firm, consider adding training to your services… if you are a training firm, consider adding consulting. There is a strong synergy between the two.

I recently enrolled in a course on how to develop on-line training classes. Two goals:

  • JumpToConsulting – Develop a multi-module course for newbies (or choose just curious) on how to start/build/operate a small consulting firm. Always in the back of my mind, this is the thrust of this blog.
  • EMIGURU Put existing class materials on-line for engineers seeking information on EMI/EMC (electromagnetic interference & compatibility), the thrust of my engineering consulting firm for the last 30+ years.

Both are offered in the spirit of “do some good —have some fun – make some money.” Watch the blog for more details as both unfold.

A key point in the course building class is combining a personal touch with the training. That touch spells the difference between information and education.

When we started our engineering firm, our efforts were aimed at solving problems. But not long after starting, clients began to ask for help in preventing future problems. So we developed some training materials to address those wants and needs.

Eventually, the revenues from the training side of the business often exceeded the revenues from the consulting side of the business. But rather than abandon consulting, we kept both efforts going. And that decision was a key to our success in both areas.

First, the consulting often fed the training. After solving a problem, we asked if clients would like to prevent them in the future. The problems themselves provided fodder for the classes. Nothing like showing students how to identify and fix real world problems.

So developed and offered both in-house and public classes.

The latter came later, and were more tricky, as we had to master promotion in addition to presenting. We found targeted direct mail worked the best. We tried e-mail, but had poor results. Too much spam, I suppose.

The public promotions were not cheap — we typically mailed 50,000 to 75,000 mailers per year. It took a while, but paid off when we finally solved the promotions puzzle. As a result, I suggest you pursue in-house classes first.

Second, the training often fed consulting. This is where the public classes really shone. When students had problems, we were often the first the called for consulting.

If you don’t feel ready to do full promotions for public classes, consider free talks or workshops sponsored by professional groups or trade shows. While you don’t get paid, you don’t pay for the promotion. Such talks can still bring in business, while enhancing your credibility and visibility.

The synergy of consulting and training worked very well for my consulting firm. Training was often scheduled months in advance and assured future revenues. Consulting filled in the gaps. The synergy provided a nice balance in both time and money.

To kick off my consulting class, please join me on February 8 for a FREE one-hour webinar “So You Want To Be A Consultant” sponsored by the IEEE, my professional society. Hoping to inspire some engineering colleagues, but all are welcome. REGISTER HERE.

© 2018, All rights reserved.

Webinar – So You Want To Be a Consultant?

Curious about consulting? How to get started? Join me for this FREE one-hour webinar.

Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 2PM EST

Register Here

Sponsored by the IEEE* Consultants Network

*Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers – my professional society.

Learn some basics on how to start, build, and maintain a small part-time for full-time consulting practice. I’ll briefly address four key questions I’m regularly asked:

  • How do you get leads?
  • How do you set fees?
  • How do you decide what to consult about?
  • Last, but not least – How do I get started?

This talk has been shared at several technical conferences. But you don’t need to be an engineer (or an IEEE member) to attend – it is general and it is FREE.

All part of my secret plan to help those interested enjoy the consulting life as I have for over 30 years as a full time consulting engineer.

Happy New Year! Is this the year YOU hang out YOUR consulting shingle?

© 2018, All rights reserved.

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