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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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, jumptoconsulting.com. 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
www.emc-seminars.com
(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, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

That’s what partners are for…

Two years ago this week my good friend and business partner of 40 years passed away from cancer. Time has softened the pain, but the sense of loss is still there.

While I generally recommend against partners, our partnership worked very well. We often mused about why it worked, when we had seen so many others fail.

Were we just lucky, or was there more?

Upon reflection, here are seven reasons:

(1) Respect – Neither of us tried to “boss” the other – it was a partnership of equals. We respected opinions, even when they were different. We checked our egos at the door.

We recognized the old saying, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is redundant.”

(2) Maturity – We were both in our 40s when we went into full-time consulting. We had achieved a level of business maturity. Not saying you can’t consult at a younger age, but a few gray hairs (or even no hair) can actually make age a friend.

As the late Howard Shenson said, “The forties are a good time to start consulting. By that time, you know what you are good at and like, and what you are poor at and don’t like. The secret is to focus on former, and ignore the latter.”

(3) Experience – We both brought unique experiences to the firm. Although we were both Electrical Engineers with similar technical experiences, Bill had management experience and I had sales/marketing experience.

As such we complemented each other in those two critical areas. Over the years, we both learned a LOT from each other as well.

(4) Honesty – Having both been burned by unscrupulous colleagues in the past, we pledged never to do that to each other. Nor to our clients. Integrity matters.

We followed the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

(5) Longevity – For ten years, we worked together part time. So by the time we went full time, we already knew we worked well together.

We knew each other’s strengths, so we could take advantage of them. We also knew each others jokes 🙂

(6) Humor – Very important, we shared a sense humor. Often mildly cynical, neither of us took things too seriously. We joked and laughed a lot — even after the occasional disaster.

Our wives would often shake their heads as we rehashed some of those disasters.

(7) Support – On more than one occasion, we backed each other up – with very little notice.

When Bill lost his voice midway through a class, I was on a flight that night to rescue him. When my mother-in-law had a stroke, he jumped in and rescued me.

No apologies were ever needed. As Bill was fond of saying, “That’s what partners are for…”

So what final advice can I offer on partners? Proceed VERY carefully — I’ve seen too many cases turn into disasters. Use the seven reasons above as a checklist.

But I’ve also seen successes. My attorneys, my accountant, my financial advisor, and my doctor are in small practices and enjoy the camaraderie and support of congenial partners.

 Like a good marriage, if you can make a partnership work, it can be wonderful. But like a bad marriage, the disasters can be devastating. 

P.S. With Bill’s loss, I decided to cut back on the consulting. His passing was a grim reminder that life is not infinite. But I have great memories with my business partner, and would not trade them for anything.

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Setting up your team of advisors…

As a consultant, you’re offering your expertise as a more efficient way to do things. Follow your own advice, and hire the expertise you need.

Years ago a new consultant (and fellow engineer) was grousing about how much trouble he was having with a fax program on his computer.

My response was “Why spend time on that when you could spend that time promoting your practice? Just go buy a fax. ” Sheepish, he agreed.

Done things like that myself. It is an easy trap to fall into, particularly when starting out and the budget is tight.

Here are my recommendations for setting up your professional team. Over the years, I have acquired eight that have all proven valuable to my consulting business.

(1)Attorney — Seek out an attorney who works with small businesses. If you brother-in-law specializes in divorces, move on. Better yet, ask him for a recommendation. If you don’t have a BIL, ask business colleagues.

That is how I found my business attorneys (MN and AZ.) They handled incorporations and also acted as “statutory agents.” The latter means they kept track of the annual corporate filings, for a very nominal fee.

They can also be very helpful if you are threatened with legal action. Yes, it happens, but having your attorney respond often nips things in the bud. (The voice of experience…)

(2) Accountant — Like your attorney, find an accountant who works with small business. I strongly recommend a CPA, which is very helpful if you are ever audited.

In addition to preparing your taxes, your accountant can set up your chart of accounts, and can handle payroll reports, retirement plans, and more. Trust me, it is worth it, and it leaves you free to pursue your business.

Accountants are also a good source of referrals to other specialists like financial planners (how I found mine.)

(3) Banker — As you should establish a separate business bank account, so should you establish a business relationship with a banker. The latter is very helpful if you ever need a loan for equipment or a vehicle.

While I’ve been with the same bank for many years, I’ve seen individual bankers come and go. As a result, I suggest an occasional short visit just to stay in touch.

(4) Computer — Unless you are a computer consultant yourself, find someone who can advise you and bail you out when thing go awry.

For years, we used by late business partner’s son for our PCs. When I recently switched to Apples, I found a local Apple consultant who was worth his weight in gold.

He accomplished in two days what might have taken me two months. Money well spent, and he is available if I have additional questions or problems.

(5) Internet – Planning a web site? Or have one that needs upgrading? Hire a web designer to both design and maintain your site. If you are blogging, you still provide the content, but you web consultant handles the rest.

Just today, I had a small problem with one of my sites. A quick email resolved the problem. Who knows how much time I might have spent trying to figure out what went wrong?

(6) Insurance Broker — Sooner or later, you will need business insurance. As a minimum, you’ll need “General Liability”, and perhaps “Professional Liability” insurance. If you have a business vehicle or commercial office space, you’ll need insurance for those too.

While your personal home/auto/life agent may be able to help, I’ve found a broker very useful in locating specialized policies for business.

(7) Estate lawyer — Even if you are young, it is never too soon to think the unthinkable. A sad example is the entertainer Prince, who died suddenly without a will. Not only is there infighting among relatives, but his philanthropic wishes will likely never be realized.

Ask your business attorney for a recommendation — and then meet with him or her!

(8) Financial planner — Last, but not least, add this member to your team. Time flies by, and suddenly you are looking at retirement – or worse, wishing you could retire.

Although many people fancy themselves good investors, unless you are willing to put in a lot of time and energy, I suggest professional help.

My recommendation is for a fiduciary whose fee is based on your assets under management. That way there are no conflicts — both of you are on the same team.

I found my financial advisor through my accountant, and could not be more pleased.  I often joke that even when the market crashed, he lost less that I would have lost.

But the losses were on paper, and thanks to his advice, I am now very well positioned in my retirement. Which allows me time to spend on the JumpToConsulting project 🙂

 So those are the eight members of my team of professional advisors. An now, the standard disclaimer – this post is educational only and does not constitute professional legal or financial advice.

But do seek out that professional advice — you will not regret it! 

P.S. As an aside, most of my advisors are in small practices themselves – often one or two people. I prefer that — they provide a perspective often missing from larger firms.

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Urgent vs Important…

Got this from a newsletter to HOA (Home Owners Association) board members. Struck me as such a good idea I decided to share it here.

It is called the Eisenhower principle. In a 1954 speech, US President Eisenhower said:

I have two kinds of problems: urgent and important. The urgent are (often) not important, and the important are never urgent.

Eisenhower recognized one must be effective as well as efficient. We need to spend time on the important things — not just the urgent ones. To wit:

  • Important activities have outcomes that lead to achieving our goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and typically involve somebody else’s goals. However, the consequences of not dealing with them can be critical.

To use this principle, list all of the activities you need to address, no matter how unimportant. Next, prioritize the activities (1-10) Then put each activity in on of the four following categories.

Schedule activities based on the following:

  • Category I – HIGH urgency and HIGH importance — DO IT NOW
  • Category II – HIGH urgency and LOW importance – DELEGATE IT
  • Category III – LOW urgency and HIGH importance – SCHEDULE IT
  • Category IV – LOW urgency and LOW importance – DUMP IT

Eisenhower was highly productive his entire life. Prior to being the 34th US President (1953-1961) he was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe (Five Star General), served as President of Columbia University and was the first Supreme Commander of NATO. And he still found time to golf and paint.

This simple tool is useful to both you (as a consultant) and your clients. Thanks Ike!

P.S. Visited the Eisenhower Library in Abilene KS last year. Well worth the visit if you are a history buff like I am.

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

It’s not enough to solve problems…

Got this pearl of wisdom over dinner with a client.

A fellow engineer who had become a director for a defense contractor, we were discussing how engineers were attracted to solving problems. He paused, and said:

“It is is not enough to merely solve problems. We must anticipate them as well. Something I always emphasized to engineers working for me.”

Although I had never heard it stated that way, I realized he was absolutely right.

This insight applies to consultants as well!

— Thanks Bert Newman (who eventually started his own firm in retirement.)

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Five Steps in Marketing…

Time to begin a new series… on marketing… the last in the triad of “getting business.”  The other two elements are generating leads and making sales. Like the legs of a stool, all three are equally important.

Don’t overcomplicate things. Getting business is much like going fishing. There are three simple steps:

  • Marketing – Decide what kind of fish you are after and where you might go.
  • Leads – Based on that, decide what kind of bait and tackle to use.
  • Sales – Catch the fish and get them in the boat.

Here are five key marketing questions to consider:

`(1) WHAT services will you offer? And is there a market? Are there any fish in the lake? Is there competition?  Barriers to entry? Any way to test? Remember, you don’t need to catch all the fish —  only enough to feed you.

(2) WHO will you offer them to? What kind of fish are you going after? Who is your ideal client? Come up with some personas — law firms with 5-20 attorneys who need help with juries? Engineering managers with EMI test failures —  my personal favorite?

(3) WHERE will you go to find them? Mountain streams for trout — southern lakes for bass. What are your target niches – industry, geography, B2B/B2C/B2G?

(4) HOW will you reach them? Bait and tackle. Gave you twenty ways to generate leads. Now is the time to pick a couple, make a plan, an start executing. It’s never too early. Remember, if you want a baby, it takes nine months. So if you want a baby in a month, you should have started eight months ago.

(5) WHY are you doing this? Probably the most important question. Hating you job or boss is NOT a good reason. Nor is just getting laid off (or fired.)  Is there a higher calling driving you? A drive for independence (my favorite?) Do you want it so bad you can taste it? Is there something you always wanted to do, and now is the time?

Take some time to consider these questions, and jot down some answers. We will expand on each of these questions in future posts.

Stay tuned…

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

On handling “stumbles”…

Here is a reply I left at one of my favorite blogs/web sites —  Pamela Slim — a champion of starting and building small businesses (not just consulting.)

In her post, Pamela discusses how to react after a “stumble,” including her own examples.

She asked for comments, so I shared mine:

One of the best pieces of advice I got on “stumbling” was shared with me almost forty years ago. As a brand new sales engineer (I had pivoted from ten years of design work) my boss sent me to a sales training class.

During a break, I asked a a more experienced classmate how he handled losing a sale.

His reply was “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. ”

He went on, “Furthermore, if you’re not failing (stumbling), you are not trying hard enough. Every failure is a learning experience. After twenty years, I still lose sales but I’m doing just fine. ”

Ten years later, that advice was invaluable when I started my own engineering consulting firm. Actually, I started twice, and the first time I stumbled badly.

But I tried again later, and then the first day in business (1987) the stock market crashed. Scary, but I succeeded anyway.

That same advice sustained me again when my late business partner and I started a training operation in conjunction with the consulting. It took us four times to get that right.

We eventually ended training over 12,000 students in hundreds of multi-day classes around the world. What a blast! Glad we didn’t let a few stumbles stop us from that adventure.

Pam is so right! Don’t stop – just step back and figure out what to do next — and next — and next. It took Thomas Edison hundreds of trials until he got the light bulb right. But when he did, he lit the world.

Yes, I’ve discussed this topic here before, but it is worth hearing again.  Remember the jingle we all heard as kids, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

But before you do, back off and evaluate.  You may need to try something different. As Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

What if it doesn’t work? At least you tried…

Probably the NUMBER ONE QUESTION if you are standing on the edge of the cliff, about ready to make your own JumpToConsulting.

So, what if it doesn’t work? The brother of Go-Daddy founder Bob Parsons once told him, “Well, if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you.” Parsons is now a billionaire.

Incidentally, web registration was the backup plan for Go-Daddy — the original plan was on-line tax software. Always good to have Plan B!

Full disclosure — my son (a catalyst for this blog) was their Controller when Go-Daddy was just starting out. He has great stories about working for Parsons, and might have stayed but moved back to Minnesota for personal/family reasons.

My son has since gone on to several more entrepreneurial adventures – including a stint consulting – which ended when a client made him an offer he couldn’t refuse as a VP of Finance.

Probably the simplest solution is to climb back into the corporate womb. I did that myself after a false start. Got laid off (fired actually) from a startup, so I hung out my shingle.

Not good planning. After three months, it was clear this was not going to work — at least for now. My “Plan B” was to find another job, which I did.

But the itch was still there, so three years later I tried again — and succeeded — even though the stock market crashed the first day in business. Thanks to the first try, however, I was much better prepared.

But what if you are successful, and just don’t like it? There is no law that says you must stay a consultant forever. As a bonus — you are likely valued more by your new employer.

Here are two more examples:

Dave specialized in EMI/EMC engineering (electromagnetic interference and compatibility) as I did. He started several years before me, and built a successful practice.

Shortly after I made my jump, I ran into him at a trade show. He was now working for a company. Concerned, I asked him why.

“Why the move?” I asked. “And is there something I need to know?”

“No, not at all,” he replied. “A client made me a very attractive offer. Besides, I was getting tired of having to hustle for business. This new move is a dream job for me, but I only got it due the visibility of consulting.”

Dave did quite well in his new position and enjoyed in immensely.

Steve, another engineer, was a talented writer and editor of a technical magazine. We met through my efforts to write articles (a favorite marketing method) and stayed in touch.

Several years after I started JumpToConsulting, Steve hung out his consulting shingle as technical marketer. We shared ideas, and thanks to his talent, hard work, and contacts, he was very successful within a year.

But then Steve stopped consulting. Concerned, once again I asked why.

“What happened,” I asked.

” Well,” he said, “I discovered I really like working with a team, and not all by myself. I miss the camaraderie.”

So like Dave, he went to work for a favorite client. He quickly moved onward and upward in his career.

Some lessons learned here:

  • You don’t need to be a consultant forever.
  • You may be seen as more valuable for your experience.
  • You have visibility to many more opportunities than had you stayed where you were at in the first place.

The downside is that once having tasted freedom it may be tough to go back. (It would be for me.) But given the right opportunity, maybe not. Careers can be funny that way.

P.S. Tagged this post in “Success Stories.” Even though all three examples eventually left full time consulting, they did so after trying and succeeding. No doubt they could do it again!

“Better to have consulted and quit, than to never have consulted at all.” 

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Consider an Engagement Letter…

When dealing with individuals or small companies, an Engagement Letter may make more sense than submitting a formal proposal or quotation.

It also makes it easy for the client to buy no purchase order is needed – just sign the letter. For this reason, Engagement Letters are widely used by attorneys and accountants.

Such was the approach I recently suggested to my Apple computer consultant. Yup, I finally decided to move on from the old XP machines that have served us so well.

After getting our new computers up and running, we talked a little shop. New to consulting, he had some questions – and frustrations. One was getting paid. Been there – done that 🙂

After the work was done, he would submit an invoice. Terms were net due, but many were taking 60 days or more to pay. One client was even arguing about work completed.

So I suggested an Engagement Letter, combined with an advance deposit. My accountant has used this method for years (although no deposit.) I recently needed some legal help, and my lawyer did the same.

Here is a sample. It is based on my standard quoation/proposal described in an earlier post.

XYZ Client
123 Main Street
Somewhere, AZ

We appreciate the opportunity to work with you regarding your new Apple computer system.

In order to ensure an understanding of our mutual responsibilities, we ask our clients to confirm the following arrangement:

Tasks: Consultant will perform the following (on-site as needed):
— Discuss needs and recommend system configuration
— Arrange for purchase of hardware and software (to be paid directly by client – not consultant)
— Install Windows as a virtual machine, and port data to new computer
— Install virus and backup software
— Set up e-mail accounts
— Provide basic training and answer questions
Additional services can be provided for additional fees.

Schedule: By mutual agreement.

Budget: $XXXX, based on 16 hours. Please note this is not a fixed price proposal. Actual time and expenses will be billed. Budget will not be exceeded, however, without client approval.

Payment: $1000 deposit, with remainder due upon completion of above tasks and presentation of invoice.

If the foregoing agrees with your understanding, please sign the enclosed copy of this letter and return it to our office. Thank you.

————————————————– —————————
Joe Consultant                                                   Date

PLEASE SIGN ON THE LINE BELOW THAT YOU HAVE READ THIS ENGAGEMENT LETTER AND AGREE TO ITS TERMS.

————————————————– —————————
John Client                                                         Date

Policy Statement & Business Practices

Our clients often have questions about our business practices and policies. This document addresses common questions. Our intent is to help you understand our practices, so that we can better serve your needs.

Rates -Our rates are $XXX per hour ($XXXX per eight hour per day), plus expenses. On-site time is billed portal-to- portal while office time is billed at our regular hourly rate.

We do not charge a premium for overtime, night shift, weekends, or holidays. Our rates are subject to change, but engagement letters or purchase orders received within the quotation validity date will be honored as quoted.

Expenses – All expenses incurred for the client will be billed at actual cost, with no markup. Consultant will not purchase hardware or software. Client will pay vendors directly.

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.
-Out of town (Air Travel) – One full day labor is added to consultation fee for travel within the contiguous 48 states.

Travel 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.

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

Terms – We can proceed upon receipt of a signed engagement letter or purchase order and a $1000 deposit for clients with established credit. Balance due upon completion and presentation of invoice. We accept checks, credit cards, or bank transfers.

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 uncertain nature of most consultations, we are unable to precise estimates. When troubleshooting, we can not guarantee success. 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.

Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.

Like my quotations, the first page outlines the tasks, schedule, and budget. The second page is the “boilerplate” that remains the same. Keeps things simple – always a good idea.

P.S. If you are signed up for my newsletter, watch your mail box for Issue # 1.

 If not, sign up here, and get my FREE white paper “So You Want To Be a Consultant?”

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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