A Thanksgiving Day Rant…

Time for a rant. This post was precipitated by a hate inspired event in my hometown – no doubt a direct result of the recent election.

Last week, fellow AZ blogger Pam Slim was a victim. Read here. It sickens me.

Then I asked myself why?   

Some say the election was economic backlash, but I don’t buy that. Maybe for some in the Rust Belt, but that doesn’t explain the rest of the country – particularly the affluent suburbs and the more prosperous rural states. No, something else is going on.

We live in one of the richest countries in the world, in one of the richest times in history. Ours is the land of opportunity – if you are willing to pursue it.  But you must be willing to work for it yourself – not blame others – particularly those different from you!

Maybe the reasons lie here. Too many people want “jobs”, but they don’t want to work. Or they live beyond their means, and suffer the consequences. Rather than take responsibility, they want to blame others for their failures. 

So when a demagogue comes along and tells them what they want to hear (not what they need to hear), they rally behind him. History tells us the same thing has happened before.

Sadly, this give rise to violence. Acts of hate are way up. Swastikas appear on churches and synagogues. White school children taunt their immigrant playmates. Little kids playing soccer hurl insults they don’t even understand to people they don’t even know.

But let’s be positive. What can WE do? As Pam put it, we can combat the hate with love and compassion.

  • We can work together to build community, as she and her Navajo husband Darryl are doing in Mesa with K’e, a place of kinship to nurture small businesses – and souls. Bravo, Darryl and Pam!
  • We can teach our children (and grandchildren) to show compassion. To love, not hate. To respect each other, and treasure our differences – not exploit them.
  • We can teach our children (and grandchildren) to show gratitude for what they have. To be satisfied –not constantly wanting more, and more, and more. To appreciate what is enough.
  • Finally, we can create our own success (consulting or otherwise) if we are simply willing to try… to work hard… to share… and to care.

So as you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year, forget the narcissistic jerks. Rather, give thanks for those in our communities who DO care!

Peace — Uncle Daryl

P.S. Sorry –I promised myself I wouldn’t go political, but the incident with Pam Slim was too much. Now, back to our regular programming…

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Sales Step # 1 – Establish Rapport…

Time to revisit Uncle Daryl’s “Seven Steps of Selling” and to expand upon them.

Yes, I know — you want to be a consultant — a revered oracle — not a peddler. Sharing all your wisdom, and being paid handsomely for it.

All you need to do is hang out your shingle, right?

Wrong, of course. You need customers. Paying customers. And enough paying customers to pay the bills. Because consulting is a BUSINESS, and business means SELLING.

As a wise mentor once said, “If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business…”

So first you market. You create the necessary visibility and credibility for your services in the market place. You strategize. You define your markets. You generate leads. (Check here for twenty ideas on leads.) But you are still not selling.

Sooner or later you will need to actually TALK to a prospective client. That is when the sales process begins! And often the fear — usually the fear of the unknown.

But selling is simply a process you can learn. Like riding a bike, or playing the piano. Don’t expect to be an immediate expert, but with practice you can hold your own. And you will get better with time — I promise.

It all begins with establishing rapport. Here are some thoughts:

  • Relax, and smile. Even if you are on the phone. It will calm you.
  • Ask about their problem. Think like a doctor when he/she says, “What brings you in today?”
  • Listen carefully, and ask for more details. “Can you fill me in? How does the problem manifest itself? How long has this been going on? What else is going on?”
  • After you have enough preliminary details, simply say “That sounds like something we might help with.”

Assuming, of course, you CAN help. If not, you may want to refer the person to someone else. Don’t worry – they will appreciate you candor and will likely call you again based on the trust you just created.

Before proceeding further, ask how they heard about you. That give you some insight into the trust level.

If a referral, the trust level is already high. Ditto an article or talk. If simply a web search, additional reassurance may be needed.

Such as, “We’ve solve similar problems for others.” But don’t share specific client details, lest you raise concerns about protecting their confidentiality.

Next, ask if they have worked with a consultant before. This gives you some insight into their experience with consultants. If YES, simply proceed. If NO, more reassurance may be needed.

In either case, potential clients often have two fears:

  • Can you help them? Done right, you have already initially reassured them.
  • Can you work together? This is why a pleasant demeanor is so important. As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Note that Step #1 takes but a few minutes. The focus is on asking questions.

This is NOT time to go into a sales pitch, or to talk about how smart and capable you are. Rather, it is all about the client. Think like a doctor, not a used car salesman.

At this point, you are ready for Sales Step #2 – Qualifying. This is where you dig deeper, to see if you truly can help, and to see if they can buy your services. To be covered in a subsequent post.

P.S. Like many of you, I once feared selling.  But after I jumped in (first as a Sales Engineer, and later as a consultant) I came to enjoy the process.

The best part is that as a consultant, you are usually talking to friendly colleagues in the first place – and helping them solve their problems and/or improve their lives.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A special invitation to women…in the age of Trump…

This post was inspired by “A Letter to Young Women, in the Age of Trump”. Very well said, but sadly, too many comments by trolls reflected the bullying Trump mentality.

One piece of advice she offered:

Think about starting your own thing.

This is what’s exciting; we have the ability to start our own businesses today, in a way we didn’t in the past. Why not take our marbles to our own playgrounds and build great businesses and cultures?

Our mothers couldn’t do this because the cost was so high – but the costs of everything-about-starting-a-business, including technology, people (i.e., freelancers), real estate (co-working spaces) and support services are coming down.

And then no one can relegate you to the less-interesting jobs.

So I want to extend a personal invitation to any woman reading my blog.

Please know you are most WELCOME here, and most WELCOME to join the independent consulting ranks. In fact, many of you already have. Some examples:

  • Pamela Slim(pamelaslim.com) /Successful consultant, author, speaker, and advocate for small business (and of of my favorite people in the world.)
  • Lynn Rausch – Successful nutrition consultant to the Native American communities in Arizona (started in retirement, but now fully retired.)
  • Susan Baier -(www.audienceaudit.com) – Successful market research firm, and the organizer of Laid Off Camp Phoenix. (Hope to feature Susan here soon.)
  • Joanna Hill – (JPHill, LLC) Newly minted engineering consultant. She attended my consulting talk in Ottawa, and we met again last night met at a professional meeting. (Her shingle is out… she has business… congratulations Joanna!)

A common thread among most of these successful businesswomen was not being recognized and appreciated for their contributions. So they took matters into their own hands, and build successful practices. Way.To.Go!

Nothing like the revenge of sweet success.  And it drives the “losers” nuts.

I understand those feelings. Although a guy, more than once I felt the same way. I did deal with some bullying, but at least I wasn’t battling sexual harassment.

So if consulting might be your gig (check out the GIG economy), join us here as I ramp back up. Everyone is welcome — regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual preference, or ???

As it should be. After all, as consultants we should be working to make the world a better place. In the age of Trumpism, we will need to work even harder!

P.S. To my two granddaughters –You Go Girls!–To my four grandsons–You Go Boys!–And to all six of you– be kind to everyone– and NEVER be a bully!

© 2016 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

How big is the GIG economy???

Bigger than you think. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, between 20-30% of the working population in the US and Europe are free lancers (doing gigs.)

That translates to over 160 million people. Not too shabby, I’d say.

Rather than wade through the 148 page study, check out this latest post at Consultants Mind, a favorite blog of mine on consulting.

Although aimed at management consultants in both large and small firms, I find this blog well written and useful for solo-professionals too (including us technical consultants.)

To distill the data even more, here are some key points from the blog post:

  • Most consultants CHOOSE to work independently. More than 70% surveyed do so because the want to — not because they have too. This group is happier too — no great surprise.
  • One in six traditional workers say they would like to go independent. But many don’t because they lack the ideas, ambition, or grit. (If you have the ambition and grit, stick around and I’ll help you with ideas…)
  • Digital platforms enable freelance work. Thanks to the Internet and computers, it is easier than ever today to start and run a consulting business — from anywhere in the world. But you do need to develop your on-line presence to make this work.
  • This is NOT new. According to the author, 100 years ago 45% of the population was self-employed. As small farmers in rural Nebraska, all my grandparents and great-grandparents fell into that category. Furthermore, the author predicts the percentages will rise again in the next century.

The author was pretty critical of the original McKinsey report, saying the 148 page report was about 100 pages too long. He’s right – brevity is always better.

So save yourself some time and hop over here for more details.

Finally, the author challenges “retirees, students, and caregivers” to jump back into the economy – even if partially. If consulting is YOUR gig, follow me at JumpToConsulting and I’ll share my ideas on how to make your jump.

Consulting is a great life for those who choose it. I’m glad I chose it almost 40 years ago!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Don’t cut your fees… cut the scope…

Sooner or later you will be asked to cut your fees. The reason may be legitimate (budget constraints) or your client may just be testing you (particularly if you are new.)

Either way, do NOT cut your fees. Rather, cut the scope…

  • If the budget is truly limited, this may salvage the project and allow you to still help your client, albeit in a more limited fashion.
  • If you are being tested, it sends a message that there is no “fat” in your proposal. This testing tactic is quite common with purchasing agents, who are tasked to get the “best deal” for their employer.

Don’t fret about doing this, and NEVER buy the business. Your time is better spent finding a client who is willing and happy to pay for your services.

This is the voice of experience speaking. Prior to consulting, I was a sales engineer for ten years. On two occasions I spent considerable time to round up “demo” equipment at substantial discounts for some “needy” customers.

Both turned out to be very poor customers, demanding extra support and hand holding while grousing all the time. Not a good deal.

As a result, this lesson was learned prior to starting my consulting firm. Good clients appreciate your value, and are willing to pay for it. If they don’t, move on.

Another example. I once put together a proposal for an overseas training project, which involved several extra tasks. Upon submission, the purchasing agent asked for a reduction, so I asked for a target price. Based on that, I revised the proposal – no small task in itself.

The purchasing agent’s response was, “We like the new price but we still want everything in the original proposal.” My response was to withdraw the proposal. I no longer felt comfortable working with the client.

I found out later that the engineering manager who initiated the project was unhappy — but not with me. Apparently this purchasing agent had done this to other consultants. While I didn’t like losing the business, at that point I felt justified in my action.

The best part was some good business came in, which I would have passed up had I gone with the bad business. Karma anyone?

Finally, the late Howard Shenson advised setting your fee at the minimum amount you would accept. That way there is no fat, and if you lose the business, you don’t end up second guessing yourself. Good advice – I’ve followed it for years!  

P.S. Now back in Arizona, and hope to be posting again on a regular schedule. It was the “Lost Summer” with my sister-in-law. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A quick update from the trenches…

Been a bit remiss in my posts the last few months, for which I apologize.

My sister-in-law has Alzheimer’s, and my wife (her only sibling) is her principal care giver. She recently reached the point where we realized she needed a move to full time memory care. As she is in Minnesota, we didn’t want her wandering off at -20 degrees.

So the past few months have been busy. First, investigating places. Second, getting things in place. Third, executing the move, which was done two days ago. Like a typical consultation, things have taken longer than planned, and not everything has gone as smooth as desired.

So I hope to be back on some sort of a schedule in a few weeks. Don’t worry — I still have a backlog of ideas to share. Stay tuned…see you again soon…

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Writing magazine articles… an interview with the Blue Penguin…

Recently did a half hour interview on writing magazine articles, on of my favorite (and successful) marketing methods. The interviewer was Michael Katz, the founder/owner of Blue Penguin Development, a one man firm that teaches solo professionals how to better market their practices.

Earlier this year, Michael formed the Blue Penguin Content Club. For $9.95/month, you get two 30 minute group calls each month — a weekly 48 second marketing tip — membership in a private Facebook group — and access to all the past recordings. Given Michael’s expertise and experience, this is one a heck of a deal.

Michael graciously allowed me to include the LINK to the interview HERE. So grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy Micheal and me discussing the ins and outs of getting your own magazine articles published. (30 minutes.)

Finally, if you enjoyed this, sign up for the Content Club – you won’t regret it. Full disclosure–no remuneration for me, and no penguins were harmed making this recording.

PS –  Michael has a free newsletter that I have been reading for years, along with numerous short courses and more.

PPS – Listen to the interview here.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Visit me with the Blue Penguin…

As the “featured guest” of the Blue Penguin next Tuesday (August 23, 2016). I’ll be sharing insights on writing articles to build your credibility/visibility as a consultant. Join the Blue Penguin Content Club, and you can catch the session too.  Click here.

Way back in 2013 I wrote about the Blue Penguin and the Likeable Expert Gazette. In 2000, Michael Katz launched Blue Penguin Development, a one man firm that teaches professional service providers how to position themselves as “likeable experts.” Much of his emphasis is on newsletters (a favorite technique of mine) and social media.

More recently, Michael formed the Blue Penguin Content Club. For $9.95/month, you get two 30 minute group calls each month, a weekly 48 second marketing tip, membership in a private Facebook group, and access to all the past recordings.

Trust me — this is a great deal! And Michael is funny (and bald, which always sets well with me.) If you don’t want to invest $9.95/month, you can still get Michaels’ free newsletter.  As his newsletter name suggests, he is simply a likeable guy (and an expert in what he does.)

Hope to see some of you next week. Well, I can’t “see” you, but you know what I mean 🙂

P.S. Been a little slow on the posts here. It’s the dog days of summer. We’ll pick up the pace again in the fall.

P.P.S. Had 31 attend the consulting session at the IEEE EMC conference in Ottawa. Several were already consulting, and several more were on the verge of making their own JumpToConsulting. Way to go, my fellow geeks!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Presentation – So You Want To Be A Consultant?

If you are attending the IEEE International Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) in Ottawa next week, you are invited to join me for this live presentation on Friday morning.

My talk is part of a career workshop (EMC Consultant’s Toolkit) where four of us share advice on consulting with our engineering colleagues.

Mine is the last talk, so I’ll be bringing up the rear. We will conclude with a Q&A session.

Here are some details:

  • What – So You Want To Be A Consultant? (EMC Consultant’s Toolkit session)
  • When – Friday, July 29, 2016 – 8:30 AM – Noon
  • Where – Room 215

Consulting opportunities abound in this esoteric area of electrical engineering.

  • New problems continue to emerge, driven by advances in the state of the art.
  • Old timers like me are retiring (or sadly, worse.)
  • Many companies prefer consultants, not wanting to maintain a full time EMC engineer on staff.
  • The result? A “perfect storm” for those with the right experience who want to make their own JumpToConsulting.

Please join us if you are at the show. Our goal is to help new consultants (or those considering consulting) in the field of EMC.

This is an excellent opportunity to learn from some of those most experienced in EMC!

P.S. Can’t join us? Then read my recent article by the same title in InCompliance magazine.  Or watch JumpToConsulting, as I plan to make this presentation available on line in the future.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Just Published – So You Want To Be A Consultant?

The industry magazine “InCompliance” just published my article “So You Want To Be A Consultant’?

The article addresses the four key questions I’m often asked about consulting:

  • How Do You Get Clients?
  • How Do You Decide What To Charge?
  • How Do You Decide What To Consult About?
  • How Do I Get Started?

The article coincides with a presentation (same title) later this month at the IEEE International Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility in Ottawa, Canada.

My secret goal at the symposium is to instill confidence and inspire any engineering colleagues considering their own JumpToConsulting. My consulting journey for the past forty years has been a blast!

But this secret goal extends to all of my readers. So if you are itching to set yourself free, or even just curious, check out the article. I hope you enjoy it!

Best Wishes, and a belated Happy Independence Day,

Uncle Daryl

P.S. Been busy here, so the posts have slowed – as they often do during the summer. But I still have plenty of ideas to share, so please stick around. 

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

On Not Being a Good Corporate Rat… the Interview…

Even at a young age, it was becoming apparent that I was not destined to be a good corporate rat. I just didn’t realize it at the time…

As a junior in Electrical Engineering, it was time to interview for a summer job. Rather important, for if successful, you would likely receive a full time job offer upon graduation.

It also increased your attractiveness to other companies. Plus you made a few bucks, always of interest to a college student.

Interviews were a new experience, and I was still trying to figure out the game. Fortunately, most of the interviews were simple — you talked about the company, the potential job, and what the company was seeking.

But then came the BIG interview, with the BIG prestigious firm. An industry leader with world famous labs and technology. Landing a job with them was a real plum.

Or so I thought. The interview started badly, and went down hill from there.

Rather than an engineering manager, the interviewer was a young HR lackey in a three piece suit. It was apparent he was pretty full of himself. Trust me, that sort of snotty attitude never sits well with engineers – including student engineers. (We don’t suffer fools.)

The interview began with the first of three questions. They were designed, the lackey assured me, to see if there was a “fit.” Here is how it went:

HR – “So what did you ever do that made you feel good?”

Me – “Say what?”

HR – “You know, something that gave you a sense of accomplishment.”

Me – (In my head – OK, I’ll play your silly game.) “Well, there was a class I was not interested in and and was on the verge of failing. So I dug in, worked hard, and ended up with a B. It was very satisfying.”

HR – “Wonderful.” Then after jotting some notes, he said, “What else?”

Me – To this day, I can’t believe what I said next. Something just snapped in my head. “Well, there was this girl once…” I had nothing specific in mind, but I was just pissed.

HR – “Oh, I didn’t mean to be personal…”

Me – Twisting the knife, I added, “That’s OK – I felt pretty good about it.”

HR – “Uh, let’s just move into the technical details.”

Me – “Good idea.”

Later, my engineering buddies were all grousing about the three dumb questions.

Me – “What three dumb questions? I was asked only one.” Then I told them what I said.

Buddies – “You didn’t really say that, did you?”

Me – “Sure did. And I have no regrets.”

The result – several buddies got summer engineering jobs. I got to spend the summer parking cars in the hot sun. So much for getting a head start on my engineering career.

Now for the second chapter. When the same company appeared on campus next fall,  I didn’t even bother to sign up for an interview. Based on the first interview, I figured there was no way they were interested in me.

But I was wrong. Not only was my GPA pretty good, but I suspect somebody actually liked my answer. Showed some spunk and originality.

So I got a call inviting me to interview, preceded by a steak dinner for all the interviewees. As a college student, I could be had for a free steak dinner. So I went, dinner and all.

The second interview started similar to the first. Another young self-important HR lackey in another three piece suit.

But upon opening my folder, he paused and said,

“Perhaps we should dispense with the preliminaries, and move right into the technical details.”

“Good idea,” I said, trying to read some scribbled notes upside down.

In spite of my non-conformist attitude, I did get a job offer. But I turned it down, as it was obvious to me I simply wasn’t going to “fit” their culture. Probably a good decision for all.

So looking back, it makes sense that I ended up as a self-employed consultant. Not the best choice for everyone, but it sure was for me. And if you share my independent approach to life, maybe the best for you too!

P.S. Celebrating seven decades on the planet today. Been a great ride with no big regrets. And very glad I made MY JumpToConsulting several decades back.

So I hope you enjoyed this personal anecdote — it is who I am 🙂

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

From the mailbag – Do I need client insurance?

This question arrived today from a friend and engineering consulting colleague.  Once in a while a company will request a “General Liability” insurance certificate.

Hi Daryl,

I’ve run into this requirement (client insurance) a handful of times. Most companies don’t ask for it, but some are asking to be named on my insurance policy. Do you know the reason why they might want that?

Here is my response. The beautiful irony is that just today my “General Liability” insurance was cancelled, after 20 years with no claims, and zero probability of a future claim.

As far as I know, there is no good reason (but I’m not an attorney.)  Rather, it is the result of good lobbying by the insurance industry.

We ran into that a few times. The request was usually for “General Liability”, not “Professional Liability.” The former covers things like driving you car into their lobby. The latter covers “errors and omissions.”

If you have a GL policy, ask for a certificate naming the client. It’s just a piece of paper, and should cost nothing.

Do you really need a GL policy?  I don’t think so. We went without a policy for many years.

But after fighting it a few times and to save time, Bill and I caved in and got a GL policy — about $1000/year for both of us. Upon our attorney’s advice, we never carried PL, since EMC has such a low risk.

If we had been doing product safety, we would have carried PL too.

The IEEE has both, but when I last checked, they would not sell the GL alone. We got our policy through a broker.

When Bill passed away, they reduced the premium to $500, so I renewed it. A total waste of money in my opinion, but still easier than fighting about it. Haven’t had a request for several years now.

As a coincidence, just today I got a certified letter canceling my General Liability insurance.

Seems some underwriter visited my web site, and panicked when they saw “medical devices, vehicular electronics, military systems, industrial controls, etc.” Even though the web site clearly states I no longer consult, but only do training.

My guess is some bureaucrat with no common sense did this. Probably their chance to make a “big decision.” But a stupid decision, as it was easy money for them.

As an side, my older son started with Hartford (the carrier) right out of college. He left in less than a year. Like his dad, he has a low tolerance for petty bureaucrats.

My plan is to forget the insurance. If somebody insists on it, my response will be to either waive the requirement of find somebody else.

Before getting insurance, I did that several times with success. I found that engineering VPs/directors/managers can and will override purchasing if they really want you, and need to do so.

And if they don’t want you, do you really want to do business with them?

Don’t want you to think I’m a jerk about these things. As a rule, I go out of my to be polite and professional.

But at the same time, I don’t let petty bureaucrats intimidate me. Neither should you.

As always, check with your attorney and/or accountant.  We carried General Liability insurance for many years, simply because it was easier to do so than argue about it.

But other than saving time, it was a waste of money. We never lost any business when we did not have it.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

My retirement status… and what it means…

So is Uncle Daryl retired, semi-retired,  or what? Yea, I’ve been confused too, but I finally figured it out.

I’m retired three weeks out of every four.

One of the beauties of running your own consulting firm is no mandatory retirement date. And when you do retire, you don’t need to come to a complete halt.

You can taper off, pick and choose the stuff you still like to do, and hand the rest off to colleagues. But you can still be engaged with interesting work.

This is exactly what I’ve done. For the last several years, I pulled back from consulting (aka fire-fighting) but remained involved with training and publishing.

That worked well until my business partner passed away last year. He enjoyed the panic situations — in fact, his idea of a good time was when the call came in at 9 AM and he was on a plane at 4 PM. Me? Not so much.

So when Bill passed, I was left wondering what to do.

The solution was to set up a stable of vetted consultants, and then pass the leads along.

To keep it simple, no money changes hands. The goals are simply to help our clients, and to help our younger colleagues (and a few not so young) with their businesses. So far it has worked well.

At the same time, I remain active with training – which I consider “group consulting.” With only one engineer now in the firm, the training load went up. But to keep my sanity (and to keep my wife happy) I limit classes to not more than one per month.

So far that has worked well too. April was the first month in a long time with no class, and I’m almost fully booked through 2016.

How long will this continue? I don’t know, but I’m flexible.

I’ve always enjoyed training. There is nothing quite like seeing the “light go on” a student’s eyes. Even Warren Buffet agrees — when asked how he would like to be remembered, he answered, “As a teacher.” Plus training allows one to set a schedule well in advance – no panic calls at 9 AM.

What about the three weeks per month of retirement? Pretty busy there.

  • I’m still winding down Kimmel Gerke Associates, the consulting firm. A new web site now archives much of our IP – articles, newsletters, books, and more. Much is free.
  • The JumpToConsulting project remains a high priority. I’ve got some ideas that I’m about to roll out, so if you are interested in consulting,  please stick around.
  • The rest of the time I plan to spend goofing off — playing with the grandkids, the dog, and traveling in the RV with my bride of almost 50 years.

Retired three weeks – working one week – it works for me. The consulting life is great!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Afraid of selling? Don’t be…

This post was inspired by “Fear and Loathing in Sales” at Trusted Advisor. The author addresses the irrational fear that professionals often have about selling.

I once shared that fear. But realizing that if I wanted to be in business for myself, I needed to overcome that fear – or at least get some experience. So I sought out -and landed – a job as a sales engineer (Tektronix.) And did it again later for another company (Intel.)

What a pleasant surprise. I quickly realized that technical sales was different – in spite of some canned sales training programs to which I was subjected. I discovered it was not about manipulation, bur rather about helping the customer or client.

I found it to be fun –another set of engineering problems to solve. Not unlike consulting. 

It was really about having pleasant conversations with technical colleagues — about what they were doing, and how my company might help them. Sure, I had to deal with contracts and purchasing agents, but by the time they got involved, the buying decisions had been made. They were there to handle the business/legal details.

As a professional, you are like a doctor, not a car salesman. You are there to diagnose and prescribe, not to wheel and deal. You are there to help.

If you are still unsure and want to build your confidence, consider spending a year (or more) in sales as I did. No, you don’t need to be an extrovert. Many of the best sales engineers I’ve known were quiet introverts who were genuinely interested in their customers and their problems (and/or aspirations.) Just like good consultants.

But there is a process, which I first outlined in the Seven Steps of Selling. I’ll soon expand on each of those steps in a short series on selling consulting services.

Finally, don’t fear the selling process — embrace it. It is the essence of professional consulting. And remember FDR’s advice, “The only thing we have to fear…is fear itself.”

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Opportunities Abound When Ecosystems Collapse…

This post was inspired by a 2011 post by Pam Slim (Avatars, Ecosystems, and Watering Holes), where she discusses creating you own healthy business ecosystem.

But what happens when an ecosystem collapses? Most people panic, but a few recognize the opportunities — often excellent for starting a consulting practice.

Scientists tell us every major extinction event was followed by an explosion of new life. A prime example is the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs, which gave rise to the mammals and ultimately the naked apes known as homo sapiens.

When an ecosystem collapses, the balance of nature is upset. Those at the top of the food chain (the huge dinosaurs) are displaced, and new opportunities explode (for the tiny mammals.) But eventually a new equilibrium is reached, and evolution resumes its slow grind.

So it is with business. Sudden changes give rise to new opportunities, at least to those willing to pursue them. The inertia of the dinosaurs often prevents them from doing the same. In fact, the dinosaurs usually fight the changes and thus miss the opportunities.

A minor engineering ecosystem collapse helped launch our consulting firm.

  • Thanks to the personal computer explosion, by the early 1980s electronic interference problems to radios and televisions were increasing exponentially.
  • As a result, the Federal Communication Commission issued new regulations.
  • But there were few engineers that understood the problems, and how to fix them.
  • Most of those engineers were well entrenched in the defense industry, and not interested in tackling commercial electronics.
  • Thus, the engineering ecosystem for addressing these problems collapsed.

Recognizing the opportunity, we jumped in with both feet. But the economy was teetering too, and the first day in business the stock market crashed (October 1987.) A double whammy. But thanks to multiple opportunities with very limited competition, we did very well.

A second collapse occurred in the mid-1990s. Driven by the same interference problems, the European Union passed strict laws on interference on a wide range of electronic devices. If you could not demonstrate compliance, you could not export to the EU.

  • Once again, many big players (the dinosaurs) missed the changes (the asteroid.)
  • Once again, the engineering ecosystem suffered a minor collapse.
  • Once again, the little guys (the tiny mammals) like us did very well.

This is when we launched our training business, which took off like a rocket. This time, people were hungry for both help and knowledge. We often joked that while the consulting paid the bills, the training funded the retirement.

Would we have the same quick success today? Probably not, unless the ecosystem again collapsed. The growth would be much slower under today’s more stable conditions.

So, don’t fear the changes. Rather, seek them out. Remember, when the ecosystem collapsed, the mammals proliferated and the dinosaurs died out.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Success Story – Susan Kimmel, Ph.D. – Medical Market Research

It gives me great pleasure to introduce our latest success story, Dr. Susan Kimmel the daughter of my late business partner Bill Kimmel.

Susan received her PhD in Business from the University of Michigan. After trying teaching, Susan decided academia was not for her, so she pursued a career in market research. This eventually led to a position with Guidant Technologies, a leading medical device manufacturer in Minnesota’s “medical alley.”

After watching her dad enjoy the consulting life, she became infected with “The Itch.” Once that happened, there was no turning back. Thanks to her dad’s advice and her own hard work, she and her business partner Beth have run their own very successful consulting firm since 2007.


Here is Susan’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?

Four major factors:

(1) I began doing market research for Guidant (now Boston Scientific) in 2001, and by 2004 was at the top of the market research function there. I had hit the ceiling, with little prospect for additional growth at the company.

(2) During my time at Guidant, I noticed almost no market research suppliers really understood how to do good market research for medical devices. With my background working inside a med device company, I knew few suppliers would be able to match my level of knowledge about the market.

(3) Beth, my current business partner. One day I was (once again) complaining about management when all of the sudden she said that we should go into business together. As we talked it through, it seemed to be a great move for us – both professionally and personally – while giving us more spend time with our young kids.

(4) My dad, Bill Kimmel. He had already”primed the pump” by showing me that it could be done and helped me to understand all of the great things – as well as the drawbacks. I remember him once telling me that I had the disease that would lead me to go out on my own, “but it’s not terminal yet.”

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

It’s been fabulous – we’ve done much better than we ever hoped!

I remember going to the bank to open our corporate bank account.There we were, talking to some young kid pushing the paperwork. Just to make conversation, he asks “So how much do you think you’re going to make?”

We look at each other and sort of shrugged, not really knowing how long it would take to be “in the black” – or the point where we would at least make our old salaries.

Then he says “So how much, like $10,000?” We laughed about it later, guessing he was looking at two moms with young kids and thinking we were going to bake cookies or something.

Fortunately, that was NOT the case. We started taking small paychecks within a couple of months, and equaled our old salaries in 2-3 years. I’m saying 3 years because Beth had a baby after year one, and I slowed a bit in year two with two young ones of my own.

We’ve never looked back. We are now even subcontract work to colleagues (often moms).

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

Consulting plays to my strength – doing the work.

People hire me because they know I can do the work – and do it well. I was recognized for that when employed, but I didn’t do well at managing the politics, which sometimes bit me in the butt.

Sure, I’m still affected by the client politics, but working with multiple clients/companies diversifies the portfolio. No more “I could lose my job” issues.

The other fabulous aspect is the flexibility  I can plan long vacations as long as it’s well in advance. I can chaperone my kid’s field trips or take them to music lessons in the day without having to ask someone. I control my time.

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

The level of responsibility can be scary.

If I mess up something, I need to redo it at my expense (I bid on a project basis most of the time). That could eat up profits and I might end up donating my time.

The buck stops with me. I don’t have a boss to help “fix it”. Knock on wood, I’ve managed to not get burned too much, but the vigilance to minimize that risk can be stressful.

(5) How do you get your clients? (BTW, the number one question I get asked when someone finds out I’m a consultant.)

Luckily for me, getting the work done well at Guidant created a lot of good will for my “brand”.

And while I felt at times like management didn’t really recognize my efforts as much as I’d have liked, in the end it created some great contacts, referrers, and potential clients.

Close to 100% of our client base are from colleagues at Guidant; referrals from those colleagues, or referrals from the referrals.

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

As a purchaser of market research at Guidant, I had a pretty good idea of our “market value.”

First I created an outline of competitive pricing for common services we planned to offer. I combine that with an estimate of my time at my internal hourly rate to create a project cost estimate.

The hourly rate has evolved over time, based on discussions with colleagues who do similar work. As a result, I have a pretty good feel for what is market acceptable.

We also subcontract some specialized parts of the market research (this is common, even for larger companies), so of course I get bids from my suppliers and include that in the estimate. .

But I always go back to the “market rate” and compare it to that. I aim to be competitive, but if it is an area of special expertise I will charge more.

So there is some art mixed in there with the science. In the end, the market will give you feedback on whether or not your pricing worked!

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

As mentioned earlier, my business partner and I noted that medical device market research was an underserved niche that we are good at – and few others are.

That, and we both love the business. These are cool products that involve high technology, and they help people. So something we like – are good at – and benefits others – kind of a no brainer. Why even think about cookies?

Also, primary market research (we do mostly surveys and in-depth interviews) is an area where we have strong expertise, and something that companies need and are willing to pay.

We found it easier to build and sustain a business in a specific niche, as opposed to colleagues who struck out to do generic  marketing.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

First of all, my dad has once again proved to be a genius. (Ed note – Yes , he was!)

 So much of what he told me held true. Things like “It’s not a project until the money is in the bank”.

I also learned that cutting the price to get the business work is a BAD idea! The idea of working for cheap makes me cranky the whole time, and then there’s the slippery slope of the client expecting the same price again next time. Best avoided!.

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

Dad always told me, “While lots of people would LOVE to do consulting, most just can’t generate the business”.

Now that our company is mature, and we don’t need to market as hard anymore, we’re set. Besides, no one would be willing to pay me what would be required to go back to working at an office with a boss.

Also attractive – I am now 50 – is knowing this is something I can dial down whenever I like. I don’t need to keep going full steam and then suddenly quit and it’s over. There’s a lot more choices. Dad pretty much epitomized this.

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

Look at what you are doing now, what you do well, and what you enjoy.

People sometimes call me an entrepreneur, but I disagree. When I think of entrepreneurs, I think of creating a totally new business (like making cookies).

We simply took something that we were doing well (while working for somebody else), tweaked it, and then sold those services to people with whom we have real, established business relationships.  When done as a continuation of something you’re already successful at, the transition can be smooth indeed.

Susan Kimmel, PhD – Partner – in2ition

www.in2itioninc.com – 800.796.5162

Susan resides in the Twin Cities of Minnesota with her husband and two sons. She has a beautiful office in her home, which means that in addition to having no boss, she has no commute. 


P.S. I disagree that she is not an entrepreneur. In my opinion, anyone who starts and runs a business qualifies. But like may consultants, she is a “lifestyle entrepreneur” – keeping her business small while carving out her own path – just like her Dad. Well done, Susan!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Three Favorite Lifestyle Bloggers…

Scored the hat-trick*… meeting THREE of my favorite bloggers/authors/philosophers all in one week. How great is that?


Chris Gullibeau – Art of Non Conformity Chris was in town promoting his latest book, Born For This, already #5 on the NY Times nonfiction list.(To be reviewed in a future post.)

Like his earlier two books, this one focuses on figuring out your mission in life — and then doing something about it. He stresses the intersection of Joy-Money-Flow. Similar to my personal philosophy of Do Some Good – Have Some Fun – Make Some Money.

Chris also stresses the importance of quitting. Sometimes things just don’t work, and it is time to move on and try something else. Good advice, but counter to the conventional wisdom that “Winners Never Quit/Quitters Never Win” I agree with Chris — check this.

Along with his three books and other projects, Chris has visited every country in the world — a quest he completed by age 40. An interesting person, and worthy of reading his books and following his blog.


Pam Slim – Escape From Cubicle Nation & PamelaSlim.com – Pam was at the same book event to introduce Chris, a longtime friend. He claims her as his inspiration. I share the same sentiment, as Pam was an inspiration for JumpToConsulting.

Pam has two books under her belt, and has a third underway. Like Chris, she also focuses on careers and the world of work. As her first book name suggests, she is an entrepreneur and has helped many make their “escape” from soul sucking corporate jobs.

Her second book mellowed a bit, as she share insights about succeeding in the corporate world — at least if you are so inclined. After all, not everyone should be a solo entrepreneur. We still need big companies for big enterprises. I mean, would you fly on JumpToConsulting Airlines? I wouldn’t.

But the best part of seeing Pam again was simply getting a big hug from this very caring fellow Arizona blogger. Thanks, Pam.


Bob Lowry – Satisfying Retirement Journey – Mary and I had lunch today with another fellow Arizona blogger and his wife Betty. Bob was forced into an early retirement fifteen years ago, and started blogging about it at Satisfying Retirement Journey. 

Like Chris and Pam, Bob has a book under his belt along with hundreds of advice-filled blog posts. It is one of the more popular retirement blogs, and for good reason.

In addition to blogging and writing, Bob and I share interests in ham radio and RVs. In fact, as we traded RV stories, by the end of lunch we were both ready to head out for some new RV adventures.


A common thread shared with all three — along with blogging — is that all three have been consultants in past lives.

  • For Chris, it helped pay some bills starting out, but he soon moved on to group events like the World Domination Summit which now draws thousands every year to Portland, OR. Like training, he figured out how to leverage his unique talents.
  • For Pam, it was a transition from corporate life to that of a solo entrepreneur. She used the consulting fees she earned to be her own venture capitalist. She loves to tell the story of being pregnant, puking in the gutter, and then getting on a plane to visit clients – multiple times. Talk about dedication to starting a business!
  • For Bob, he ran a successful one-person consultancy for many years. He traveled all over the country as a radio advertising consultant. This was a natural for an ex-DJ and he had a great time. Joy-money-flow indeed. Then the market changed, and the business dried up. But he realized that he had enough stashed away, and that he no longer enjoyed getting on a plane every week anyway. So he switched gears, and started blogging, writing, and just enjoying life.

Three inspiring author/bloggers who have trod the consulting path, and who now share their advice and life experiences with their followers. It is a sincere pleasure to share all three with you!

When you’re done here, hop over to their blogs:
The Art of Nonconformity – Chris Gullibeau
Escape From Cubicle Nation/Pamela Slim – Pam Slim
Satisfying Retirement Journey – Bob Lowry

*A natural hat trick occurs when a player scores three consecutive goals, uninterrupted by any other player scoring for either team. The NHL record for the fastest natural hat trick is 21 seconds, set by Bill Mosienko in 1952 for the Chicago Blackhawks. — Wikipedia

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Time to forge a new path…

It was a year ago this month that my business partner passed away from cancer. To say the past year was stressful would be an understatement.

Bill and I were good friends and business partners for almost 40 years. I miss him every day.

But life goes on. The fog is lifting, and the paths ahead looks brighter. The big question is “Which path to take?” After much soul searching, the new path becomes clearer each day.

When a colleague recently inquired about my future plans, I gave this answer:

After much consideration, I’m winding things down here. I’ll soon be 70, so I decided to kick back. Twenty years ago I’d be a bit more motivated.

Been referring consulting jobs to several younger guys which is working fine. Still doing training, which I really enjoy (and which pays well.)

However, I limit myself to no more than one class a month. In the old days it was not unusual for each of us be on the road 30-40 times a year with consulting and training projects. Lot’s of fun, but I don’t have the energy for that anymore.

Still tying up a few loose ends, but ready to move on. I’ve been doing the JumpToConsulting blog for about five years, and plan to ramp that up.

I’ll be doing a presentation “So You Want To Be A Consultant” at the IEEE EMC Symposium in Ottawa in July, which I may expand into an on-line class. There is a book in the wings too.

My overall goal is to slow down and enjoy life. Goof off more. Travel in the RV. Spend time playing with the dog, ham radio, and the grandkids.

Bill’s passing was a reminder that life is not infinite. We had a great time with our business, but as a recently retired consulting colleague said, “It’s time to forge a new path…” That idea appeals to me too.

So how about you? Is it time to forge a new path in your life?

My consulting business was only one of several paths I forged. And I am happy to share my experience here, in the hope that it may help others forge – or at least explore – their new path as a consultant.

© 2016 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Avoid Tax Audits… Keep Your Books Clean…

Just finished gathering my annual tax information, so taxes are on my mind. It gets shipped out tomorrow to my accountant, who (as a consultant) will do the financial magic.

Years ago my accountant advised me to keep good records and to keep them clean. One never knows when one might be audited. Sometimes it is purely random, and sometimes it is the result of an abnormal condition that flags your return. .

According to a recent news article, 1 % of IRS tax returns are audited. It is slightly higher for small businesses. It seems some business owners can’t resist the temptation to fudge the numbers, either through questionable deductions or hiding income.

My advice — do NOT do this! An audit can easily cost you thousands of dollars — fees, lost time, and lost revenues. And while you can deduct the legal/accounting expenses, you can’t deduct or recover lost revenues — they are gone forever.

Furthermore, once you fail an audit, expect to be audited again. I know one small business colleague who learned that lesson the hard way. His audits went on for several years.

More advice — use a CPA! Even if you can do the taxes yourself. Nothing like having a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) sign your tax return for credibility with the tax agencies. Or at least signal them that you have a professional tax advisor in your corner.

To keep the costs down, I keep my own books. Nothing fancy here — I used Quicken for years. Although a simple check register system, it can generate various reports. Such as the P&L (profit and loss) statement, which my CPA uses to prepare my taxes.

My CPA has helped in several other ways. Setting up a chart of accounts, sharing general business advice, filing other reports, and providing vetted referrals for insurance and financial management. It has been money well spent.

If you do get audited, don’t despair. I’ve been audited twice — once by the IRS, and once by the great state of Arizona.

The IRS audit was supposedly “random.”

The conversation went something like this:

Auditor – Which is better for you? To come into our office next Tuesday or next Wednesday?

Me — Neither. But can my CPA handle this? He prepared the return.

Auditor — Uh… yes… I guess that would work.

I suspect the audit was not random at all. But the issue got resolved, whatever it was.

End of audit.

The Arizona audit was supposedly due to high medical expenses one year.

The conversations went something like this:

Auditor – I need to verify all your medical expenses.

So I sent copies of all the bills.

Auditor – Now I need to verify all your insurance payments.

So I sent copies of all the payments.

Pretty sure the auditor thought I did not save these statements. I also included a list of expenses I had missed — a couple of drug charges, plus mileage for the various medical appointments.

I then asked if I should file an amended return to get money back.

End of audit.

Thanks to a CPA, clean books, and good records, I passed both times. And I didn’t lose any sleep over either one. In fact, it felt pretty good to put a stop to any fishing expeditions.

Keep your books clean too — it is just good business to do so!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A political rant and “thought experiment”…

‘Tis the political season, and all the mudslinging, lies, outrageous proposals. Not sure about you, but it makes me weary, and even a bit concerned. What really scares me is that so many blindly buy into all the political BS.

Maybe it is time to put this in perspective with a little rant. Allow me to share a thought experiment from an engineering consultation twenty seven years ago.

It was 1989, and I was doing an engineering class for the Kuwait National Petroleum Company. It was in between the Iran/Iraq war and the invasion of Kuwait. I worked with a great bunch of Kuwaiti engineers, and I hope they all survived.

Another US company was teaching a class at the same time at the same training center. Since we were housed together and shared many meals, I got to know my colleagues. As veteran travelers, they shared their insights and perspectives.

One of the trainers grew up in the Netherlands, and emigrated to the US as a child right after World War II. He told chilling stories of the Nazis rounding up Jews, not realizing at the time that he would never see his childhood friends again.

He had been a naturalized US citizen for many years, and one evening over dinner he posed this interesting thought experiment:

Suppose I take 100 unconditional US visas to any city in the world. I stand on a corner and offer them to anyone who is willing to return in an hour with only a suitcase and their family. In return for giving up their current citizenship, they will become US citizens.

How long will it take to get rid of those 100 visas?

Now, suppose I take 100 unconditional visas for any other country in the world. I stand on a corner of any city in the US, and make the same offer. Give up your US citizenship to become a citizen of another country.

How long will it take to get rid of those 100 visas?

This is not meant to wave the flag or brag on the US, as there are many other fine countries in the world, and many people change their citizenship.

But it does serve to put in perspective what we have here in the land of opportunity. I’ve known many immigrants who took advantage of those opportunities, with the US much better off as a result. Some are even consultants.

So maybe it is time to stop bitching, and start showing some gratitude. And maybe it is time to start acting like adults in the voting booth!

End of rant.

 

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.