Anecdotes & Musings

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The sad ordeal is over…

Last Wednesday, my good friend and business partner of 40 years passed away from pancreatic cancer. The end came sooner than expected, but at least he is no longer suffering. I will miss him terribly … hell, I already do!

A future blog post will address partnerships. Most of the time I advise against them, as I have seen too many go sour. But when they work, they are absolutely wonderful.

Such was our partnership, and a major reason our consulting firm was so successful.   And so much fun!

Although many of you didn’t know him, here is the eulogy I plan to deliver at his funeral this week. I think it captures the essence of this gentle man.

William “Bill” Kimmel, PE
Kimmel Gerke Associates, Ltd.
Consulting Engineers
1940-2015

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Daryl Gerke, Bill’s friend and business partner for almost 40 years.

When Bill’s daughter asked me to say a few words, I told her it would be a privilege. But when she told me I only had about five minutes, I knew it would be a huge challenge.

You see, I could go on for hours with wonderful stories about Bill… and given the opportunity, probably would. Those of you who do know me know that’s true.

As an aside, Bill and I spent many pleasant hours telling, and then retelling stories… often to the chagrin of our wives. I will miss that.

So what can I say in just a few minutes? As I reflected on this, I was finally able to distill it down to three key points I’d like to share today.

(1) Bill was highly respected

The highest accolade an engineer can give to another engineer is to say, “So and so is a good engineer.” Sometimes for emphasis, one is called a “darn good engineer.” We engineers are such an emotional bunch.

As the emails and phone calls poured in after the news of Bill’s passing, those phrases were repeated many times. Often with examples of how Bill had jumped in to difficult situations… helped out… and even saved their bacon.

Past students lauded his abilities to take complex concepts and make them easy to understand.

Of course, I agree with those sentiments… Working together for 40 years, I know of no better practitioner of the engineering profession.

(2) Bill was extremely gracious

In a business where giant egos sometimes reign, Bill was modest to a fault. When I shared a comment with him several weeks ago that someone had called  him a “rock star”, he chuckled and replied, “Gee,  I just thought I was doing my job.” … Classic Bill.

Bill also willingly shared what he knew. Not only with clients, but with colleagues and even complete strangers.

An e-mail from a professor in the UK told how, in the middle of his battle with cancer, he took the time to discuss the impact of some new standards. It was much appreciated… He was literally known around the world.

A phone call from a vendor told how he took the time at a trade show last fall to talk with the woman’s son about a career in engineering, and how much it meant to both of them… She had only met Bill earlier that day.

(3) Bill was a friend to ALL

I’m biased, of course… What started out as a couple of young engineers collaborating on some moonlighting projects blossomed into a friendship that lasted almost 40 years… Personally, I can think of nobody else who would have been a better friend and a better business partner.

He also leaves behind a multitude of friends in our engineering community… The many emails and phone calls in the past week have constantly expressed this sentiment… About what a good friend he had been, and how much he will be missed.

In closing, I’d like to share one particularly eloquent e-mail I received from one of those friends just after Bill’s passing.

I’m not much of a reader, but one time my Rabbi lent me a book to read. It was by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, the author of “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I never finished it, but I remember one passage:

As most clergy do, the Rabbi liked to learn about other faiths. He was at some kind of convention or conference, and he heard the Buddhists talking about how you shouldn’t get attached to anyone, because you would only lose them eventually…

Rabbi Kushner disagreed… He said that isn’t living… Rather, we should allow ourselves to love people even though it will be painful when we lose them… That is living.

So I’m doing a little living right now, over Bill.  (Thanks – Jeff Silberberg)

Right now, I think we are ALL doing a little living over Bill… REST IN PEACE, my friend!

Click here to see Bill’s on-line obituary.

P.S. Changes are coming, so check in from time to time. Initial plans are to ramp up JumpToConsulting, and to ramp down Kimmel Gerke Associates. And to spend more time just goofing off – grandkids, reading, writing, traveling, and playing with the dog.

The goal here – helping “newbies” become consultants, and helping “oldies” become better consultants. Like the underlying goal Bill and I always had with our consulting practice – helping engineers become even better engineers!

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

An update on the sad news…

In February I shared the sad news that Bill Kimmel, my business partner and good friend of almost 40 years, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That is the main reason the posts here have been few and far between. Here is an update.

It has been a rough few months. The chemo failed, but it did make him sick. As a result, he ended up in the hospital for a week with complications. This led to hospice care at home which was working  pretty well.

During that time I flew to MN for some visits. We tied up some loose business ends, reminisced, and even laughed a bit as we relived our past consulting adventures (and a few misadventures…)

We decided our business had accomplished the three objectives we had for any project — do some good, have some fun, make some money.

  • We’ve solved or prevented hundreds of EMI (electromagnetic interference) problems in a wide range of industries – computers, medical devices, defense (space craft to submarines), vehicles (planes, trains, automobiles – even fire trucks), industrial controls, facilities (including nuclear power plants & oil refineries), and more.
  • We’ve trained over 10,000 designers through our public and in-house classes – immensely satisfying in itself.
  • We had a great time visiting almost every state and several foreign countries – and we made many friends along the way.
  • We both ended up financially set for retirement – even though we’ve remained involved with our little consulting business.

The bottom line — no regrets. Looking back, it has been so much more interesting and satisfying than had we stayed with corporate careers.

While consulting is not for everyone, for us it has been simply great! It is also what keeps me going with the blog — the hope that others may be inspired to do the same.

Last week things took a turn for the worse. Having balance problems, Bill moved to a full care facility as his wife could no longer care for him at home. They had agreed on such a move ahead of time.

Nevertheless it has not been easy for anyone — Bill, his family, his friends, nor his business partner. But for now, he is hanging in there.

The response from our friends/clients/colleagues has been most gratifying. That is a good measure of business success – how much you and your work have been appreciated. I’m sincerely thankful to everyone who has expressed their kind thoughts to both of us.

In closing, my Dad had a sign in his workshop that said “Live, so that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry.”  As a kid, I found it a little spooky, but at this point in my life and career I fully appreciate the sentiment.

And don’t wait to start living your dream. Later, you want to be able to look back and smile as we are now doing — and perhaps even laugh a bit! 

P.S. ATTN Friends/Clients/Colleagues Contact Bill at bkimmel@emiguru.com. Due to low energy, he may not reply, but rest assured he enjoys hearing from you. 

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Motivating professionals…

Here is my reply to a question on LinkedIn about motivating professionals.

The more I thought about the question, the more it festered. Is it motivation, or is it manipulation? You decide.

How do you motivate your professional staff? …

How do you motivate a surgeon to perform an operation? How do you motivate an attorney to win a case?  How do you motivate an engineer to solve a problem or design an better product?

The answer – you don’t. Motivation comes from within. Unfortunately, much of what passes for as motivation is really manipulation.

So do you REALLY want to motivate professionals? Here are some thoughts based on almost 50 years as an engineering professional.

–FIRST, pay them what they are worth. Better yet, pay them a bit MORE than the going market.

— SECOND, consider company profit share rather than individual bonuses, which are too often political. After all, company profit is the “bottom line.”

–THIRD, provide good tools to do their jobs. This is an investment,not an expense.

–FOURTH, create a collegial work environment. See the comment on profit share versus individual bonuses.

–FIFTH, ask what you can do to help them, don’t tell them what to do.

Do this, and you’ll have all the motivation you need. And you’ll have motivated professionals flocking to your door wanting to join your organization.

OR, if you are a fellow professional, you can do what we did almost 30 years ago. When my business partner and I finally had enough management manipulation, we started our own professional engineering firm.

Our motivation is solving problems and/or improving things for our clients. That has been more than enough — and it has proven very profitable as well!

So if you too are weary of management manipulation, stick around and explore my blog. We’ll show you one way out by making your own JumpToConsulting.

P.S. Off to visit my good friend and business partner next week. Unfortunately, the chemo didn’t work and the cancer progresses.  But we both agree that we are so very glad we made our JumpToConsulting when we did. Carpe Diem!

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

How to piss off a prospect…

Time for a rant. This was precipitated by an unsolicited phone call early one Sunday morning, from a so-called “marketing firm” run by a so-called “consultant.”

Too bad he is giving consulting such a black eye.

Normally I’d let the phone ring, but for some reason I decided to answer. Actually, I was kind of curious as to what kind of jerk would call early on a Sunday morning.

Here is a short summary of the conversation:

Who is calling please? –Mumble, mumble, mumble.

Who? –RKX Research. (Not the real name*)

And who are you? –David.

David who? –Sorry, I can’t give you my last name for confidentiality purposes.

OK, David. And just where is RKX Research located? –Sorry, I can’t give you that for confidentiality purposes. But you can Google it.

OK, David. Then who is the CEO of RKX Research, and what is his number? –Sorry, I can’t give you that information for confidentiality purposes. But you can Google it.

OK, David. Did you know we are on the DO NOT CALL list? –(Haughtily) We’re a market research firm, and we are excluded from the FTC rules on DO NOT CALL requirements.

OK David. So does that give you the right to call a complete stranger on a Sunday morning?
— Well yes, legally we can call…

OK David. I don’t really give a damn about your legal interpretations  For your information, I consider your call legal harassment. — Uh, would you like to talk to my supervisor?

Sure, put him on. — Pause

Who is this? –Yohan.

Yohan what? –Yohan K…

Well, Yohan, if that is your real name, I just talked with David, if that is his real name.  I explained that I don’t really like getting unsolicited phone calls on a Sunday morning.
— Well this is a marketing research call, and we are exempt from FTC rules..

OK Yohan.  As I explained to David, I consider your calls legal harassment and will take legal action if you ever call again.  Are we clear? –Do you want me to remove your name from our call list?

Sure – you go ahead and do that. One more thing. Who is the CEO of RKX Research, and what is the address? — Sorry, I can’t give you that information …. but you can Google it.

END OF CALL…

So, I decided to Google the mysterious RKX Research.  Here is what I found:

  • RKX Research is located in New Hampshire.
  • The owner is KM. Had to hunt a bit to find this, but yes, you can Google him.
  • The web site is self aggrandizing. No list of owners or executives.
  • The FaceBook page has not been updated since January 2013
  • The Twitter feed has one tweet in 2012.
  • LinkedIn. Forget it. At this point, didn’t feel like paying LinkedIn to learn more.

Kind of interesting. If this company is a legitimate marketing company, why so little Internet presence? Why so evasive about ownership?  Perhaps they are not proud of what they are doing?

So what can we as consultants glean from this? Lets look at it upside down.  Imagine you want to break into market research consulting, and you really want to piss off prospects. Here are seven quick ways to do that:

(1) Ignore common courtesy. Call complete strangers at odd hours. Sunday mornings are particularly effective.

(2) Hire snotty kids to make the calls. Then teach them to be obnoxious and patronizing.

(3) Prevaricate. Tell people you’re just doing “market research” even if not completely true. This lets you hide behind a technical loophole.

(4) Be difficult to reach. Hide your identity and personal email address.

(5) Don’t monitor/upgrade social media for years at a time. This has the added benefit of showing how (in)competent you are at marketing.

(6) Ignore common sense.
After all, most people are just waiting for a thinly disguised sales call from some stranger – particularly early Sunday morning. Their time or privacy are not nearly as important as you are.

(7) Brag about what a great outfit you are on your website. Who knows? Maybe your mother will believe it. Or maybe not.

Would YOU hire these clowns to piss off your customers or prospects?

Finally, I’m not opposed to market surveys.  I regularly participate in those sent by email from companies and organizations I know and trust. I do NOT respond to fishing expeditions from strangers, particularly on a Sunday morning. Nor should you.

End of rant.

* Decided not to include the real info on RKX Research as originally planned.  No need to hurt or humiliate anyone – even though they might deserve it.  Rather, decided to share this rant as a lesson on how NOT to act as a professional consultant.


Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Don’t Hoard Your Experience… Share it…

Learned this lesson early in my consulting career. Fortunately, somebody else made the mistake, and I was able to benefit from their goof-up.

We’ve always had a policy of full and open disclosure for our clients. Retain us, and we will share everything we know about our specialty, with the exception, of course, of proprietary client information.

Worried abut overloading a new client, I quipped,

“We don’t hold back. You can tell me when to shut up, when you’ve had more than enough details and information…”

He replied,

“No, I really appreciate your being open. The last consultant we had (on a different problem) didn’t want to share anything. Seems he was afraid if he disclosed all he knew, we wouldn’t need him anymore.

My engineers were frustrated, and we all decided as soon as we have everything we needed, we’re done.  Which is a shame, as if he were more forthcoming, we’ve have him back again and again.”

Wow, I thought, I’m glad we didn’t follow that approach. Based on this incident, we made it a formal policy to ALWAYS share what we knew.  Even if it means they don’t need us again, because we’re pretty sure they will recommend us to others.

P.S. As a consultant, your goal should be to work yourself out of a job. Your client should always be in a better state after working with you. They will thank you for it by their referrals and recommendations — and by inviting you back for new problems.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are You an Economic Slave???

Ninety percent of Americans have virtually no savings… so says the latest issue of Money magazine. If you are in the ninety percent, consulting may offer a way out.

The problem with most jobs is that the income is fixed. Unless you are in sales (commissions) or an executive (bonuses), you have little opportunity for upside. But a consulting side-hustle can change that, and may even lead to full financial freedom.

Of course, making more money alone won’t do it. You need to cut your expenses too. Fellow engineer Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) saved his way to freedom in seven years, by cutting his expenses by 75%. Yes, it can be done purely by aggressive savings.

But you’ll get there faster, and with less pain, if you combine frugality with some extra income. I’m a strong advocate of combining both approaches — make more/spend less.

There are lots of ways to make more money. Unfortunately, many are scams or borderline scams. You know what I mean – multilevel marketing, on-line schemes, too many franchises, etc. Most of the money is made by the promoters — not the producers.

But consulting, even part-time, allows you to control your own destiny. The start-up costs are low, and you get to keep the profits of your labor. Other than the IRS, you don’t need to share those profits with those further up the food chain.

This is not meant to disparage other small businesses, such as restaurants, shops, specialty manufacturing, etc. But most of those require capital, commercial space, and employees. Not a problem if that is the way you want to go – or have already gone. :-)

Since you are reading my blog, however, I assume you have at least a passing interest in consulting –which I define as marketing/selling/delivering professional advice, with the goal of  improving your client’s situation.

No, you are not selling products or get-rich schemes – just your time and advice. You are joining the ranks of other professionals – doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, business advisers, and more.

Doing so part time is a good way to start. That is what I did. For several years, my business partner and I moonlighted on engineering projects. Eventually, the itch got so bad we went full time. But is was much easier making the transition from part-time to full-time, than from ground zero.

Two final pieces of advice:

  • First, avoid conflicts of interest. You don’t want to lose you day job, and you don’t want to affect your reputation. Integrity matters.
  • Second, keep a low profile.  You don’t want to inflame petty office jealousies. The voice of experience speaking.

My challenge to you — As the new year begins, give some thought to your own economic freedom. Remember, Uncle Daryl wants YOU — to be FREE. Happy New Year!

P.S. Back in the game… My goal is one post per week each Monday, with additional ones as the mood strikes. So join us Mondays, or sign up for our feed and newsletter.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Torture is wrong…(so is bullying…)

So said Senator John McCain — and as a tortured POW, he ought to know. Oooh… I feel a rant coming on…

Frankly, I could not agree more with with my Arizona Senator. Torture IS wrong — and so is ANY kind of bullying. Because Senator McCain courageously went against his own political party (and was being beat up for it), I felt he deserved my support.

Thus, the following letter was sent yesterday:

Dear Senator McCain,

As constituents, we don’t always agree with your positions. But in the case of your position on torture by the CIA, we AGREE with you COMPLETELY!

Your speech yesterday was eloquent. You said what needed to be said. Unlike too many other politicians, you shared your views without any political rancor. It came from the heart.

We fear we have become a nation of bullies… It starts at the top with agencies like the CIA… It filters down to white police too quick to shoot black citizens*… It then extends to our children — who, when they see all this, think it is OK (and even normal) to bully their classmates.

But enough is enough! The bullying needs to stop. The change needs to begin somewhere, and exposing federal government involvement at the top levels is a good place to start. In fact, it NEEDS to start at that level.

So THANK YOU Senator — for standing up to the bullies in the CIA — for standing up to the bullies in the right-wing media — and for standing up to the bullies in your own political party!

Happy Holidays, and our Sincere Best Wishes…

(* Happened again last week here in Phoenix. Black man shot in front of his small kids reaching for a pill bottle. No crime being committed.)

There are some consulting lessons here too. The Senator did not choose the easy political route, but rather spoke out and let the chips fall where they may.

As consultants, we are often called to do the same. To speak the truth, regardless of the consequences.

But one can do so with compassion and understanding. I often joke that I sometimes must tell a client “their baby is ugly.” But I always try to do so in a positive way. That is exactly what Senator McCain did in his speech.

Yes, torture is WRONG. So is bullying. But standing up and speaking out with integrity is RIGHT. Thanks, Senator!

P.S. Don’t let clients bully YOU. Had it happen once, and I immediately “fired” the client. An Engineering Director, he bullied his employees. It was embarrassing to watch. When he tried the same with me, I simply told him to find a new consultant. I think he was a bit shocked, but it was not worth the fee to put up with the guy.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Five things I’m thankful for…

Thanksgiving is over, and we’re into the leftovers. But there are still plenty of reasons to be thankful. Upon reflection, here are five things for which I am most grateful.

(1) My Family – Two sons, two daughters-in-law, and six extraordinary grandchildren. And of course Mary (my wife), the matriarch of our little clan — without whom the consulting business might never have happened.

Thanks to all of you for all the joy you bring this old geezer!

(2) My Health – Given my age, in pretty good health. But it doesn’t come for free. Still need to pay attention, exercise, and watch what I eat.

Thanks to my doctors, and all the medical professionals (consultants) who work so hard to keep us all healthy.

(3) My Prosperity – Fiscal health is pretty good too. Starting and running a consulting practice helped, along with living within our means and stashing a bunch away for the golden years. All of the sudden, those years are now here.

Thanks to my financial advisers (consultants) for keeping us fiscally healthy too.

(4) My Education – Without a college education, this former small town kid would not have become an engineer, and later a consulting engineer.

Thanks to past teachers (special consultants), and thanks to the good people of Nebraska who have funded their state university for almost 150 years. Go Huskers…

(5) My Country – Through blind dumb luck, I ended up being born into the land of opportunity. Certainly did nothing to deserve it. Born with no silver spoon in my mouth, I took advantage of many of those opportunities. It was not always easy, but looking back on my career, it was worth it.

Thanks to all of those along the way who gave me opportunities, and extended a helping hand when needed.

And special thanks to those who work so hard to protect us (your service is much appreciated), and to those who work so hard to make sure our system works fairly for EVERYONE (not just the big and the rich…)

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Now making a household move, so life is getting a bit complicated.  However, haven’t forgotten about the JumpToConsulting project. More to come…

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween…

No moral or message – just an update for the last day of October.

Got back last night from a three week RV trip. MN (where there are grankids) to AZ (where there is no snow) via CT (where there are more grankids.) The trip included drives through the Shenandoah Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Natchez Trace. The fall foliage was beautiful!

A major advantage of independent consulting is that you control your schedule. If you want to take some time off, you don’t need to ask your boss. After all, YOU are the boss.

Of course, the downside is that when you are not working, you are not billing. But there is more to life than merely making money. Real wealth is discretionary time –  and for the past several weeks I spent my discretionary time simply having a lot of fun.

But all play and no work is not good either. So after taking some time off,  it is now back into the saddle with more stuff to follow at JumpToConsulting. Stay tuned…

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

What Next???

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed a lack of posts this summer. Don’t worry — not quitting — just needed some time to regroup.

A key catalyst was two recent funerals. Not to sound morbid, but these events have a way of causing one to reflect on where one has been, and where one wants to go next. They are also not so subtle reminders that time is limited, and life needs to be lived now!

The first funeral was an old college friend, and the second was a relative. Both wonderful people who left us way too soon. Sadly, both had delayed retirement plans until is was too late. Thus, the cause for reflection.

So what next? Here are some plans – subject to change, of course.

– Keep blogging at JumpToConsulting. I have at least another 100 ideas for posts, including a  series on selling consulting services, patterned after the recent series on generating leads.

– Wind down the engineering consulting practice.
This has been happening anyway — if you don’t continually market, that is the result.

But that’s OK. I plan to stay involved with the training side of the business, which I really enjoy. (My business partner remains active with both the consulting and the training.)

– Develop the on-line classes I’ve been promising, along with the book. Focused on how to start/build/maintain a small professional consulting practice, just as I did 30+ years ago.

Aimed at those who are highly interested in consulting as a possible business/lifestyle, with an emphasis on geeks & geezers (technical professionals and/or boomers over 40) – my own personal demographics.

– Increase leisure travel. Two years ago we bought a small RV, which has been great fun. The plan is for more RV fun – both short trips and some extended trips. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even start a travel blog.

– Simply enjoy retirement. Yes, I finally admit I’m retired – or at least 90% retired (hard to shut down 100% when you started the business.) But JumpToConsulting remains a primary retirement project, so it is not going away. See On Becoming and OLD Warrior.

So thank you to my readers! It is a small group in a pretty tight niche, but it has been fun to interact with so many of you.

Finally, please write or comment if you have specific question about the wacky world of consulting!

P.S. – After 30 years, we just got a pooch again. Several years old, she came from a pet rescue. What a sweetheart, and a definite enhancement to our lives and to our retirement.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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