Anecdotes & Musings

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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 opportunites explode (for the tiny mammls.) 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 intertia of the dinosaus 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.

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 bright. 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 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, 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.

Follow your passion… NOT…

Too many “entrepreneurial” bloggers suggest you simply “follow your passion.”

Unfortunately, that alone is not enough. You better be able to make money at it! Here are two stories that illustrate the point:

The Ice Cream Store…

At a professional meeting some years ago, one of my colleagues said to ask Dick about his ice cream store.

“Ice cream store?” I responded. “We’re a bunch of consulting engineers. What’s with the ice cream store?”

“Just ask,” he responded with a twinkle in his eye.

So I did. As engineers, we often like to twist our colleagues’ tails, and I was pretty sure that was what this was all about. But it turned out there were some valuable lessons in the story.

Dick told how his daughter had long wanted to have her own business. Being a good dad, he agreed to help her. With stars in her eyes, she decided to open an ice cream store. Not a franchise, but an independent store, that she could decorate and run how she saw fit.

How cool is that?

Unfortunately, this was her first business venture. No customer surveys, no location research, no marketing of any kind. Build it and they will come, right?

With some luck, the store was moderately successful. Enough so that soon a second ice cream store opened up down the street. Another would be entrepreneur with stars in her eyes also thought it was a cool idea, and jumped in.

The net result. Neither store now made enough to break even. Within a year both stores went bankrupt.

There are a couple of lessons here:

  • Make sure there is a want or need for your products or services.
  • Make sure there are some barriers to entry.
  • Make sure there are enough customers able and willing to pay.

Just because it looks cool, doesn’t mean it is a viable business!

Roto-Rooter isn’t particularly cool, nor was our consulting practice. Like Roto-Rooter, we fixed problems that others did not care to handle.

And while our consulting practice was not as cool as an ice cream store, we enjoyed it — and we made a darn good living at it.

The Country Doctor…

In an earlier post, I told of my great-uncle’s medical bag, and how a few simple tools coupled with the right knowledge and experience saved lives in the early 1900s. His medical practice spanned a half century. A successful professional consulting career.

His first passion, however, was music. As a young man, he dreamed of being a concert violinist. But he realized the odds of making a decent living playing the violin were not good.

So he made a career out of a second passion. Healing people through the practice of medicine. Music became an avocation, not a vocation.

He found great satisfaction in both. He was an accomplished physician, and also an accomplished musician. Thanks to his decision, he lived life well.

I heard this story years later from his wife, my great aunt, who was also his nurse. Since he passed away when I was young, I hardly knew him. But I always found his decision to be very wise. Find something you like to do, AND with which you can make a living.

You can always make a hobby of other passions.

So before you quit your job to follow your passion, make sure there is a need, there are barriers to entry, and there are clients willing/able to pay. Otherwise it is just a hobby.

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are you an Ambivert?

Here is a reply I left on a LinkedIn discussion, titled “Are you an Ambivert?” The post was by Dr. Travis Bradberry, the co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

In his article, Dr. Bradberry challenges the conventional pigeon-holing of personalities as either introvert or extrovert. Rather, he points out that most of us are a combination of both traits. Furthermore, those traits may vary depending on the situation we are in.

He shares research showing those in the middle are often more successful, as they can better relate to both ends of the spectrum. He also points out that this flexibility can be learned through increased self-awareness.

My comments follow:

Great article! Please let me share a personal story,

Forty years ago I moved from engineering to sales. As most engineers are introverts, I was a bit concerned. After all, Dilbert is a documentary.

At a business workshop, we had to do short self-assessment. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 was an introvert 10 was an extrovert, I came in with a 4.

The instructor then asked for a show of hands for those ranking 8 or greater. His comment was, “Most of you are in sales, right?” I was crushed – thinking I was a round peg in a square hole.

Then he asked, “Any sales engineers here?” My hand went up alone.

He said, “You’re a 4, right?” I was amazed. Then he continued, with a grin, “You engineers just can’t get the needle above 5 no matter how hard you try.”

I stayed in sales engineering for about 10 years, and then started an engineering consulting practice which I ran for the next 30 years.

So thanks for finally pointing out I’m an ambivert. I always just assumed I was an engineering misfit 🙂 Who knew?

In my experience, most consultants (both management and technical) trend slightly toward introversion. After all, we’re thinkers and observers. So don’t let being an introvert stop you from making your JumpToConsulting.

Besides, if you are interested in consulting, you may well be an ambivert anyway!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

What excited you at ten years old???

You’re intrigued by consulting, but you’re bored with your job. The idea of the same old grind has little appeal. So what else might you try?

Ask yourself, “What excited me at ten years old?

Many of you pursued a career that really didn’t interest you, but did it because it was the “right” thing to do. Maybe there was pressure to follow a parent’s footsteps, or maybe you were simply advised to “be sensible.”

If you are considering a JumpToConsulting, take a look at what once REALLY excited you. After all, if you are going to make the jump, it might as well be fun. Here are two stories:

A survey of engineers…

Many years ago, my late business partner mentioned how he was intrigued by a science fiction story about a machine that could think. He was ten years old. This eventually led to a career in Electrical Engineering. He also mused how disappointing it was to find out later that computers were really dumb. But he was still hooked on engineering.

My experience was similar. At nine years old, I build a crystal radio. Hearing the local radio station in the headphones was pure magic. Like my business partner, I was hooked. I later got into ham radio, and ended up as an Electrical Engineer.

Based on this observation, we started surveying our clients and students. When asked when our fellow engineers (both men and women) first became interested in things technical, it was often around ten years old. The answer was consistent hundreds of times.

A ham radio story…

In the mid-1990s, I had a client who was also a radio ham. Both of us had recently jumped back into the hobby, so whenever we met, we discussed our latest radio adventures.

One day I asked him, “Why is the appeal of this hobby, anyway? It is really kind of dumb. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to talk to complete strangers, when you can do the same thing for free on the Internet?”

He thought for a minute, and then replied, “You know, when I sit down to the radio, it only takes five minutes and I’m ten years old again. It’s the magic.”

So what excited YOU at ten? Can you turn it into a business? Give this some thought if you are contemplating a JumpToConsulting, or any other career change.

P.S. Maybe you were lucky, like me, and discovered a passion early. Only later did I realize how many people did NOT follow a passion–often to their regret. But is never too late…

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy New Year 2016…

Welcome to a brand new year! Most years I am a bit sad to see the old year end, but this year I am happy to see 2015 out and excited to see 2016 in. The past year has been rough — but life goes on. Even in sad times, life is a grand adventure.

To put things in perspective, here is a list I received from my financial advisor (a fellow consultant.) Fun to read. It compares life in 1915 to life in 2015 — lot’s of changes in the past 100 years. I added a few of notes of my own.

In the Year 1915… (when my father was 3 years old…)

  • The average life expectancy for men was 47 years (now 76, and 81 for women.)
  • More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
  • Only 6 per cent of Americans graduated from high school (now 81 per cent.)
  • Only 14 per cent of homes had a bathtub.
  • Only 8 per cent of the homes had a telephone.
  • The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
  • The American flag had 48 stars.
  • Fuel for cars was sold in drugstores.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
  • The average US wage was 22 cents per hour.
  • Sugar cost four cents a pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
  • Canned beer had not been invented yet (Official “birthday” was 1935.)
  • The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  • An accountant could make $2000 per year. (Financial consultants did well.)
  • An engineer could make $5000 per year. (Technical consultants did even better – Thanks to Edison et al, engineers were giants in those days 🙂 )

Is this the year to hang out YOUR consulting shingle? If so, start NOW to make it a reality. Don’t wait 100 years. If you are already consulting, congratulations!

Either way, hang out here and I’ll share more ideas on how to start, build, and maintain your small consulting practice. Check on Mondays for the latest post. 

Happy New Year from Uncle Daryl!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Three choices…Accept … Change … or Leave…

On the fence about whether to stay or leave your present job? Here is some advice I was given many years ago as a young engineer.

In any situation, you have three choices … accept things as they are … change them … or leave…

Really quite simple. I applied this test several times, and several times ultimately ended up leaving. But only after trying to change things for the better. But as my career progressed, I eventually realized I was never going to be a good corporate rat.

Not all cases of leaving were precipitated by an inability to change things. To wit:

  • Laid off once when the company fell on hard times. Couldn’t change that.
  • Fired once when the boss decided to replace me with a buddy who didn’t have the cajones to join the start up at the beginning. Should have left earlier.
  • Left to make a career change from pure engineering into sales. No way to make that change with the current employer.
  • Left after a “less than stellar” review suggested my efforts (and changes) were neither fully understood nor appreciated. Decided not to accept it.
  • And finally, made my JumpToConsulting, leaving a company I liked but driven by the opportunity to follow a dream – and to make my own changes without the politics.

In the end, this simple “test” helped me make several critical career decisions. No agonizing — just applied logic and analysis.

Hope it helps you too – whether you are making a JumpToConsulting or not.

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Trust, but verify…

Here is a reply left at one of my favorite blogs, A Satisfying Journey,  where fellow Arizona blogger Bob Lowry muses about trust.

He cites a Pew Research survey that shows trust in government is at an all time low. He also cites examples of the lack of trust in institutions, and even marriages.

But Bob ends on a positive note, and asks what we can do to reverse these disturbing trends. Here are my comments:

Got some good advice on this topic 30+ years ago from Marv, a successful businessman who was a bit of a mentor.

He confided that he used to be distrustful, and how that often put him in a foul mood. Then he decided to change his view.

He said, “I used to assume people were out to cheat me. Now I assume people are basically good and honest. Turns out this is true most of the time. But if someone does cheat me, I immediately break off the relationship. I’m much happier, and I spend very little time worrying.”

I use this approach myself. But having been burned, I’m still careful. If somebody lies or cheats, I’m done with them. Not sure who said it, but I also like the advice “Trust…but verify.”

Consulting is about trusting relationships. You need to trust your clients, and they need to trust you.

Sadly, once in while someone will violate that trust. Phony bankruptcies or non-payment, anyone? But that has only happened here a couple of times in 30+ years, proving trust still works most of the time.

Finally, never violate a trust. Once lost, you can never get it back!

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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