Anecdotes & Musings

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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 Trump bully!

© 2016, 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.

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.

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.

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.

Avoid snarky political comments…

Time for a mini-rant.

With the political season in full swing, the snarky comments flow on the Internet. But as a consultant, not a good idea to publicize your views, no matter how tempting.

This post was inspired by a recent comment on a popular business blog. One guy took a cheap political shot totally unrelated to the discussion. Not only did it contribute nothing, it made him look like an immature fool.

Just out of curiosity, I visited his web site, thinking it might explain things. The site (a book store) was not political, so he unnecessarily alienated half his prospective readers/buyers.

As a strategy, leaving snarky comments might make sense if you were trying to attract those who share your views. For example, if you were selling a political book or raising political funds. Or perhaps as a political  “consultant”…

But if not, why take the risk?

Best to avoid politics, religion, and other volatile topics. And just good manners not to dump on another person’s website.

End of mini-rant.

P.S. I considered commenting on this breach of etiquette, but decided not to feed the trolls. Suggest you not feed them either 🙂

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Veteran’s Day Salute…

Here is a salute to my late brother-in-law.  It really has nothing to do with consulting, but everything to do with being a gracious human being.

It is also a salute to all who have served. Thank you!

P.S. – Fifty years ago this week I was a young engineering student on my way to becoming an Air Force officer (AFROTC). A serious car accident suddenly changed that.

My career went in a different direction, and eventually I ended up as a consulting engineer where I worked on many defense projects –including those for the Air Force.

Life is funny that way…

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Be approachable…

This post was inspired by a popular RV blog I’ve followed and enjoyed for several years. The author added this to a recent blog post:

PRIVACY POLICY  AT OUR CAMPS:  NO VISITORS, NO DROP-INS, NO PHOTOS,  NO EXCEPTIONS.  THANK YOU.

This accompanied a terse reply to an RV newbie who expressed hope in meeting her, as our blogger had inspired and informed the newbie with her blog. I found it hurtful.

While there is likely something that precipitated this, I still respectfully disagree. Anyone who RVs knows the culture encourages cordiality.

No, you don’t have to become best friends, but being friendly is the order of the day. We’ve had many a pleasant conversation with our RV neighbors. Found great places to eat,visit, and camp too!

Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar behavior with consultants – to their detriments. It may be unintended, but such behavior can come across as arrogance. Not good. Remember, people buy from those they know, LIKE, and trust.

In our case, we long had a formal policy to be approachable. As older engineers, we were particularly worried about intimidating younger engineers, so we took positive steps.

  • We responded right away to email or phone questions (at no charge.)
  • We welcomed newbies at trade shows or other events (always good for a beer.)
  • We shared advice on becoming consultants (several have joined the ranks – yea!)

We knew it worked one day when I ran across a quote on a professional forum. Asking for a referral, the response was “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates. Not only do they know what they are doing, but they are very easy to work with.” You can not buy advertising like that!

Later, that sentiment was expressed when my business partner passed away early this year. He was a quiet introvert, yet praise came in from around the world (see eulogy.) I’m still hearing from colleagues who treasured his friendly humility, grace, and approachability.

So be approachable — and work at it too. Keep your ego in check. Not only is it good business, but it is also just being a good human being!

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Five Things to Consider for a New Practice…

Here are five questions to ask yourself when starting a consulting practice — or any small business. This post was inspired by an answer to a business post on franchising vs independence.  Good advice for new consultants too.

(1) Is it interesting and motivating? There are consulting opportunities everywhere, but you will do much better and be more productive if you enjoy what you are doing. Done right, it won’t even seem like work – at least most of the time 🙂

(2) Is the market big enough? I’ve emphasized identifying your niches, but make sure the niches are not too narrow. Can you identify multiple potential clients, not just one or two? On the other hand, are there too many players in your niches? You don’t want to get lost in the crowds. (We started with two part-time contract clients, and ramped up from there.)

(3) What make you different and unique? Even if you are in a generic area like accounting, what is special and unique about your practice?  What sets you apart from the competition, and why should clients choose YOU? (Think about those niches...)

(4) Will the need/market endure? You don’t want to jump in just as the bubble is about to burst. Ask where the market going, but be prepared for changes. Watch for changes, and adapt as needed. (My consulting practice today is very different from 30+ years ago.)

 (5) Last, but not least, can you make money? Maybe this should be first, since if you can’t make money, why do it? This is true for non-profits too, where you still have expenses that need to be met. (Consulting is a business, not a charity.)

Five simple questions, but worthy of serous consideration. Unlike the inspiration post, franchising is not an option. If you are making a JumpToConsulting, you are almost always starting from the ground up. But if successful, it is worth it!

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

How much is enough?

How much IS enough? The question still haunts me…

Here are three stories. All three affected my thinking. Perhaps they will affect yours.

Story 1…

The question of enough was posed by a fellow consultant several  years ago. His wife had just been diagnosed with cancer, and we were talking after a professional society meeting. He was doing some serious introspection, and as a friend and colleague I lent an ear.

“How much is enough?” he mused. He had worked hard, was successful, and had enough in the bank. His immediate priority was enjoying whatever time his wife might have.

So he backed off on the business, and they went on some cruises. She responded well to treatment, and happily, she is fine today. But it did reset his priorities on what was enough.

Story 2…

My first encounter with enough goes back 45 years. My new boss hosted a Christmas party at his new house on a lake. It was a beautiful place in a beautiful setting. Being recently married, I thought how nice it might be to someday have similar digs.

Later, I thanked him for the party and complimented him on his new house. He smiled, and then offered some fatherly advice.

“Thank you,” he said. “It is nice. It makes my wife happy too. But there is a downside. We put all our money in the house, and as a result, we can’t do anything else.” He continued, “You are just starting out. Be careful about committing to a big fancy house.”

I decided that our modest house was enough. Each time we moved we stuck with enough. And today we have still have enough. 

Story 3…

My next encounter with enough came 12 years later. I was working for a successful entrepreneur, who net worth somewhere around $50 million.

An old German who had escaped Hitler, he came to America and worked as an engineer. Following a dream, he started a business in a garage. A combination of working hard and being in the right place at the right time with the right product led to phenomenal success.

But he was still  an old engineer at heart. One evening at a trade show, he hosted a bunch of us for dinner. After a few beers (after all, he was an old German), the subject of how much was enough came up.

He said, “You know, a couple of million is probably enough for most of us. How can you spend it all? After that, you are only keeping score.”

Sadly, he and his wife divorced on his way to his riches. Was it worth it? Not in my book.

Finally, how much is enough for you? Thanks to starting my own consulting practice combined with prudent living, today I can say I have enough.

P.S. Now back in Arizona. Had fun on our RV trip, but always good to be home. 

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Join the CBM Club…

I was first introduced to the CBM Club in 2012. What a novel concept!

In August 2011, we bought a small motorhome from Born Free in Humboldt, IA.

At a rally in 2012, I met John Dodgen, the 85 years old founder of Born Free back in the 1960s. What a delightful man, with a continual twinkle in his eye. Over the years, John and his family built the company into a small but highly regarded RV manufacturer.

At one point, I had the chance to talk with John over hamburgers. Always curious about small businesses, I asked him how he got started.

He smiled, and told me his story that went something like this:

After my brothers and I returned to Iowa after World War II, we realized that we could not all share the family farm. Liking the area, I decided to start a small company to manufacturer farm machinery.

One of our most successful products was a special trailer for feeding livestock. A niche product, we we eventually saturated the market. Furthermore, we made them so durable they didn’t wear out.

So I went to my board. I told them I wanted to take the company in a new direction. After much deliberation, I wanted to join the CBM Club.

At this point, John waited for my puzzled response. OK, so what is the CBM Club???

Corn, Beans, and Miami. You see, I’d noticed many farmers buying our machinery grew corn and beans, and then they headed to Miami for the winter. I wanted to do that too.

So I suggested making an RV. A highly durable RV, using the knowledge and experience gained making farm machinery. The first model was a slide in on a pickup truck. It was pretty heavy, so we added a tag axle for support. That was unique to the industry.

Not long after, we added roll bars. This was based on hearing of a fatal RV accident. I directed my design team to figure out how to add this important safety feature.

A few years later, we started building motorhomes. We focused on small truck based units (Class C), and built them with very high quality. Including the roll bars – never been a fatal accident in a Born Free, of which I am proud.

So what lessons can we glean from this for consulting?
Pick a niche. Don’t try to be everything to everybody
Be flexible. Be ready to change direction, but try to leverage on past experience.
Deliver high quality. The market may be smaller, but your customers will love you.
Don’t compromise. On safety, ethics, or anything else. Your reputation is key.
Have fun. I will always treasure the story of the CBM Club.

John recently passed away, and will be missed by all — his family, his company, and his customers. What better legacy to leave behind. Our condolences – RIP John.

P.S. –Yes, we love our little Born Free “Built for Two!”  Heading back in it from Minnesota (where there are some grandkids) to Arizona (where this is no snow.)

Our version of the CBM Club –joined as a consultant.   

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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