Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

On Becoming and OLD Warrior…

Not sure when it happened — or when I even first realized it had happened.

But one day I woke up and recognized that I was no longer a young warrior, but rather had become an old warrior.

So what’s the difference? And does it matter?

Well, the old warrior’s main purpose is to now teach the young warriors – sharing the experience and knowledge with those who would receive it. Just as an earlier generation of old warriors graciously shared with him or her.

  • The old warrior no longer runs as fast as the young warriors. But thanks to years of experience, the old warrior often knows how to better sharpen the spears.
  • The old warrior also understands when to move forward, and when to hold back. Better to conserve your strength and energy, and to pick and choose the battles you can win. Or at least have a reasonable chance of winning.
  • The old warrior’s offerings will not always be accepted, but those who do so will likely be enriched. Sadly, the hubris of youth can get in the way of the wisdom of the elders. Often with disastrous results.

So, if you are an old warrior, don’t despair about your age or physical frailties. Rather, relish your  achievements. Now is the time to share your wisdom and knowledge with a new generation of young warriors.

And if you are a young warrior, seek out old warriors who can show you paths to success. And remember, someday you too will become an old warrior. Probably sooner than you think!

P.S. The late Howard Shenson observed that around 35-40 was a good age to start consulting. By that time one had figured out what they liked and what they didn’t like — and what they were good at and what they were not so good at.

The secret, he said, is to focus on the former, and disregard the latter. As a result, many independent consultants are old warriors — or at least middle-aged warriors :-)      

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Seven Steps in Selling…

The lead generation worked… the phone rings… now what?

Let the sales process begin… This is where the rubber meets the road — or where the consultant finally meets the client. Many people see sales as mysterious at best, and manipulative at worst. Neither are true for selling consulting services.

Consulting is a helping profession…

You’re not peddling products, or trying to meet a quota. You’re not manipulating, or being sleazy. Rather, you are simply trying to help your clients.

Like a doctor, you are solving problems. Or like an architect, you are turning dreams into reality. Either way, your helping improve your client’s life!

Looking at it this way makes it worthwhile, right?

Sales is a process…

If you’ve never been in sales, it may seem mysterious – even scary at times. But you can learn to sell– just as you can learn to paint, play a musical instrument, or write software.

Once you understand the process and the underlying principles, it all starts to make sense. It’s simply not a big deal. So don’t let the fear of learning a new skill stop you. And once learned, you may even start to enjoy the process. I certainly do.

But I’m an introvert, you say – not some back slapping extrovert. So what? Most consultants and professionals are at least somewhat introverted. After all, we live in a world of dreaming, pondering, diagnosing, creating, and reflecting. We’re thinkers!

As an aside, some of the most successful sales people I’ve known are introverted – some even highly introverted. They are also highly professional, with a passion for helping their customers. Just like good consultants.

Selling consulting is different…

–First, you’re not selling a tangible product — you’re selling an intangible service. As such, you typically need to develop a higher degree of trust with potential clients.

Your goal is not to sell another car this month and move on — rather, your goal is to be a trusted adviser, and hopefully for the long haul.

–Second, you need to deliver what your client bought. Remember — nobody likes to be sold — but we all like to buy — so make it pleasant!

And unlike product sales, the sales process does not stop when you get the order. You still need to deliver, and your long term business success depends on how well you execute this part of the process.

My seven steps in selling…

Hundreds of books have been written about selling, and most include a simple multi-step process. I’ve read dozens myself, plus I’ve been subjected to numerous sales training classes as a former sales engineer.

Some books and classes were better than others, but all helped form my ideas.

One drawback of many of these books and classes is their focus on products. (An exception is Rainmaking Conversations, reviewed here.) Most have four or five steps, and most assume the sales process is over once the order is received.

So I decided to expand things. I’ve used the popular AIDA model (Attention- Interest – Desire – Action) and added three additional steps – Delivery, Follow-up, & Referrals.

(1) Attention (Establish Rapport) - This is the initial contact phase, and the time to build rapport. It is also the time to address any client concerns or fears. These are particularly important if the client has not or does not use consultants on a regular basis.

I usually begin by asking about the problem, followed by asking how they heard about us. The latter gives me some insight into the trust level.

If it is a referral, the trust is already high. If they’ve found us on a web search, it may be lower, so some reassurance may be needed.

(2) Interest (Qualify) – The next step is to determine if you can help, and can they buy. In the former, don’t be afraid to turn business away if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

If the fit looks good, ask about schedule. If asked, you can also provide a budgetary estimate (go on the high side), subject to change pending more details.

(3) Desire (Diagnose & Prescribe) – At this stage, you may be able to offer preliminary diagnosis and recommendations. If not, ask more questions.

For example, I may say, “Based on what we’ve discussed, I suspect XXX, which we’ve seen before. We can handle this several ways… ”

(4) Action (Quote/propose) – The next step is to ask for the order! This is where many consultants fall down, due to fear of rejection. This is also known in the sales world as closing.

For simple projects, I usually just ask if they would like a quote or proposal. If they agree, I quickly review the tasks and schedule for consensus, and then provide a one-two page quote. Often, a purchase order will be issued based on the quote.

For more complex projects, we may decide on an additional meeting for further explorations. This may also mean detailed contracts, which we’ll discuss later.

(5) – Deliver – Time to provide what you promised. If working on-site, show up as scheduled and suitably attired. The latter depends on your client, but business casual is usually safe. If unsure, ask ahead of time. Be professional!

Check with client as you progress – don’t wait until the end of the project to find out you were going down the wrong path. Keep the appropriate management in the loop.

An important part of delivery is getting paid. For simple projects, we accept purchase orders, For more complex projects, we may request progress payments or retainers.

(6 )- Follow up – Assuming a successful consultation, ask if there are other things you might help with.  Specific projects? General training? Don’t assume the client is aware of your other services.

As any experienced sales person will tell you, subsequent sales are always easier than the first.  Assuming you’ve done a good job, you’re now a preferred vendor/adviser.

As a minimum, get permission to add you client to your mail list for periodic follow-up. Newsletters work great for keeping in touch.

(7) – Referrals
– Ask for permission to share their name with future prospects. To protect confidentiality, we do not list clients on our brochure, but we do list past projects. If a personal reference is needed, we still call to confirm as a courtesy. (Our business can be sensitive.) Never been turned down.

Depending on your business, written testimonials are great marketing tools — particularly on your web site. And don’t hesitate to ask if there are others who might benefit from your expertise.

So now you have Uncle Daryl’s Seven Steps in Selling. We’ll examine each of these in more depth in future blog posts.

Please comment or write if you have specific questions! Happy selling…

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Top 5 Reasons to Consult in Retirement…

So you’re approaching retirement, and wondering what to do next. Or maybe you’re already retired, and getting bored out of you mind. After all, you can only do so much golfing or fishing (see Karl the engineer.) What next?

How about consulting? If you enjoyed your career, you just might like this. After a long career (or careers) you have valuable knowledge, experience, and contacts.

The extra money might be nice too. But do you really want to go back into the full time rat race? Consulting may be the answer!

Here are five top reasons to consider consulting in retirement. Full disclosurethis is a homework “challenge” for a the Problogger program I recently joined (write a “Top 5″ Post.). After 3+ years and 140+ posts, time to take my blog to the next level.

1. Stay engaged … If you’re reading my blog, you probably are in (or were in) a business or professional career. You may no longer want to work full time, but wouldn’t mind staying involved, minus the politics and responsibilities.

This is exactly what my college roommate Ron is doing. After retiring as the county attorney in a large city, he and his wife spent the next for two years relaxing and traveling. But after a dozen or more cruises (which he highly recommends), he wanted to reconnect with his profession.

So he now consults a couple of days a month for the county tax board. No stress and he stays connected with professional colleagues. As he says, “If I didn’t do this, I’d probably go to seed.”  He doesn’t need the money — he does it solely for satisfaction. And he still takes cruises.

2. Travel… Many retirees (or soon to be retirees) dream about travel but may feel financially constrained. How about letting somebody else pick up your travel expenses?

This is exactly what a recently retired colleague Joe is doing. In fact, he and his wife just got back from several weeks in Europe. He has been providing part-time engineering consulting guidance on a project for a former employer with business partners in France.

Unlike typical engineering projects, he has little stress. As Joe says, “I now just advise. If they don’t follow my advice and fail tests, I don’t catch the heat like in the old days.”  C’est la vie.

3. Do some good… Many retirees decide to volunteer for causes they deem worthy. Often done gratis, and purely for the satisfaction of helping others.

This is exactly what our friend Lynn did. After retiring as a nutritionist, she volunteered at a local reservation in Arizona. She was so well liked and appreciated that the administrators obtained a grant, and asked her to expand her consulting services to other Native American communities throughout the state.

She agreed, and enjoyed making her contributions for several more years. Thanks to the grant, she also enhanced her retirement savings. Lynn has since retired – again.

4. Make some money… Nothing wrong with making money, even if you don’t need it. After all, you can always contribute it to favorite charities.

This is exactly what another retired colleague Don did. Offered an early buyout, Don took it. But he really wasn’t ready to retire, so he hung out his consulting shingle (after some gentle prodding from Uncle Daryl.) Thanks to Don’s credentials and contacts, he had his first project in days.

Don continued on this path for several years. Financially secure and with no kids, some of that extra income will go toward an endowment at his beloved alma mater.

5. Have some fun… If it isn’t interesting or fun, why do it? Particularly when retired.

This is a major factor in all of the above cases. This has always been a major driver for me throughout my engineering career (both corporate and consulting), and it will continue.

So what about Uncle Daryl? Is he retired? Semi-retired? Or what?

  • Not really sure what my status is. Thanks to my consulting career, I’m financially secure and now collecting Social Security. So maybe I’m retired.
  • Or maybe not. I’m still involved with the engineering practice, but not as aggressively as in the past. I still take projects that interest me, and dream up others (like this blog.) So maybe I’m just semi-retired.
  • Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just a freedom loving independent consultant living the good life that began 25+ years ago for me. So maybe I’m still employed - or – maybe I really retired 25+ years ago!

Finally, if you are retired or contemplating retirement, maybe this has sparked thinking about YOUR next chapter in life. Please let me know if it has!

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Hi tech shifts to independent workforce…

So says a recent article in Computerworld — Your next job, next year, may be self employment.

According to Emergent Research (a firm focused on small businesses trends) approximately one million IT (Information Technology) workers today are self-employed. This represents about 18% of the IT workforce.

Not only that, the independent IT workforce is growing at about 7% per year (versus 5.5% for all independent workers – which is still not too shabby.)

According to Steve King, a partner at Emergent, this growth is driven by companies that want to stay ahead of the game. “In today’s world, change is happening so quickly that everyone is trying to figure out how to be more flexible and agile, cut fixed costs and move to variable costs,” said King.

These statistics bode well is you have the itch to hang out your shingle - particularly for my fellow high tech colleagues. All this sounds like fertile ground for new consultants!

King goes on, “For people with skills… there is there is a lot more opportunity to find part-time employment and set up your own shop and work as a consultant and contractor than there has been in the past.”

This last comment suggests a side hustle strategy, particularly if you are not ready to go full time.That is how we made our JumpToConsulting. It is also a good insurance policy -and certainly better than depending on luck.

Personally, I’d rather my income and financial well being depend on my own skills/experience/contacts rather than on some impersonal bureaucracy. But being laid off twice in my pre-consulting career has no doubt affected my perspective.

So stick around here and I’ll share my ideas and encouragement -geek or not- on how to make your own JumpToConsulting.

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Success Story – Marty Zwilling…

As promised in a recent post, here is Marty Zwilling’s “success story.” His story should be of special interest to boomers, as he started his consultancy after he retired – the first time. Geeks too – he was part of the team behind the IBM PC.

Marty specializes in helping new entrepreneurs get started. Thus, the name of his firm - StartupProfessionals.com.  Great resources – books, packages, personal mentoring, a daily blog, and more. Good advice for all entrepreneurs – consultants or otherwise.

(1) What prompted you to consider consulting? Was there an event, like a layoff, or was it just a general itch to be on your own?

I chose consulting with startups as a way to scale back from a full-time job, and be in control of my own schedule.

I had spent many years with IBM, then several years in Silicon Valley working for a couple of startups, so I thought it was time for me to share some of that experience helping people struggling to turn their dream idea into a business.

(2) How has it been going? Looks like you started some time ago, so obviously you are established in your business.

It’s working well for me. I learned to use social media through blogging, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as a source of leads, so I’ve been able to build my brand (Startup Professionals) with essentially no money spent on marketing.

I have enough work to keep me as busy as I want – I tell my wife that I only work half-time, only 40 hours per week. :-)

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?

I enjoy my total control over the jobs I accept, the rates I charge, and not having to manage other people.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?

As a consultant, you always have to be looking ahead and thinking about getting new work, especially since most of my gigs are short-term. Back in IBM, it was nice getting that salary check without thinking about it every couple of weeks.

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

Naturally I have a website listing my services, with contact info, but many clients come from referrals of previous clients and related business professionals, like investors, that I meet through networking.

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

Fees are a function of your skills and expertise, and what the market will bear. I recommend that any consultant start low, and raise fees as reputation/demand goes up.

This is the inverse of what I recommend for product businesses, where you might start at the high end and lower prices to be more competitive.  In either case, you need to avoid prices that are so low that they suggest minimal value or quality.

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

That’s easy. You should only consult in some functional area you love, and one that you have something of value to offer.

I’ve had a lot of experience starting small businesses, and managing larger ones, so I felt I could help new companies get started, and grow to mature companies.

I also have an degree in accounting, so I can read and build business plans as well. I do it first because I love to see new entrepreneurs succeed, and I’m really in the give-back stage of my life.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

I’ve learned a lot about dealing with people, and how to read people. Everyone has their own way of thinking and getting things done, so I quickly try to adopt and adapt to their style.

I’ve become more and more convinced that success in being an entrepreneur is mostly about the person, and not about the quality of the idea they are trying to make a business out of. I have found that entrepreneurs with the right attributes can take almost any idea and succeed, while others will run even the best idea into the ground.

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

I take life a day at a time, so I don’t try to predict what tomorrow will bring. I don’t have any master plan, and I see many different jobs out there that I might enjoy.

I’m one of those lucky ones who have always enjoyed the work I do, and I’ve done many things, but there is much more to learn and try. One of the reasons I like consulting is that I can change my focus in any way that I want without anyone second-guessing me.

(10) Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to those who might be thinking about consulting?

Being a consultant is all about being an entrepreneur. That means the buck stops with you, and you have to make decisions, take risk, and you can’t count on anyone else to solve problems for you.

Everyone should take a hard look in the mirror before they start down this path – if the requirements scare you, then don’t start down this path – you won’t be happy.

If you don’t like dealing with people, then consulting is not for you. There is nothing wrong with working for someone else, doing your job well, and getting that regular paycheck without worry.

Life is too short to go to work unhappy every day. Have fun!

Thank you, Marty, for sharing your story – and your encouragement!

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Coffee with Marty@StartupProfessionals.com

Had coffee today with Marty Zwilling, of StartupProfessionals.com. It was a great time meeting with a fellow “boomer-geek-blogger-entrepreneur” from Arizona.

As the name suggests, Marty specializes in helping new entrepreneurs get started. This includes advice on business plans, funding, angel investors, patents, incorporations, and more. He also writes a daily blog, and has written two (about to be three) books.

His primacy focus is on nurturing and building small businesses that want to grow. But his site is a great resource for prospective consultants, too.

The catalyst for today’s meeting was a recent blog post - One of These Days You May Not Be An Entrepreneur. Marty listed eight reasons why many never make the jump to starting their own business. The same reasons prevent many from making their own JumpToConsulting.

Incidentally, Marty has impressive credentials. With a background in accounting, he worked in high-tech most of his career. His first taste of entrepreneurial success was at IBM, when he part of the “skunk works” project that spawned the IBM PC.

From then on, he was hooked on small high tech businesses. Even after retiring, he couldn’t give it up. (See Two Cures…). First he volunteered at the Arizona State University business school, and subsequently started his blog and consultancy.

Did I mention he has over 700,000 Twitter followers? A great marketing story by itself. Considered a thought leader for startups, he also writes for Forbes and others.

We spent an hour together as we pondered and commiserated about why so many “wannabees” can’t or don’t make the transition.
Many are refugees from larger businesses, with the requisite  experience and knowledge to succeed.

So what is holding them up? Two major issues seem to be fear and perfection.

–Fear - Some people fear failure, while others actually fear success. Both stem from a fear of the unknown. As for failures, I consider them great learning opportunities. And I never trust anyone who claims that they never failed.  Either they are lying, or they were good at blaming others. (Once had a boss like that – in a startup no less.)

The secret is to face it and even embrace it. Don’t be foolhardy, but don’t let it paralyze you either. Ask “What is the worst possible thing that can happen?” Have a backup plan, but then move ahead.

–Perfection – This is a big problem with my fellow engineers. But a product doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to good enough. Same thing with a consulting service – you don’t need to outrun the bear – just the other guy.

In either case, you can always tweak the product/service later. Furthermore, the market will guide you in making those improvements.

Finally, overcoming the two hurdles of fear and perfectionism is not enough. But they are the necessary first steps in making a jump to any small business – consulting or otherwise!

P.S. - In a future post, we’ll cover Marty’s “success story.”

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Do you worry what people think of you?

Here is a recent comment I left at the Art of Non-Conformity, a favorite blog by Chris Gullibeau – author, entrepreneur, and world traveler (he visited EVERY country in the world by age 35.)  If you haven’t discovered him, now is a good time to do so!

The topic was The Virtue of Insecurity, where Chris ponders the question, “Do you worry about what people think of you?”

So here is my two cents worth (and worth every penny you paid…)

As an old codger, here is one of my favorite sayings:

–When I was 20, I worried about what others thought…
–When I was 40, I no longer cared…
–When I was 60, I finally realized that nobody else gave a damn in the first place.

So, go live life on your terms. That’s what I’ve done. Mistakes? Yes. Regrets? No.

One of the few advantages of getting older is that you start top put things in perspective. Those perspectives, by the way, can make you valuable as a consultant!

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

The country doctor approach…

When troubleshooting, common sense and experience go a long way.

Here is a story of my great-uncle, a country doctor in Nebraska.  I often think of him when trying to diagnose and fix a client problem.

This story appeared in my first book, written twenty years ago. While it was aimed at my engineering colleagues, it applies to all types of consulting.

I had a relative who was a country doctor the first half of the 20th century. I once saw the tools of his trade and was touched by their simplicity.

The old black bag didn’t hold a lot (a stethoscope, a thermometer, some simple surgical tools, and a few medicines), but when these tools were combined with  medical knowledge and experience, they saved lives.

It didn’t take CAT scans or MRIs to make a diagnosis and solve a lot of problems. Sure, the latest technology is great, but you don’t need it for every situation.

Remember that old country doctor when troubleshooting problems.  Using a few simple tools, you don’t need a million dollars of test equipment or reams of test data to solve many problems. Like the doctor, you can rely on your own experience, knowledge, and common sense.

Hope you enjoyed the story. Rest in peace, Dr. Metheny.

P.S. Just finished teaching our Troubleshooting Workshop to a group of engineers in San Diego, based on the medical concepts of differential diagnosis (to be covered in a future post.) Always a good time – and the weather was great too!

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Quick advice for a newbie…

At LinkedIn (Succeed), Dave Wacker posed this question:

Any thoughts on starting a small consulting company?

Here is my reply:

Hi Dave,

Started my consulting engineering firm 30+ years ago. Part time for nine years, then went full time in 1987 – the day the market crashed. (The first day in business was the worst day in business — all the rest have been much better!)

Here are some quick thoughts:

* Identify your specialty -clients want specialists not generalists.

* Define two niches - demographic (ideal clients) and geographic (local, national, or ??)

* Based on those niches, develop three or four simple marketing strategies (write, speak, network) -you want to create credibility and visibility, and your goal is to have clients call you (think like a doctor.)

* Keep the above simple and focused – you can’t be everything to everybody, particularly when starting out.

For more ideas, visit my blog (http://www.jumptoconsulting.com) where I have just about finished a series on 20 Ways to Attract Clients. All methods we’ve used in our practice. Over 120 posts with lot’s of other free “nuts and bolts” stuff too.

Good luck, and welcome to the wacky world of consulting!

To date, 35 others have also left comments. Lot’s of good ideas being shared…

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Do You Want to Get Rich???

So asked the Dean of Engineering to a bunch of freshman engineering students almost fifty years ago.

The class was Intro to Engineering, an overview of what we were getting ourselves into. When he asked the question, most of the hands in the room went up.

“Well”, he replied, “if you REALLY want go get rich, drop out now. Go out to the new interstate highway, and buy land at one of the interchanges. Build a gas station, and in 25 years you’ll be rich – and independent too.”

“But,” he continued, “stick around here and we’ll show you how much fun engineering can be. And in 25 years, you may not be as rich as the gas station owner, but you will still be in good financial shape. And you will have had a lot of fun in the meantime.”

It wasn’t until many years later that I fully appreciated the dean’s advice. Yes, the classes were interesting, but often challenging. So were the engineering jobs I held in industry.

But the real payoff came after starting my own engineering consulting firm. I was finally able to combine the independence of the gas station owner with the fun of engineering. And financially, it has all turned out just fine. Maybe that was the dean’s real message.

So a message of encouragement to my fellow geeks. If you are sick and tired of the big company politics and no longer having a good time, consider consulting.

As a bonus, old consultants are usually valued (for all their experience), while old engineers (with the same experience) are often put out to pasture. Go figure.

Finally, every time I drive by all the gas stations on I-80 north of Lincoln, Nebraska, I fondly recall the dean’s advice. Thanks, Dean Blackman!

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.