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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thought Leadership – Is is really necessary?

The short answer — NO! 

But you DO need to be able to help your clients. Time for a mini-rant.

If you are like me, you are probably weary of hearing about how you MUST become a though leader to succeed in business. Unless, of course, you are pitching books or programs on thought leadership.

But let’s back up. Just what is thought leadership, anyway? Wikipedia says a thought leader is “an individual or firm recognized as an authority in a specialized field, and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” Gee – that sounds like a consultant to me.

My big concern is the concept may hold people back. As in, “If I’m not a thought leader, how can I break into consulting?” Don’t let this business jargon bamboozle you.

Think about it. You doctor has specialized expertise that can help you. But do most doctors consider themselves thought leaders? I doubt it. Most just consider themselves professionals doing their jobs — helping their patients.

Now some doctors, such as specialists, may be considered thought leaders. When my wife had an unusual kidney condition, we consulted with one of the world’s experts at the Mayo Clinic. He fit my definition of a thought leader. Even then, he was modest to a fault. (Incidentally, he quickly diagnosed the issue, while ruling out any serious problems.)

There is nothing wrong with aspiring to and becoming a thought leader. But it doesn’t happen overnight, and you DON’T need it to get started as a consultant.

You DO need to identify your niches, and you DO need to be competent and experienced in those niches. In certain areas, you may need to be licensed.

OK, so I don’t need to be a thought leader to start, but how can I eventually become one anyway? Writing and speaking are two good avenues.

Magazine articles and white papers are a good start. A book is even better, preferably published by recognized publisher.

Speeches and seminars also good avenues. All these take time, however, so don’t expect to be vaulted overnight into a thought leadership position.

But don’t overlook just doing a good job for your clients. Experience is a big part of becoming a thought leader, and the only way to get experience is to  DO it — over and over.

Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to really master a subject. Some pundits dispute the numbers, but the fact is it takes time and effort to become an expert – or a thought leader.

As an example, we started Kimmel Gerke Associates almost 30 years ago as a couple of reasonably competent engineers. To market ourselves, we started writing magazine articles and doing technical presentations. At that time, we did not consider ourselves though leaders.

Over time, this eventually led to 200+ articles, three books, hundreds of consultations, and training 10,000+ students through public and in-house seminars.

At some point, I suppose, we became thought leaders in our field – not that it really mattered to either of us anyway. But that came later, not right away.

NO, you don’t need to be a “thought leader” to make your JumpToConsulting. But the sooner you do make the jump, the the sooner you can become a thought leader – if that is even your goal in the first place.

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

What do you do when it no longer works?

Received an email a while back from a fellow engineer whose consulting firm is struggling. The question was what to do now?

First, a little background. To protect privacy, I’ll be purposefully vague.

He started a consulting firm some years ago, but it recently began to slide. Rather than give up, he kept putting money into the business – but with a negative impact on his finances and retirement. Cash flow is now a key concern.

So the question posed to me was not about starting a consulting practice, but rather –  What do you do when it no longer works?

That is a tough one. Here is my sanitized reply:

Wish I could say I had never heard your story before. Sadly, I have. The good news is things usually get better, but not without some pain.

Here are three examples:

  • Former neighbors (in their 50s) who owned two small restaurants for many years. When the business slump hit in 2008, they refinanced their house to keep things going. In the process, they lost the businesses and almost lost the house. But they are now recovering, as they went back into the corporate world. The good news is that they found jobs where they could use their valuable skills and knowledge.
  • My older son (in his 40s) who was ousted from his position (after an acquisition.) Small thanks for helping grow a small company by 10X and handling the complex financial details of the transaction. So he took his proceeds and hung out his shingle as a business consultant, but within a year it was obvious it wasn’t working fast enough to provide an adequate income. The good news was that one of his clients (a start-up) hired him.
  • Me (in my 30s). Fired one day from a start-up I helped launch, I hung out my shingle. That only lasted a couple of months until I realized it wasn’t going to work – for now anyway.  So I went to “Plan B” and found another corporate engineering job. Of course, that was easier then as I was much younger.

Two common thread on all three cases were:

  • Recognizing the business was not making it (at least fast enough to provide sustenance)
  • Changing direction (while still gaining valuable experience and knowledge.)

My first thought is to see if any firms have an interest in hiring, even on a part-time or sub-contract basis. These firms might be other consulting firms, past/present clients, or even vendors serving  his technical community.

Your knowledge, contacts and experience are valuable. This would let you focus on the technical side of the business and not worry about the sales/marketing/management side of the business.

A second thought is to check with technical contracting firms. Some are small, and some are large (like Manpower.) I know several engineering colleagues who have gone this route.

One caveat – do NOT pay anybody ANY money up front. The legitimate firms make their money when they place engineers with their clients. Many also offer group insurance and related benefits.

In both cases, the business still exists – just in a different form.  Incidentally, nothing wrong with changing directions. Sometimes it is better to stop the bleeding, and start the recovery.

As a fellow boomer, these approaches are likely more successful than seeking a full time position. Many companies want to hire the younger people full-time, but are willing to take on us old-timers part-time. Of course, if you find a suitable full-time position, go for it!

My sincere best wishes, and feel free to write again if you have additional questions or comments.

If you are in this situation, don’t despair — it took me two tries to make it as a consultant, and four tries for the training part of our business. And there have been several ups and downs along the way.

Finally, there are no guarantees for success in any business, consulting or otherwise. Change is inevitable, and the key is to be flexible.

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are You an Economic Slave???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two final pieces of advice:

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

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

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

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween…

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

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

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

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

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

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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