Encouragement

How long does it take to make it?

I once posed that question to an attorney, about the time we were starting out in consulting. I knew this was not going to be an overnight success, but was curious about what to expect. The attorney had run his own small practice for many years, so I figured he was a good person to ask.

He responded, “Good question. Let me think. For me, it was five years. After working hard to launch and build the practice, one day I woke up and realized that I was established, and that I was going to make it. Yes, it was five years after I started.”

I often recalled his comment in those early years after making my own personal JumpToConsulting. wondering when I would feel like that. Things were moving along pretty well, and at the five year point, I FINALLY felt the same way — we were established.

But then, disaster struck. The business suddenly stopped.  It didn’t slow down — it came to a screeching halt. Two major clients suffered business setbacks, and cut back on using outside consultants.

The main niche we were pursuing — personal computers — dried up as the inevitable market shakeout occurred. So did a secondary niche. And finally, an uncertain presidential election put many client business decisions on hold.

Fortunately, we had put enough money aside to weather the storm — a short one, anyway. We used the time to regroup and refocus.

Since we’d done a bit of work on medical devices, we asked how could we expand that business. That led to writing a series of articles for a leading medical magazine, which ultimately led to a book and a nice bunch of new business.

We also looked into several other areas for potential business, and started some focused marketing efforts there as well. The result — within six months we were back on our feet.

So, how long is enough? For us, it was five years to get TO, and then THROUGH, the first big crisis. And having weathered the storm, we realized we were no longer novices — we had truly made it — and were here to stay.

P.S. Don’t despair in the early years — it is a lot of fun starting and building a practice. But it is also very satisfying when you realize you “made it” too!

© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

On Turning 60…

When making several career changes (including my own Jump to Consulting), I often justified my actions with “Well, I don’t want to wake up one morning and discover that I am 60 years old, and I never did that…”

Well, I’m now past 60, and guess what — I am damn glad I took those chances!

© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Today – Celebrating 25 years as a full-time consultant…

Monday, October 19, 1987… the day the stock market crashed… was also my first day as a full time consulting engineer with the company I confounded. The crash was scary, but we obviously survived. Now we just reminisce that the first day in business was the worst day in business. It has been better ever since.

After consulting part time for nine years, it was time to take the plunge. At age 41, the time seemed right. I didn’t want to wake up at 60 regretting that I had not even tried. Besides, the worst possible outcome was not fatal — it just meant having to crawl back into the corporate world again.

Since we didn’t want to sink the business right away, I stepped out first. The original plan was to for me to work on projects while drumming enough additional business to support both of us. We thought this might take six months or more, but we were wrong.

In spite of the market crash, my business partner was able to jump in a few months later. We had done a lot of planning, and it paid off. We also had socked away enough money to sustain us for several months with no business, and a year with moderate business. That let us focus on building the business, rather than worrying about paychecks.

Looking back, there have been quite a few adventures that most likely would have been missed in a regular job. These include several interesting foreign assignments:

  • Korea – Two trips to teach classes to about 100 engineers. What a pretty and gracious country!  And who knew there were so many types of kim chee?
  • Kuwait – One trip to teach a class for the Kuwait National Petroleum Company. This was after the Iraq/Iran war, but just before Kuwait was invaded. Met a bunch of fine young engineers there, and I hope they all survived the Iraq invasion.
  • Singapore – Ten days working on an experimental plasma incinerator. Boy, did that ever cause some interesting electromagnetic interference issues. Fixed it though, and enjoyed the multicultural influence on this very interesting city-state.
  • Alaska – OK,  technically not a foreign country, but spent two weeks teaching classes at Prudhoe Bay, the wellhead of the Alaska pipeline. This was a treat, as my brother (a civil engineer) was responsible for many of the buildings in the oil camps. Also experienced -50F, even colder than Minnesota.
  • Others – Several trips to the UK, Germany, Amsterdam, Canada, and Mexico for both teaching and consulting projects. Enjoyed them all.

There have also been a number of very interesting engineering projects across a wide range of industries. Here are some memorable ones:

  • Diesel locomotives. A highlight was sitting in the cab, looking for the cord to blow the whistle.  Disappointed, however, when I discovered it was jut a button on a console. Oh well…
  • Airplanes. Worked on a lot of avionics projects, but another highlight was sitting in the cockpit of a Gulfstream pretending I was a pilot. My client even said it was OK to make airplane sounds.  Now do engineers know how to have fun, or what?
  • Spacecraft. Worked on a bunch of these too. A highlight here is knowing one of those projects is still orbiting overhead gathering scientific data, and well in excess of its expected life.
  • Nuclear power plants. One time when I asked where the reactor was, I was told it was only a few feet away through solid concrete. No, I don’t glow in the dark, but the real disappointment was that I didn’t start regrowing hair.
  • Medical devices. Probably among the most satisfying projects, realizing that my efforts have helped improve products that save lives.

In total, I’ve worked on a couple of hundred projects across a wide range of industries (details here), yielding several lifetimes of engineering experiences. In addition, my business partner and I have trained over 10,000 engineers in our technical specialty — sharing what we’ve learned with a new generation of engineers — a reward in itself.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.  It has been quite the adventure!

Incidentally, this post was not meant to brag, but rather to offer an example and encouragement to anyone considering their own JumpToConsulting.

What will the next 25 years bring you?

P.S. – Won’t be posting for a couple of weeks – time for a little vacation. But, like the Terminator, “I’ll be baaack..”

© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A Thought for Today…

Great advice! Saw this today at the gym where I work out.

If you REALLY want to do something, you’ll find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse.

So how about it — do you REALLY want to start your own business? If it is a consulting practice, we’ll help you find the way. Any other business, we’ll still offer you encouragement.

© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

From the mailbag…re “Are Engineers Really in Demand?”

This is a response to Jim, who commented on “Are Engineers Really in Demand.” Thought this deserved a blog post, rather than just a response from me.

Of all the things that offer consulting opportunities Engineering, with the exception of Civil, is way down on the list. With all the non disclosure agreements and req 4 security clearances its almost impossible to be a real engineering consultant. Besides Companies find engineering the most outsourced, easily replaceable ppl prod today. Companies can hire temp Engrs today by the handful. Unlike things that take that special personality to make it successful Engrs have finally become the new grunt labor seen by Mgmt as “the ppl not smart enough 4 a real business career.” Wake up its 2012 not 1962!

Thanks for the comment, and for reading my blog! In fact, you’ve given me ideas for a new post.

First, I respectfully disagree that engineering consulting is not viable. Having done this full time for 25 years (and having made a very good living at it), I’ve also met a number of other successful full time engineering consultants across multiple disciplines — electrical, mechanical, civil, and more.  Even collaborated on projects with some, when we needed to leverage our individual strengths.

I also disagree that nondisclosures and security clearances are a barrier. We regularly sign nondisclosure agreements, although we do NOT sign non-compete agreements. (If we agreed to work with only one auto company, one medical company, one computer company… we’d soon be out of business.)

Regarding security clearances, we’ve worked on classified programs without clearances. We’ve held clearances in the past, so we appreciate this concern.  Fortunately, our engineering specialty does not deal with classified data, so we work around it.

But the military/defense sector is only a small part of industry — there are a myriad of opportunities in other areas (commercial, facilities, medical, industrial controls, and much more) that do not require security clearances.

Incidentally, we decided early on NOT to focus solely on defense, and have been better off for it. (Didn’t want all our proverbial eggs in one basket.)

I do agree that engineering is being outsourced, and to I share your concerns. But is it realistic to expect that we in the US should “own” all the engineering?

After all, there is a world wide market for our products.  My experience with non-US engineers has been positive — smart, innovative, and driven with a passion for engineering. (Maybe that explains some of the outsourcing — companies seek talent where they can.)

At the same time, there are many medium and smaller companies who employ local talent. In fact, they are among my favorite clients. Many of the engineers are refugees from big companies, and are more interested in changing the world than climbing the ladder.

Ditto the management. Many are engineers themselves and appreciate the contributions of their employees — and also their consultants!

Regarding the latter, these companies are often fertile ground for consulting, particularly if you have unique talents and experience such as power electronics, analog design,  RF design, EMI/EMC (our area), etc. These smaller companies often need help, but not on a full time basis. Yes, they often “outsource” too, but to consultants.

Finally, I agree with your displeasure with unenlightened management. I spend the first half of my career in the corporate environment (big and small), and was twice suddenly out of a job due to corporate bungling and egotism.(Also two reasons why I eventually decided to hang out my own consulting shingle.)

But I also worked for several good companies with great bosses where I learned a lot. Ditto my clients — I’ve seen some great managers in both large and small companies.

So if you don’t want to be on your own, rest assured there are good managers out there — but you do need to seek them out.

I hope this helped. When I responded to the IEEE article (Are Engineers Really in Demand?), I sensed a lot of frustration, just as in your comments. That’s OK — I’ve been there too. But my goal was to show there are viable alternatives, with consulting as one of them. Good luck in 2012, and beyond!

© 2012 – 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Do You Want It So Bad You Can Taste It?

When people tell me they are thinking about consulting, I often share this story with them. It  helped me on several occasions, including making my own personal JumpToConsulting.

In high school, I worked as a “soda jerk” at the drugstore in our small town. Since we were next door to the town doctor, he often stopped by for a soda or malt. He was an interesting fellow, and we would chat about various things.

One time, I asked what prompted him to go into medicine. He suddenly got serious, and then responded:

“I don’t know where this conversation is going, Daryl, but if you are thinking about medicine, let me share some advice. I love medicine, and I’m glad I chose to go this route. But is was a lot of work — much more than I ever thought it would be.

So, if don’t want it so bad you can taste it, don’t even start.”

Actually, I wasn’t interested in a medical career, and had already decided on engineering. But it was not going to be easy, either academically or financially. His advice often rang in my ears as I pursued my engineering studies at the university.

Did I still want it so bad I could taste it? The answer was always yes.

Almost twenty years later I made my personal JumpToConsulting, as a full time consulting engineer. There had been a lot of work to get to that point — and like the doc, it had taken more effort that I thought it would.

There had been a false start a few years earlier, and then, on the first day in full time practice, (October 1987), the stock market crashed. It was panic time. What should I do?  Grovel perhaps, and try to get my old job back? But then I recalled the old doc’s advice:

Did I still want it so bad I could taste it? The answer was still yes.

That was 25 years ago. The consulting part of my career has been particularly satisfying and rewarding. It wasn’t always easy, and it was even scary at times.

But overall, it has been great fun.

So, if you are thinking about making the JumpToConsulting (or any business venture for that matter) ask yourself if you are REALLY committed.

Do YOU want it so bad you can taste it?

© 2012 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Advice from a fortune cookie…

From lunch this week at a favorite Chinese restaurant:

Joy comes from the adventure today. Time to shake up the world.

Really liked this fortune cookie quote.  How about you?  It captures my feelings about small consulting practices in particular — and micro-businesses in general.

PS – Well, as of today our downsizing move is finally done. Everything is out of the old place, and much of our “stuff” has moved on. Still sorting to do, but we purged a lot.

Soon off to a technical conference where I’ll be presenting a short technical tutorial — one of my favorite marketing tactics. (See Rule #3).

Then I hope to get back on track and devote more time to the JumpToConsulting project. In the meantime, thanks for riding along!   


© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Create your own luck…

We’ve often been told we’re lucky to have our own business. But luck really has very little to do with it.

Here is a response made to a recent guest post at Man vs Debt, an inspiring blog by Adam Baker on his challenges of overcoming a big load of debt acquired at a relatively young age. Not unusual — you hear of the financial plight of young college grads all the time. But Baker decided to DO something about it (Sell Your Crap, and more…)

To keep on course, Baker even started a blog. Now, a couple of years later, he has built up a very successful business. His most recent adventure is creating a documentary (I’m Fine, Thanks.) My response follows:

  • A little over 25 years ago, and just before jumping into full time consulting, my business partner was in a precarious position in his full time job. The layoffs were coming, and everyone knew it.
  • For the previous several years, we had been moonlighting and developing a small engineering consulting business. By that time, we were both ripe for the jump anyway. One of his colleagues commented, “You’re lucky — you have something else you can do.” To which he replied, Luck has nothing to do with it. I’ve worked long and hard to get into this position. If the ax falls today, my shingle will be out tomorrow.”
  • As it turned out, I jumped first — the day the market crashed in 1987. Bad luck? No, we had laid enough plans and lined up enough clients to survive that fiasco (but emotionally, our FIRST day in business was probably the WORST day in business.) In fact, business was so good (and so much more fun) that within a couple of months we were both in full time practice.
  • The lessons learned — planning and flexibility are much more important than “luck”. And twenty five years later we’re still at it. Not bragging — just offering some encouragement. You can create YOUR own luck!

One more piece of advice. If you are considering a JumpToConsulting, do something TODAY to move you in that direction. Doesn’t need to be a big step — even a tiny step counts. Then do something else tomorrow (or at least next week.)

Every journey starts with small steps that are repeated. I am repeatedly frustrated by those who tell me they are “thinking” about consulting (or any other venture) but who never even take that critical first step.

So go create your own luck! You can do it…

P.S. – Been a little lax on posting here. We recently moved/downsized and it has been a big effort. Now getting resettled, and looking forward to getting back to normal – whatever that is.

© 2012 – 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Two quick observations on starting out…

When asked about becoming an independent consultant, my business partner and I often share these two observations from our early days:

  1. We thought we would work 20 hours a week and get rich. Instead, it often seemed like we worked 20 hours a day just to make a living.
  2. We thought we’d find wealth and security. Instead, it often seemed like we were six weeks away from bankruptcy.

The latter is also a good personal test — if the fear of failure paralyzes you, probably best to stay with your day job. But if that fear gives you a little jolt of adrenaline… well, you’ve got “the itch”,  for which there are only two known cures.

Don’t despair – things eventually get better. When starting out, plan on working hard and even being scared at times. But isn’t that the lot in life for most entrepreneurs?

© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Questions from a reader on starting out…

Here is a recent email exchange that I though some of you might find of interest. I’ve hidden the name for confidentiality, but I’m sure S will recognize himself.

Hi Daryl,

My name is S.  I’m also a follower of  your blog. How are you doing with that these days?

I’ve noticed you’re an engineer who had a lifestyle-enabling consulting business. Were you able to liberate yourself with the income and time required to live your ideal lifestyle?

Always love to learn what my fellow community members are up to, and the obstacles they are facing.

S

Hi S,

So far, so good. After 25 years as a full time consulting engineer, I think it might work 🙂

Seriously, it has worked well. The consulting business has been a lot of fun — probably more than had I stayed in the corporate environment. Freedom is more important to me than status or a lot of money. I prefer to be the captain of my own ship, even if it is just a little rowboat.

A couple of secrets I’ve learned. Live below your means, and sock away money for retirement and/or lean times. I draw a relatively low salary to cover living expenses, which usually leaves a bonus at year end for savings and funding a Keogh, etc. This also smoothes out the cash flow, and prevents the lifestyle from rising to the income peaks.

No great obstacles. The biggest initial challenge was bringing in the business, which required a lot of up-front marketing effort. Now that I’m established, that part is easier but it still requires some attention. Kind of like tending a garden.

I assume you are an engineer, too. I’ve found consulting a great way to practice the profession. It took me a while to make it work, but it has been worth it.

Best Wishes,

Daryl

Daryl,

I’m not an engineer… I am however focused on using the recipe to make more free time for myself.

I enjoyed reading your answers. There is one thing that I would like to learn more from you: how did you specifically bring in the business and execute the up-front marketing initially?

Thanks,

S

Hi S,

Ah, the number one question I hear — how do you get the business? The short answer — peddle, peddle, peddle…

Seriously, we have used a number of methods to get business over the years. There is no simple “silver bullet”, and it takes both time and effort. Here are some things we’ve done:

  • Write – articles, newsletters, books
  • Speak – local meetings, national symposiums
  • Network – professional organizations, trade shows
  • Internet – Web site, blog, LinkedIn
  • Collateral – business cards, letterhead, simple brochure

Many of these are discussed in more detail in my blog. Not all have been addressed yet.

We didn’t do all of these at once. We started with writing tutorial articles for the local business magazines and for the “second tier” technical magazines. Both can get you published in 90 days or less. We also got active in our local professional organization.

Probably more important in the very beginning, however, was identifying a couple of potential clients, and then working with them. Our first two major clients were a test lab and a training company. We subcontracted to both of them for several years.

  • For the test lab, we were like substitute teachers, filling in as needed. That meant we did a lot of second and third shift work, often called at the last minute.
  • For the training company, we spent a lot of time on the road the first couple of years. Neither were full time. In our “spare time”, we actively pursued other clients.

So, as you can see, at first it was a lot of work. To be blunt, if your goal is more free time, starting a business may NOT be the way to go. In the early years, you’ll likely work much harder than you ever would with a full time job, and probably make less money.

In closing, I’m fond of analogies. Starting a business is a like the old pioneers who homesteaded on the prairie (as several of my great-grandparents did out in Nebraska.)

  • First, you start out in a dirt (sod) house, made after you busted the sod yourself.
  • Next, you plant a garden & orchard, but you scrape by until they start to produce.
  • Soon after that, you build a barn for your cow and horse, and then work from sunup to sundown to feed and tend them.
  • Finally, if you are lucky (no tornadoes, droughts, or other disasters), in several years you start to get ahead.

But even then, you don’t get rich. Such is the price of freedom to do your own thing. Would I do it again? Absolutely! But it was a LOT of work, with very little free time in the beginning.

Good luck in your pursuits,

Daryl

PS – It just occurred to me that my message might be a bit negative.

Yes, if you want to start a full time consulting practice, plan on a lot of work. On the other hand, if you are looking for a PART TIME practice, and don’t need to make a full time living, then consulting can be a very viable way to make more free time for yourself.

I’m kind of slipping into that mode myself, as I become “semi-retired.” The real goal, of course, is to free up time to do other stuff I want to do — such as this blog.

Daryl,

No worries. I’ve been emailing enough people to hear similarly toned opinions before.

I can currently live on a part-time income while spending the rest of my time on a product (i.e. front-loading my work time right now so that I’m not making decisions based on financial consequences later).

Best wishes to you too,

S

And good luck to all of you! Similar questions?  Drop me an email at daryl (at) jumptoconsulting (dot) com, and maybe you’ll appear here too.

© 2012 – 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Need a Job??? Create Your Own…

This is what 40 attendees of the recent “Start Your Business Workshop” in Chandler AZ are considering. As an aside, all 40 had recently lost their jobs. But rather than sulk or wait for the government to intervene, these 40 budding entrepreneurs were taking matters into their own hands. On a beautiful spring day in Arizona, no less. Bravo, I say!

The workshop was an extension of Laid Off Camp/Phoenix , a program staffed by volunteers intent on helping those who have recently lost their jobs. This special session focused not on getting another job, but on starting your OWN business. It was my privilege to discuss consulting as a small business possibility.

The group (attendees and speakers) ranged in age from the 20’s to 60’s. While I was probably oldest person in the room, my boomer colleagues were well represented. Unfortunately, the new boomer reality is often “Too old to hire — too young to retire.” 

Almost all of the speakers (like me) had been laid off at least once. In addition to offering “nuts and bolts” advice, we also shared our stories — the zigs and zags of starting and building our businesses. The talks were both practical and inspiring.

The session was kicked off by Arizona’s own Pam Slim (Escape From Cubicle Nation.) Her insights are priceless — over the years, she has helped hundreds launch/build successful small businesses of all types. I’ve sung her praises before, and gladly do so again.

The most inspiring talk of the day came from Randy Walters, the founder and owner of Pittsburgh Willy’s Gourmet Hotdogs. Laid off at 53 (boomers take note), Randy had an epiphany while watching a TV commercial. Rather than look for another job, he decided it was time to follow his dream — running a hot dog stand like his father had done in Pittsburgh in the 1930s.

So he plunged in and bought a hot dog cart — but then didn’t sell his first hot dog for six months. He described, with great humor, the Catch-22 bureaucracy along with the bad business advice he chose to ignore (gourmet hotdogs — never work — keep the menu simple–etc.) But Randy stuck with his dream, and five years later, he now has a full restaurant that is a “must visit” here in the Valley of the Sun.

Several people expressed interest in consulting. One was a former HR person, another was a retired teacher interested in tutoring, along with a fellow geek (engineer.) Of course, many of the speakers were consultants, and included a newly minted lawyer, a graphics artist, a former car salesman, a couple of web experts, and an accountant who also runs a women’s exercise studio. What an interesting bunch!

Here were some key points gleaned from the presentations. While several of us emphasized these, it was probably good to hear them repeated.

  • Marketing is key — No, the world won’t beat a path to your door. You’ve got to light the way. Remember, without customers you don’t have a business.
  • Follow your dream — Don’t compromise, and be true to yourself.  Don’t wake up at 60 wishing…
  • Don’t give up — As Pittsburgh Willy said several times, if one way is blocked, just hunt for another way to get there.
  • Don’t be afraid — Probably the most important. A little fear is perfectly normal, but don’t let it overwhelm you.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

So, if you are looking for a job, why not consider creating your own?  Many of us have already done so — consultants and others — and we’re having a ball.

P.S.Best wishes to all who attended — yes, you CAN do it!  And while happy to share my perspective, I’m sure I gained more than I gave. Special thanks to organizer Susan Baier (www.audienceaudit.com), who does this as a labor of love.

Now, off to Pittsburgh Willy’s for a hot dog…

© 2012 – 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are Engineers Really In Demand?

Here is my reply to a recent IEEE article “Are Engineers Really in Demand?” The authors posed this question in response to a recent  Washington Post story that discussed unemployment among engineers. Being a geek myself,  I was intrigued.

What disturbed me, however, were the comments that followed.  Way too much griping about how the government, big business, or foreigners (H1B visas) were to blame. Whoa!  What happened to being responsible for your own career?

So here was my response:

Lot’s of complaining here. Let me offer an alternate (more positive) view.

After being laid off twice early in my career, I decided to hang out my shingle as a consulting engineer. After 30+ years (25 in full time practice,) I can say it has been great. The technical work is interesting, the pay is better, and the respect is even better yet. Not only that, as you get older, the perception is that your experience is even more valuable — rather refreshing.

The down side is that you no longer have the “security” of a company behind you. But as most of us know, that is a myth anyway. In fact, with consulting it is quite the opposite — no one client can put me out of business.

But you DO need to hustle for the business, something that frightens many engineers. I just look at getting new business as another technical challenge. After all, we’re supposed to be problem solvers, right?

Frankly, I wish more engineers would adopt the mindset of working for themselves, rather than depending on the corporate bean counters for sustenance. If doctors, lawyers, and accountants can be in practice for themselves, why not engineers?

Food for thought. Finally, if you are considering this, get your PE license. You’ll need it to open some doors. Then start hustling — you might be pleasantly surprised with the results. I’ve certainly enjoyed my way of practicing engineering. Good luck!

The results? A bit disappointing. One troll did respond with a rather bizarre comment “… You escape for now. The giant vampire squid of capital is seeking the small leaks next…”  Huh?  Missed the point, or really bitter I guess.

But I shall remain positive. If you are reading this, you are presumably not willing to depend on  “the man” to give you a job.  Creating your own can be a satisfying alternative — consulting or otherwise. You have my encouragement…

P.S. Will do a talk on consulting at the Start Your Own Business Workshop this Saturday in Chandler AZ. The workshop is sponsored by LaidOffCamp, a great program for those who have lost their jobs.

Who knows — maybe we’ll even help launch some new consultants!

© 2012 – 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

It was not Obama’s fault that you failed…

Nor was it Bush’s, or Clinton’s, or anybody else’s. If your business failed, it was YOUR fault. But don’t sulk about it — figure out what you did wrong, fix it, and try again!

This rant was precipitated by a recent comment on a business blog. The author whined that his new venture failed because Obama had “tinkered with the health care system.” What a crock — I just wanted to reach out and slap some sense into him.

Time to grow up or shut up!

Just for the record, it took me two times to get the consulting business right, and four times to get the training part of the business right. And there have still been the occasional rocky times since then.

In 1987, on the first day in full time business (the second time around) for my consulting business, the stock market crashed. Scared of failing again? Yes, but this time we succeeded, and we now joke, “The first day in business was the worst day in business.”

Failures are merely learning experiences. Sure, they may hurt at the time, but if we let them, they almost always teach us something. Furthermore, I don’t trust anyone who “never failed.”  Either they are lying, or they are very good at placing the blame on others. (Had a boss like that once… one reason I went out on my own.)

Here is a quick story that has served me well over the years. It was my first engineering sales job, and my new boss sent me to a multi-week sales training class. One evening at a break, I asked an older (wiser) and very experienced salesman how he handled the inevitable setbacks and failures.

  • He smiled, and said, “Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.”  He went on, “If you never fail, you’ll never learn, and you’ll never make progress. By the way,” he added, “I’ve been at this for over twenty years, and I still fail to make the sale more often than not.” His advice alone was worth the price of the class.

So if you are serious about running your own show (consulting or otherwise), expect failures along the way. Try to manage the risk and minimize the damage, but know that you WILL have failures. And when you do, LEARN from them.

But don’t blame Obama, or anyone else! Finally, remember the immortal words of Harry Truman, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” And I’d like to add, “If you can’t stand the failures, don’t start a business…”

P.S. Off to DesignCon 2012 in Santa Clara to present “Consulting for Geeks”. Watch my blog for follow-on webinars on consulting.

© 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

On Moving to Arizona…

In 1996, I mentioned to a client that I was toying with a move to Arizona.

He commented, “My Dad always wanted to do that. Every year he and Mom would go to Arizona, and look for just the right place to eventually retire.”

Excited, I asked, “Wow!  Did he finally do it?”

My client sadly replied, “No, he died before he got the chance.”

With that “encouragement,” I decided to make my move a few months later!

— Off to an IEEE  (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) symposium in Los Angeles, where I’ll do a talk titled “So You Want To Be A Consultant.” It turns out more and more engineers are thinking about consulting. Bravo, my fellow geeks!

© 2011, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Geezer Alert… Age Can Be Your Friend

Like it or not, age often matters in marketing a consulting practice. Age also matters in customer perceptions, as evidenced by the following examples.

Real Life Story # 1 – Floyd, a fellow engineer, was going to law school at night.  At the time, he was in his mid 40s, and I was in my late 20s. As he approached his graduation, I asked if he planned to hang out his lawyer’s shingle. His reply surprised me, but also set me thinking about my future.

“No,” he replied, “not unless I have to. I really enjoy what I do here, but law school is my insurance policy.”  I should add that Floyd had been in a car accident many years earlier that had left him partially paralyzed.

“Look at me,”  he said. “I’m over 40 and a cripple.  Who would hire me if I lost my job?”  I started to mumble an apology, but he continued. “No, don’t be embarrassed by your question — it was a good one. But even if I had no handicap, finding another engineering job would still be a problem because of my age.”

He then added, “The irony is that, as an older attorney, age is an asset, not the liability it can be in corporate world. Everyone will just assume I have many years of experience. Like fine wine, my value will increase — not decrease — with age.”

Wow! That set me thinking about my life after 40. Within two years, I hung out my shingle as a part time consultant.

Real Life Story # 2 – A dozen years later, now a full-time consultant over 40 myself, I was called in to help a small company with a serious design problem.  I was also now completely bald and starting to show some gray in the beard.  Oh, the ravages of time…

After solving the problem, I was wrapping things up with the equally bald VP of Engineering.  He thanked me, and then added with a twinkle in his eye, “You don’t know how happy I was to see a bald guy walking in here.  I knew I needed some old rooster that had been around the barn a few times… ”

That’s when I realized Floyd was right — as a consultant, age can be your friend!

Real Life Story #3 – For those of you who are younger, you may want to consider this approach. A consulting colleague has sported old fashioned  “mutton chop” sideburns from a young age.  As he explained, when he started out he looked even younger than he was, and it was hindering his ability to be taken seriously.

Incidentally, it worked (although like many of us, he no longer needs to add years…)

The bottom line — while age should not matter, perception does.  And in the mind of the customer, that perception is their reality.

PS – Don’t miss the “Special Welcome for Geezers”

© 2011 – 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are you a quitter, or a starter?

When I left my last corporate job at Intel (the day the market crashed in 1987), I stopped by the division General Manager’s office to say goodbye.  The GM, known as “Rocky”,  was a good guy with a sometimes wicked sense of humor. We chatted a bit, and he wished me well in the new consulting venture.

As I headed out the door,  though, Rocky threw in a barb.  “Quitter”, he muttered.  Without thinking, I spun around and quickly replied, “I’m not a quitter — I’m a starter…”

As I recall, he smiled, and said “Good answer.”

So how about you?  Are you a quitter, or a starter?  The reason I started this blog was to help those who wanted to start consulting … not necessarily those who just wanted to quit something else.

Please make sure you are considering consulting – or any other business venture –  for the right reasons.

© 2011, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Don’t wake up at 60 wishing…

Adding a new category to this blog — Encouragement. The original intent of this blog was to provide “nuts and bolts” information for those considering making the JumpToConsulting. You know — if you just knew how to do it (or how others had done it), the rest would be a piece of cake.

But recently it hit me that fear and uncertainty were even bigger issues. Not that I’ve never been afraid, but I don’t recall being paralyzed by fear either. Particularly in business situations — after all, as Bob Parsons (founder and CEO of GoDaddy) says in his Rule #4 , “…if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you…”

The epiphany occurred at a recent one day workshop by Alan Weiss, the Million Dollar Consultant (TM.) It was part of his Friday Wrap (TM) program, which I enjoy as a thought provoking weekly tonic on the consulting business. When he brought up the importance of self-esteem, however, the floodgates opened.

I sat there amazed as several very successful and intelligent attendees confided their irrational fears. Some were concerned about achieving success (Can I do it?), and some were concerned about handling success (Do I really deserve it?) One even confessed fears about losing it (What if I can’t repeat it?)

Thus, the new category — Encouragement. No, this won’t be rah-rah stuff, but I’ll occasionally share some ideas, along with some helpful references.

To kick this off, here is a reply to a recent posting by Chris Gullibeau at the Art of Non Conformity (a favorite blog of mine.)

Chris tells of Rachel, his young seat mate on a recent international flight. She was very successful, but quite discontented with her job. The problem —  it was a “good job” and thus hard to leave. If nothing else, what would people think? After all, she had spent years to get two financial degrees, and was now jetting around the world for her employer. She was a “success,” but clearly unhappy.

Judging by the numerous replies, many others felt the same. So, to offer some encouragement, I submitted the following:

  • It seems like only yesterday I pondered these questions. One guiding principle for me – “I didn’t want to wake up at 60 and regret not even trying…”
  • So I made changes. Scary at times, but most worked out fine.
  • At age 30, left a comfortable job as an engineer to try sales. Scary at first, but had fun. Made some new friends. Learned a lot.
  • At age 34, left to join a startup. Fun a first, less fun later, lost money. (Even got fired one day.) Learned a lot.
  • At age 36, started a consulting firm. Failed. Crawled back into a corporate job. Learned a lot.
  • At age 38, went back into field sales. Great fun, made good money, made more friends. Learned a lot.
  • At age 41, started consulting company again. Market crashed the first day in business. Succeeded anyway. Been a blast. Made more friends. Learned a lot.
  • Age 64, still consulting. No regrets. Financially secure. Also raised two sons, married 43 years. Still learning, still having fun. But where has the time gone?
  • Big lesson to share Life is way too short to waste doing something you no longer enjoy! Don’t wake up at 60 wishing…

In short, I did it, and you can too. No horn tooting here — just offering some encouragement.

So let me know if you found this helpful. And remember what Franklin Roosevelt said the day after Pearl Harbor — “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” True in 1941, and still true today.

© 2011 – 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

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