Boomers

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 🙂     

© 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!

© 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!

© 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!

© 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!

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

SOS to Boomers…

Here is some boomer humor that arrived recently via an E-mail.

A C-130 was lumbering along when a cocky F-16 flashed by.

The jet jockey decided to show off.

The fighter jock told the C-130 pilot, “Watch this!’  and promptly went into a barrel roll followed by a steep climb.

He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier.

The F-16 pilot asked the C-130 pilot what he thought of that?

The C-130 pilot said, “That was impressive, but watch this!”

The C-130 droned along for about 5 minutes and then the C-130 pilot came back on and said: “What did you think of that?”

Puzzled, the F-16 pilot asked, “What the heck did you do?”

The C-130 pilot chuckled.  “I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, took a leak, then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll.”

When you are young & foolish – speed & flash may seem a good thing!

When you get older & smarter – comfort & dull is not such a bad thing!

Us older folks understand this. It’s called…

S.O.S.

Slower, Older and Smarter….

Good advice for old consultants, too. Put’s it all in perspective…

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Resource Review – The Likeable Expert Gazette…

Recently ran across this web site and newsletter, and wanted to share it here. In addition to being a useful resource, it is also a delightful success story.

In 2000, Michael Katz launched Blue Penguin Development, a one man firm that teaches professional service providers how to position themselves as “likeable experts.” Much of his emphasis is on newsletters (a favorite technique of mine) and social media.

Following his own advice, he has published over 275 issues of “The Likeable Expert Gazette,” a weekly E-Newsletter with over 7000 subscribers around the world. Just added my name to his list, and really enjoy his musings. Light, refreshing, and easy to digest. (Gee, I sound like a food critic.) Nutritional, too.

Michael has a BA in Psychology, an MBA, and a past career as a columnist and humorist before going independent twelve years ago. He started about age 40 (boomers take note) and is still going strong. Best of all, he is as bald as a billiard ball, which always sits well with me. Hair is way overrated…

His services range from writing newsletters to helping with marketing. He does this through books, webinars, and individual consulting. If you sign up for his newsletter, he’ll even send you a link to his free E-Book, “It Sure Beats Working – 29 Quirky Stories and Practical Business Lessons for The First Time, Mid-Life Solo Professional.” Loved it!

I’ve not met Michael Katz, but hope to at some point in the future. It is a real pleasure to recommend him to those of you considering your own JumpToConsulting.

The Likeable Expert Gazettete, by Michael Katzwww.BluePenguinDevelopment.com

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

You don’t need an MBA to consult…

I’m living proof. No MBA, and in fact, I’m an MBA dropout. But more on that later.

This post was precipitated by a recent post by Martin Zwilling at Startup Professional Musings, where Martin discusses the pros and cons of an MBA for entrepreneurs.

His advice is right in the title – Don’t Delay Your First Startup to Get an MBA. I could not agree more — don’t delay a JumpToConsulting for the same reason.

Now my personal dropout story.

I had just started a new job as a Field Sales Engineer.  My new boss, who I admired, was an EE with an MBA from a local university. When asked, he spoke highly of the program, and encouraged me to take advantage of the evening program and the tuition reimbursement.

So I enrolled. The first courses were interesting, and I learned some good stuff about finance and accounting. However, it was apparent that the MBA was designed to prepare one to move up in the corporation – not to start your own venture.

By that time in my career, I was already smitten with the entrepreneurial  itch. Unfortunately, you can’t shake it.

So I was faced with a decision — spend the next two years studying to become a corporate rat, or spend the next two years plotting and planning my eventual escape to independence through consulting. As you may have guessed, I did the latter. Damn glad I did, too!

Incidentally, this is not meant to disparage the MBA, or any other advanced degree. (My older son has an MBA, and it has helped him immensely.) If you already have one, toot your horn. After all, you worked hard for it and you earned it!

But as Martin points out, if you are itching to be an entrepreneur, more education may actually slow you down. Unfortunately, many people use getting an advanced degree as a crutch in lieu of just jumping in and starting something.

Some advice for my fellow geeks. I agree with Martin — if you have NO business background, the MBA can give you basic business knowledge. But so can a few good business books.

Or, you can do like I did, and get a job as a Sales Engineer. I learned more about business, sales, and marketing in the first year that I had in the previous ten years as a design engineer. Plus the real world sales experience was far more valuable than any theoretical MBA class could provide. Nothing quite like doing it to really learn it!

Finally, if you really want an MBA, the go for it. But just make it will take you where you want to go.

PS – If you have the entrepreneurial itch, sign for Martin Zwilling’s blog. It is a daily dose (yes, every single day) of solid business advice from a fellow Arizona Baby Boomer with a ton of experience as a successful entrepreneur.

© 2013, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Success Story – Don the Engineer…

Boomers and geeks take note! Close to retirement, and wondering about consulting? My long time friend Don shows you a way.

Fresh out of engineering school, Don and I worked together in the late 1960’s at Collins Radio. In addition to both being EEs (Electrical Engineers), we shared a common interest in amateur (ham) radio – a hobby that got both us both started in electronics.

Within two years, we went our separate ways. Don headed back to his hometown of Chicago to work for Motorola, and I headed north the Minneapolis/St. Paul to work for Sperry Univac. We both remained involved with radios — Don as a systems engineer with VHF/UHF radio systems, and me as an EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) engineer.

Due to our mutual interests, we stayed in touch. Don progressed up the ranks, eventually becoming a Staff Engineer in charge of planning and installing sophisticated communications systems, including one at the White House. He enjoyed what he was doing, and never really considered being on his own.

But a few years before retirement, his company fell on hard times. Offered a lucrative buyout, Don took it. But not ready to hang up his spurs, he wondered what to do next.

This is where Uncle Daryl enters the scene.
You see, I’d been bugging Don to consider consulting for some time. He had a wealth of experience, tons of credibility, and the right credentials — both FCC licenses and a PE (Professional Engineer) license.

But Don was still unsure. Almost forty years of corporate living can do that to you.  So, when I called to inquire how things were going, he mentioned he was taking a short class on resume writing.

What!” I exclaimed. “I thought you were hanging out your consulting shingle.” He hemmed and hawed, so I said, “You know a lot of people in this business. Geez — just make a few phone calls and see where it leads.” He agreed to give it a try.

Actually, he didn’t even get that far. A colleague had just heard he had “retired”, and called Don to inquire about his availability. A nearby county was upgrading their public safety communications system, and invited Don to manage the project — and for a rather attractive fee at that.

Thus began Don’s consulting career.
He kept busy for the next several years on a number of similar projects. Most of his leads were referrals from former customers, colleagues, and even old ham radio buddies.

Thanks to all his hard work over the years, he had a ready made network. His marketing was minimal — all he needed to do was let the network know he was available.

One of those referrals came from Yours Truly. A former client called looking for some help with some VHF/UHF radio systems. Based on their problem, I immediately thought of Don. He took the job and solved their problem, making both of us look good.

The project required a mountain top visit — not your usual consulting job. I had visited the same mountain top for a radio frequency safety survey. There were also some strange radio phenomena on the mountain that needed Don’s attention.

We both agreed these were probably some of the more interesting projects either of us had undertaken. And the views from the mountain top were priceless!

Don finally decided to fully retire (no more mountain climbing.) He enjoyed his stint as a consulting engineer, and enhanced his retirement funds at the same time. He now enjoys his free time playing with his radios at his new retirement home in Tennessee.

So, is there a lesson in all this?

Yes, of course. If you are approaching retirement (or are already retired), you have plenty of very valuable expertise — probably more than you realize.

Consulting can be a good way to leverage all your years of experience. It can keep you involved, and it can help fund a lot of fun retirement stuff too!

© 2013, 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.

Age Matters When Marketing…

When dealing with prospects or clients, age is a very important parameter. One size (or approach) does not fit all.

According to many authors, there are four major age groups that coexist today, each with their own distinct culture and ways of doing things. All were influenced by the conditions when they were growing up.

This distinction is particularly important when marketing, as you need to tailor both your message and your methods to your target clients. If you serve multiple age groups, you may need to use multiple methods and approaches.

Here are the four age groups, along with some comments:

Traditionalists – Born between 1925 and 1945, they grew up with the Depression, World War II, Korea, and the Cold War. They are often frugal, and value dedication and discipline. Most are now retired, but many continue to work or are “emeritus” employees. Some are computer and technology literate, but many more are not.

A good way to market your services is in live groups, such as short presentations or seminars. This approach is popular with consultants serving senior citizens, such as financial or estate planners. Another way is written communications, such as magazine articles or even newsletters. Electronic methods such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, web-sites, and e-mail are likely not very effective for this age group.

Boomers – Born between 1945 and 1964, they grew up with Vietnam, civil rights, and Watergate. They are generally optimistic, team oriented, and independent. Many boomers are also “workaholics.” Since many are approaching retirement, financial security is important. Most are computer literate, but may or may not not be involved with the latest in social media.

A good way to market your services is a hybrid of live/written communication, such as live seminars or webinars, and written magazine/newsletters combined with web sites. E-mail is less effective due to the high levels of spam. Blogs are probably a good method for the computer literate in this age group, but other social media may be less effective.

GenX – Born between 1965 and 1982, they grew up with layoffs, divorces, and daycare. As such, they often challenge authority and seek a work/life balance. The readily multitask, and value  independence, tolerance, and diversity. As the first generation to grow up with computers, most are highly computer literate.

A good way to market your services is through web sites and interactive social media, such as blogs,  Facebook, and Twitter. For most, print media such as magazines and newspapers are not as effective as on-line newsletters and e-zines.

GenY  – Born between 1983 and 2000, they grew up with the Internet, terrorism, and globalization, They tend to be creative, busy, and highly social. As the youngest, they also typically have the fewest family responsibilities. In fact, many are in an extended adolescence.  This age group is both highly computer and highly Internet literate, and generally very comfortable with the latest in technology.

A good way to market your services is through web sites and interactive social media, or more personal alternatives such as meet-ups. This is the Twitter and texting generation — if you can’t describe your offer in 140 characters or less, you’ll likely miss the target.

Finally, a personal anecdote. When we first used e-mail in the early 1990s, most of the younger engineers would contact us via e-mail, while the older engineers would call on the phone. Within a few short years that changed, as e-mail became the preferred medium. But even today, our newsletter list is still split about 50/50 between e-mail and snail mail.

If you are serving client across different age groups, you may need multiple methods to reach them. Finally, it is your client’s age that matters, not your own.

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

Integrity matters…

Roger Boisjoly, P.E.  – Truthteller

This success story is a shining example for all consultants — not just engineers. Roger is best known for trying to stop the Challenger Space Shuttle Launch in January 1986 due to his concerns about faulty O-rings in the rocket boosters. Although often referred to as a whistleblower, Roger prefers the term Truthteller.

Roger never intended to become a consultant. As a mechanical engineer, he enjoyed working in the aerospace industry for 25 years, and probably would have spent his entire career doing what he loved.

But all that changed the day Challenger exploded!

At the time, Roger worked for Morton Thiokol, the manufacturer of the solid state rocket boosters on the Space Shuttle program. In July 1985, Roger wrote a memo to his managers warning of a faulty design that could result in a catastrophe. Due to program concerns, Roger’s warning was ignored. So were subsequent warnings.

Roger’s memo was based on an investigation that revealed failures in the O-rings used to seal sections of the rocket boosters. These failures were aggravated by low temperatures. Further investigations resulted in a warning not to launch at temperatures under 53 degrees.

With overnight temperatures of  30 degrees for the Challenger launch, Roger and his engineering colleagues tried to stop the flight. They almost succeeded, but were subsequently overruled by management. As a result, seven crew members lost their lives in a fiery explosion 73 seconds after liftoff.

A presidential investigation followed the disaster, and Roger was called as a witness. His  testimony exposed the truth about senior management’s failure to heed warnings from him and his colleagues. Warnings about it not being safe to launch in freezing temperatures that would result in a disaster.

That testimony ended his career with the Space Shuttle program.
Retaliation was swift and brutal. Roger lost his position and was blackballed from the industry. He paid a stiff price for simply telling the truth.

But Roger survived, and became a consultant.
He passed his Professional Engineering (PE) exams 29 years out of college. Now licensed to practice engineering as an independent consultant, he started his own forensic business. That business gradually evolved into speaking engagements as he traveled nationally and internationally to lecture about Professionalism, Organizational Behavior and Ethics.

Roger is considered a hero in the engineering community. For his honesty and integrity, in 1988 he was awarded the Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility by the American Association for the Advancement for Science.  He has received numerous other honors as well.

Roger retired from full time speaking requiring air travel in 2005, but still keeps semi-active driving to southern California several time a year to speak to selected managers about his experiences.

Integrity matters… Thank you, Roger, for yours.

Edit – It is with regret I report that Roger recently passed away.  RIP, Truth-teller.


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

A forensic consultant ramps up fast…

Gene K. Baxter, Ph.D., P.E. – Baxter Engineering

I met Gene a dozen years ago through a professional group in Phoenix. A mechanical engineer, Gene specializes in forensic consulting (accident investigations, product failures, etc.) Typical clients are attorneys or insurance companies that need a professional to investigate and assist in legal proceedings and, if it goes to trial, to act as an expert witness.

Gene had started a local professional group, the Forensic Group
, composed of a range of forensic experts — engineers, accountants, nurses, and more. Since I had done some forensic work myself, he invited me to join and attend their monthly meetings.

Although curious about the Forensic Group, I was even more curious how Gene got into this particular business. His story was most fascinating.

It was Friday, February 12, 1993, and Gene was suddenly out of work. Intrigued by both consulting and forensics for some time, he hung out his shingle as a Forensic Consulting Engineer two days later — Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1993.

The good news is that Gene had very solid credentials — a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, and a Professional Engineer’s (PE) license. The bad news is that he had no prior experience in forensic work, although he had experience as a consulting engineer while employed by GE.

So what to do? Gene went to the law library at a nearby state university, picked up some law magazines, and reviewed the consultant ads in the back of those magazines. He then called several of the consultants to see how they got started in their business.

One of these forensic engineers was Roger Boisjoly, who you may recognize as the Whistleblower (Roger’s term is Truthteller) prior to the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster in 1986. It turns out that Roger lived only a few miles from Gene, so they got together for lunch.  (Roger’s story is so interesting we’ll cover it in a subsequent post.)

Soon after the lunch with Roger, Gene contacted another local forensic engineer, and had lunch with him, too. Both engineers were very gracious in sharing ideas and encouragement. They did not see Gene as a competitor, but as a potential colleague.

Gene thought likewise. Since he enjoyed meeting both, he suggested a third lunch with all three of them. One of them brought along a fourth friend who did forensic accounting. Over lunch, they decided to meet once a month to discuss their mutual interest in forensics, and thus, the Forensic Group was born.

Gene’s first consulting job came from this network.
A few months after their first meeting, Roger asked if Gene was interested in a job related to a hospital  HVAC (heating, ventilating & air conditioning) system. Thanks to that referral and the help from his group, Gene’s business was off and running.

Over the years, Gene has received several referrals from this network. Likewise, Gene has steered many jobs to others in the network when they were better qualified to handle the job. It has been mutually beneficial for everyone.

Gene pursued other avenues too — always a good strategy.
There is no “silver bullet” when marketing a consulting practice.  As one example, Gene started calling insurance companies to see if there was any interest in his services.

Although it took a number of phone calls, Gene hit pay dirt with one automobile insurer. They retained Gene to review rear end collisions. He became their “low-speed rear-end” expert, which resulted in dozens of consultations for this client alone.

By end of the year, Gene was making almost as much as he had as an employee. While not usually the case for a startup, it shows what diligence and determination can accomplish. That, and the help of some newfound friends.

Although semi-retired, Gene is still active, and the group he formed still meets monthly. If you are interested, you can visit Gene’s web site at www.forensicgroup.com. You can find Gene’s information there, too.

A quick disclaimer. I no longer pursue forensic work, but I’ll discuss forensic consulting in a future post. As Gene says, it can be both intellectually and financially rewarding.

Do you have a success story to share?  If so, please send it in.

© 2011 – 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Karl the Engineer

A retired engineer does the math…

Every time I tell Karl’s story, it bring me joy. My engineering colleagues always love it, too. You see, when some big company bureaucrats (BCBs) tried to stick it to Karl, he struck back and won.

Karl didn’t intend to consult. Nearing retirement, he alerted his company that it was time to find or develop a replacement. His expertise was soon going out the door, and he planned to do a lot of fishing. Of course, BCBs dragged their feet, and one day, Karl retired. As planned, he went fishing.

After about three months, however, Karl was getting bored. Not only was he fished out, but he had made all the household repairs he had put off for so many years. Winter was on the way, and he wasn’t sure what to do next.

About that time, BCBs realized they needed Karl’s help. So they called him, and offered him a part time contract. But there was one small catch. Since he received a pension, any contracting fees would reduce his pension by $1 for each $2 in fees. Well, as Karl put it, “You didn’t need to be an engineer to do the math.” He politely refused their offer.

But since he already had his PE (Professional Engineer) license, he decided to form a one man consulting firm. He incorporated, and then asked the BCBs if “consultants” subject to the same pension cuts. “Well, no” they replied. So he quickly said, “Fine, we can do business. And here are my rates.” The rates were about four times what they originally offered him as a contractor.

It turns out they needed Karl — badly. They swallowed hard, and brought Karl in as a consultant.  He enjoyed it so much, he started consulting for other local firms too. When I met Karl, he was actually starting to wind down. A professional colleague, he became a friend who graciously shared advice and even sent referrals our way.

After hearing the story, it finally explained his aging Cadillac. I’d always been curious, since Karl just didn’t seem like a Cadillac person. Well, he needed a new car anyway, so he took his first consulting proceeds and bought a Cadillac. He told me he did it for the BCBs — whenever he came to consult, they got to watch him drive up in that Cadillac!

Karl finally did retire, but he had greatly enhanced his retirement funds. He and his wife traveled around the country in a motor home , plus they made several trips to Europe.  All this, plus the Cadillac, courtesy of his unintended consulting business.

Do  you have a success story to share?  Please send it in…

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

Doing well by doing good…

Here is my first Success Story. These are tales of those who have succeeded at consulting (or small business in general.)  Many  are acquaintances, but feel free to send me your stories too.  This is one of my personal favorites.

I first met Lynn when we moved to Phoenix in 1996. She and her husband belonged to the church we joined. Lynn soon retired (her husband continued to work), but she wasn’t ready to slow down. Being socially conscious, she was looking for ways to contribute to the community.

Lynn had worked as a nutritionist, so she already had some specialized skills and experience.  She didn’t really intend to start a consulting business, but that was the ultimate result. At first, Lynn simply volunteered at one of the reservations in the Phoenix area. She was already aware of  some nutritional challenges faced in the Native American community, and just wanted to help.

Starting in the fall, she worked at no charge and with no expectations on compensation. The joy of working with her colleagues and seeing some success was more than enough. In the spring, she was asked if she would like to stay on for the next year, but with compensation. Unknown to her, grant money had been secured to support her efforts. It would mean traveling around the state, however, as her skills were needed in other Native American communities.

Lynn agreed, of course, and became a well respected nutritional consultant. The grants continued for several more years. She wore out two cars in her travels, but did a lot of good and made many new friends.  She also added to her retirement funds. Due to health limitations, she finally did retire, and enjoys life with her husband in Wisconsin.

Do  you have a success story to share? If so, please send it in…

© 2010 – 2012, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.