Archive for the ‘Resource Reviews’ Category

From the mailbag…Book recommendations

Just received this query from India. Wow — we have an international following!

But as I’ve noted here before, consulting is both international and location independent. Assuming others might find this useful, I’m sharing it here.

Hi,

Your website is highly informative.

I ask you a question because you have real time experience as an independent consultant.

I am a full time programmer from India . I have 15 years of software development experience. Do you recommend any book on consulting?

I want to read before implementing steps to become independent consultant.

What about Business Consulting Buzz by Michael Zipursky? You mentioned it.

Here is my reply:

Hi,

Thank you for the kind comments on my blog!

My favorite author on consulting is Howard Shenson. Here are links to two of his books that I like and recommend:

(1) Complete Guide to Consulting Success

(2) Shenson on Consulting – Success Strategies

Here is a link on JumpToConsulting regarding Shenson.

For many years, Shenson conducted short seminars on consulting. I attended one in 1978, and it started me on my consulting journey.

He published many books, so anything else by Shenson is worth reading.  Sadly, he died at a relatively young age in 1991. Otherwise I’m sure he would still be writing and teaching today.

His materials are very practical, with an emphasis on marketing (getting the business.)  Much of my materials are patterned after Shenson, so if you like my blog, you will like his books too.

I’ve also found Michael Zipursky’s website to be useful. His focus is on business (management) consulting rather than technical consulting. I’ve not read his book, but I’m sure it has useful ideas too.

With fifteen years experience, you certainly have the necessary technical experience. (When I went full time, I had nineteen years experience.)

But the technical experience alone is not enough — you must start thinking like a business person.

This is where many technical people fail when starting a consulting practice. They focus on the technology rather than running a business.

Probably the biggest business challenge is marketing/sales — attracting the business and then booking it!

All the other business issues – legal, accounting, contracts, etc. are easy and can be done in a few weeks. But the marketing never ends — you must continually dedicate some time to these efforts.

I’ve always considered marketing as just another technical challenge, with a new set of skills to master. It can be done, but it does require some work and study.  Shenson can help (as I hope my blog can too.)

Hope this has helped, and good luck as you make your own JumpToConsulting!

Thanks for writing! Drop me a line if YOU have a question. (We’ll protect your privacy if we use your question/answer as a post.)

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

Resource Review – Body of Work, by Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim’s second book nicely complements her first book (Escape From Cubicle Nation), and it greatly enhances her own personal Body of Work.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know I’m already big fan of Pam – blogger, career coach, and fellow Arizona desert dweller. Plus her husband is Darryl – how could you NOT like somebody married to another Daryl? :-)

Her first book focused on making the jump to small business. But unlike most business books, she also addressed the emotional side of starting a business – the fear, uncertainty, and even how to tell your spouse and/or family what you really want to do.

Her second book examines at a much wider range of career options - as entrepreneurs, corporate employees, non-profits, and more. The focus here is on finding your own way and creating your own story.

As Guy Kawsaksi says, “”Pam Slim shows you how to thrive by building a body of work out of your experiences, knowledge, and accomplishments… (leading to) fulfillment, joy, and inner peace.”

But it is more than philosophy and touching success stories. The book also includes work sheets and exercises to help you figure out how to develop your own personal body of work. (Nicely complements the classic What Color Is Your Parachute?Good nuts and bolts stuff from an accomplished author and career coach!

Body of Work, by Pamela Slim
Potfolio/Penguin – 2013 – ISBN 978-1591846192
www.escapefromcubiclenation.com

P.S. After reading Pam’s new book, I reflected on my own Body of Work. Or more precisely, Bodies of Work.

Body of Work I represents my engineering career - at least the past 30+ years as a consulting engineer. It includes writing three technical books and over 200 technical articles (co-authored with my business partner), training over 10,000 engineers, and solving/preventing hundreds of engineering problems.

All aimed at improving electronic products and systems across a wide range of industries. As I look back on my consulting career, it is very satisfying.

Body of Work II represents the JumpToConsulting project - still very much a work in progress. The blog continues to grow, and plans are in place to share more information/ideas in more ways with those interested in starting/building/managing a professional consulting practice.

I’ve already been privileged to help several aspiring consultants begin their journey into the wacky world of consulting. That too is very satisfying-and thanks for riding along!

Copyright © 2014, 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

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

Resource Review – Stop Acting Rich… And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire…

Just finished reading this book. A great resource for anyone (including consultants and wannabe consultants) seeking financial freedom along with occupational freedom. This is the latest book by Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of the bestsellers The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind.

Unlike too many financial guides with their special formulas on getting rich, Dr. Stanley’s book shows HOW others have already done it. For the past 20+ years, he has conducted extensive research on the lifestyles and behaviors of the affluent. As an engineer, I love it — don’t just give me a theory — show me the data!

His results are revealing. As it turns out, most high net worth individuals are not who you think they are. Surprisingly, your plumber or hardware store owner driving the beat up pickup truck may well be a multimillionaire — while your doctor in the McMansion with the Mercedes, (or even your corporate boss) may be worth a lot less.

The difference is in what Stanley calls balance-sheet affluence (BA) versus income-statement affluence (IA). It turns out that many who earn high incomes squander their wealth in high consumption (or as he calls it, hyperconsumption.) As a result, they fail to convert their high earnings into wealth.

  • Among the worst offenders — doctors, attorneys, and mid-level managers. With their high incomes and high status jobs comes an expectation of high consumption. They often live beyond their means, with big houses, fancy cars, expensive suits,  gourmet food and wines, and more.
  • Among the best wealth builders — business owners (including independent consultants),  engineers (yea my fellow geeks), and college professors. Although by no means poor, many of these folks practice frugal living, living below their means and investing the difference. One day they wake up wealthy — and not from winning the lottery.

Stanley’s arbitrary criteria for affluence is a million dollars in net worth (assets minus liabilities). He likes to exclude non-investment real estate, since as we have seen in the past few years this  represents illusionary wealth that can quickly evaporate.

The real question, of course, is how long can you live off your assets and their passive earnings? With proper management, a million dollars in assets can last a LONG time…

So what does this have to do with consulting?

  • First, you don’t need a million dollars to start a consulting business. You do need, however, to have your finances under control. That means minimal debt combined with a frugal mind set. A modest mortgage is OK, but big car payments and lots of credit card debt are NOT OK.
  • Second, if you are not in a solid financial condition, I suggest fixing your financial problems prior to making a JumpToConsulting. And when you do make the jump, you’re not likely to get rich right away, but done right you can make a decent living and untimately create your own financial independence.
  • Third, once you do make the jump, keep the frugal mind set. Don’t put your money into a fancy car or office to impress clients. Rather, put your time and money into building your business through diligent sales, marketing, and delivery of services. Continue to live below your means.
  • Fourth, as soon as you can, set up a Keogh or other retirement plan, and treat it as a necessary business expense. If you set aside 25% of your W-2 income every year, it forces you to live on 80% of the full income (plus that 25% is tax deferred) As Stanley points out, the 80% method is a great way to build wealth in a relatively painless way.

For those of you who love stats and examples, here are just a few:

  • Only about 3.5 % of the US population has a net worth of over a million dollars. This translates to about 3.5 million households.
  • Only about 0.1% of the US population has a net worth of over ten million dollars. And only a tiny fraction of those are sport stars or celebrities. According to Stanley, you are more likely to catch malaria in the US that to have a net worth over ten million dollars.
  • Most true millionaires (not the pretenders) live in houses that cost under $400,000, drive Toyotas or Hondas, wear Timex or Seiko watches, and have never paid more than $400 for a suit. So much for emulating the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Finally, why did I include this in a blog on consulting?

Because Uncle Daryl Wants You — To Be Free. Starting and building your own consulting practice is one way to do this, and I wanted to share my experiences and advice here. There are a multitude of other ways, but virtually all of them share a common theme of managing your finances wisely to create your wealth.

And in case you are wondering
— yes, my wife and I are financially independent. That was not the case when I started my consulting practice 30+ years ago, but thanks to working hard,  a successful practice, and frugally living beneath our means, we made it. You can too!

Stop Acting Rich… and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire
Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D.. — Wiley — 2009
ISBN 978-0-470-48225-1

Web Site: http://www.thomasjstanley.com/

PS - Interested in more of this? Check out Mr. Money Mustache, a blog I just discovered on financial independence by a fellow geeky engineer who retired eight years ago at age 30.  Married, with a kid no less, so it can be done by a family — not just single persons.

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

Resource Review – The Happiness Project…

Been a while since I did a resource review. For this month, I’ve selected the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It seems appropriate, since happiness (as in job/career satisfaction )is a common goal for those making a JumpToConsulting.

Recently picked this book up at the Omaha airport (Go Huskers…) Although vaguely aware of the book and her accompanying blog, I’d never read her materials. What a pleasant surprise! And a bit inspiring too, as it got me off the dime regarding what I wanted to focus on next.

A successful writer with a loving family, Gretchen was already reasonably happy. But one day (while riding a bus) she had an epiphany summarized as “The days are long, but the years are short.” Was life passing her by, and was she enjoying the journey as much of it as she could?

So, she initiated the Happiness Project, a year long effort which she documented in a blog and later as a book. To avoid being overwhelmed, she picked twelve topics and focused on one topic per month. Certainly better than making twelve New Year’s Resolutions and giving up by mid-February.

She measured and recorded her progress, using Benjamin Franklin’s methods as a model. Equally important, she supplemented her personal experiments with in-depth research. This ranged from modern psychology to the wisdom of the ancients.

The result — a delightful and thought provoking journey of self discovery, with a range of  ideas we can all put into place as applicable. Two that resonated with me were “Do what you TRULY like, not what you think you should like,” and “Be Yourself.”

Both good advice if/when you make your own JumpToConsulting.

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
Harper, 2009
ISBN-10: 0061583251
ISBN-13: 978-0061583254
www.happiness-project.com

PS – Gretchen just released a sequel titled Happier at Home. Haven’t read it yet but plan to soon.

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

Resource Review – The $100 Startup

Chris Guillebeau’s latest book (The $100 Startup) contains a wealth of information for anybody considering the jump to ANY small business (not just consulting.) It is a mix of inspiration and real-world examples backed up with proven business advice.

This is Chris’s second book. The first, the Art of Nonconformity, encourages people to follow their passions and live their lives with gusto. But it is not just talk — Chris actually lives that way.  In addition to starting several successful businesses along with a very successful blog, he is but a few countries from personally visiting EVERY country in the world. All this at under 35 years old!

The $100 Startup, however, is not about Chris nor his latest adventures, but is based on real business research. This book details 50 case studies on successful micro-businesses started from modest investments (many under $100.) The case studies were derived from a survey Chris conducted of over 1500 people who, like Chris, have built businesses earning $50,000 year or more. (Yes, some were even consultants.)

In addition to the success stories, the book is loaded with useful charts, checklists, and other tools to help you start your own business. All practical nuts and bolts stuff. The stories or tools alone would make the book worthwhile, but couple those with his insights and advice, and you have a winner.

Two thumbs up! (Enjoyed is so much, I actually read it through twice.)

The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau
Crown Business, 2012  (Available May 8, 2012)
ISBN 978-0-307-95132-6
book website: 100startup.com
blog website: chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/

P.S. - Chris  does address consulting in his book, and even includes an Instant Consultant Biz template (pages 43-44), which is also available for download.

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

Consulting for Geeks…

Just gave a talk titled “Consulting for Geeks – So You Want to be a Consultant?” at DesignCon2012 in Santa Clara, CA. With over 100 attendees, it confirmed my suspicion that many of my technical colleagues are considering consulting — at least secretly anyway.

And why not?  If you are a professional (engineer, architect, accountant, lawyer, doctor, nurse, etc.) and are tired of being micro-managed (or mis-managed), consulting can be the way to go. You can gain some independence (the biggie for me), and you get to keep the profits you generate too.

You may not get filthy rich, but in the long run, you may do better that staying in the corporate world. Plus you may have a lot more fun. After 30+ years (25 years in full time practice), that is how it has worked for me. No regrets whatever for making my own JumpToConsulting. Well — maybe one — that I didn’t do it sooner!

The decision to go out on your own is not without risks. Ask your self, “What is the worst thing that could happen? ” Sure, you might have to grovel and go back to a “real” job. I did that when the first try at full-time consulting didn’t work. But like Bob Parsons of GoDaddy says in his Rule #4, “Well … if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you.”

The biggest hurdle for many is how to get started. Hopefully, my blog can help. But for more details, I’m planning a five part webinar series on consulting later this year. Topics will include:

  • Introduction – An overview with four key questions.
  • Marketing – Defining your niches and getting the leads.
  • Sales – Collateral, contracts, and closing the deals.
  • Financial & Legal – Fee setting, advisors, professional licenses, & more.
  • Getting Started – Part time/full time, setting up your office, and commencing your marketing.

The series won’t be free (still gotta pay the JumpToConsulting project expenses), but the cost will be nominal, and the series will include group Q&A sessions to further enhance learning the “nuts and bolts” of consulting.

Watch my blog for more details on the upcoming webinars. Better yet — sign up for personal notifications (eNEWS…) or drop me an email (daryl at jumptoconsulting dot com) for more details on the webinars.

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

Consulting for Geeks…Live Presentation

You are invited to join me… at an upcoming talk at DesignCon 2012 on Consulting for Geeks. This is an update of a talk I gave at last year’s IEEE EMC Symposium.

Sixty people showed up for that presentation — as the LAST talk of the LAST session on the LAST day. Turns out a lot of my fellow geeks are seriously curious about consulting!

Here are some details:

  • What - Consulting for Geeks – So You Want to Be a Consultant?
  • When - Wednesday, February 1, 2012  – 1 – 1:45 PM
  • Where - ChipHead Theater at the Santa Clara Convention Center

DesignCon 2012 is hosted by UBM (United Business Media) , a major technical publisher serving the engineering community.  Among others, they publish EDN Magazine, Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (MDDI), Test and Measurement World, and EE Times. We’ve happily written for all four publications over the years.

One very rewarding publishing effort was the EDN Designer’s Guide to Electromagnetic Interference, first published in 1994 and updated in 2000. When this 100 page supplement (written entirely by us) went out to EDN’s 120,000+ readers, it immediately moved us from a local firm to one with national prominence. It was a LOT of work, but worth it. (And still timely – reprints are available on the EMIGURU web site.)

We also now have an on-line column at EE Times (Planet Analog.) This grew out of the EMIGURU site blog, and has been well received. This has also been good for visibility, and is a great way to share our technical insights and experience with our fellow engineers.

So, if you are in the Santa Clara area on February 1 and can make it to DesignCon 2012, please join me! Attendance is FREE – just sign up for the FREE Expo Pass at DesignCon2012.

If you can’t make the live session, watch my blog here or watch EE-Times for some future related on-line events.

P.S.  Been a bit sparse recently with the posts. Not to worry — there have been some interesting and exciting developments that have grabbed my time and attention. All good, by the way.  This is one of them.

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

Resource Review – Consulting Web Sites

Here are four web sites that specialize in consulting which you may find useful. I’m sure there are more — please let me know if you have favorites to share.

–Summit Consulting Groupwww.summitconsulting.com- Alan Weiss, Ph.D. – Focus on taking successful practices to the next level. Strong emphasis on management/business consulting. Dr. Weiss is the author of Million Dollar Consulting (see my review) plus over thirty other books on consulting issues.

This content rich web site includes a blog, free newsletters, forums, and much more. Wide range of products/services ranging from books to workshops/seminars and personal mentoring.

A product I’ve enjoyed this past year is the Friday Wrap, a weekly 15 minute audio program supplemented with a monthly video. I consider it a weekly tonic on the business of consulting.

–Rain Todayhttp://www.raintoday.com/Michael Schultz and John Doerr – Focus on sales/marketing of professional practices, both management and technical. Appear to be expanding their reach beyond consulting, as they recently added a sales/marketing program for business entrepeneurs. Schultz and Doerr are the authors of Rain Making Conversations (see my review).

Web site is membership based, with some free articles from a wide range of authors, but a lot more information for members. The latter include webinars, case studies, and more. They also offer a detailed class on selling professional services, plus research reports.

I belong to their membership site, plus attended the on-line sales class for consultants. Found it useful and got some new ideas. The class was an on-line version of their popular two day live class.

–Business Consulting Buzzhttp://www.consulting-business.com/Michael and Sam Zipursky – Recently stumbled across this web site, although it has been around for several years. Focus on business/management consulting for both beginners and existing practitioners.

Products/services are primarily on-line, and includes an introductory course/workbook for a nominal price. I recently purchased their series of audio interviews of successful consultants and found them useful and interesting.

–Jumptoconsultinghttp://www.jumptoconsulting.comYours Truly – Focus on starting a consulting practice, with an emphasis on “geeks and boomers”. As a consulting engineer and a baby-boomer, these are two demographic groups to which I belong.

About to complete my first year of this blog. No current products, but some plans are brewing. Stay tuned…

Took a break… If you have been following this blog, you noticed a lack of activity this past month. The schedule got busy between business commitments and a road trip, but the dust is finally starting to settle. Been busy writing, however — a technical blog, a magazine article, and soon another company newsletter. Still, hope to be able to dedicate more time here.

Thanks… Appreciate those who have contacted me regarding the JumpToConsulting project, and am glad to know you’re finding it useful. Please keep me posted on your progress, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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

Multiple Referrals Multiply Success…

If referrals are golden, then multiple referrals are platinum! As you become established, cultivating referrals should be a high priority.

Here is a personal example, just published in Million Dollar Referrals, the latest book by Alan Weiss. When asked for examples of “greatest referrals” earlier this year, I responded with the following story. It is an honor to be included in his new book (pp 126-127.)

My Greatest Referral…

While not the greatest financial referral, this was kind of fun. Not one, but multiple referrals, that had the client clamoring to do business with us. No need to sell this one — the client was so hot to buy he was sizzling.

First, some brief background information. We are electrical engineers who specialize in a very narrow niche, electromagnetic interference and compatibility (EMI/EMC). For the non-technical, we are the “ghost busters” of the electronics industry.

Our clients often call us when they are in pain. Something is broken, or they have failed a critical test that prevents shipping their product. Expensive either way, and they need help fast. But they do want to make sure whoever they call can solve the problem and not make it worse.

So a typical first step is to ask others for recommendations. This is exactly what our client, a young engineer recently out of school, decided to do. His boss told him to check around, so he first called a favorite college professor to ask if he knew anyone that could help. The first referral: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates.

Not knowing who we were, he decided to get a second opinion. He called another college professor who had just written an article on EMI/EMC. The second referral: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates.”

The professor also mentioned a nearby EMI/EMC test laboratory. So he decided to call them too. The third referral: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates.”

The next phone call was to us. He said, “Look, I’m a new engineer and I don’t know who you are. But every time I call someone, the tell me to call Kimmel Gerke Associates. Either you guys are good, or you have been paying everyone off. Either way, I need help!”

After a brief discussion, it was obvious we could help. So we set up a meeting, reviewed his design, made recommendations, and accompanied him to a test lab to validate the fixes. After the consultation, we knew that if anyone asked him for a referral, he would say: “Call Kimmel Gerke Associates!”

The multiple referrals were the result of what Alan Weiss calls marketing gravity. Thanks to our multiple marketing efforts, the first referral knew us from technical articles we had written. The second referral knew us from our professional society activities. And the third referral knew us from collaborating on several projects.

We’ve seen this happen a number of times. As engineers, we refer to this as an exponential multiplier. That is, if one referral doubles your chance of success, a second one quadruples it, and a third one drives it up by a factor of eight.  Call it gravity or call it exponential, multiple referrals really work!

Million Dollar Referrals, by Alan Weiss, PhD.  McGraw Hill, 2012.  ISBN 978-0-07-176927-3.  The latest in Dr. Weiss’s series of over 30 books on consulting.  Recommended reading for both new and established consultants.

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