Archive for the ‘Success Stories’ Category

A Success Story – Marty Zwilling…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?

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

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Success Story – Bob Bly, Copywriter

Always love it when a former engineer does well! And Bob Bly, a chemical engineer by training, has done very well as a marketing consultant who specializes in copywriting and related services.

Bob also shares his knowledge and ideas through a free e-mail newsletter, which I have received for several years. He has written 80 books, and sells numerous educational packages through his newsletter and web site (www.bly.com).

Like so many of us, Bob did not originally plan on becoming a consultant. But his love of writing soon caught up with him. Although a degreed ChemE, his first employer hired him as a technical writer. He then moved into technical marketing, and the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.

Bob combines the analytical mind of an engineer with the creative mind of a writer. How is that for a niche? He is also an astute business person, and at 56 is financially secure. But he still works 12 hour days, which he describes a pure fun.

Here are Bob’s responses to my Success Story questionnaire. Very succint!

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

My boss asked me to move from NYC to Wichita Kansas in 1981 and my fiancee would not go. So I quit my job.

(2) How has it been going? Looks like you’ve been at it a while, so obviously you are established in your business.

Full time freelance copywriter since February 1982.

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting (your own business?)

Writing copy for my clients– copywriting is what I love to do.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting (your won business?

Advising clients who know less than me, are not successful, and need help, but then when I advise them, argue with me.

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

I have been around so long people know who I am and where to find me — I get more inquiries than I can handle every week of the year.

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

My fee schedule is attached. (Note – Please contact Bob directly for his rate sheet at rwbly@bly.com.)

(7) How did you decide what to consult about (or focus on?) And why? (Third question I get asked.)

I am a copywriter and do that because when I had staff positions, that was the only part of the job I enjoyed.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

Most clients won’t take most of your advice most of the time.

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

I plan to do this until I no longer can.

(10) Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to our fellow engineers who might be thinking about consulting (or going out on their own?)

There is a lot of competition today. What will set you apart from the rest of the pack? If you don’t know, then don’t do it.

Thank you, Bob, for sharing your story! Although I’ve not personally met Bob, we’ve exchanged e-mails, and I’ve found him to be a very gracious person.

PS – Just purchased Bob’s latest Kindle book (Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy -  And Other Grumblings From a Cranky Curmudgeon). Could not put it down… 75 of his favorite pearls of wisdom. Humorous yet blunt… Bob is another Andy Rooney!

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

A Newbie Success Story…

This recently arrived in my mail box, and I wanted to share it. It certainly made my day!

This is from Catherine at ViewThatData.com, who I featured a few months back in an earlier post. Sounds like she is making great progress towards her goals of both occupational independence and financial  independence.

Hi Daryl,

I hope this finds you well. I am doing fine.

I am very hopeful, enthusiastic, and excited to jump to this next phase in my life and career.

I wanted to take a minute and give you a brief update. You have been so helpful and inspirational in my jump to consulting that I wanted to keep in touch.

As you may remember – I took your advice and set my business up as an LLC. I am currently working on getting my application together for both the minority business enterprise as well as a veteran owned business. I recently got certified in my profession as a GISP (GIS Professional).

I finally got the go ahead with that church and finished their project (who I thought was going to be my first client but they weren’t).

I represented a friend at a book fair to sell her book and the man in the table beside me is a historian and turns out he often needs maps for his books so I gave him my business card. Within a month he contacted me and I have since completed 3 maps for his new book.

I have 2 nonprofits that within the week have given the word that they want to move forward with their proposals. With one of them saying not only did they want to do the training I proposed but wanted to know if I would be interested in fee-based task services for things they needed help with.

So it has been utterly amazing – every proposal I have put out has gotten approved so far (there have been 6 so far). I know that this won’t always be the case but it is a great start, plus all invoices have been paid with promptly.

And honestly I haven’t even began marketing full force – I have been concentrating on admin activities like setting up my books, professional certifications, minority and veteran certifications, etc.

We have had a major life change in my family and my goals have now changed in relation to them. My new goal is to be able to go full time with my business and become a full time consultant within the next 1 – 2 years and work from my home.

Part of the dream with that avenue is to work hard when I’m working and have the flexibility to travel several times a year as opposed to the vacation leave limits I currently have.

Here is my reply:

Hi Catherine,

Congratulations on all the progress — that is great!

But don’t let up on your marketing. BTW, your certifications and applications for minority/veteran business status are marketing efforts too. Consulting is all about “credibility and visibility.” Sounds like you’ve been doing a good job on both.

In any event, it occurred to me that your email would make a nice blog post — perhaps offering some inspiration to others who might be on the fence regarding consulting. An update from “them that’s doing.” I like to do “success stories” and yours certainly falls into that category.

Glad to hear things are going so well!

Daryl

Way to go, Catherine!

P.S. Been a little lax on blog posts here – October was busy with both work and fun stuff, including an RV trip following the old Santa Fe trail as we returned to AZ from MN. The consulting biz lets us be location independent too – and the independence is great!

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

A success story – Kellie Hedrick, PE

Time for another interview with another successful consulting engineer — Kellie Hedrick, PE, of Environmental Process Solutions PLLC.

Kellie is a Civil Engineer and a Registered Professional Engineer (PE), and specializes in wastewater treatment. How about that for a unique consulting niche? She has been in full time practice since 2010, and is located in Charlotte, NC.

I first connected with Kellie on a small business forum on LinkedIn, so I asked her to share her experiences and advice here.

Here is the interview:

(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?

Like a lot of people in 2008/2009, I was laid off. After looking for a job for about a year, I found that it seemed people needed my assistance on more of a part time basis.

After contracting a little bit, I decided it would be better to form a company and start consulting, so I officially launched my company in 2010.

(2) How has it been going? Looks like you started in 2010, so obviously you are established in your business.

Business has been reasonably good. I really enjoy working with industrial wastewater and helping my clients gain or maintain compliance with their discharge permits.

It makes me incredibly proud to solve problems my clients are facing and the fact that I can get paid to do what I love makes it the perfect situation for me.

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?

I like working with different companies and solving different problems. I tend to get bored working on the same thing all the time, so the variety I get with my company is very nice.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?

I was never fond of the typical engineering consulting format. I prefer more of the contracting type jobs where I’m providing a routine (or maybe not so routine) service over a long period of time.

The typical engineering format seems to be to get a project, design something to fix the problem, possibly oversee installation and move on. The design aspects take so long and require more office work that I really like to do.

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

The majority of my clients have come from referrals either from former co-workers or from vendors I work with on a routine basis. I have gotten one or two random client calls and it seems that they usually originate from them finding my Manta page.

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

I did a lot of research initially and based my starting fees on information I found on the GSA website for government contractors. From there, I have adjusted a little to try to be generally in line with firms in my local area.

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

I had my area of expertise and there are many consultants working in the environmental industry, so with my focus on wastewater engineering and operations, I decided I’d see if I could make it on my own.

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

Networking is extremely important.  As is keeping your name out there online.

As a business owner, you start out doing all jobs and so far, I’ve found that Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited book to be extremely accurate in the depiction of a person who starts on their own with a love for what they do in their business and how much of a struggle it is to expand into actually running a business rather than managing a job.

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

At this point, I’m enjoying what I’m doing and where I am with growing my business, so I’m likely to stick with it for now. I haven’t made any long term plans other than the fact that I plan to work forever and never retire.

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

Make sure that you learn the business side of setting up a consulting company. I’ve been at it for about 3 years now and still have a ton to learn about the business side. I love learning, so I’m still going for it.

I think I’ve been lucky to have good networking groups in Charlotte, NC where I can attend a learning session along with meeting lots of new people.

Thank you, Kellie! Perhaps your story will inspire and encourage other engineers wondering if they too could make their own JumpToConsulting. (One of the secret objectives of this blog.)

Finally, in closing – a bit of engineering humor. When I once chided my brother (a retired Civil Engineer) about his own wastewater projects, he responded “Well, it may be sewage to you, but it is MY bread and butter.”  Gotta love that engineering attitude…

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

A success story… ViewThatData.com

Just got this e-mail from “C,” who you have already met in previous posts. We kept her name private, but she is now happy to share some details of her brand new consulting practice.

Catherine helps organizations better organize, analyze, and use their client/member databases using mapping technology. This is based on her years of experience providing this service for government agencies.

What an interesting consulting niche! And what a great example of leveraging specialized experience, and transferring specialized technology to new markets.

Hi Daryl,

I’m sure it seems like I dropped off the face of the earth, but alas I got my first check for my very first client this past Friday.

Which was a totally different client than the one I thought was going to be first. (They are still interested so they claim but are not moving forward.)

My first (real) client wanted a poster size map of their family farm with boundary lines, aerial photo, and topography.

I had invoiced them on June 17 and when 30 days went by with no payment (the payment terms on invoice) I had to give a little nudge but check was delivered on Friday July 26.

So I am OFFICIALLY in business :)

All the best — Catherine

Here is my reply:

Hi Catherine,

CONGRATULATIONS! Yes, you can now say you are OFFICIALLY in business. Feels great, doesn’t it?

Not terribly surprised that the first one didn’t pan out right away – that is often the nature of this business. You need to keep on turning over new rocks.

And now, onward and upward to the next client, right?

Thanks for sharing your success! — Daryl

We first connected via Mr. Money Mustache, my favorite blog on financial matters. Written by another engineer who achieved financial independence at the tender age of 30.

No magic either — just a combination living below his means and stashing away as much as he could for several years. Similar to the focus and discipline it takes to start a consulting practice (or any other small business.)

Catherine is following the same path, and is using her part-time consultancy to improve her retirement stash. Way to go, Catherine!

Since then, we’ve exchanged a few e-mails, some which are summarized in my blog.

It delights me to hear of her success… it’s one of the reasons I started this blog!

To find out more, visit Catherine’s web site at ViewThatData.com. So, any success stories YOU would like to share?

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

A Success Story – Beningo Engineering…

Here is my first “interview” — Jacob Beningo of Beningo Engineering. It was his newsletter that provided the humor in the previous post.

Jacob speciaizes in the “development and design of  quality, robust embedded systems.” He has a degree in Electrical Engineering (another gEEk), started consulting in 2009, and has been on his own since 2011.

Here is the interview:

(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?

Pretty much since I was a Junior in high school I’ve had the itch to start my own engineering/consulting company. However, I didn’t start to give it serious thought until the 2007/2008 timeframe when I was working as the lead engineer at a start-up.

That company didn’t survive the economic down turn of the time but I started working at a university and started my company as a part-time side project at the same time. I guess you could say that the collapse of the start-up helped give me the extra push to have more control over my own career.

Over the next two years my part-time company eventually got enough work to support a full-time engineer. I took the plunge and have now been doing this full-time plus for the last two years.

(2) How has it been going? See you started in 2009, so obviously you are established in your business.

Paperwork and my first client was back in 2009 mid year. I consistently had part-time work for around a year and half before going on completely on my own in 2011.

In 2011 I was actually working full-time as a W2 employee of one of my clients from the year previously. We were developing sensors for measuring blast profiles from IED’s in the defense industry and there was enough work there that I went on there full-time until the project was completed.

(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?

The best part is all of the projects and technologies I get to work with. Working for just one company you often get highly specialized or forced to live within a small box within the larger design cycle.  I don’t have those restrictions.

I get involved sometimes as early as designing the system requirements, in the heavy development or sometimes at the end just to perform system verification. I have my specialization but also still keep a good birds eye view to understand the technologies and industries and see where they are going which helps my clients immensely.

(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?

The thing I like least is having to sell. I always feel like I’m boasting when I go through our capabilities, what we bring to the table and what we have done. The customer though wants to feel like they are getting an expert in the field even though, in my opinion, expertise is fleeting with the rate at which technology changes.

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

Word of mouth is one of the best techniques for me in addition to LinkedIn. I’ve found that networking with people and just getting in front of someone for 30 minutes with some example projects can go a long way.

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

I like to use the different consulting salary surveys such as the IEEE consultant survey. It gives a good idea of what other consultants are charging. The value tends to be on average $110 – $120 which is also what a typical engineering company will charge per hour as well.

Personally I like to come in below that average. I can easily reference that average figure and then show them how they are getting a deal immediately. The quality of our work for the price I think really goes a long way.

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

I consult about what I know. I’m an embedded systems guy with a heavy focus on embedded software.  It is what I know best so my clients get the best value by having me consult in that area.

Now that doesn’t mean that I always just do software. Embedded software is tightly coupled to electrical design and hardware. Sometimes I’ll consult just on the hardware design without any software input. Other times I’m given the entire project and design hardware and software, system tests and the whole thing.

If you are just starting out focus in on a niche and then over time open up capabilities. Starting out its tempting to go general to get any business but its better to just focus your attention on one thing.  (Easier to say than do).

(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?

I’ve learned that I always have to be selling. Just because a big project comes along doesn’t mean that the selling can stop. That project will eventually end and if the selling stopped then there could be months before the next project comes along. Time needs to be set a side every day/week to network and work on selling your services.

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

The goal right now is to do this for a long time. Hopefully with time the work load will grow to where we can hire more consultants and eventually develop our own products. We are moving that way but consulting will remain a core for a very long time. It’s fun, challenging and working with different companies and people is just too much fun.

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

Focus on a single niche and go after it. Don’t generalize your service. Sell, Sell and then Sell some more. (Sorry that’s two pieces but once I start talking/writing it’s hard to stop).

Here are some of my comments to Jacob that you may find of interest: 

Thanks for the information. Although I’ve featured a few other firms, you are the first of my “interviews.” I’ll probably post that in a week or two.
 
Glad to hear it is going well. Once you get past the first year or two, you finally realize you’re going to make it. So, congratulations!
 
I certainly agree with your assessment regarding working on different projects. That has been a major appeal for me too.

Frankly, I wish more engineers would break loose so they could enjoy engineering again.  Way too many stuck in the corporate rut. It really pleases me to hear of your success.
 
Yes, selling can be a pain, but it is a fact of life when you are in business.

A little trick I play on myself is to treat the marketing and sales challenges as just another engineering challenge.  After all, we’re problem solvers, so what is another problem to work on?
 
I also consider myself a bit like a doctor — here to help clients either get well or stay well.  Put in that light, it doesn’t feel like I’m bragging when I explain what we can do for them. 
 
Finally, keep on having fun!

Would you like to be featured here? Answer the questions in an email. Can’t promise it will make you rich and famous, but it might just help inspire somebody else to make their own JumpToConsulting.

PS – You don’t need to be a geek — all are welcome to submit their consulting success story.

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.

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!

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

Success Story… Prior preparation paid off…

As the Boy Scouts say… be prepared! Because Dave was prepared, he was able to make a rewarding career change to consulting after unexpectedly losing his job.

Dave’s experience was a actually a catalyst for Kimmel Gerke Associates. I knew Dave casually, and my business partner was pretty good friends with him.  It was the mid-1970s, and we all worked together at the same defense contractor.

Dave loses his job…

Due to a business downturn, a significant number of engineers were laid off — an occupational hazard of the defense business. Dave was a very competent engineer, but as he was just winding down on a project, management considered him “expendable.”

Job hunting was tough, as other defense contractors were downsizing as well. But several years earlier, Dave had obtained his PE (Professional Engineer) license. While this credential often means little in the defense industry, it is very important for engineers working for consulting firms. It is a bit like having a CPA license in an accounting firm.

Dave quickly lands a new job…

On a lark, Dave called up one of the largest engineering consulting firms in town to inquire about jobs.

  • The FIRST QUESTION was, “Do you have a PE license?”
  • With a YES answer, the SECOND QUESTION was, “What is your background?”
  • When he answered electronics, he was immediately invited in for an interview.

You see, most of their electrical engineers specialized in power, not electronics. A PE with electronics experience was rare. He had exactly what they needed to work on electronics systems in buildings — security, fire alarms, HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning), etc.  Furthermore, as a PE, he could legally sign/seal the engineering drawings, and also supervise the work.

Prior preparation paid off…

Thus Dave began his new career. He called my partner and told him to “Go get your PE  — you’ll never know when you will need it!” Soon after, we were both enrolled in a class on the PE license. Not long after becoming licensed, we started our own part time consulting practice – later to become full time.

Today’s Lesson… Get credentials and licenses BEFORE you need them!

Copyright © 2014, 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.


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

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