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Veteran’s Day 2017…

Just hung out the flag – something we do each Veteran’s Day.  We do so to honor our veterans – two in particular – my brother-in law, and a college friend. 

  • Rest in peace, Sgt. Melbye. You can read a tribute to my BIL – A Veteran’s Day Story.
  • Rest in peace, Pvt. Novak. Vietnam took you way too soon – hope you enjoyed the pivo we poured on your grave at our recent college reunion. It just seemed right.

Thank you to all who have served!

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

The Law of Triviality…

Ever been in a meeting where some jackass wastes everyone’s time with trivial arguments? Just happened to me at a recent HOA (Home Owner’s Association) meeting. Thus, this blog post…

As consultants, it is often our job to keep meetings on track and to keep clients focused on the important issues — not the trivial.

This is not a new business problem. Way back in 1957, C. Northcote Parkinson coined Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, or PLOT. This is the same Parkinson who created the more general Parkinson’s Law. In essence, PLOT says:

People argue most about the things that matter least.

Also known as the “bikeshedding,” Parkinson observed organizations give undue weight and attention to trivial issues. He demonstrated this with two examples: the cost of building a bicycle shed, versus the cost to build a nuclear reactor. While experts on reactors are rare, everyone feels knowledgable about building a shed.

Thus, minutes may be spent on a critical decision on the reactor, but hours may be spent on trivial decisions on the shed. Not only that, the less informed often feel the need to compensate for their reactor-ignorance by spouting off on their shed-expertise – trivial though it may be.

So how does one handle that as a consultant? 

Robert’s Rules of Order can help. But even when following RRO, so here are some additional suggestions:

–Have a printed agenda – If somebody goes off topic, gently bring them back by pointing to the agenda

–Send the agenda in advance – Insist that attendees review the materials ahead of time.

Resolve in advance –  If issues can be resolved off-line, do so and report the results.

Highlight decisions that need to be made – This keeps the focus on the important issues.

Limit speaking time – If someone blathers on, politely shut them off. (I suggest three minutes, but be flexible.)

Ask why – This is particularly useful if someone want to ramble on about “sheds.” Ask “why is this relevant?” or “why are we spending valuable time on this?”

 Does all this work?

Much of the time, but not all of the time. But my asking “why” shut down a showboater at our recent HOA meeting. She was upset, and let me know, but several attendees thanked me later for politely cutting her off.

Finally, if you are running a meeting (or even just attending), remember Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Don’t let some ignorant jackass spout off about bike sheds.

P.S. Here is Parkinson’s better known law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Solve problems and report the results…

As a history buff, I found some real wisdom in a recent article about General George C. Marshall, a man highly revered for his management, wisdom, and consideration of others.

One week after Pearl Harbor, he placed then Col. Eisenhower in charge of military planning and operations. Here is Eisenhower’s recollection many years later.

Just before dismissing me, he gave me some brief instructions that I have never forgotten. I can repeat his words almost verbatim:

“Eisenhower,” he said, “the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for a final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.”

Although not at war, I had a similar experience in my career (before consulting.) Having just started a new job as a sales engineer, my new boss gave similar “marching orders.” Like Ike, I remember the words almost verbatim too:

“Daryl,” he said, “the only way you will get in trouble with me is if you sit on a problem too long. First, do whatever you need to do, but if you finally run into a brick wall, come get me. In the meantime, please take the ball and run with it and tell me about it later.”

My response was, “John, I think I’m going to like this job.”  And I did, only leaving the company to follow the dream of starting my consulting firm.

This is great advice for consultants too. It is not enough to merely identify problems. While you do need to keep the client “in the loop”, you must be ready to solve the problems and report the results!

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Apologize… and fix…

A critical test of a business is how it handles mistakes. Done right, you will have a customer for life. Done wrong, and you will lose them forever. 

That is what is so perplexing about Donald Trump – who never apologizes. As a “successful” businessman, you would think he would know better. But apparently not.

The latest fiasco with Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, the soldier killed in Niger, is just another in a string of self-inflicted wounds on his credibility, and that of the Republican party. It was only compounded with General Kelly’s added comments on Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

The simple solution for both is to man up, apologize, and ask for understanding and forgiveness. Not “punch back” or lie about it. Simple apologies would solve the latest crisis.

This was not meant to be a political rant, but rather a learning moment. If you screw something up, apologize and fix it — fast — even if you feel you are not completely at fault, and even if it costs you. Think humility, not ego.

I’ve done so several times over the years. Here are three examples:

  • When we misspelled a company name on a report (not entirely our fault) we immediately reprinted several hundred copies at our expense. Lost money on the small project, but future work made up for it.
  • When a student was given the wrong hotel for a class (not even my mistake as I was a contract instructor), I arranged for a local room, transportation, and took him to dinner. He went from upset to grateful and happy.
  • When my company (as a sales engineer) shipped a lemon to a customer, I yanked it and replaced it. At first my boss was upset (we had “procedures”) but later praised me for the decisive action. The customer bought many more products from us.

As a consultant, your future business depends on your reputation. It’s easy — just follow the Golden Rule. If you make a mistake, don’t be a jerk — just apologize and fix it! 

P.S. Consider this a quick test. If you are upset that I stepped on your political toes, I suggest you forget about consulting. Ego will kill your business even before it starts.

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Liberation Day!

It was 30 years ago today – the day the market crashed in 1987 – that I began consulting full time. Talk about timing! I’ve often mused the FIRST day in business was the WORST day in business. All that followed were better!

No, I don’t think Kimmel Gerke Associates caused the market to crash. But who knows? Maybe it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Doesn’t matter anyway — what DOES matter is that we took the chance —  and better yet, succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Yes, it was scary. But we survived, thanks to preparation and planning. I stepped out first, and a few months later, so did my late business partner. That was the plan — we didn’t want to sink our little start-up, but it was soon apparent it could support two of us full-time.

There had been a false start several years earlier. After three months, it was obvious the timing was not right, and that there was a LOT more we needed to know about starting and running a full-time consulting business. This after nine years of moonlighting.

This time, however, the timing looked good. Thanks to the personal computer explosion and new government regulations, the opportunities were there for our specialty — designing for Electromagnetic Interference & Compatibility (EMI/EMC). Quite the mouthful, right?

Already an esoteric niche, there were few other consultants, and most specialized in defense projects. We too shared a lot of defense experience, but decided to “go where the others ain’t.”  Pursuing an untapped market niche with needed experience spelled success.

Over the years we expanded into other niches – medical devices, industrial controls, vehicular electronics (planes/trains/automobiles/farm machinery), facilities, telecommunications, electrical power, and more. All the while expanding our computer (micros to super-computers) and defense niches (submarines to outer space.)

Eventually we also expanded from a local firm to a nationwide firm, even doing the occasional international project. This was aided by a book/supplement to a national engineering magazine, along with a seminar program teamed with a major test equipment company. The latter turned us into a training company too.

So how is the view looking back on 30 years? Absolutely beautiful, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Not only was it great fun, we made many friends along the way. Including our financial advisor (another consultant) who manages the money we both socked away for our golden years. (Thanks, Tom.)

As many of you know, Bill Kimmel, my good friend and business partner passed away in 2015 from cancer. At my last visit with him, we reminisced about the good times and how satisfying it was to practice our engineering profession as independent consultants.

With tongue in cheek, Bill did wryly express one regret — maybe we should have made our JumpToConsulting even earlier!

So what next for me? I’ve cut back on consulting projects, and refer them to (mostly) younger colleagues. It helps them like I was helped 30 years ago. I still teach multi-day seminars, but at a reduced frequency. Next one in December.

Call it multi-person consulting, it is something I have always enjoyed.

I also stay involved with professional activities and other interests like the JumpToConsulting project. By year end, I hope to have an e-book on consulting available through my professional society, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers.)

Small payback for the many benefits received over the years from this fine organization.

So please join me in celebrating my Liberation Day. And if you are so inclined, start planning yours!  Stick around here and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Peace — Uncle Daryl

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Good Advice from the “Million Dollar Consultant”

Good advice from a consulting newsletter by Dr. Alan Weiss, the “Million Dollar Consultant.”  He graciously allowed me to reprint it here. 

I remember working in my early years as a consultant with a company that had a defective product problem. They responded by sending two of the products for every one returned. That’s right, they sent two defective products to atone for the original defective product. My company told them to find the cause of the defect, but they got all tangled up in blame and politics, and the company went under.

We often pride ourselves on “contingent” action. That is, we’re proud that we corrected ourselves once we found we were lost. Or we spend a lot of money on fire insurance. Or we jury-rig something to work that wasn’t assembled correctly the first time. And those are, of course, important traits.

But they aren’t the most important traits. We waste time being lost and may be late or inconvenience people. We won’t prevent fires with insurance, especially if we have poor building codes or allow people to smoke in dangerous settings. The jury-rigged will never perform as well as the original assembly’s integrity.

It’s important to do things right the first time, or at least to find out why we didn’t so we don’t repeat the error. That’s important with raising children, forming relationships, and determining your future. You want to steer your kids away from trouble, not have to “rehabilitate” or treat them later. You want to deal with relationship issues without have to wind up in a therapist’s office. You hope that the sprinkler system and fire insurance is never needed because you’ve been attentive to preventing fires.

Contingent action—which address effects, not cause—is expensive, time consuming, and embarrassing. And it’s nowhere near as effective as preventive action—addressed at possible causes. After the sprinkler system does what it must, the furniture is ruined. After you get back on the right course after being lost, you’ve still squandered a lot of time.

Take a look around. Do you find yourself, at home or at work, spending a lot of time dealing with symptoms and effects you’d rather have avoided altogether? If so, change your focus to preventive action. Stop fighting fires and start preventing them.

Copyright 2017 – The Balancing Act (R) Newsletter – Alan Weiss PhD

I’ve followed Dr. Weiss for many years, and made him one of my first resource reviews in 2011. He has written over 30 books on consulting, has several newsletters and a blog, and conducts workshops around the world.

Although his primary focus is business/management consulting, his ideas are valuable to technical consultants too.  Like a Dutch uncle, he can be blunt but his advice is always sound. Thanks for sharing, Alan!

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Some marketing references…

Here are some marketing references from Michael Katz, the Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, a marketing service firm for solo professionals. 

Although I’ve never met Michael, I have been a fan for some time. Last summer I even supported an on-line broadcast for the Blue Penguin Content Club.  

Unfortunately the Content Club has been discontinued, but you can still catch the broadcast here. (30 minutes on writing magazine articles.)

Full Disclosure — No affiliations with Michael, other than I really enjoy his newsletters (and his humor.) I recommend signing up for his newsletter. Also, check out his on-line courses. 

P.S. – Read my original 2013 Resource Review on Michael here.

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Sales as a bridge to consulting…

Contemplating consulting, but unsure how to get the business? Consider a stint in sales as a bridge to consulting. That is what I did as a Sales Engineer, and am I ever glad I did.

Since sales & marketing are central to starting and building a consulting firm, the experience was invaluable. Without the sales experience, I doubt I would have made my own JumpToConsulting.

  • Prior to the jump, I spent seven years as a Sales Engineer, and three years as a Technical Marketer.
  • This after ten years in Design & Systems Engineering, where I learned the technical craft of EMI/EMC (electromagnetic interference/compatibility) – the focus of my consulting expertise.

Technical experience is often not enough- you need business experience as well. My combination of design, systems, marketing, and sales all contributed to my later success as an independent Consulting Engineer. 

For me, Sales Engineering was my bridge to consulting. Works for non-technical consulting too.

Read more in my recent magazine article “Sales Engineering — Is it for you?”

P.S. As an aside, I moonlighted during my sales/marketing time to keep my technical skills sharp. The key was to avoid conflicts of interest. 

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Summer break…

Taking a summer break.  But have a bunch of ideas in the queue, so stay tuned.

Fun times with grandkids at a water park for several days over July 4. Now off to teach a class – staying involved with the consulting firm at a slower (but still lucrative) pace.

Have a great summer yourselves!

Uncle Daryl

© 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

2016 Annual Review…

One more year gone, and once again time again to reflect.

Got this idea from Chris Gullibeau of The Art of Nonconformity. Great idea!

So as always, I’ll review three categories:

But first, a quick overview…

The JumpToConsulting project is now SIX years old. With today’s economy, many people are considering career options such as consulting. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

One of the most satisfying results has been helping several engineering colleagues make their own JumpToConsulting.

It has also been fun to learn more about about blogging and writing. That curiosity and drive to learn is what led me to consulting in the first place.

The EMI-GURU project is now almost FORTY years old (full time since 1987.) It has been great fun, and quite successful. I made a lot of friends, and traveled the world.

Best of all, it let me to practice my profession as an Electrical Engineer in a ways I could not even imagine as a college student or young engineer. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Much of what is discussed here is based EMI-GURU experiences. The stuff I talk about is not theory — rather, it is real world and based on almost 40 years of consulting!

LOOKING BACK on 2016…

Jump-to-Consulting – The blog is now over 200 posts. In July, shared my ideas in a live presentation on consulting at an IEEE engineering symposium in Ottawa. Great feedback.

Although serving a pretty tight niche, the blog has helped several colleagues. That includes both genders – consulting is a great way to break ceilings and stereotypes.

So don’t be bashful — your questions and feedback mean a lot, and they inspire me to keep going.

EMI-GURU – The sadness and shock of losing my good friend and business partner in 2015 is pretty much behind me. I still miss him, of course, but life goes on.

With rare exceptions, I’ve ceased consulting and refer business to select colleagues. I remain committed to technical classes, doing six this year. .

Personal – A sad year, however, as we dealt with my sister-in-law’s Alzheimer’s. After many years of independent living, we finally had to move her to full memory care. Quite an ordeal, but things are finally better for everyone.

Otherwise, life is good. Sami the rescue mutt continues to bring joy, along with daily exercise as a “personal trainer.” Hope you enjoyed her Holiday Greeting.

LOOKING FORWARD to 2017

Jump-to-Consulting – Keep on blogging, with at least one post per week. Also considering other enhancements. Watch my blog for more details. Better yet, drop me a line!

EMI-GURU – Continue teaching technical classes, but not more than once month. There is nothing like seeing a student suddenly “get it.” Teaching remains a passion.

Personal – Spend time reading, writing, and traveling in our little RV. Restart the SEC diet and exercise. Fire up the ham radio. Play with the mutt, and just goof off!

Wishing you all the best in 2017 — and THANK YOU for reading my blog!

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Holidays 2016…

Happy Holidays, and all the best in 2017!

sami-xmas-1

Thank you for your interest in my work at both JumpToConsulting and EMIGURU. Life as a consultant has been great for me, and I wish you happiness and joy in your lives too. Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours… Uncle Daryl, Mary, and Sami the ShihTzu

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

A quick update from the trenches…

Been a bit remiss in my posts the last few months, for which I apologize.

My sister-in-law has Alzheimer’s, and my wife (her only sibling) is her principal care giver. She recently reached the point where we realized she needed a move to full time memory care. As she is in Minnesota, we didn’t want her wandering off at -20 degrees.

So the past few months have been busy. First, investigating places. Second, getting things in place. Third, executing the move, which was done two days ago. Like a typical consultation, things have taken longer than planned, and not everything has gone as smooth as desired.

So I hope to be back on some sort of a schedule in a few weeks. Don’t worry — I still have a backlog of ideas to share. Stay tuned…see you again soon…

© 2016, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Now What???

The first half of this year has been rough. It started out with plans to move back to our old house, followed by Mary breaking her arm which required surgery. Two weeks later, my good friend and business partner (Bill Kimmel) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

All this happened in January!

It was painful watching Bill sink, but it happened (too) quickly, and he passed away in April. The funeral was in early May, followed by the sudden loss of a cousin two weeks later. In the middle of all this, the remodeling was finally done and we moved.

Like January, May was a month I don’t care to relive.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been tying up loose ends with Bill’s part of Kimmel Gerke Associates (aka EMIGURU.) At the same time, I’ve been reflecting on what I want to do next. These past six months have been a grim reminder that time is not infinite.

So here are my current plans.

I plan to ramp down EMIGURU –ramp up JUMPTOCONSULTING — and simply slow down and enjoy life. So if you are interested in consulting, stick around as I get back on schedule with this blog and related projects.

EMIGURU – While my goal is to decrease the consulting, I plan to stay involved with the training side of the practice. I enjoy training, and it also gives the most bang for the buck for helping others. More effective to work with 10-20 at a time than just 1-2 at a time.

Efforts are underway to hand off consulting projects to a select group of consulting colleagues. The objectives are to support our clients, while helping some of the younger folks in our business.

Several technical courses are currently on the books. My goal is to limit classes to no more than one a month, a reduction from past schedules. Just got back from a class last week, and have classes scheduled through September. We’ll see how it works out.

JUMPTOCONSULTING – The goals here are to post at least twice a month, and to start developing an on-line class. An introductory e-book is also on the wish list, along with some magazine articles on consulting.

Still considering the book I’ve always promised myself to write. After a couple of technical books, I don’t need it for the ego boost, but it would be fun to do. So it stays on the to-do list for now.

PERSONAL – The goals here are to goof off more and enjoy life. Visit grandkids,  spend more time in the RV, play with the dog, get back into ham radio, read, and ???

Thanks to the consulting business, I’m financially independent and no longer need to work. Not bragging — just grateful that I made the JumpToConsulting when I did.

With time and effort, you can achieve this independence too.

So stay tuned, as I share more thoughts, ideas, and examples of how to make your own JumpToConsulting.

© 2015 – 2017, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Engineer’s Week -2015

Time to celebrate for all my geeky friends! It is E-Week 2015 – February 22-28.

Here are some links that may be of interest. Particularly good if you want to inspire some young person about our crazy profession.

So break out your favorite Dilbert cartoon, and let’s party!

Beer and pizza are optional 🙂

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Some sad news…

A New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was to post here at least once a week.

Next week I’ll break it. Here is why…

Late last week my business partner (and very good friend of over 40 years) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As many of you know, this is a very aggressive disease. The prognosis is grim.

It has been a rough week, and will likely be that way for the next month or so. In addition to a technical class I am scheduled to teach, I’ll be picking up a class for him.

It’s not a problem. That is what good friends and good partners do – they back each other up. But it does mean that in the short term, I have less time for this blog.

One more thing. I take some comfort in knowing how much both my business partner and I enjoyed starting and running our engineering consulting practice.

As I told him, I’m so glad we made our full-time JumpToConsulting almost 30 years ago – and that we didn’t keep putting it off. It has been great fun and most rewarding!

There is an old saying,  “We usually don’t regret what we have done as much as what we have NOT done.”

I’ll be back. Not sure when, as we’re busy restructuring our business and wrapping up loose ends. If interested, there are more details in an open letter to our friends, clients, and colleagues over at EMIGURU.

So please check back from time to time. I still have a backlog of ideas and concepts to share on how to make your own JumpToConsulting.

© 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Still on a summer break…

After almost four years of blogging about consulting, the summer break was needed and welcome.

Still involved with this project, however, as I’ve had the pleasure to work with a couple of readers on a one-on-one basis.  It is fun to share the enthusiasm, and very satisfying to see the progress. It also has me rethinking where to go next — so stay tuned.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the summer – we’ll be back soon.

P.S. Please let me know if you have specific questions/topics to address.

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Taking a summer break…

No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog and those of you who follow it.

Just needed some down time to recharge. Doing some travel, reading some books, and spending some quality time with family/grandkids.

I’ll be back — hope you are having a good summer too!

© 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.