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”
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