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
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