Quick advice for a newbie…

At LinkedIn (Succeed), Dave Wacker posed this question:

Any thoughts on starting a small consulting company?

Here is my reply:

Hi Dave,

Started my consulting engineering firm 30+ years ago. Part time for nine years, then went full time in 1987 – the day the market crashed. (The first day in business was the worst day in business — all the rest have been much better!)

Here are some quick thoughts:

* Identify your specialty -clients want specialists not generalists.

* Define two niches - demographic (ideal clients) and geographic (local, national, or ??)

* Based on those niches, develop three or four simple marketing strategies (write, speak, network) -you want to create credibility and visibility, and your goal is to have clients call you (think like a doctor.)

* Keep the above simple and focused – you can’t be everything to everybody, particularly when starting out.

For more ideas, visit my blog (http://www.jumptoconsulting.com) where I have just about finished a series on 20 Ways to Attract Clients. All methods we’ve used in our practice. Over 120 posts with lot’s of other free “nuts and bolts” stuff too.

Good luck, and welcome to the wacky world of consulting!

To date, 35 others have also left comments. Lot’s of good ideas being shared…

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

Do You Want to Get Rich???

So asked the Dean of Engineering to a bunch of freshman engineering students almost fifty years ago.

The class was Intro to Engineering, an overview of what we were getting ourselves into. When he asked the question, most of the hands in the room went up.

“Well”, he replied, “if you REALLY want go get rich, drop out now. Go out to the new interstate highway, and buy land at one of the interchanges. Build a gas station, and in 25 years you’ll be rich – and independent too.”

“But,” he continued, “stick around here and we’ll show you how much fun engineering can be. And in 25 years, you may not be as rich as the gas station owner, but you will still be in good financial shape. And you will have had a lot of fun in the meantime.”

It wasn’t until many years later that I fully appreciated the dean’s advice. Yes, the classes were interesting, but often challenging. So were the engineering jobs I held in industry.

But the real payoff came after starting my own engineering consulting firm. I was finally able to combine the independence of the gas station owner with the fun of engineering. And financially, it has all turned out just fine. Maybe that was the dean’s real message.

So a message of encouragement to my fellow geeks. If you are sick and tired of the big company politics and no longer having a good time, consider consulting.

As a bonus, old consultants are usually valued (for all their experience), while old engineers (with the same experience) are often put out to pasture. Go figure.

Finally, every time I drive by all the gas stations on I-80 north of Lincoln, Nebraska, I fondly recall the dean’s advice. Thanks, Dean Blackman!

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

Top 10 Reasons NOT to Become an Independent Consultant…

Still time for New Year’s Resolutions. In case your resolutions include consulting, here are 10 reasons NOT to go there. Not being negative – just being honest.

1. You dislike risk – Starting any business involves risk. To be blunt, some people simply do not like risk. Nothing wrong with that, but if risk makes you uncomfortable, you’re better off not starting a consulting practice – or any small business.

2. You don’t like to market or sell - The first piece of advice I give anyone considering consulting is to be prepared to peddle your butt off. With rare exceptions, the world will NOT beat a path to your door, no matter how smart you are.

3. You lack practical experience - Just because you just got your MBA doesn’t make you an independent business consultant. Most clients are looking for experience. So if you are a newly minted anything with the urge to consult, I recommend spending a few years with an existing firm before going out on your own.

4. You don’t know WHAT to consult about - As a variation, you may have experience but don’t know what to specialize in. Remember, most consultants are specialists, not generalists. And it better be fun – no sense pursuing something you don’t like or enjoy.

5. You don’t know WHO to consult for - You need to identify your niches, both demographic and geographic. You can always change or expand, but you better have some specific targets in mind before you start.

6. You just got laid off -
Don’t know how many calls I’ve had over the years from colleagues who just lost their jobs. NO, do NOT do this… unless you have enough money to keep you going for at least six moths without any revenues (a year might be better.) See my story.

7. Your finances are not in order - See the comment above. If you don’t have money in the bank, or someone who can support you, stick with you regular job. Then start saving – aggressively – so that you can break free later. See Mr.  Money Mustache for ideas – he “retired” in his 30s and now does his own thing with no financial worries.

8. You aren’t ready to make sacrifices - In time, money, and relationships. Like to watch lots of sports? Forget it. Like to buy toys? Forget it. Like to dine out regularly? Forget it. You need to focus your resources on starting you business. And make sure any significant other agrees with you, so that does not end up as a sacrifice.

9. You have little kids - In my opinion, not a good time to start any business, unless you have no other choice. When little, they need your love, attention, and guidance. And your spouse needs your help. Besides, they grow up way too fast. You can always start a business later, but you can never get this time back.

10. You think its cool - One of the worst reasons to start a consulting practice, or any business for that matter. In today’s culture, being an entrepreneur is often seen as cool. But it is really a lot of hard work. You better have the passion (along with the ability) to help your clients solve their problems and/or improve their situations.

Some candid advice from Uncle Daryl. Consider it a counter balance to my earlier post – Top 10 Reasons to Become an Independent Consultant.

Finally, if you still want to consult, come on in — the water’s fine. For me, it has been a 30+ year blast. Best Wishes in 2014!

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

Losing the Lard…

Down 40 pounds in six months! This post was sparked by comments on my weight loss last year, as reported in the 2013 Year End Review. Specifically, how did you do it, and what got you off the dime in the first place?

So I thought this post might be a good way to kick off 2014.

Perhaps it will help those whose New Year’s resolutions included dropping a few pounds (or like me, more than a few pounds.) Besides, if you are not healthy, you might not be able to make a JumpToConsulting … or any other opportunity for that matter!

First, some background…

I’ve always been on the heavy side. Even as a kid, I was a bit tubby. I enjoyed good food (still do), and didn’t care for most sports. I was a nerd, and liked to read books and to play with my ham radio. Neither of these were very conducive to better physical fitness.

Over the years, the weight crept up, and then up even more. (Being on the road as a consultant didn’t help.) In recent years, I developed metabolic syndrome — elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels — a precursor to diabetes.

My doctor kept saying “You should lose some weight…”  How many of us have heard that — and simply ignored it? After all, there are pills for all that stuff.

At my annual physical last summer, my doctor congratulated me. I had graduated, and now passed the diagnostic criteria for diabetes. He prescribed some more pills.

“What about losing weight?” I asked. He just looked at me, and handed me a prescription. How many other consultants have had their good advice repeatedly ignored?

That was a wake up call.That, and a retired neighbor (and fellow engineer) in the advanced stages of diabetes. Only a few years older than me, he has lost all feeling in his feet, has congestive heart failure, and several other complications. His advice when I told him my diagnosis was “Do something about it – NOW!”

So, I began the SEC diet…

Like any good consultant, I immediately began to research the problem. Got a couple of books, and dug into Google and WebMD. The message was clear–I was eating too much– and the wrong stuff to boot! Too many calories and too many carbs. Time to change!

So I looked at a number of diets and programs, but finally created my own plan. Dubbed it the SEC Diet – for Stop Eating Crap. (AKA the SES diet.) Here is what I did:

Cut out the white stuff. No more bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, or sugar. Went through the pantry and got rid of all the snacks – potato chips, crackers, and more. Fortunately, Mary joined me in this adventure, making it easier to cut back.

Cut the carbs. Learned to read nutrition labels. My goal is 100 – 150 grams/day max, where a normal USDA approved diet is about 300 grams. That alone cuts out 600- 800 calories. Also replaced simple carbs (like white bread and sugar) with complex carbs (like whole grains, fruits, and vegatables.)

–  Cut the portion sizes. Reduced meat portions by about a half, and replaced carbs with more vegetables and salads. This works well when dining out too – simply divide the portions in half and have a “second” meal the next day.

Cut the unhealthy snacks. No more ice cream or cookies (OK, an occasional cookie). Instead, my doctor suggested small snacks of almonds and jerky. Just a little bit usually kills any hunger.

Ate regular meals. Skipping a meal does NOT work for me. I more than make up for it on the next meal. Breakfast is simple – usually a bowl of oatmeal, but no more big scoop of brown sugar or glass of orange juice. Lunch or dinner are light too – soup, salad, or yogurt. The remaining meal is more varied, but with limited portions.

Unlike many diets, I’m rarely hungry. My research suggests that limiting carbs and eating regular meals have minimized blood sugar spikes and leveled insulin production. Apparently these two factors tell your brain you’re hungry. They also pack on the fat.

Next, upped the exercise…

I’ve been on a moderate exercise program for several years. Originally, I hoped this would help me lose weight, but all it really did was keep it from increasing even more. Sadly, even one cookie can offset an hour on the treadmill.

But as part of my plan, I increased the exercise to several times a week. This includes both cardio and resistance training. We already belong to a gym, so doubling the visits actually decreases the cost/visit. How’s that for some consulting cost analysis?

The increased exercise does help. While it does not burn a lot of calories, it helps remind me of what I am trying to accomplish. Plus I feel better.

A few other tips I’ve learned…

–Weigh every day. Most diet plans suggest weighing once a week so you will see larger improvements. I find weighing every day keeps me honest — even a small increase jolts me back into action for that day.

–Slow and steady wins the race. No, its not really a race, nor is it a diet. Rather, it is a change in lifestyle. My long term goal is to lose another 60 pounds, and then to keep it off. It may take a while (the easy pounds are gone) but eventually I hope to get there.

–Cut yourself some slack. Yes, I’ve hit the dreaded plateaus, and even increased a few pounds after falling off the diet wagon. But when that happens to you, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on. Just like in the consulting business.

The bottom line…

So that’s my story. So far, so good. Here are some benefits I’ve already seen:

– More energy - Was taking almost daily naps. As an old geezer, I figured this was normal. Guess what? Haven’t taken more than a handful of naps in the past six months, and then usually because I was up really late the night before. I feel years younger.

– More comfortable - With much of the big belly gone, confined spaces like airplane seats actually seem larger. Also, it is much easier to bend over to pick up things, and I don’t seem to get as winded. The exercise probably helps too.

– More self-aware - Used to grimace when seeing my profile in a mirror or window. Never been narcissistic, but I do like the new improved profile better than the old one.

– More sensitive - A lot of overweight people are depressed, and society’s obsession with being slim often makes it worse. That in turn can lead to more overeating. My recent experiences have made me much more sensitive to my fellow fatties*, and our struggles to control or lose weight. Perhaps this post will help someone else out there.

Finally, Uncle Daryl want YOU — to be Happy and Healthy in 2014! And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

* Not meant to be derogatory, but let’s be candid — that is how many of those disgustingly skinny folks often see us. But so what? Just keep plugging away.    

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

Today’s Marketing Quiz…

Q. What happens when you stop marketing?

A. Nothing… happens…

–Advice from an old marketer many years ago. 

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

Lead Generator # 20 – Last (and perhaps least)… Advertising…

There is a reason I saved advertising for last – because (IMHO) it is just not that effective for consulting practices — particularly when starting out.

Yet advertising is the first thing many newbies want to try. After all, Proctor & Gamble uses it to sell soap, and General Motors uses it to sell cars. We’re bombarded by ads every day, so it must be the way to go, right?

Two problems with this thinking.  First, you’re selling a service, not a product. Second, you’re a small business with limited resources, not a huge conglomerate with deep pockets. Incidentally, we’ve seen large company refugees struggle with this transition.

So forget about radio/TV, newspapers, and national magazines. While you’re at it, forget about on-line consumer-oriented stuff like AdWords or PayPerClick. Think like a doctor, not like a car dealer.

Nevertheless, some advertising should be in your marketing mix. The secret is to rule out “mass market” advertising, and focus on “niche market” advertising. You’re not trying to build brand awareness for a new toothpaste — rather, you’re trying to attract the right clients to your services.

With that in mind, let’s look at some adverting methods suitable for consulting. They combine focus with direct response. Consider both printed and on-line versions of these methods.

–Space ads - Place small ads in specialty publication read by your potential clients (not necessarily by your peers.) For example, if you are an engineer looking to provide expert witness services, advertise in legal magazines, not engineering magazines.

Unless they are potential clients, avoid academic publications that are read primarily by researchers. We once made this mistake, and all we attracted were inquiries from recently minted PhDs looking for employment.

Example - We run “business card” ads in two specialty publications that serve our niche. Not every issue — usually the annual buyer’s guide and the trade show edition. If we have an article appearing in the magazine, we run a space ad in that issue too.

–Directories - Pick directories that will be checked by potential clients. Some directories are run by magazine publishers, and others by trade/professional/business organizations. Consider both types.

It is usually best to avoid generic directories such as the yellow pages, unless your market is local. When we once ran a yellow page ad, we got inquiries from copier salesmen — but no business leads.

Example - We are listed in several directories, both print and on-line. Some are free, some have a nominal charge. When offered, we pay a premium for highlighted listing.

–Direct mail - Use targeted lists, including your own. Make it response driven. Include an offer for a white paper, newsletter, etc. Avoid fluff letters that sound like press releases. If you don’t have a call to action, don’t mail it.

Consider a mix of e-mail and snail mail. The former works better for high volume and repetition (such as mailing newsletters). The latter works better for low volume messages, and may have a bigger impact. Sometimes a “real” piece of mail stands out. If using e-mail, make sure you are not spamming.

Example - We’ve used targeted direct snail-mail for 20 years for our classes. Some years we’ve sent out over 100,000 mail pieces. The is not cheap. Years ago the response rate was 1-2%, but has since dropped lower, so make sure it is worth it. While e-mail may be cheaper, our response rates have been even lower yet.

Finally, consider advertising “air support” for your other marketing efforts — NOT your primary method for lead generation. Don’t put all your lead-generating eggs in the advertising basket!

P.S. This concludes the series on “20 Ways to Generate Leads.”  The next series will be “Seven Steps in Selling,” with a focus on selling consulting services.


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

JumpTO… Not FROM…

Time for a short New Year’s rant…

Hate your job? Life passing you by? Frustrated, and just want to escape? But no thoughts or plans on what to do next? Waste of energy!

Better to have an idea or two in mind. Something to move TO, not FROM. Rather than wallow in misery, time to explore some options. A challenge for 2014…

Time to ask three critical questions:

  • What COULD I do? What talents and experience might have value to others?
  • What SHOULD I do? Would I enjoy it? Can I make a living at it?
  • And WHAT do I need to do to get there?

Regarding the last, NO, you don’t need to go back to school for another degree. (Unless it is necessary, like to become the doctor you always wanted to be.) Too often, this is just a cop out for making the hard decisions on what to do next. See this post.

And NO, you don’t need to become a consultant. Although if you are reading my blog, I assume there is at least some curiosity about the subject. But the world today is full of possibilities and opportunities – more so than any time in history. Just explore them.

If you are unsure about what to do next, visit fellow Arizona blogger Pam Slim at EscapeFromCubicleNation. Full disclosure – I’m a big fan of Pam – unlike too many Internet charlatans, Pam is the real thing. She has also walked the walk.

Read her blog and buy her books. If you still want help to sort things out, she also offers personal coaching services, with an emphasis on small business.

If you are interested in starting/running a small consulting practice, stick around here. More to come in 2014, as I share more ideas and information based on thirty years experience as an independent consultant.

Finally, this is why I named my blog Jump-TO-Consulting. I wanted to focus on what it takes to get there. Still damn glad I made my own Jump-TO so many years ago!

Thus ends the rant. What are YOUR options for 2014? Jump-TO ???

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

2013 Annual Review…

Well, another year gone by, and time to reflect.

Got this idea from Chris Gullibeau of The Art of Nonconformity. He does this each year, and each year challenges others to do the same. Great idea!

So once again, I’ll review three categories:

But first, a quick overview…

The Jump-to-Consulting project is now THREE years old. The catalysts were questions by my older son, questions by other colleagues, and a fat file for a prospective book. With today’s economy, many people are considering options such as consulting.

I was also intrigued by blogging, and simply wanted to learn more about this Internet phenomena. What better way that to just start a blog. Incidentally, that was the same attitude that got me into consulting. Curiosity, and a desire to learn.

The EMI-GURU project began 30+ years ago, and led to full time consulting in 1987. It has been great fun, and quite successful. I’ve traveled the world, and made a lot of friends along the way.

It made me both location independent and financially independent. Best of all,it allowed me to practice my profession as an Electrical Engineer in a ways I didn’t even imagine as a student or young engineer.

EMI-GURU also provides the grist for JumpToConsulting. Much of what is discussed here is based EMI-GURU experiences. The stuff I talk about is not theory — rather, this is real world and is based on 30+ years experience in the consulting business.

HIGH-LIGHTS in 2013..

Jump-to-Consulting - The blog is up to 120+ posts. Had hoped for a few more, but still proved that I can keep a blog going. No burn out, and no plans to stop.

Not many readers (it is a pretty tight niche), but it has helped several make their own JumpToConsulting. (Way to go!) So don’t be bashful — your questions and feedback mean a lot, and they do inspire me to keep going.

EMI-GURU – Not much to report here.  Although business is slow, had some interesting consultations during the year. Also taught a bunch of classes — both in-house and public. Teaching is a primary passion.

Personal - Finally finished all the patio home remodeling, so now we can just enjoy it. The final touch was the little hot tub on the private patio. Best enjoyed with some wine.

Lost over 40 pounds! Woo hoo! Now on the SEC (stop eating crap) diet, and it is working well. Combined with the workout routine, I have more energy and feel years younger. Should have done this a long time ago.

LOW-LIGHTS in 2013…

Jump-to-Consulting - Still no book, but not sure another formally published book is that important to me right now. Been there, done that. Intrigued, however, by E-books.

EMI-GURU - Business still slow, but at this stage in my life, I’m content with the business levels. Leaves more time to goof off. No desire to return to the 30-40 trips per year of a few years back.

Personal - A planned RV trip to Alaska got cancelled at the last minute, but we did have several shorter trips that were fun. One was a trip around Lake Superior, which we had not done for almost 40 years. Beautiful scenery and a very good time.

LOOKING FORWARD to 2014…

Jump-to-Consulting - Keep on blogging. Considering an E-book or two, along with offering some on-line classes. Nominal fees may be involved to offset the costs of running the site.

EMI-GURU – Continue teaching the technical classes, which I really enjoy. As an old codger, there is nothing like seeing a younger engineer (and even an old timer) suddenly “get it.”  Love to share what I’ve learned. Will still accept consulting opportunities, but will no longer actively pursue them. Happy to help when I can.

Personal – Spend time with the grandchildren, along with reading, writing, and more travel in our little RV. Stick with the weight loss program – this is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Goal is to lose another 60 pounds so I can join the centennial weight loss club.

Wishing you all the best in 2014! And THANK YOU for reading my blog.

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

Happy Holidays 2013…

May the joy and the peace of the season be yours, and all the best in 2014!

-Daryl & Mary

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

Lead Generator # 19 – Gimmicks

Generally not in favor of gimmicks here - thing like coffee cups, key chains, T-shirts, etc. Frankly, I’m not sure they are appropriate for most consulting practices.

But the RIGHT gimmick can be an effective marketing tool, as long as it is practical and useful.

Planning calendars are a good example — and they keep your name out there all year. I’ve been the recipient of desk planners and pocket planners, and appreciated them both. And when using them, I was always favorably reminded of the calendar donor.

While we’ve not given out calendars ourselves, we have used two other gimmicks with success. Both are useful, and one even includes a bit of humor. Neither is expensive, and both are keepers — having a much longer potential life than calendars.

Useful Bits of Information (UBI) – This is a three fold mini-brochure that fits a shirt pocket. The inside panels contain several tables of engineering information relevant to our business, while the outside panels brief descriptions of our services and backgrounds. Most important — both sides contain our full contact information.

Our fellow engineers love stuff like this (and we do too.) While our business cards may get tossed, UBI may be saved for years. If/when a need for our help arises, the contact information is readily available — including our toll free 800 number.

UBI was conceived many years ago as an inexpensive handout for talk at a trade show. When people began stopping us in the halls to get their own copy of UBI, we knew we had a winner. We now hand these out with our business cards, and also in our classes.

To date, several thousand UBIs are out there, silently marketing our services while helping our engineering colleagues.

EMI-GURU Button - This is a two inch metal button one can wear. It is bright red, like the Staples “Easy Button.” Since we were first, we’ve often joked that Staples must have copied US :-) .

Our fellow engineers like this too. After all, who doesn’t want to be a guru? Like UBI, the button gets saved. We’ve even seen them pinned on cubicle walls – advertising our services to other engineers at the same time. More silent marketing.

A narrow white border has both our web site (WWW.EMIGURU.COM) and our toll free phone number (1-888-EMI-GURU.) As an aside, ALWAYS include your contact information on ANY marketing materials.

The button was conceived as a handout at a show to announce our website and phone number. Like UBI, we knew we had another winner when people were stopping us in the halls. Appreciating the humor, we even had several of our friendly competitors wearing our button.

Incidentally, the button was instrumental when we trademarked “EMI-GURU”, as it established legal proof of the use of our trademark. Or so our lawyer explained. We also pass out the buttons in our classes, making our students “deputy EMI-GURUs.” Good fun.

So don’t overlook gimmicks, but do make them useful or fun. Most important, they can generate leads when you least expect it!

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

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