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.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

How to piss off a prospect…

Time for a rant. This was precipitated by an unsolicited phone call early one Sunday morning, from a so-called “marketing firm” run by a so-called “consultant.”

Too bad he is giving consulting such a black eye.

Normally I’d let the phone ring, but for some reason I decided to answer. Actually, I was kind of curious as to what kind of jerk would call early on a Sunday morning.

Here is a short summary of the conversation:

Who is calling please? –Mumble, mumble, mumble.

Who? –RKX Research. (Not the real name*)

And who are you? –David.

David who? –Sorry, I can’t give you my last name for confidentiality purposes.

OK, David. And just where is RKX Research located? –Sorry, I can’t give you that for confidentiality purposes. But you can Google it.

OK, David. Then who is the CEO of RKX Research, and what is his number? –Sorry, I can’t give you that information for confidentiality purposes. But you can Google it.

OK, David. Did you know we are on the DO NOT CALL list? –(Haughtily) We’re a market research firm, and we are excluded from the FTC rules on DO NOT CALL requirements.

OK David. So does that give you the right to call a complete stranger on a Sunday morning?
— Well yes, legally we can call…

OK David. I don’t really give a damn about your legal interpretations  For your information, I consider your call legal harassment. — Uh, would you like to talk to my supervisor?

Sure, put him on. — Pause

Who is this? –Yohan.

Yohan what? –Yohan K…

Well, Yohan, if that is your real name, I just talked with David, if that is his real name.  I explained that I don’t really like getting unsolicited phone calls on a Sunday morning.
— Well this is a marketing research call, and we are exempt from FTC rules..

OK Yohan.  As I explained to David, I consider your calls legal harassment and will take legal action if you ever call again.  Are we clear? –Do you want me to remove your name from our call list?

Sure – you go ahead and do that. One more thing. Who is the CEO of RKX Research, and what is the address? — Sorry, I can’t give you that information …. but you can Google it.

END OF CALL…

So, I decided to Google the mysterious RKX Research.  Here is what I found:

  • RKX Research is located in New Hampshire.
  • The owner is KM. Had to hunt a bit to find this, but yes, you can Google him.
  • The web site is self aggrandizing. No list of owners or executives.
  • The FaceBook page has not been updated since January 2013
  • The Twitter feed has one tweet in 2012.
  • LinkedIn. Forget it. At this point, didn’t feel like paying LinkedIn to learn more.

Kind of interesting. If this company is a legitimate marketing company, why so little Internet presence? Why so evasive about ownership?  Perhaps they are not proud of what they are doing?

So what can we as consultants glean from this? Lets look at it upside down.  Imagine you want to break into market research consulting, and you really want to piss off prospects. Here are seven quick ways to do that:

(1) Ignore common courtesy. Call complete strangers at odd hours. Sunday mornings are particularly effective.

(2) Hire snotty kids to make the calls. Then teach them to be obnoxious and patronizing.

(3) Prevaricate. Tell people you’re just doing “market research” even if not completely true. This lets you hide behind a technical loophole.

(4) Be difficult to reach. Hide your identity and personal email address.

(5) Don’t monitor/upgrade social media for years at a time. This has the added benefit of showing how (in)competent you are at marketing.

(6) Ignore common sense.
After all, most people are just waiting for a thinly disguised sales call from some stranger – particularly early Sunday morning. Their time or privacy are not nearly as important as you are.

(7) Brag about what a great outfit you are on your website. Who knows? Maybe your mother will believe it. Or maybe not.

Would YOU hire these clowns to piss off your customers or prospects?

Finally, I’m not opposed to market surveys.  I regularly participate in those sent by email from companies and organizations I know and trust. I do NOT respond to fishing expeditions from strangers, particularly on a Sunday morning. Nor should you.

End of rant.

* Decided not to include the real info on RKX Research as originally planned.  No need to hurt or humiliate anyone – even though they might deserve it.  Rather, decided to share this rant as a lesson on how NOT to act as a professional consultant.


Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Some comments on fees…

Here is my reply to a post at Consulting Success regarding fees. Good info on this site — but with an emphasis on business/management consulting rather than on technical consulting.

As consulting engineers, we’ve used “project fees” for years. When quoting, we provide a budget and a general estimate for time. We use an internal hourly rate for estimates, but don’t include that in our quotes.

To me, hourly rates are useless. For example, if I’m getting a kitchen remodel, I don’t care what the contractor’s hourly rate is — I just want to know how much the project will cost. BTW, I’ve used that analogy on procurement people when asked about hourly rates.

Finally, we don’t bid “fixed fee.” Rather, we include a statement that “we will not exceed the budgetary estimate without client approval.” This gives us some room for contingencies or small changes. Clients and procurement people seem to like it too.

Hope this helps. I always appreciate Michael Zipursky’s insights.

Do you have questions of fees?  Ask away…

P.S. Been a crazy week here, as Mary broke her arm. On the mend after surgery…

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Don’t Hoard Your Experience… Share it…

Learned this lesson early in my consulting career. Fortunately, somebody else made the mistake, and I was able to benefit from their goof-up.

We’ve always had a policy of full and open disclosure for our clients. Retain us, and we will share everything we know about our specialty, with the exception, of course, of proprietary client information.

Worried abut overloading a new client, I quipped,

“We don’t hold back. You can tell me when to shut up, when you’ve had more than enough details and information…”

He replied,

“No, I really appreciate your being open. The last consultant we had (on a different problem) didn’t want to share anything. Seems he was afraid if he disclosed all he knew, we wouldn’t need him anymore.

My engineers were frustrated, and we all decided as soon as we have everything we needed, we’re done.  Which is a shame, as if he were more forthcoming, we’ve have him back again and again.”

Wow, I thought, I’m glad we didn’t follow that approach. Based on this incident, we made it a formal policy to ALWAYS share what we knew.  Even if it means they don’t need us again, because we’re pretty sure they will recommend us to others.

P.S. As a consultant, your goal should be to work yourself out of a job. Your client should always be in a better state after working with you. They will thank you for it by their referrals and recommendations — and by inviting you back for new problems.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Are You an Economic Slave???

Ninety percent of Americans have virtually no savings… so says the latest issue of Money magazine. If you are in the ninety percent, consulting may offer a way out.

The problem with most jobs is that the income is fixed. Unless you are in sales (commissions) or an executive (bonuses), you have little opportunity for upside. But a consulting side-hustle can change that, and may even lead to full financial freedom.

Of course, making more money alone won’t do it. You need to cut your expenses too. Fellow engineer Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) saved his way to freedom in seven years, by cutting his expenses by 75%. Yes, it can be done purely by aggressive savings.

But you’ll get there faster, and with less pain, if you combine frugality with some extra income. I’m a strong advocate of combining both approaches — make more/spend less.

There are lots of ways to make more money. Unfortunately, many are scams or borderline scams. You know what I mean – multilevel marketing, on-line schemes, too many franchises, etc. Most of the money is made by the promoters — not the producers.

But consulting, even part-time, allows you to control your own destiny. The start-up costs are low, and you get to keep the profits of your labor. Other than the IRS, you don’t need to share those profits with those further up the food chain.

This is not meant to disparage other small businesses, such as restaurants, shops, specialty manufacturing, etc. But most of those require capital, commercial space, and employees. Not a problem if that is the way you want to go – or have already gone. :-)

Since you are reading my blog, however, I assume you have at least a passing interest in consulting –which I define as marketing/selling/delivering professional advice, with the goal of  improving your client’s situation.

No, you are not selling products or get-rich schemes – just your time and advice. You are joining the ranks of other professionals – doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, business advisers, and more.

Doing so part time is a good way to start. That is what I did. For several years, my business partner and I moonlighted on engineering projects. Eventually, the itch got so bad we went full time. But is was much easier making the transition from part-time to full-time, than from ground zero.

Two final pieces of advice:

  • First, avoid conflicts of interest. You don’t want to lose you day job, and you don’t want to affect your reputation. Integrity matters.
  • Second, keep a low profile.  You don’t want to inflame petty office jealousies. The voice of experience speaking.

My challenge to you — As the new year begins, give some thought to your own economic freedom. Remember, Uncle Daryl wants YOU — to be FREE. Happy New Year!

P.S. Back in the game… My goal is one post per week each Monday, with additional ones as the mood strikes. So join us Mondays, or sign up for our feed and newsletter.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

2014 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 FOUR 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 35+ 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 35+ years experience in the consulting business!

HIGH-LIGHTS in 2014…

Jump-to-Consulting – The blog is up to 150 posts. Had hoped for a few more, but still proved to myself that I can keep a blog going. Slowed down a bit midyear, but no plans to stop.

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

EMI-GURU – Not much new to report here. Continue to ramp down the one-on-one consulting, but still involved with the technical classes. Teaching (and sharing what I’ve learned) is a primary passion.

Personal – Dropped a few more pounds, which means I’ve kept the weight off for a year. Went into maintenance mode with Uncle Daryl’s SEC (Stop Eating Crap) diet, and it worked. But time to get more serious about this lifestyle change.

After 30 dogless years, we “adopted” a pooch in August. She has been great fun, and also an incentive to walk a couple of miles every day. I call her my “personal trainer.”

Spent about eight weeks in our RV. The longest trip was 4700 miles in the fall, visiting grandkids in CT followed by a ride through the mountains of the east coast. Beautiful fall scenery! Also visited several Civil War sites to temporarily satiate my interest in history.

LOW-LIGHTS in 2013…

Jump-to-Consulting – Slowed down in the second half of the year. Not burnout, but time for some reflection, precipitated by the passing of two friends a few weeks apart. So I simply decided to take some time off.

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

Personal – No low lights other than losing a couple of friends to cancer. That, and the closing of a favorite local funky restaurant, the Chino Bandido (Chinese-Mexican.) But life goes on…

LOOKING FORWARD to 2015…

Jump-to-Consulting – Ready to get back into the groove. Keep on blogging, with at least one post per week. Also considering an E-book, on-line classes, monthly newsletter, and a FREE monthly roundtable. Watch my blog for more details. Better yet, sign up for the newsletter!

EMI-GURU – Continue teaching 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.”

Also continue to pass consulting jobs to my business partner, who is still very much involved in both consulting and training. I’ll back up as needed, but rest assured, EMI-GURU is ALIVE and WELL!

Personal – Spend time with the grandchildren, along with reading, writing, and more travel in our little RV. Restart the weight loss program from maintenance mode. A goal is to eventually lose another 60 pounds so I can join the centennial weight loss club.

May move back to our house, due to disappointments with the patio home “experiment.” Lesson learned – beware of dysfunctional HOAs (home owner’s associations.)

Wishing you all the best in 2015! And THANK YOU for reading my blog.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Torture is wrong…(so is bullying…)

So said Senator John McCain — and as a tortured POW, he ought to know. Oooh… I feel a rant coming on…

Frankly, I could not agree more with with my Arizona Senator. Torture IS wrong — and so is ANY kind of bullying. Because Senator McCain courageously went against his own political party (and was being beat up for it), I felt he deserved my support.

Thus, the following letter was sent yesterday:

Dear Senator McCain,

As constituents, we don’t always agree with your positions. But in the case of your position on torture by the CIA, we AGREE with you COMPLETELY!

Your speech yesterday was eloquent. You said what needed to be said. Unlike too many other politicians, you shared your views without any political rancor. It came from the heart.

We fear we have become a nation of bullies… It starts at the top with agencies like the CIA… It filters down to white police too quick to shoot black citizens*… It then extends to our children — who, when they see all this, think it is OK (and even normal) to bully their classmates.

But enough is enough! The bullying needs to stop. The change needs to begin somewhere, and exposing federal government involvement at the top levels is a good place to start. In fact, it NEEDS to start at that level.

So THANK YOU Senator — for standing up to the bullies in the CIA — for standing up to the bullies in the right-wing media — and for standing up to the bullies in your own political party!

Happy Holidays, and our Sincere Best Wishes…

(* Happened again last week here in Phoenix. Black man shot in front of his small kids reaching for a pill bottle. No crime being committed.)

There are some consulting lessons here too. The Senator did not choose the easy political route, but rather spoke out and let the chips fall where they may.

As consultants, we are often called to do the same. To speak the truth, regardless of the consequences.

But one can do so with compassion and understanding. I often joke that I sometimes must tell a client “their baby is ugly.” But I always try to do so in a positive way. That is exactly what Senator McCain did in his speech.

Yes, torture is WRONG. So is bullying. But standing up and speaking out with integrity is RIGHT. Thanks, Senator!

P.S. Don’t let clients bully YOU. Had it happen once, and I immediately “fired” the client. An Engineering Director, he bullied his employees. It was embarrassing to watch. When he tried the same with me, I simply told him to find a new consultant. I think he was a bit shocked, but it was not worth the fee to put up with the guy.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Five things I’m thankful for…

Thanksgiving is over, and we’re into the leftovers. But there are still plenty of reasons to be thankful. Upon reflection, here are five things for which I am most grateful.

(1) My Family – Two sons, two daughters-in-law, and six extraordinary grandchildren. And of course Mary (my wife), the matriarch of our little clan — without whom the consulting business might never have happened.

Thanks to all of you for all the joy you bring this old geezer!

(2) My Health – Given my age, in pretty good health. But it doesn’t come for free. Still need to pay attention, exercise, and watch what I eat.

Thanks to my doctors, and all the medical professionals (consultants) who work so hard to keep us all healthy.

(3) My Prosperity – Fiscal health is pretty good too. Starting and running a consulting practice helped, along with living within our means and stashing a bunch away for the golden years. All of the sudden, those years are now here.

Thanks to my financial advisers (consultants) for keeping us fiscally healthy too.

(4) My Education – Without a college education, this former small town kid would not have become an engineer, and later a consulting engineer.

Thanks to past teachers (special consultants), and thanks to the good people of Nebraska who have funded their state university for almost 150 years. Go Huskers…

(5) My Country – Through blind dumb luck, I ended up being born into the land of opportunity. Certainly did nothing to deserve it. Born with no silver spoon in my mouth, I took advantage of many of those opportunities. It was not always easy, but looking back on my career, it was worth it.

Thanks to all of those along the way who gave me opportunities, and extended a helping hand when needed.

And special thanks to those who work so hard to protect us (your service is much appreciated), and to those who work so hard to make sure our system works fairly for EVERYONE (not just the big and the rich…)

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Now making a household move, so life is getting a bit complicated.  However, haven’t forgotten about the JumpToConsulting project. More to come…

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween…

No moral or message – just an update for the last day of October.

Got back last night from a three week RV trip. MN (where there are grankids) to AZ (where there is no snow) via CT (where there are more grankids.) The trip included drives through the Shenandoah Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Natchez Trace. The fall foliage was beautiful!

A major advantage of independent consulting is that you control your schedule. If you want to take some time off, you don’t need to ask your boss. After all, YOU are the boss.

Of course, the downside is that when you are not working, you are not billing. But there is more to life than merely making money. Real wealth is discretionary time –  and for the past several weeks I spent my discretionary time simply having a lot of fun.

But all play and no work is not good either. So after taking some time off,  it is now back into the saddle with more stuff to follow at JumpToConsulting. Stay tuned…

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

What Next???

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed a lack of posts this summer. Don’t worry — not quitting — just needed some time to regroup.

A key catalyst was two recent funerals. Not to sound morbid, but these events have a way of causing one to reflect on where one has been, and where one wants to go next. They are also not so subtle reminders that time is limited, and life needs to be lived now!

The first funeral was an old college friend, and the second was a relative. Both wonderful people who left us way too soon. Sadly, both had delayed retirement plans until is was too late. Thus, the cause for reflection.

So what next? Here are some plans – subject to change, of course.

– Keep blogging at JumpToConsulting. I have at least another 100 ideas for posts, including a  series on selling consulting services, patterned after the recent series on generating leads.

– Wind down the engineering consulting practice.
This has been happening anyway — if you don’t continually market, that is the result.

But that’s OK. I plan to stay involved with the training side of the business, which I really enjoy. (My business partner remains active with both the consulting and the training.)

– Develop the on-line classes I’ve been promising, along with the book. Focused on how to start/build/maintain a small professional consulting practice, just as I did 30+ years ago.

Aimed at those who are highly interested in consulting as a possible business/lifestyle, with an emphasis on geeks & geezers (technical professionals and/or boomers over 40) – my own personal demographics.

– Increase leisure travel. Two years ago we bought a small RV, which has been great fun. The plan is for more RV fun – both short trips and some extended trips. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even start a travel blog.

– Simply enjoy retirement. Yes, I finally admit I’m retired – or at least 90% retired (hard to shut down 100% when you started the business.) But JumpToConsulting remains a primary retirement project, so it is not going away. See On Becoming and OLD Warrior.

So thank you to my readers! It is a small group in a pretty tight niche, but it has been fun to interact with so many of you.

Finally, please write or comment if you have specific question about the wacky world of consulting!

P.S. – After 30 years, we just got a pooch again. Several years old, she came from a pet rescue. What a sweetheart, and a definite enhancement to our lives and to our retirement.

Copyright © 2015, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.