I’ve been Consulting since 1994, so that’s almost 20 years. And over those years, I’ve seen a lot of people who thought that business consulting and starting their own consulting business was a very attractive career option for them.
But very few of those people actually understand what it takes to be:
A. a really good business consultant and
B. What it takes to actually start and to grow a successful consulting business
I think the biggest change or the biggest challenge that many people find is understanding particularly if they come from a large corporate background, that consulting in the early stages can be a very lonely business.
If you come from a large corporate background, you will be used to having a large office and all of the support services around you. Perhaps, you’ll even have a PA. You’ll have people to handle your travel bookings and depending on the type of role that you have in the corporation, your role may be very specific around a certain function.
Starting your own consulting business requires you to have all of the skills that would normally be covered by different specialists managers in a business.
So for example in starting your own business of any type but particularly a consulting business, you will need to have skills in the following areas:
- And many many more
So what I very often see, is people who leave a corporate environment, very eager to start up their own consulting business, and then they grind to a halt. And what generally stops them is the fact the sudden realisation, that not only do they have to actually deliver the consulting work, but they also have to bring in all of the business. The key elements to building and growing a successful consulting business are actually being really good at sales and marketing.
And this is where I see most small consulting businesses fail. Either as individuals set up and go it alone or perhaps with a partner. They start off very often with one client or in many cases it’s their previous employer. As soon as they finish that first assignment, they come to a grinding halt, because then, they are wondering where the next client is going come from.
So I think to be a really successful independent consultant and to start your own consulting business, you need to appreciate that the technical consulting is just one small but very important part of your business success. The main success will come from your ability to bring in new clients and to manage those client relations.
So think for a moment about your skill sets, whether they are really suited to starting your own consulting business. It’s essential of course, that you have specialist skills that would be in high demand from your potential client base. But do you have all of those complimentary skills to run your own business, such as Sales, Marketing, HR, Finance and IT. In the early days, all of those functions are likely to fall to you.
And probably the greatest skill ability or personal characteristic that you will need, is the drive and the energy and single mindedness to actually go it alone. And going it alone is exactly that, you are out there on your own, responsible for your own future and responsible for everything within your business. Until you start to grow that business and build your support team.
But that for me at least, is the really exciting thing about not only owning your own business but owning your own consulting business. It’s what gets me out of bed every day, it’s that constant change dealing with new businesses, new clients, new challenges all of the time. For me at least, I still get a buzz out of managing my own consulting businesses even after so many years.
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