Management Consulting can be an extremely rewarding career, both financially and emotionally. But many people don’t really appreciate what consultants actually do, the skills required and what being a consultant long term actually takes.
So I think this is a really good place to start these eclasses! Let’s make sure that this is really what you want to do, and that you go into this with your eyes wide open. I don’t want to be hearing from you in years to come that running your own consulting business was not really what you expected.
Now, my perspective here, is really for those who are considering leaving a corporate ‘job’, who want to ‘start up’ on their own. That way we can cover everything you need to know to ensure your success.
But these classes and the information I’ll be sharing, will be just as useful for those who have already started that journey.
The Biggest Changes
Let’s start with some of the biggest changes that you will need to cope with. Now if you are like me, you’ll rise to the challenge and actually relish all of this! But if some of this makes you very nervous, then maybe you just need to take a bit more time and care in planning your ‘escape’ from corporate life. And that is exactly what this program will help you do, so don’t worry.
You are your own Support
So maybe you are currently in a large company or ‘corporate’ where there are departments of staff to handle all your everyday and career needs. The HR (Human resources) department to look after your employment contract and working conditions, the finance department to ensure that you are paid on time, the training department to make sure you are up to date with all the industry knowledge you need and so the list goes on.
Well…all that will be gone. You will be your own support.
This can be a real challenge for some people. Take my own background for example. Before I came into industry and then consulting, I spent 20 years in the military. Now there is an ‘industry’ where everything is done for you. You just have to focus on doing the job at hand. And I see many ex military people struggle initially when they join industry, because they are so used to having this huge support infrastructure behind them.
So get used to it now. It will all be down to you! Now for me, that’s great. I love being my own boss and making my own decisions. I hate bureaucracy and rigid organisational structures.
And don’t worry; you don’t suddenly have to become your own in house expert at pay, taxes, employment regulations and the like. I’ll be showing you how to build your own part time ‘low cost’ or ‘no cost’ support team around you.
You are the Decision Maker – for Everything
Again, if you are considering setting up business for yourself, this will be one of the biggest attractions for you. No more having to deal with stupid decisions from management or having to do what you’re told, by people who have less ability and experience than you.
But here’s a word of advice, from one who has made lots of mistakes over the years.
Don’t think for one moment you know it all. You don’t! Sure, you have a really good ‘gut feel’ for how this new business will operate and prosper, but there will be times when you struggle to make the right decisions.
Join the club! That’s what it’s like being the Boss. Sometimes you don’t have all the answers, but the wise business owners know where to get advice and a second opinion. We’ll be covering that too.
This is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, your income potential now has no limits! How good is that? But there can be lean times as well, particularly in the early stages of business start up, so you need strategies to cope with that.
For example, when first I started my own consulting business I was lucky enough to do so with a business partner. We had worked in the same company. As part of our business planning we agreed to put a limit on our income for the first year. Yes, we were that confident that we actually paid ourselves a salary from the start. Well, not quite. We actually agreed that our salaries would start in month three, so as not to ‘kill’ the business before it could get off the ground.
But we knew we had to keep business expenses as low as possible during that first start up year. So we looked at our income needs and agreed what the absolute minimum was that we needed as a salary. And that was $60,000 a year. I was lucky, I didn’t have a home mortgage, but my partner did. And regardless of how well the business went in that first year, we would not be tempted to increase our salaries. We had to give the business the best start we could. Well, that was 15 years ago. I now probably spend more per year on travel expenses than that first year’s salary!
It’s not just ‘Doing the Do’
Let me explain. Many people go into management consulting because they know they are good at what they ‘Do’
- They are great accountants
- They are fantastic engineers
- They are terrific architects
- They are award-winning… HR managers. I’m sure HR managers have awards!
But that’s what I call the ‘Do’. That’s the technical skill. The industry knowledge and experience. As a management consultant, you must have that. No one is going to hire you unless you have it and can demonstrate you have it.
To be a successful management consultant, you need more. And it’s those skills that you’ll be learning here.
- How to manage your business, your cash flow, your budgets, your costing, your hiring, and firing. Yes, you’ll be hiring staff. Quite soon I hope. This is not going to be a 1 man or 1 woman show.
- How to market your business, how to close sales, how to turn customers into ‘clients’ who will want your services for years to come, and will be willing to pay you appropriately.
- How to manage the business well as it grows, recognising what a sensible growth rate is.
- How to maintain service quality and at the same time keep a lid on costs so that profits are not reduced.
So sure, the ‘Do’ is really important. But all the other stuff that wraps around it will be what makes you successful. If all you want for the rest of your life is to ‘Do the Do’, then get a job. Or keep the one you have. But if you want to be the owner of a successful management consulting business, and enjoy all the rewards that it can bring, then you’re in the right place.
And let me stress right now, I’m not talking about a management consulting business that has dozens or hundreds of staff. Sure it can be that if that is what you want. But a small team is fine too. You can make a really good business with half a dozen people and keep it at that size.
You will be an Advisor and Influencer
This is something that I see many people get wrong or mis-understand. Particularly those that are older and more experienced when they try consulting.
You may have been the boss of a large organisation. You may have been the General Manager of XYZ. And yes you may have 20 years’ experience in widget marketing. But you are now a management consultant. You advise your clients. You mentor your clients. But you do not make the decisions for THEIR business. That’s their job. So don’t get upset if they disagree with your advice or don’t do ‘what they’re told’. Respect your clients and they will respect you.
This is a tough one. Particularly during the start-up phase. You need to be committed to starting this business. 100% committed. It will take hard work and long hours to get things underway. At least at the start. Don’t fool yourself.
If you’re a single parent or a stay at home parent, or you are juggling two jobs, you need to think this through carefully. How can you get the support of partners, family, and friends, to help you through the startup? Think about that now. Because there will be times when you just can’t juggle all the balls at once. So get your priorities in order now. What things in your life can be set aside or put on hold for a short time, just while you get this amazing business started.
Your next challenge, of course, will be how to get back your work-life balance once the business ‘takes off’. I learnt that one the hard way because your business success will be a powerful drug that constantly draws you in. But we’ll be looking at strategies to cope with that too.
OK, so you’re going to start your own consulting business. In the beginning, it’s probably just going to be you alone.
So start thinking about some pre-planning. The planning we need to do, to get ready to plan. And we’ll be preparing your business plan and marketing plan in some of the next few eclasses.
Here are some essentials that we need to consider:
- What will be the consulting services that you are going to provide? And it’s a good idea if this is something that you already do, or have the knowledge to do! Because your competitors already do.
- Where are you going to provide these services? Your local town, State?
- Who do you know, that you can seek advice from? Free advice first. About local regulations for setting up a business. About local regulations for accounting and tax? Ultimately you will need a good accountant to help you with this.
So here are the key points again:
- Be prepared to be your own support structure, at least in the early days.
- Let’s get the business planning underway before jumping in at the deep end.
- Accept that you’ll be putting in long hours at least at the start.
- Don’t be too overconfident. Know what you don’t know and be ready to ask for help and advice.
OK, here’s some short homework before your next eclass:
- Describe in a couple of paragraphs the services you are going to provide as a management consultant.
- Write down two or three businesses already providing this service who will be your competitors.
- Write down five bullet points on how your service will be different or better than theirs.
I hope I haven’t put you off!
Being a management consultant and growing your business is a great career, and it can easily provide you with the financial freedom and lifestyle that you have always yearned for.