There’s more to it then hanging out your shingle.
A lot more.
I had breakfast with an old friend the other day. He’s about to embark on consulting full time having been a CFO who found software so good he bought the North American rights. In that situation he had a safety net. He was supported by his previous firm and the software developer. Now, he’s about to step out onto the high wire with no net.
A walk on the high wire
It takes courage, expertise and some luck to go from zero to full engagement in the consulting business. I’ve been privy to this journey for more young men and women than I care to count. Those that made it for the long term put a check in the box next to these things:
Savings to last at least 6 months in the style to which they have grown accustomed.
An initial engagement for their previous company or a client of that company.
Corporate filing in the state they are setting up their business
Defined Product/Service that is desired by identified prospects
A name for the company.A Vision, Mission and Position
A Persona that establishes a brand based on a real value proposition.
Courage to network your way to new business
A door on their office.
Step by step
Savings are the crunch element for folks that are married and/or have family. All the zeal you feel for this new adventure may seem to have been accepted by your spouse and the kids but I guarantee you that going backwards in terms of their socio-economic status is not going to play out well. You need to, as quickly as possible regenerate the “grouch bag funds” so that a set back occur in your business you can stick to it.
Initial Engagement is what keeps just about every successful consultant above water in year one according to our annual Consultant Marketing Survey. It gives you a safety margin where you are providing a service that is familiar but now performed at arm’s length. Often, this connection with a previous employer is extended as it is beneficial to both parties. But because you have control of when the work is done you can engage in the activities necessary to develop your consulting business.
Corporate Filing is essential if you are going to operate legally. It is a good idea to find your corporate attorney now before you open the doors. I recommend looking for a business attorney that operates from a small or home office nearby. I went to an attorney in one of those downtown towers and realized what those paneled offices cost me after few years. My current attorney has a home office but makes house calls! Every person I’ve referred to him tells me he has kept all his high-end litigator capability but shifted his personality from downtown to down home.
The primary options are C-Corporation, S-Corporation or LLC. Your lawyer can help you select which is best for you. The key is that you have a corporate shield to minimize the possibility of any suit filed against you personally.
Defined Product/Service is essential. Some of you may think that is obvious. It is and it isn’t. Some people try to start a consulting business without having the expertise to solve a problem that their prospects have. If you don’t know what your prospects want or need, how can you present yourself? You need to define the problem you can help solve in customer terms. More importantly you need to state the solution in way they can understand it and see as advantageous to them.
That phrase “identified prospects” was not just filler. Never assume that because your old company has a problem that all other companies have the same problem. Never assume that the same solution will work in every company. Never assume that this one problem will last as long as you want to maintain your practice. Before you step out on the wire make sure there is a market for what you have to sell.
A name is where a misstep occurs most often. I made this mistake. We get so full of what we know everyone needs and our different approach that we overlook the obvious:
- People will identify your name with your practice more than any made-up name. Lawyers know this. So do CPAs. Plus a slew of consultants. You can tell the one’ that have learned this lesson over time by the way they begin to incorporate their name into their logotype.
- Unless the name you choose is based on something well-known in the industry you are working in the probability of anyone understanding it is between slim and none.
- If you base your company name on your process or part of it or a numeric outcome you are asking the prospect to make a leap which only you have made in understanding.
Vision, Mission and Position Your Vision is where you want the company to go in the future. Vision statements often include superlatives and competitive viewpoints. Generally it is for those that work for the company.
Mission is not your vision for the future of your company.
Mission is not your goals or objectives.
Mission is not something you are going toward or even something you are trying to become.
Mission is what your company is. It is why your company exists.
A vision statement is for the company and stake holders.
A mission statement is for the company and general public.
A positioning statement is for the targeted general public.
A brand is the sum of perceptions about the company in the general public.
Persona Everything you do has an impact on the people that become your clients. Don’t overlook the basics as you go to market.
Your Persona is a Core of Trust wrapped round by Product, Price and Passage encased in your Name.
Initially, the Core of Trust is you. If you operate solo it will always be. With a partner or multiple partners (an ensemble) you all have to ascribe to the same central beliefs about your business.
Because you can’t fool customers for long.
Customers see your company from the outside in. They rely on how your decisions impact them to make judgements about you
Courage Stepping out on your own is not easy. You are, in all likelihood, going to have to get out of your comfort zone if you want your business to grow and prosper. Every business is built on Networking. Every business. It will be up to you to go wherever prospects gather to get to know them and how you can serve them. You will need to find away to say something that makes you memorable. Weak statements don’t work. You’ll need to understand 30-Second Marketing TM at a minimum. And buckle up Bunkie stepping into the limelight and speaking about your expertise could get you more leads in less time than all the social media campaigns.
A door on your office is needed because if you work from home you’ll find yourself working well into the evening and on weekends. That is not good whether you are single or married with or without children. Learn to close the door and get a life. Isn’t that part of why you decided to do this?
And so it goes.
Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.
His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for crafting on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.