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Article No.: 10-3

Article Title: Is Consulting for Me?

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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At 40, I took what would be considered by many to be a huge risk.  I left an executive-level job in the federal judiciary to start a consulting practice in the field of human resource management.  If you’re preparing to take a similar risk, you’ll want to know the problems, challenges and issues any entrepreneur faces before you take the leap.
 
If you’ve been thinking about starting a consulting practice, you’re not alone.  Between 6 and 7 percent of the U.S. population is in the process of starting a business at any given time.  Of the nearly 26 million firms in the U.S., most are very small:  97.5% have few than 20 employees.  Yet cumulatively, these firms account for half of our country’s non-farm real gross domestic product and they have generated 60 to 80% of the net new jobs over the past decade.
 
Perhaps you’re not yet sure whether the consulting field is for you.   If so, this article may help you make this important decision.   In this article, I’ll share some information that is designed to help you decide whether consulting is the right path for you.  The basis for this article is a book co-authored by Terri Bonar-Stewart and myself, Just a Couple of Women Talkin’, scheduled for release in the summer of 2010.
 
So, let’s get down to business….the consulting business.  Is it for you?  The first question to consider is,  “What is consulting?”  According to Webster’s dictionary, a consultant is “a person giving expert or professional advice.”  Before a person can give expert advice, he or she must have experience and knowledge in their field.  This is a fundamental and critical concept that is often overlooked.  If you don’t have substantive experience in an area, your credibility will take a nose dive once that fact is discovered by a client.
 
I’ve probably talked more people out of going into consulting than the reverse by telling them what consulting isn’t.  Consulting is not:

  • A sure fire way to get rich…..quick.
  • An easy way to make a living.
  • Considered by one and all as a prestigious role in society.
  • The best way to earn a living while in transition between jobs.

Established consultants have built a reputation within the community based on their extensive knowledge and experience in a given area.  Building a consulting business takes time, patience, capital and the support of family and friends.  It is not throwing together some letterhead and business cards and waiting for people to call.  There’s a high level of competition for the services consultants offer, and if a person simply “hangs out a shingle” and waits, it could be a long wait.
You may be wondering, “Do I have the ‘right stuff’ to be a consultant?”  Consultants are a diverse group; however, here are common characteristics of successful consultants:

  • The willingness and ability to take calculated risks.
  • Self-efficacy.
  • Drive to pursue continuing education.
  • Self-discipline.
  • Marketing and sales skills.
  • Strategic and planning ability.
  • Trend spotting acumen.
  • Comfort level with working alone.
  • Empathy.

Still not sure about whether consulting is for you?  There are two tools that may help:  one is a self scoring self-assessment developed by Terri Bonar-Stewart and myself and the other is a short but important list of reflection questions.  Both the self-assessment and list of reflection questions will be included in an upcoming workshop that I’ll be doing for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on April 6th. 

If you have questions about this article, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Gravett at lsg@justthebasics.com.  Or, use our contact form by clicking here

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