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Article No.: 12-5, May 1, 2012

Article Title: Consulting is Not for Sissies

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 because consulting is not for sissies.
Perhaps you’re not yet sure whether the consulting field is for you.   If so, this article may help you make this important decision.   I’ll share some information that could inform your decision.  The basis for this information is a book co-authored by Terri Bonar-Stewart and myself, Just a Couple of Women Talkin’, The Real Story of Being a Woman Entrepreneur, released in October 2011.
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 deep 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 some 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, and the ability to bounce back after rejection.
  • Strategic and planning ability.
  • Trend spotting acumen.
  • Comfort level with working alone.
  • Empathy.

Still not sure about whether consulting is for you?  Click on this link for a self-assessment that can help you determine the answer to this question.

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