Do you want to be a consultant?
I am a consultant/coach but I never planned to be one. I just fell in to it when my job changed at Norwest (now Wells Fargo) and I didn’t want to find another position there. So, I took my severance and hung up my shingle!
My goal was to assist businesses in getting financing, something I knew a lot about. I saw a need for this because of a current credit crunch by banks and a lack of awareness of alternative financing sources for non-bankable businesses. Additionally, I had met a lot of consultants that introduced clients to us at Norwest Business Credit who really didn’t understand what we looked for in our credit decisions, so I knew I could do it better. It was the start of a great learning experience for me!
First was the marketing part. I confess I didn’t have a clue as to how I was going to get clients! I had heard a consultant speak to a group of us aspiring consultants on the necessity for using at least 1/2 of our time on marketing and sales calls; my biggest tip from that guy. So, what worked for me?
First, I had the skills and reputation for providing the service I was offering. I had been a commercial banker as well as president of NBCI and had learned the business from the bottom up. I knew how lenders looked at things and what they wanted to see. Most important, I had a lot of experience in problem solving during my Norwest career, a skill that continues to serve me well.
Second, I had a good reputation with my customers and peers in the industry. I consulted with a few of my former customers fairly early on and established a track record of getting the results they were seeking. I also began contacting my peers to tell them what I was doing, and as a result of good relationships I began to get referrals for financing projects. I soon learned that referrals were a must to survive in consulting. My relationships with lenders and my knowledge of what they do also proved to be most valuable as I could get to the issues quickly and get them resolved or find someone that could meet the needs of my client. I was honest with them and they reciprocated by giving my clients great service because they knew I wasn’t trying to sucker them in to bad loans.
Last, I treated everyone as fairly as I could with reasonable fees and a formula that rewarded me the most when I solved my client’s problem. I have many satisfied former clients and built many references via this process.
If you are in any career I would highly recommend considering consulting as a backup plan as a short-term or long-term option in the event you are ever displaced. It is a way of assuring your survival when the market changes. But to do so, make sure you are building problem solving skills, sound relationships (and put them into a contact system!), and learn the business you are in. it is your reputation and ability to get things done that people will look for when they have a problem.