I have a dream … an independent business dream! Does that sound like you, dreaming yet fearing loneliness? Actually wouldn’t you love to say “I’m independent … and not alone” … enjoying the best of both worlds! Well, I can say that now, and so can you.
Beware A Naïve Easy Start
In 2000, Im, like many people starting their consulting career, left corporate and stepped into a role helping a former colleague with his business. Like so many other starting consultants, I used my small and shrinking personal network as a source of business. My reluctant attempts at marketing were haphazard as my business had started well without much effort.
I quickly learned how much I enjoyed the freedom and independence of consulting; I relished the ability to work on what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted and where I wanted. The feedback from clients was very positive and I genuinely felt that I was adding value. The fact that I was getting well paid to do all this reinforced what a great career choice I had made!
Then reality set in!
Independence Is A Two-edged Sword
The business slump that followed the events of 9/11 was devastating to my client base and of course to my business. So I went, almost overnight, from running a successful consulting practice to having effectively no income.
This downturn was compounded by the fact that I had nowhere to turn for help. Independence is a two-edged sword.
My small group of business contacts were not consultants and couldn’t offer assistance. They didn’t understand the difference between selling yourself as “the product” and traditional sales/ marketing. They didn’t understand the emotion and uncertainty associated with self-employment (particularly when you are the bread-winner for the family)
Some friends had warned me before I made the move to independence that being by myself could be very tough and very lonely… I rapidly realised how true that could be!!
The Taste Of Independence Is Addictive
My reaction to this was the same as that of most consultants in that position: I went and got a job.
The trouble was that, while this solved the financial issue, it didn’t satisfy the need for independence that my early success had created. I was not satisfied (I have become unemployable!). I had to find a way to get back my independence while addressing the issues that had driven me out of consulting.
Finding The Keys To Being A Successful Consultant
My research suggested two key points:
- Successful consultants follow a methodology.
As I found, it is fairly easy to ‘fluke’ a client or two. The challenge is to build a sustainable business by understanding and articulating your value proposition and matching it to genuine client needs. This requires a system/ process that stands up under pressure.
- Consulting is more fun when you are part of a group.
Being independent is great when you also have the option of talking to like-minded individuals; people who are walking the same path as you, facing the same issues and are open to sharing ideas and experiences. An active network also opens the door to more opportunities in different areas.
Building A Successful Independent Business
After some hunting, I found and joined a network that gave me both a methodology that works and a collaborative, like minded group of colleagues. With this in place I went back into consulting, ensuring that I made it work for me. The recipe for a successful independent business included 3 important ingredients:
- First, I invested time and money in learning the process that was proven and works which I can use when I need it.
- In parallel, I invested time and energy in getting to know my colleagues and letting them know me. That meant explaining what I offer and want to do, and why they should be interested.
- I also became actively involved in driving the direction of the network to ensure it continued to support my needs.
The result of this is that I now do have the best of both worlds:
- First, I have a successful consulting practice; An independent business where I do what I want, when I want, how I want and where I want. I use the methodology I learned to gain business from a variety of sources within my network; and I also find opportunities that I can’t address and farm them out to those who can (yes, I “clip the ticket” on those!)
- Very importantly I have the human side covered as well. I have a group of colleagues who live similar lives. We choose if, when and how we get together either for business functions or social events. These colleagues offer support if things are tough and congratulations when things go well.
Building A Successful Independent Business
And I choose to do this. I maintain my independence without ever feeling alone.
After nearly 15 years of operating this way, my advice to consultants is simple. Find a network that offers methodologies and a group of supportive like-minded colleagues who will help you along the path to success from a sustainable and fun business.
You, like me, can be truly independent … and not alone
If you want to know more about my experience and the journeys of some of my colleagues, feel free to come to one of our informal Meet-&-Greet gatherings in Melbourne and Brisbane. It is free and obligation-free. To know the details Enquire & Book Now.