Please upgrade your web browser

These pages are built with modern web browsers in mind, and are not optimized for Internet Explorer 8 or below. Please try using another web browser, such as Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, Internet Explorer 11, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari.

AdvisorNet

I would like to start my own business consultant business, what are your recommendations?

Veteran

Joel Carbajal El Paso, TX

I'm six classes short of completing a BS and will continue to get my MBA and would like to start my consulting business, I have learned that there are many small business owner that are good at their trade but lack the management skills to succeed as business owners. I want to help while starting my own business.
I also train resiliency and performance skills that help with leadership and personal affairs. amongst the 14 skills I teach there are a few that help increase performance. Thru my studies I have learned the importance of employee behavior as well as employer behavior

12 January 2015 22 replies Leadership & Management

Answers

Advisor

Don Barkman Oak Ridge, TN

You can work on your language skills too. It is "consulting" not consultant business. "Amongst" is awkward when "among" does the job. Nobody will tell you this, but it makes an initial impression of your skill.

19 July 2016 Helpful answer

Advisor

Storm Cunningham Arlington, VA

Hi, Joel. Business consulting is a crowded field, populated in large part by laid-off managers. Many folks consider the word "consultant" to be somewhat synonymous with "unemployed". As a result, your biggest challenge (beyond getting the word out) is credibility. MBAs are a dime a dozen, so my advice is to write a book that positions you as an expert in a viable niche. Don't yet have a niche expertise? The process of researching and writing the book can create it, and the process of serving your clients can bolster it.

That's exactly the path I took. I wrote The Restoration Economy between 1996 and 2001, while working a 9-5 job. I came in at 6am and wrote until 9am, so that I made daily progress toward my goal. I had no prior expertise in the fields of community revitalization or natural resource restoration: I learned as I wrote. The book came out in 2002, when I left my job to speak and consult for a living, which added to my knowledge.

Even in these days of self-publishing, where getting a book out is so much easier (mine were from "real" publishers, like McGraw-Hill), being an author carries a level of focus, credibility and mystique that no generic MBA can match.
Good luck! - Storm (storm@revitaliz.com)
https://RevitalizationNews.com
http://StormCunningham.com
http://RestorationEconomy.com
http://Rewealth.com

Veteran

Kent Watson Monticello, FL

My recommendation would be to go to the US Small Business Administration, because they exist to help you become successful. Being a Veteran gives you a major advantage. They can help you to build a portfolio and make available loans. Please do not forget to overlook available grants and apply for every possible grants. What can help is having political leadership endorse your grants. As a Consultant, know that you need to keep very meticulous business expenses for tax purposes. I have 39 years of public service and now a Consultant to a high powered firm in the Washington, DC area. I live in just outside the Capitol of Florida. Best of Luck! Kent T. Watson

Advisor

Howard Turk Santa Monica, CA

There are some excellent answers in this thread. I agree with the comment about language as first impressions are key.
My sense is that you need to better portray your 'Why' (see Simon Sinek) and sort a proper business plan with goals that are S.M.A.R.T. Beyond all this, what is your expertise? What do you know that the prospective clients do not?

Advisor

Bob Molluro Wilmington, DE

Joel, I believe I have a copy of a conversation that I had with another individual who wanted to go into management consulting. If you would like to hear it let me know. Send me an email to ramco1@verizon.net.
Warmly,
Bob Molluro

Veteran

Connie Turner Schuylerville, NY

Hello, I'm a contract professional for the army and honestly I find many small businesses need help with the little things- if you become an expert at the administrative questions they need help with- you will be able to get in the door. Take the time to learn WAWF, SAM, know your NAICs codes, know the FAR inside and out, how to apply for a DUNs number. Hook the businesses up with FBO- many pay for a free service. Good luck!

Advisor

Carol Lindberg San Diego, CA

Consultants are outsiders hired to make an immediate impact on businesses. Excellent leadership skills are necessary to do this job well. Below are five of the most desirable qualities of consulting professionals:

1. High Ethical Standards

Leaders must be able to set an example and command the respect of those around them. Adhering to high ethical standards fosters an enviable reputation. It sways people to listen to what you have to say. They take your words seriously, making them more likely to follow instructions.

2. Creativity in Problem Solving

Consultants are expected to provide a fresh set of eyes. Companies may be dealing with lingering problems they can't solve so they hire someone from the outside to get a different perspective. Creativity is often required to fix these issues. Come up with a new approach that can address concerns using available resources.

3. Relentless Positive Thinking

Businesses all have their ups and downs. It's easy to sail through the former but it can be extremely difficult to find a way out of the latter. It is important to keep the morale high and keep everyone focused on the job at hand. Influence them with relentless positive thinking.

4. Consistent Reliability

Develop trust by being consistently reliable with work. Deliver the expected results within the allotted period every single time. Pay attention to detail to ensure that the quality is beyond reproach. Others will quickly learn to have faith in your abilities as a leader and team member.

5. Outstanding Communication Skills

Finally, anyone who wishes to do well at consulting must sharpen his or her communication skills. Brilliant ideas will not be actionable until they are clearly explained. Wise words convince people to follow and prevent misunderstandings for a harmonious working environment.

Leadership & Consulting Resources:
http://healthinformatics.uic.edu/resources/articles/these-leadership-skills-are-necessary-in-health-care/
https://hbr.org/2014/03/the-seven-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-c-suite
http://projectmgmt.brandeis.edu/resources/infographics/clear-communication-successful-project-management/

Advisor

Phillip Nelson Tyrone, GA

There are many franchise opportunities in the business consulting sector. Franchise systems like working with veterans because you understand the value of following a system and a franchise is a system. The distinct advantage with investing in a franchise is you obtain all of the knowledge that would otherwise take years to obtain and a network of fellow owners who are are interested in your success. Investments can range but a good figure to plan on is $50k and for that amount you would receive additional training, support and help to address any business skills that may be lacking. Some franchise opportunities focus on specific areas like expense reduction and others are more broad in the areas/industries/clients that they serve. I would be happy to help answer any questions you may have and investigate options if they make sense for you and your situation.

Advisor

FRANCIS TEPEDINO, ESQ. San Diego, CA

Good for you.

But why should a small business - perhaps carefully watching their thin and "uneven" "cash flow" - pay you for advice?

Hard question? Maybe. But if you cannot answer it, look for something else to do.

I started my own successful consulting business after stints in senior management positions in a number of different industries. This, plus my degrees in Engineering; Industrial Management; graduate studies in Finance, and a JD.

My advice, forget the MBA. Get a JD - go to night Law School if you have to - (I had to), get at least a few years experience in industry, and THEN look to start your own consulting business.

Good luck.

Advisor

Mark Hannah Incline Village, NV

All great comments, I chose the route of Keith Van Sickle, find your niche then socialize it to assess demand. I hot-rodded my niche starting as a Business Analyst, then added power tools to my tool belt in Business Intelligence > Lean Six Sigma > Agile > Kanban > Cyber Security > Project Management (PMP) > Data Science-Machine Learning-AI and now VR/AR. As was mentioned identify your foundation then build and expand on it to broaden your market share of clients. It's great to attend relevant socials from Meetup.com to test the waters for your "services" and/or conduct a basic SWOT...possibly form a horizontal or vertical strategic partner relationship with other consultants offering similar services. I'm not a Marketing person by any means but brilliance in the basics is for you to identify what your supplying and then find or create the demand...focus on an artisanal or "how" versus "what" as this differentiates you. Seriously take iterative and incremental steps to refine your business model and plan, I use a personal Kanban board with a Backlog list of action items, then my WIP list, then my Done list to track my daily accomplishments...I measure my throughput too as I work remotely and can be distracted easily...I first became a W2 contractor under a staffing firm in a targeted consulting role which increased my knowledge of best practices, formed prospective relationships, branded my portfolio of clients, and bought me some time to plan my launch. Before my contract ended, I spent the allowable ~$5k to get up and running by forming a C-Corp then filing for S-Corp status, thereafter, business banking accounts and setting up my own Chart of Accounts in Quickbooks. A CPA who knows how best to manage consultants can really take care of you on top of being self-taught (it is the information age). I went through incorporate.com, costs about $2k to setup. They'll send you Nolo books on how to manage the fun stuff of Corporate forms, meetings, etc. all a piece of cake once you've built the first versions/templates and add reminders on a calendar. Today I spend max 2 hours a week managing my corporation and payroll, very lean I am. Also for leads I commission locally via 1099 Bus-Dev or Tech recruiters to manage my clients leads and give them my calendar - an expense that is tax-deductible and has ROI. Note, most services you need are deductible so don't go cheap and/or commit economic treason by off-shoring (add lose IP), I've had many great U.S. college students who are peerless to cheap labor for hourly tasks (IT, Accounting, Marketing, Editors, etc.). I work with high talent from the E. Coast to Hawaii-Guam (24/7 ops) and its a patriotic and smart choice in my experience. Best of luck, with commitment and never quitting you will hit your target. Cheers, Mark

Advisor

Don Barkman Oak Ridge, TN

You need to offer something that is both unique and in demand. Selling it is the hard part. Expect 6 months from the time you launch til you see any business. You need money to live on for that period before you start.

Advisor

Steve Camkin Boise, ID

Joel,
I am in the learning and development field and considering developing a program in 2016 around resilience. If you have any interest in connecting I am on LinkedIn as Steve Camkin.

Regards,
Steve

Advisor

June R Massoud Burlington, VT

Why don't you join: SCORE, Service Corps of Retired Executives. They match retired corporate executives with business startups for coaching. Look them up on the internet.
Best,
June R Massoud

Veteran

Robert Paiva Houston, TX

Joel,

I hope this reply isn't too tardy. Creating a consultancy, which so many have and so few have been successful, much less building one and running one is not for the faint of heart. As mentioned previously, you are entering a very crowded field and one that contains more characters and well-intentioned idealists than business owners would enjoy. You are still working on your degrees and from what I gather lack true "in-the-field" business experience whereby you can give credit to hands-on success versus academic achievement.

You will be better served applying with an established consultancy and joining them in their entry level position and work your way up from there. 5 years experience coupled with an MBA will serve you far greater down the road than jumping in with little to no business experience.

That way when you do start your business, you will have contact network and a track-record on which to sell your services.

Good luck to you!

Advisor

David Eastman Gresham, OR

Joel,

Of the 40 years I have worked in business, 25 of those years was a marketing consultant. I don't think I meant to begin my career as a consultant, but circumstances--like my company being sold--forced me into that career and I have greatly enjoyed it. Consultants can play a significant role in helping their clients build a business, expand into a new market, add a capability other employees don't offer, guide management in a new direction, be the initiator of a restructuring project, etc., etc. Because consultants are outside paid help, they can operate as equal mentors to their clients top and middle management and this allows them to accomplish their task.

Consultants also have special skill sets that they bring to the table and this is what you want to focus on if you want a consulting career. What are your special skill sets that set you apart from other consultants and your clients?

I am not sure you can "learn" to become a consultant. As Wyatt said in his comment, Just Do It! And consulting is not for everyone. There are lucrative times and there are times when there is no work. Discipline in putting your money away, in paying your self-employed taxes and setting up your lifestyle to track your average income is important in being successful.

Sounds like your consulting focus is going to be on leadership and management skills, human performance, relationship management and employee total quality management and I think all of these HR focused tasks are perfect for support from a consultant. Don't just trust the MBA to give you all the business skills for this career area. Other courses you should take include human resource management, project management and other skills that focus on managing people and the workplace.

Good luck in your consulting career. And many, many thanks for your service.

Regards, David Eastman, US Navy, ASW

Advisor

Keith Van Sickle Menlo Park, CA

When I started my own consulting practice the first thing I focused on was the "product-market fit" - what was the market I was addressing and did my product (the type of consulting I was offering) fit that market?
Consulting is a very broad field. What you need to do is zero in on exactly what services you can provide that are valuable to a client. Small business owners in particular don't won't pay for generalized services, they want something very specific that they can't do themselves. Over time, with experience and reputation, you can broaden your offerings but you should start with crisply defined, valuable services.
As you think through what those might be, I encourage you to discuss your ideas with friends, colleagues and potential clients. This does two things - first, it helps you learn what is valuable and sharpen your ideas. Second, it gets your name out there as a potential consultant. In finding consulting opportunities you have to plant a lot of seeds because only a few sprout. So best to start early. As a consultant, you are always marketing yourself.
Good luck!

Advisor

Keith Fulton South Orange, NJ

Very good advice from Jeanne here. It is REALLY hard to start a consultancy. I've done it in years past and it was much harder than I thought. The advice and actual consulting is the easy part, it turns out. Selling each new deal is the hard part. You could think about partnering up with someone who has a deep network and Rolodex, but generally they are hard to find because the good ones have their own firms too.

Once you make the contacts, then you have to be able to answer the "why you" question. Anybody can say they are a consultant, so there are thousands of firms trying to get the attention of these businesses. How are you going to show that you are different and better? It isn't enough to be bright and hard working. Having some examples from non-profit work is a start. Saying you are bringing all the leadership development knowledge and best practices from the military to the private sector is a pretty good angle. So think through all that.

In general though, it is very, very difficult.

Veteran

Joel Carbajal El Paso, TX

Thank you all for your advise, Mrs., Jeanne, I appreciate your advise. I have three plus years remaining in the Army my goal is to obtain my MBA before retirement. Mr. Gerald while I'm gone to Korea I will finish my BS and look for organizations that may help me volunteer once I come back. and Mr. Wyatt I will do it I just want to set myself up for success and I want to plan it

Advisor

Jeanne Yocum Durham, NC

You have two significant hurdles to overcome:

1) You're entering a crowded field in which your competitors will already have completed at least their bachelor degrees and in many, many cases will also have their MBAs. Convincing people that you have the right answers without having those credentials will be difficult. At the very least, I would recommend waiting to launch your business until you've completed your bachelor's degree.

2) Small business owners generally are very tight with a dollar and are only going to be persuaded to invest in anything or anyone that can show them proven results. While you work to complete your degree, you might consider volunteering with some nonprofits, where in many cases the founders also lack business expertise. If you could gain some proven successes in these situations, such as helping them save money, or helping them build systems that make their operation perform better, then you would have examples to share with small business owners once you do launch.

I would also recommend going to the nearest Small Business Development Center, many of which are on community college campuses. There you can find an advisor or mentor who can help you develop your business idea further.

Good luck!

Advisor

Gerald Thomas Tulsa, OK

There are a number of places you can start but the first place i would start is identifying and describing your business. You will have to market the services you provide so a brochure along and potentially a website helps you build some credibility as a business. I also recommend forming a corporate entity LLC, Incorporate etc.

Then you will have to identify potential customers through networking. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Seminars and just going door to door.

I want to be honest and tell you things are going to be tough as you have the leadership and managment skills but lack the business skills and you will have to address this with your potential clients.

Good luck and thanks for your service.

Veteran

Joel Carbajal El Paso, TX

Yes, I want to but how do I start? any advice?

Advisor

Wyatt Brownlee Cleveland, OH

Just do it!

Your Answer

Please log in to answer this question.

Sign Up

You can join as either a Veteran or an Advisor.

An Advisor already has a career, with or without military experience, and is willing to engage with and help veterans.
Sign Up as an Advisor.

A Veteran has military experience and is seeking a new career, or assistance with life after service.
Sign Up as a Veteran.