May 19, 2010

Entering into Consulting?

When I started my consulting business, some youngsters asked me how they can also become a consultant.

Considering the initial hiccups I went through, I didn’t encourage them to leave their secure and well paying job and start something of their own. I told them that they need to identify an area that they are very passionate about. Should have absolute clarity on why they want to do what they want to do. Enough savings to pull through several months or even years; ideally enough passive income to cover all their monthly expenses of the family. ..

What surprised me was, there are so many youngsters, who want to do something of their own and make a difference in this world; that’s good for our country.

Once in a discussion forum, I answered the question When does a Consultant starts flourishing in his/her business...!? as below:

With respect to an independent consultant, I feel the consultant will flourish, when the consultant is able to
  • Build trust with the client
  • Provide value for the fees charged
  • Build a brand for him.
The consultant needs to be in a ‘niche area’ for which there is a great demand. If this is not possible always, have some differentiation in a cluttered market. A consultant needs to have a lot of passion for the chosen field and an edge in it.

Several competencies are required for a consultant in addition to the domain knowledge. A good guideline is IMC USA's Management Consulting Competency Framework.

Some of the problems I experienced in my (independent) consulting practice in India:
  • There are no support systems that typically comes with a corporate job (admin etc)
  • In corporate, work comes to you; in consulting you have to hunt for work
  • Selling your services could be a tough job and it can consume a lot of time
  • Until you establish, the money you receive could be meager
  • Being solo, you may feel often lonely
  • Not much true consulting happening in terms of business problem solving; most consulting is around training and certification.
My thinking was on how to minimize the effects of being solo and still enjoy my professional freedom. One solution was to form a professional network of independent consultants. It was easy to locate a few people who had worked with me earlier. We formed a consortium under the name C-Star Consortium. Every month we met - shared info & experiences from the field and exchanged referrals; this gave a forum to have discussions that stimulated our mind. More independent consultants joined, each one making this group richer in collective intelligence and expertise. 

As the membership grew, people identified innovative ways of leveraging this network. It made sense to offer shared services to its members at low cost; some solution providers entered into partnership with the consortium. Offering sales services to the members in partnership with another marketing firm is another step being taken.

I have observed that several classes of problems that independent consultants facing today can be solved by connecting with the peers and collaborating.

If you are an independent consultant having a marketable service, expertise or information product that appeals to CXOs and Entrepreneurs, you could benefit by joining the C-Star community.