The Krptonite of Consulting.

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I recently posted a blog on MENG that I wanted to share.

I was having a networking Starbucks with a new consultant the other day. He was picking my brain as the expression goes.  Now getting your brain picked for free doesn’t really sound that nice and the practice should be avoided at all costs by consultants. I am still learning that.

My new friend was new to consulting but he was a guy with a lot of social currency so I invested my time.  He was going that night to speak to a group I had spoken to years ago to help people in transition with personal branding who weren’t in marketing.

I shared some thoughts about what I have learned during my consulting journey. I have been a consultant for a decade or so.  I have been paid myself for over 500 weeks out of my den surrounded with the pictures of my kids.  They come in from time to time.   Through the dotcom bust, 911, the great recession and the other challenges we all face in life.

Like many people in the corporate world I hate my boss at Blank and Associates.  He works me like a dog. No benefits.  No paid vacation. No perks.  I have never had a yearly evaluation. No salary increase in years.    Nada.  Nothing.  Rien.

A long time ago somebody who was in academics described a consultant as somebody who couldn’t get a job.  Since I wasn’t a consultant it was only a remark.  Then again it came from somebody who had tenure.  Not very relevant in the New Normal. If you told somebody in academics to walk the life of consultant they would melt just the wicked witch.

This brings me back to my friend the other day.

He was saying how long things seem to take to pay off on your investments in time, marketing, networking and other activities.  The time it takes to get the flow of financial currency.

On the way out of our Starbucks I gave him one piece of advice I know way too well.  I told my friend that the Kryptonite of consultants is worry.

Worry a simple word.  Six letters.  Seems like such an innocent word to describe a condition in our brains that can cause rapids of turmoil.

Worry. Just like a scalpel it can cut away at the only thing you have to drive your success.

Your confidence.

Sure your confidence grows when there is money in the bank.

But confidence is key.  Here’s one way to look at things.   I have run 6 marathons. That is over 150 miles of street, pavement and concrete one small step at a time. From that experience I learned how to look at life to a degree.  When I had run the first 10 miles in the race I could select some thoughts.  First was that ten miles was one of my favorite run distances.  Thoughts would enter my mind saying I have run my favorite length.

Then the opposite side of my confidence would say yes and you have 16.2 miles to go.  If I went with that thought I would have not crossed the finish line and I have crossed the finish line of all the Marathons I have run.  Not doing so would have betrayed myself.

When I ran my Marathons one of my songs that I listened to was a song by The Fabulous Thunderbirds.  The song asks “Am I tough enough?  Am I am tough enough indeed? I listened to the song running in Toronto, Chicago and maybe some other places. I have seen The Fabulous Thunderbirds at the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point.  It is close to my house.  Their song was in the air, the Pacific Ocean was on the left and my mind did sync. Am I tough enough?  Short and sweet.  It’s not about focusing on the money.  It is about focusing on you.

You can connect with Hank on LinkedIn:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter: @hankblank

Like Blank and Associates on Facebook

Watch a Video on How to Create A Job.

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How to Improve Your Consulting Career

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How to Improve your Consulting Career

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I have written a series of recent blogs on how to build a consulting career. I started out with How to Create Job by Creating  a Consulting Career followed by How to Build a Consulting Career and recently More on Building a Consulting Career.

Here are some tips on building a consultant career.

One of the challenges with consulting is that many people say the practice is not scalable for single individuals or a limitation on capacity and growth. A consultant is always time challenged between chasing new projects which upon completion stop generally income and the perpetual chase for the Yankee dollar.

To augment my resources I have always used paid interns. I have done it for years. First it was my kids and then a variety of college students. There have been many graduates of Blank and Associates. What works best for me is students who live in close proximity to me and students who are studying marketing, public relations or advertising because that is in business I am in.

It’s a win win situation. Students who recently graduated from college face the chicken or egg shuffle of “you have no experience.” Working for me provides them with relevant experience and after a time they move on and get hired which is great for everyone. I can also help them get a job by providing a working reference.

I basically try to assign as many task projects to them to save me time. For example I write all of my own content but my interns help me by posting my blog in the discussions section of the fifty LinkedIn groups I belong to. I would be less inclined to spend the time to do that. The more I distribute my content the more feedback I receive.

Why do something yourself that you can have a student do for you at $12 an hour? I am trying to make much more than that.

I find that students are also very social media and technology savvy which helps a lot.  They have helped me in many ways. Everything from syncing my phone and iPad to loading apps on my devices to educating me on new technology to PowerPoint presentations.

I love it when they come to me and ask, “Have you ever thought of doing it this way?”  I generally change the way I do things because they may have a better idea. The learning is both up and down.

The other way is that I increase my scalability is because of my network. One of the benefits of networking is that it saves you time and makes you more productive. People think that is counter intuitive. It takes time to get there and back, listen to the speaker etc.  They think that time would be better spent doing other things.

My network is so broad that I rarely have to research something and when I do I go to Jane Bayer at Factfinders who can find anything.  I don’t go to Google, I go to people.  I know people who have told me who to use celebrity talent, social media experts in all areas of expertise, proof readers, printers galore, and trade show suppliers.  Whatever it takes I can generally find quickly and efficiently.  There is a big difference in consulting betwen telling your client you are working on something versus having the answer.  So how broad are your resources?

Connect with Hank on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook:

    

Watch my videos on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank

More On How to Build a Consulting Career.

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In my last blog I wrote that one of the first things I learned in developing a consulting career was that it is not your knowledge that is key to success but how your market yourself and your knowledge.

On my journey somebody once told me that the speakers that make the most money aren’t the ones that are the best speakers but the ones that are the best marketers.

To market yourself effectively you need a plan. When I first started out I think that my business plan was mostly in my head. This was a little surprising because in my work career I was often responsible for developing written plans.

Over the course of my consulting career this evolved.  Today I definitely have a written plan but it is not what you would expect.  My plan is a visual map which is on the back of my office door and is about four feet long. It is a collage of presentation pad sheets.  It sits upon last year’s plan which is about two feet long.  It is basically a bunch of drawings, words and circles done in crayons and magic marker and not a list.

My great trainer and coach, Judith Westerfield, lead me to the understanding that as a creative person I would implement my plan better by having a visual expression of what I wanted to accomplish versus a list of tasks.  She was right. You have to visualize to realize. There are sections where I have total clarity. They are my foundation elements.  Then there are various other visual clusters that represent my objectives and the core attitude that I need to maintain to achieve my goals.

My plan keeps me on track.  One of my 2011 goals was to speak in Canada.  I recently spoke to the Petroleum Joint Venture Association in Calgary so I took a step in that direction.  Other things I have not accomplished yet but at least I have a loose structure of where I am going.

It is funny but I often show it to new interns that work for me and they totally get what I am trying to do almost immediately.  Maybe they have a youthful clarity.

The next step to developing a consulting practice is to get out of the house.  This is difficult for most people because computers can keep you trapped at home sending out e mails that delude you into thinking you are connecting with people.  People don’t remember e mails, they remember people.  Many people love to hide behind their computers but to succeed in consulting you need to get out there.  There was an old expression that sales people should have small desks so they don’t sit at them but are out and about.  Consultants should be outside people versus inside people.  They should be finders first versus grinders.  That will come later.

You will succeed or fail in your consulting career based on the power of your network.  I have written many articles on the power of networking.  My network has sustained me.  During the ten plus years of my consulting practice I have never had a call saying, “Hank I am a total stranger and I want to do business with you.”  I have had calls saying I got your name from Mary or Sally or Bill and those calls lead to new opportunities.

My advice is simple on the networking front.  Schedule five meetings a day when you start consulting.  Two will get cancelled and you will end up with three meeting a day.  Each of those people on average will give you two names which ends up being 6 names a day. If you follow that practice on a daily basis you will connect with 30 people in a week and 120 in a month.  If you networked with that purpose for a year you would be a very connected person.  Possible? Yes. Powerful?  Well let me ask you a simple question.  “How would your life change if you met one new person a day?’

More to come.  Hey this has been a journey of learning lots of lessons.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his video on YouTube  http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank

How to Build a Consulting Career.

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It doesn’t appear that the hiring market isn’t going to catch fire any time soon. I hope history will prove me wrong. I see many people desperate for work spending hours on low probability job pursuits, just to stay busy. People cold call me saying they are looking for work when I am not even a recruiter. Many people spend their time chasing vapor. Perhaps that time could be better suited building a consulting practice with a greater rate of return.

Consulting is not for all. Somebody once told me that a consultant is somebody who likes to have their feet firmly planted in mid air. It is like jumping off a cliff every month hoping you encounter somebody on the way down with an extra parachute.

So how do you build a consulting career? Well one of the most painful things that I had to learn in making the switch from the work world to the consulting world is that it is not your knowledge but your product that counts. “Hey I have a great resume and great experience. I’m smart. People will seek me out. I was stupid.” You can’t send people your resume when you are pitching a consulting gig because you need substance because those prospects expect you to produce substance for them.

You need to productize your knowledge. Ten years ago you needed collateral and a brochure. I think that is less important these days. My capabilities presentation is a Keynote presentation on my iPad. It is simple, affordable (except for the iPad), portable and makes an impression. My friend Ivan Torres created it for me.

Then you needed a site. My friend Dante Fiorini created the current Hank Blank site. Matt Desio the original one. I have had a personal site for about ten years now and people visit it according to Google Analytics but I can get more people reading a blog posting in one day than visit my site in one month. On a good month I get ten times more visitors to my blog than my site and people say they like my site.

Today many people may not need a website at all. You may be able to get away with a rock and roll Facebook page if you are in social media or have some types of practices.

Today I find that my LinkedIn profile is the core of my personal product and branding.  Often more people check me out on LinkedIn in one day than visit my site on any given day. I used to have a recommendations file when people asked for references. Now I just cut and paste the pertinent recommendations from my LinkedIn profile and email it to them.

Another piece of advice I can give is never to do anything yourself. Sounds like a nice life eh? Well if you consult I can guarantee you that you will work more than you have ever worked in your life but it will be a different kind of time.

What I mean is use other people’s expertise. I have shared what Dante and Ivan have done for me and they are just the start of my journey. Many people said to me many times you use a template and build your own site in four hours. Why would I want to do that? Don’t fall into that trap. I have scissors at home but I don’t cut my own hair. Use the best resources to produce the best product at the price you can afford. I have also always traded my expertise for their expertise when possible. Yes barter. People will do things for you if you try to make money for them.

An iron rule. You can never compromise your personal branding. If your card doesn’t make people smile it is not working. You need to be memorable and your card is what people take away. You don’t need to overthink it. The Hank Blank card with Blank on the back was created by my friend Ken Church and printed in four days.

It makes people smile or laugh all the time and smiles or laughs start relationships. All your materials need to impress people. Never cut corners with your personal brand. If you are using a free card from the internet you simply aren’t committed to yourself. Those types of cards will never make people smile or laugh. Just forget you. You can never compromise your personal brand. That is all you have when you start. Just you and your brand and some hope.

Connect with Hank on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook:

    

Watch his videos on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank

How To Create a Job by Creating a Consulting Career

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In late February 2001 at 7.30 at night I got fired on the phone.  As I remember it was raining.  I was Executive Vice President and Partner of an advertising agency.  Who cares?  Four days later I had my Hank Blank business cards and my consulting career began.  I knew a lot about working but I knew absolutely nothing about consulting.

Thus began one of the most interesting and exciting and frightening decades of my life as I totally reinvented what I do and how I do it.  I have created ten years of income and self employment.

As readers of my blog know, I do a lot of networking.  This is what I see.  Some of the very capable people that I network with have now been out of work for going on two years.  They face questions from hiring managers asking them why they haven’t been hired in a long time.  If those hiring manager were in transition they could be in the same boat but since they have a job they get to ask the stereotypical questions not aligned with today’s reality.

It doesn’t appear things on the job front are going to improve or change in the immediate future.  There are still jobs but robust job hunting may never return.  This recession started in the middle of 2007 is entering its fourth year.

Ten years ago I started my career basically in a year of recession.  It was a few months before 9/11. I have been able to survive for ten years, paid my mortgage, raised a couple of great kids but I had to totally reinvent myself.  I was wired for working but not wired for consulting and creating a job for myself each and every day.  I had to totally reinvent my skills to have a consulting practice.

The job I had in advertising ten years ago as a Senior New Business person doesn’t exist in large numbers anymore like many other jobs.  It went the way of overhead machines, acetates, receptionists, and vacations.  In ten years I have heard about two openings with that title.  There are plenty of Junior jobs but not the job that I had.

I am going to write a blog or two on developing a consulting career.  First consulting is not for the faint of heart.  As I mentioned you have to create a job for yourself each and every day.  A consultant is basically perpetually unemployed.  That is why I relate to people in transition.  They are constantly hunting for work and I am constantly hunting for work.

Then there are no benefits, no healthcare insurance and no vacations unless you succeed and can provide those benefits for yourself or your partner can provide them.  No car allowance, no expense accounts, no bonuses unless you earn enough to provide those perks.

The first capability you need to have to succeed as a consultant if the ability to adapt and reinvent yourself.  Recently I have been speaking in Calgary, Washington D.C. and Palm Springs on New Business Development and Networking.  I will be speaking in Baton Rouge, Scottsdale, Orange County and other cities later this month.  Ten years ago I didn’t speak to companies and organizations about networking.

I recently completed an agency review for a client.  Ten years ago I didn’t do agency reviews.  I had been in plenty but never been paid to conduct them.  I have done reviews for companies such as Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, Raley’s Supermarkets and Jacuzzi.

Reinvention is key to successful consulting. If my skills were the same as ten years ago I would be in dire straits. Are you reinventing yourself or are you staying the same and getting left behind?

More to come.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/hankblank

Watch his videos on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank