The BBC quotes research from Barclays Bank which shows that semi-retired workers are responsible for 50% more start-ups than 10 years ago. In the UK, 67% of small business owners are over 45, while a mere 8.7% are under 34. Such data suggests that running a business actually plays to the strengths of older people. One area where my friends have done well is in Business Consultancy.
Three Types of Business Consultant
In general, there are 3 types of consultants:
- Academic – Those with academic achievements, e.g. PhDs, who are brought in to solve/explore/test
- Management – Those with Management skills, such as in M&A, legal etc and
- Specialists – Those who’ve moved from 9-5 occupations and now want to work for themselves and/or have others working for them.
How to get started as a Business Consultant
Let’s look at how you can get started as Business Consultant and start your own business.
“They tend to be successful at starting new businesses because they do the right things,” says Mike Rogers, managing director of small business and start-ups at Barclays. “They do the planning, they are well-financed and they have accumulated wisdom. “They also define success in their own terms. They don’t want to take on the world, they just want to supplement their income or keep themselves busy,” he told BBC News Online.
As well as preparing business plans, new business owners need to make sure they are totally committed, says Mr Rogers from Barclays. “They have to take into account the demands on themselves and their time, and on their families.”
Research also suggested that older people find running their own business less stressful than their younger peers. Why? Only 27% of owners over 50 run their business as the only source of income in the household.
Ok, how do I get started?
- Identify your top 3 business skills (not technologies).
- Write a pen portrait (100 words max) of how you see this person. If you were introducing this person to someone you’d say “This is Robert,…” Focus on the benefits you offer, not the tools. Start to visualize the person/consultant you want to become.
- Identify 3 business leaders and use them as role models.
For me, Richard Branson is a good example, for you it might be someone else. Read everything about these people, soak up how they made it. It’s not in the words of their bio – but the energy, the drive they had. Having a role model gives you a frame of reference, something to use as a compass/anchor.
- Join Foursquare and contact 10 people who are in a similar position/industry as you. Meet up on the weekends and see how you can help each other.
Remember, you’re looking to link up with people for the long haul. Ignore the tire-kickers. Find 1 or 2 decent people that you trust and keep connecting with them.
- Create one business target with these folks. For example, aim to run an event, workshop, training course (whatever) by a specific date. You have to have targets, otherwise nothing will happen.
- Create an Action Plan and assign tasks to each member
- Define you USP – I know this sounds predictable but you have to differentiate yourself from the competition. This is the key. If you become ‘that guy’ who does, for example, Adobe Air training, Social Media business communications, Proposal development for biotechnology, then you can work towards dominating this one area.
- Once you have all your ducks in a line, start getting the message out. Write guest articles in blogs, contribute to events, share information on LinkedIn, send free White Papers to people in your target market – do whatever it takes to promote yourself (and your colleagues) so that you become that guy.
- Use Personal branding to get your site, business cards, sharp suit etc in place. People still judge on appearances. If you look successful…
- Network like crazy. Look for places to get out and meet people. People do business with people they meet.
- Be consistent – If you keep this up for 3 months, you’ll change your perception of who you are. Also, by getting out and meeting people, you’ll learn things. The web is great for starting relationship but the human touch is what makes the connection more personal.
- Anticipate Problems – Chris Brogan made a very interesting observation recently when he said that he tries to be there before the fire starts. What he meant was that everyone wants to help (sell you something) when things go wrong but it’s the people you know before it happened that count. Tom Peters, Chris Brogan, Branson, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ have all helped me in different ways.
I bet there are people in this group in a similar situation as yourself. Try to connect with them and I’m sure it will start to happen. One last thing – the harder you try, the luckier you get.
Update: One of the paradoxes of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is that everyone is in such a rush to get their opinion heard, that they ignore other folk’s comments. They miss the opportunity to create a dialogue.
Commenting on others’ comments helps explore topics and, if you’re considering moving into consultancy, gives you an opportunity to soft sell your expertise. Find sites aligned to your business area, join the conversation and then make some useful suggestions. Pretty soon you’ll build a following and start to get enquiries for people looking to pick your brains…
For some, the term ‘Business Consultancy’ seems a bit intimidating. “It’s not for me” I’ve heard some say. But, it may not be true. There are different types of Business Consultancies and maybe you’re a lot closer than you think.