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Carol  Hlabiso's Profile

I have a bcomm degree and now studying towards CIMA. I want to be a business consultant. Is it possible to avoid working in a consulting firm and just open my own practice and learn the ropes from there?

Answers

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Possible, yes, anything is possible. It is best to be around peers and learn and build relationships with potential customers. Running your own business is not easy. You can learn much about business and how to be successful in working at a firm before you go out on your own. Also, health insurance and risk exposures are things you should avoid unless you have many clients lined up pounding down your door that want to work with only you despite your experience level.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

How would you gain business experience so that you are able to consult? You don't mention any work experience, just education, that's why I am asking.

Jason M. Jones LPA
Title: Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant
Company: Franklin County Treasurer
(Deputy Treasurer - Staff Accountant, Franklin County Treasurer) |

Carol, I had my own consulting practice for 7 years before I closed my practice and joined a consulting firm, and I can tell you from experience that unless you have a portfolio of relevant experience in the area of consulting you are pursuing, it's going to be very hard for you to find work, or at least choice consulting jobs with clients.

When I say experience, I don't mean simply time spent working on the job or holding the title, I mean making a measurable impact through quantitative and quality results that you can sell to a client that you know what you're doing. Clients want to know that they are getting experts in their field who know what they're doing and can solve their problems.

There's also the issue of "rainmaking" (read: client recruitment). Do you know what kind of clients you're looking for? Do you know what kind of clients you should avoid? Do you know how to effectively sell a client your services? Do you go to networking events and know how to effectively be a resource so that people will refer clients to you?

Then there's risk management? Do you have a good contract/engagement letter? Has an attorney reviewed it for any litigation loopholes that can be exploited? Do you have E&O insurance and does it cover the type of consulting you do (for the level of CFO consulting I did, it was very difficult finding an insurance carrier and when I did find one, I had a $1,000,000 policy with a $10,000 deductible that I had to pay $3,500/year to adequately insure myself).

I can go on and on, but I think you get my point. Bottom line is this: If you don't have any consulting experience, you may want to find a consulting firm where you can get some real experience under your belt because frankly, very few clients are going to want to utilize your services solely on the basis of your education alone. Clients are not going to pay an inexperienced consultant who is solely using them as an experimental guinea pig while they "learn the ropes".

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Well said Jason. I looked into E&O insurance and decided a C-Corp and a crafted engagement letter (contract) that put the onus on the client for D&O insurance worked. Others may disagree.

Christie is correct. "Consultant" is one of the most misused terms today in business, and it unfortunately is gaining the the meaning of "unemployed".

An consultant is supposed to be an expert and you can't become a real expert by magic and in school alone. Real life experiences are necessary to hone the academic to the reality.

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  • Len Green
    Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
    Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
    LinkedIn Profile
    (Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

    Carol,

    One of the posts above referred to what "consulting" means. That's critical to understand-there are many flavors. Read the careers page of the consulting firms try Glassdoor.com for example) and get a sense of what types of consulting roles there are.

    Some consultants are really temp staff who do a job for a while, then it ends. Others are advisors to the execs on strategy, finance, operations, technology, marketing, etc.

    In my mind a consulting engagement means you and the client have defined an agreed scope of work and a set of deliverables, for which you will earn fees.

    Why would a client hire you? What value do you bring to them?
    Are you comfortable trying to sell to prospects and face rejection? As an employee, your manager keeps you busy.

    Your interest is good, make sure you figure out what you need to learn first.
    Good luck!

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