I have three children whose ages range from 2-6. My husband and I have decided that they are my priority over my job and corporate career. I’m 38 years old and presently a manager of compensation and benefits of our HR Department in a big consumer company. I have a BS in Economics and presently pursuing my MBA major in Human Resources. I want to resign and work as consultant so that I can work from our home and spend more time with my children. But I know that it’s hard to give up what I’ve been used to getting from a corporate job. But there is no other way I can take a direct hand in bringing up my children.
Please advise me on how I can make a start in consulting and how I can develop a network and make it work. Is it important for me to have an MBA?
You are sure of your decision to resign and know the benefits you will derive from being your own boss. As a consultant, you can manage your time so that you can attend to your children’s needs, enjoy time freedom, and be able to work on projects in the area of your expertise. On the other hand, you also know that you will no longer get regular pay checks, not be able to enjoy employee benefits such as medical insurance and other perks of corporate life. But you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
To be a consultant is very challenging. What I’m writing to you now in answer to your concerns is taken from the school of hard knocks. I developed and continue to maintain a consultancy practice after leaving the security of an academic career.
When you start out on your own, don’t expect to get projects and start earning immediately. There will be times when you have a desert experience and times when there is an abundant rainfall. This is why consultants should make and follow financial planning and budgeting.
Consultants normally work from three types of base: a company, a partnership or a sole proprietorship. Your concern is how to make a start in consulting work as a sole proprietor and be home-based. In this way, you have no worry about overhead expenses.
Definitely an MBA will give you a competitive edge. Being a consultant requires not only solid work experience, an expertise which others recognize, but also academic background. We have famous and sought-after consultants with no MBAs or PhDs. They are more of an exception nowadays. The trend now is to have MBAs, MAs or even PhDs.
Your field of specialization is Compensation and Benefits which is one of the HR functions most often outsourced. So you have an edge here. This is also an HR function almost all companies require.
Starting a career as a consultant is pretty much like applying for a job. How can you sell yourself and your service so that you can get clients to hire you and be able to maintain them?
One of the first things to do are: (1) register as a sole proprietor with the Department of Trade and Industry; (2) have your calling cards made; (3) make a good resume highlighting your competencies; (4) write an attractive introductory letter to prospective companies, starting with those in the consumer business which you are familiar with; (5) publicize to your friends in the industry, including your company’s clients, that you have set up your own consultancy company and are providing consulting service in compensation and benefits; and (6) develop and enlarge your network.
This is how you develop a network: (1) List down the names of your contacts in the consumer industry initially. (2) Call each of them, tell them about your consultancy service, and ask for people and companies they know that could be your likely prospects. Opposite each name, write down the names of likely prospects they refer you to. (3) Call each prospect and introduce yourself. Talk about your consulting service. (4) Then ask them to refer you to people they know who can avail of your service. This is how you enlarge your network.
Find out the professional organizations in your field and in HR. In HR, there’s the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) which I’m sure you are familiar with. Access its homepage: http://www.pmap.org.ph and its email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. You have everything to gain by being a member of this association and a member of a specific industry group, and attending its annual conventions and learning sessions. You will get information on likely prospects, thus adding more names to your network. From your association with other members, you will get other information important to your consulting work, including range of professional fees charged which you may not know at this point, etc.
Collect business cards when you attend meetings of professional organizations. Give out your own cards. At the back of each card you collect, write notes e.g. where and when you met the person, what you remember about them, etc.
Do not be merely a member of professional organizations. Serve in committees or task forces, such as program and membership, with high visibility.
The idea of networking is that we give and take. We ask for contacts; we also give names of contacts. We are a part of the network of others.
Maintaining your clients require at least three things: competence on your part; confidentiality; and integrity.