Business management - Part 2

Archive for the ‘Business management’ Category

Consulting goes mainstream

More and more people are choosing consulting as their primary or secondary mode of income. Consulting as a career has become widely accepted, and more frequently preferred in today’s busy world. There are many reasons why consulting has gone mainstream: do any of them apply to you?

Consulting goes mainstream: what does it mean for you?
Career satisfaction
Becoming a consultant allows you to pursue your passion and get rewarded for it. Let others pay you for your consulting expertise while you enjoy what you do best. You can also control how busy you want to be; take on as many or as few clients as you want.
As a consultant, you set your own schedule. You don’t have to answer to anyone else. You can work from the comfort of home in a stress-free environment. With today’s technology, keeping in touch with clients and peers has never been easier.
Consulting usually has low start-up costs. If you operate from home, you may write off expenses such as utilities and house insurance. You may also write off a portion of vehicle costs if you use your car for business purposes.
Notice the difference
When consulting goes mainstream in your life, you will also notice an improvement in your work/life balance. When you work for yourself, you can make the time to have lunch with a friend, visit your mother, or walk your child to school. And if you want to work all night, you can!
Make the decision!
Don’t get left behind while consulting goes mainstream. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy what you do, and set your own pace? As a consultant, you can have this, and more. There are so many reasons why consulting has become such a popular profession; start planning today for your new consulting career.

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6 easy mistakes consultants make

Easy mistakes catch the best of us off guard. After 15 years as a consultant, I’ve seen it all – and done it all. Fortunately, I’d like to think most of my mistakes were in the early years and that I have at least moved on to mistakes that take experience to make. Ha!

So I’m in a great position to point out six easy mistakes many people make with their consulting businesses.

6 easy mistakes consultants make with their businesses

Only go to networking events that involve their competitors. If all you do is go to events where your competitors are, where will business come from? Only so many competitors are going to refer business to you, if at all! Get out there and make connections with the people in your target market, not just your industry.

  • Mistake # 1 – Stop networkingas soon as they get a contract. If you aren’t developing your business, what exactly are you going to do at the end of that contract?
  • Mistake # 2 – Remain uninformed about finances. You need to declare your income, keep on top of your taxes, be aware of tax write offs, invoice regularly, make sure you get paid and more. It’s not all that hard, but, if it gets the better of you, hire an accountant or bookkeeper.
  • Mistake # 3 – Don’t use contracts. Sure, a contract is only as good as your ability to enforce it. But if you at least have the contract on paper, it’s a lot easier to enforce than an oral agreement, even in areas where oral contracts are binding. Having a good paper trail can help you if a client doesn’t pay – many clients will pay up when you remind them they signed a contract.
  • Mistake # 4 – Ignore scope creep. Some clients will push and push, while others make tiny, incremental changes. But those changes add up and they take away from either your earning potential or your time off. Use a contract, remind the client of the scope and be sure to offer to accommodate their needs – but make sure you know what you’re trading away or else get more money. Take some time to learn about managing consulting client behavior.
  • Mistake # 5 – Rely on one source of income, rather than having multiple income streams. Time and time again, some consultants rely on one income stream. For many consultants, this means having just one client (which makes me wonder about your 1099 status) or just doing one kind of consulting. While there are huge benefits in being an expert and specialist in a niche, you may sleep better at night if you have more than one way to bring in money. Many of the most successful consultants I know also teach, coach and write, among other things. It keeps them fresh, gives them more financial security and improves their networking and expert status too.
  • Mistake # 6 – Neglect to think strategically about consulting fees. Your consulting fees are a complex signal about the value you offer, your position in the marketplace and even how easy it is to push you around (see scope creep). Pricing is one of the four P’s of marketing – and  setting your consulting fee is thus an important part of your business strategy. Make sure you take the time to set and get a fee that reflects the value your solutions offer.

What are the biggest mistakes you see consultants making?

Update: Chip Camden at TechRepublic has added his own list. @Chip, I appreciate your ongoing shout outs.

Finding time to work ON your business

Are you finding time to work ON your business, or do you feel like you are just stuck in a hamster wheel? Perhaps you are in a rut, and don’t realize it. With just a few changes, you can approach your business with a new outlook. You may have heard of all of the following concepts, but are you applying them to your own business? Make the time.

Time Management
Time management is crucial to running a successful business. But don’t forget to schedule in personal time, as well. Finding time to work ON your business also means finding the time to work on yourself. Balance your work life and your personal life, and the rest will follow.
Challenge and change …
… and your business will reap the benefits. Explore learning opportunities, both in your community and online. Courses such as finance, management, and communication will enhance your business skills and give you a new appreciation for the work that you do. But don’t limit yourself to business courses, either. Try something new, like web design. Learning a skill will enhance your mental fitness, as well as your business fitness. Plus, networking opportunities abound when taking courses.
Networking must never be overlooked. Join local and regional business associations. Attend their functions regularly. Business peers can provide you with industry news, fresh ideas, and new technology. You will have the opportunity to promote your business, make professional contacts, and scope out future opportunities.
Delegate, if necessary
Don’t get caught in the trap of doing everything yourself. If you’re swamped by paperwork, or behind on the bookkeeping, hire an assistant. Freeing yourself from tedious tasks will allow you to make the time for what really matters in your business.
Finding time to work ON your business
As you can see, finding time to work ON your business doesn’t have to be boring or unrewarding. In fact, making the time to work ON your business will perhaps be your most valuable hours in the day in terms of return on investment. Push yourself to apply these few basic principles, and you will approach your business with a fresh outlook, and new opportunities for growth.


Red Hot Chili Peppers mixed up with bag piper band

Red Hot Chili Peppers vs The Red Hot Chilli PipersWhat happens if you confuse Red Hot Chili Peppers with a bag pipe band called The Red Hot Chilli Pipers? You may know the famous alternative band, Red Hot Chili Peppers. A client emailed me recently to say she’d been looking at their videos on Youtube. She was looking at one clip that featured bag pipes and thinking Flea and the boys looked a little less gaunt than usual.

But, somewhere along the way, maybe after a video or two, she realized she was watching The Red Hot Chilli Pipers. She had been duped! This wasn’t the band she was looking for. You’ve heard about brand confusion – this was band confusion. And it’s made worse by Youtube’s autocorrect spelling feature that seems to pull up both bands in search results for either name.

Turns out The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are a popular Scottish bag pipe band. I kid you not. Check out their amazing covers of Thunderstruck, We Will Rock You, and Chasing Cars.

My client wanted to know how on earth this was possible. How could there be The Red Hot Chilli Pipers in a world where Red Hot Chili Peppers no doubt trademarked their moniker long ago?

My first thought was maybe that the Peppers never trademarked outside the US, although this seemed unlikely to me. A quick search of the UK trademark database revealed that the RHCPeppers registered their trademark in 2002. (In fact, they made several filings for different intellectual properties related to their name.) The RHCPipers, on the other hand, attempted trademark registration in May 2011.

I thought about this for a bit. It seemed a bit unusual that the Pipers had gone to the trouble of filing, but then withdrew their application. I assumed that the Peppers must have got wind of it and blocked the submission. Some cyber sleuthing reveals that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lawyers posted about the trademark situation and brand confusion. (Or is that band confusion?) It sounds like the Pipers can call their band The Red Hot Chilli Pipers because it falls under the realm of parody, but that perhaps they are unable to register their trademark or perhaps even sell wares under that name.

Let this be a lesson to all of us. If you go to the trouble of creating and marketing an intellectual property, make sure you can use it. In the case above, there’s no doubt in my mind that a pipe band playing on the name of the Peppers probably got more fame than one with a more bland name. But, with success, they now may be stuck with a name that they can’t legally use on t-shirts or merchandise. And t-shirts and merchandise are the main source of revenue for most independent artists.

If you’re starting a business and you want to be clever with your name, make sure you’re not so clever that you land in legal hot water. Take time to look at registered trademark databases. At the very least, search online to see if your name is similar. Even if you pass the muster of your state or provincial name registry, find out if anyone else is using the name. For your brand to work, it needs to be unique and legal, not just memorable. Otherwise, you may be building and marketing an intellectual property that you don’t even own. (Incidentally, I’ve left all the videos on Youtube, rather than embedding them here…I don’t want to break any rules either!)

 Become a Consultant


Analysis paralysis cures for small business owners

Analysis paralysis cures for small business owners - don't get hit by the ballYou see the ball flying toward you, but you somehow can’t get out of the way. You’re too busy looking at all the other options – run, jump, dive, heck, even duck. All you need to do is stick your glove in front of the ball, but you can’t even do that. You can’t move a muscle.

And then the ball socks you right in the jaw.


Actually, let’s emphasize that a little. OUCH! (Add !*&#&^ % if it fits, too.)

That sort of paralysis on the playing field can happen in your business too. And, while it may not break your jaw, it can really hurt.

If you’re like a lot of small business owners, you may suffer from analysis paralysis. That’s where you’re so busy analyzing what’s going on and worrying about where to go that you stop making any moves at all.

Perhaps you’ve had one of those mornings where you look at consulting business advice, flip over to the news headlines, panic a little at the economy, hit refresh on your email, Google for marketing tips, log on to Twitte in hopes of finding salvation…you’re thinking a lot, but not much is getting done.

That sort of analysis paralysis can hurt your business.

But there’s help available. Right below here on the same page, in fact.

Six cures for analysis paralysis in small business

1.      Breathe

Take a deep breath. And let it go. Then take another. And let it go. Just simple and focused. It’s the very first thing you ever learned to do after you were born. And going back to it once in a while can help you regain your focus.

2.      Consider the cost of stalling

If you’re stuck, not much is getting done. What’s it costing you to not be moving forward? Start thinking about what it’s costing you to be stuck and you may realize it’s easier to take a step.

3.      Abandon perfection

Few things need to be perfect. Sure, I’m not going to tell you to put bad stuff out into the world. But getting it right doesn’t have to mean getting it perfect. Just get it out there. Refine as you go along.

4.      Define your goal

If you’re stuck, it’s surely on the way to somewhere. Find one goal you want to move toward. Make that your focus, not the analysis leading up to it.

5.      Figure out the steps on the way to that goal – then take a step.

Put together an action plan for meeting your goal. Then choose the first step and go for it. You won’t move forward if you don’t take a step. (Read about SMART goals, if this is new to you.)

6.      Get support

When you’re questioning your every move, sometimes it makes sense to solicit feedback from your inner circle. You’re your own worst critic. So talk to some people who can look at what you’re doing through fresh eyes.

 What’s keeping you from moving ahead?

Write Your Business Plan Now

Write Your Business Plan Now – that’s the latest ebook from Consultant Journal. Back in the summer, I was coaching some people through their business plans and I realized that great books on business plans are few and far between.

So, in just a few days, I’ll be launching Write Your Business Plan Now. It’s a 129-page guide to writing a business plan, with details on how to complete each section. It will also include a Quick Start Guide for those who want to dive into writing their business plans right away – just fill in the blanks in the Microsoft Word template. I’ll also be including several Microsoft Excel templates that I’ve built to help you do things like your personal budget, personal financial statements and all the business financials, including cash flow, balance sheet, income statement and breakeven analysis. Everything you need in one package! It’s the biggest ebook I’ve ever put together. It applies to any kind of business – not just consulting.

You’ll be able to buy the book on your own — and I’ll also be offering it as part of the Consulting Start-up Course – even if you enrolled in the course before, this book will now be available to you.

If you’d like me to send you information when the new book launches, just send me a note.

Business plans for consultants

Business plans for consultants – Are you considering starting your own consulting practice or repositioning your current consulting business? Have you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and started outlining your consulting practice in a business plan? If not, this article will help you structure your consultant business plan.

What will a business plan do for you?

Business plans for consultants should do the following:

1. Provide an estimate of costs before you start. Determine how much money you will need for start-up costs and for day-to-day operations. (Generally, I recommend keeping an emergency fund of 6-9 months at all times.)

2. Help you obtain financing. If you require any financing your lender will require a solid business plan before lending you money or establishing a business line of credit.

3. Clarify your business needs. What kind of advertising will you do? How much money do you think you’ll make in the first and second years? Business plans for consultants will provide you with the answers you need to start planning your consultancy.

4. Provide a framework for developing your business. Consultant business plans are roadmaps for you to follow.

5. Increase your chance of success. The time that you put into developing your business plan will pay off in the end. By fully researching your future consultancy business, you will be better prepared for any eventuality.

What’s in a business plan?

Are business plans for consultants different from other business plans? Yes and no.

The general format of business plans for consultants follow a normal business plan outline. Here’s a simple business plan template to get the ball rolling.

However, business plans for consultants also require some specialized sections. Are you putting together a business plan for consultants? To fast-track the completion of your business plan and to ensure you use accurate numbers, check out our guides, workbooks and courses in the Consultant Journal store, including the invaluable guide on consulting fees: Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants. You may also want to consider taking small business training to ensure that all your bases are covered.

Business plans for consultants provide a detailed map of future business, reducing your risk of losing track of your goals. By following this map, you greatly increase your chances of success. As long as you’ve done your research, and taken the time to really plot your course, your business plan will be one of the best time investments that you can make.

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Consultancy business plan template

Consultancy business plan templates are extremely useful when putting together your own consultancy business plan. However, it’s important to use critical thinking when working off a consultancy business plan template that’s already been created.

When using a consultancy business plan template, take care to remember these five tips for creating your own unique, successful plan:

1. Be sure to add your own unique strengths and weaknesses into the plan. 

If you are a master marketer or extensive business experience, you might be able to tweak the business plan to show greater growth than average.

Likewise, if you recognize that you have certain limitations, such as a physical or medical condition or personal responsibilities that might take up a lot of your time, be sure to reflect those effects in the plan.

It’s in your best interest to have your consultancy business plan as true-to-life as possible, so be sure to reflect your personal circumstances in your business plan.

2. Don’t blindly copy and assume.

If the consultancy business plan template assumes a certain rate of growth or number of sales, don’t just blindly follow everything that the consultancy business plan template includes. Use your own judgment. Don’t be afraid to tweak the numbers based on your own logic and knowledge of your own circumstances.

3. Don’t just show results. Show how you’re going to get there.

It’s easy to write that you’ll be earning a certain income during Years 1 and 2. But don’t forget to demonstrate how you’re going to get there from here!  Marketing is key.

4. Remember that the first year will be slower than the rest.

Be sure to have realistic expectations about Year 1 income, which can be slow to get off the ground. Savings are key.

5. Feel free to eliminate sections that aren’t relevant.

Does your business plan template include sections that just aren’t relevant? Don’t be afraid to omit them entirely if they are not relevant to your type of consultancy.

Are you putting together a consultancy business plan? To ensure you get the whole picture and are in the know about consulting fees and how to set them, check out our guides, workbooks and courses in the Consultant Journal store, including the invaluable guide on consulting fees: Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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Consultant business plan template

Consultant business plan template – Are you searching for a consultant business plan template because you’re interested in becoming a consultant?

If so, then you’ve come to the right place. Not only does Consultant Journal have excellent consultant business plan template resources, but we also have over 900 valuable articles that explain every aspect of becoming a consultant, from consultant finance to marketing your consultancy.

If you are working on a consultant business plan template you are taking the right approach to your business. Writing a consultant business plan is key because the act of putting your business plan together motivates you to plan for a successful business and to iron out a lot of kinks in advance.

Have you found a consultant business plan template that works for you? If not, check out these resources for compiling your consultant business plan:  

  • How to start a consulting company – Outlines the main steps to starting a consulting business, including writing a business plan
  • Government funded small business loans – If your consultant business plan template includes a lot of financial detail, this article will help you navigate government-funded loans
  • Consulting business plan template – Outlines the main sections that you should have in your consultant business plan
  • Sample consulting business plan – Outlines elements of a strong consultant business plan, including an executive summary, business overview, confidentiality and outline of risk, financial plan, industry overview, marketing strategy and other important elements of a consultant business plan

Are you looking for a comprehensive consultant business plan template? In order to help fast-track the completion of your consultant business plan and to make sure that you use accurate numbers, check out our guides, workbooks and courses in the Consultant Journal store, including the invaluable guide on consulting fees: Consulting Fees: A Guide for Independent Consultants.

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7 terrible secrets revealed by your email address (and how to fix them)

When it comes to your personal and business brand, your professional email address may be undoing all your hard work. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of email addresses – and I’ve had a chance to make observations through the eyes of hiring manager, consultant, client, volunteer and colleague.

Your email address brands you, even when you’re not working

If you want to be professional, you have to think about how your email address represents you. Even if you’re merely using your email address for personal reasons, it’s likely that many members of your business network see your personal address. That’s because everyone you contact becomes a member of your network:
  • Store owner who runs the mailing list for specials
  • Yoga instructor who sends you a mailer on upcoming classes
  • Meetup group you joined and never managed to attend
  • Parent class rep at your kids’ school – and  everyone on the shared contact sheet
  • Dating site people you saw once
  • Parent you met at the park and decided to join for coffee, since you both work in the same industry
  • Friend you met at fitness class, who knows about how to set up that thing on the computer
  • Guy you met at the charity event, who mentioned he could send you a discount code for an event at the art gallery
Most of those people may not profile as “business” or “professional” contacts, per se, but they’re part of your network and thus your professional life. In fact, even if you’re on mat leave, still in college, backpacking, vacationing, parenting, socializing or otherwise wearing your “non-career” hat, the contact you make may influence your future career and business. It’s all marketing and networking.

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7 terrible secrets revealed by common email address mistakes

These common email address mistakes can mar your reputation:
  1. Too flirty. You’ve got some flirty, cutesy or otherwise goofy email address, leftover from college, your Internet dating days or a drunken moment at Gmail – and
  2. Shared with your life partner, meaning you have no separate identity, control issues, a domineering partner, computer skills too weak to manage your own account or some other “issue” people dream up –
  3. Too generic. You put a date in your address to set you apart –
  4. Make you look less than brilliant. Unless you’re flickr, a modified spelling looks like you either created your address in desperation or that you can’t spell – or
  5. Nonsensical. or
  6. Unbranded. If you have a business or a professional career, it’s a mistake to use a generic email account, such as Hotmail or Yahoo – or
  7. Spam filter nightmare. Many email filters are set up to look for numbers, underscores, and superlative adjectives. Even if you can handle the branding issues, your email may end up in the junk mail bin –  

5 remedies for common email address mistakes

Relax – there are several solutions for typical email address mistakes:

  1. Get your own email account, if you’re sharing one. Your ISP and gmail offer a variety of options. Click here for my preferred provider – I’m an affiliate
  2. Change the name of your existing email account. Your ISP may help you. Or you can easily set up a new Gmail account.
  3. Set up additional profiles if you use Microsoft Outlook.
  4. Forward all your email to the account you check most, if you don’t know how to set up more than one profile on Outlook or your smartphone.
  5. Purchase a domain name and set up an email address to match. You can do this even if you do not run your own business. Consider or, for example. Click here for my preferred provider – I’m an affiliate.

It gets even worse

I wrote this article on common email address mistakes because of a random discovery on LinkedIn. For years, I’ve recoiled in mock horror upon seeing women sharing their husband’s email addresses. But then I saw something that shocked me even more. For whatever reason, it seemed even worse than the usual email address mistakes. I saw a husband and wife sharing a single LinkedIn account. It made no sense to me. Why would you share a career profile on a virtual resume site? It boggles my mind. But more on LinkedIn (and Twitter) later.
What deadly email address mistakes have you spotted? What tips do you have?
 Note: all email address given are fictitious and were generated for the purposes of this article. No connection to a real living or dead person or existing or closed business is made or implied. Any connection is purely coincidental.

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