Turning Points: How I became a Consultant

It was on I-80 Eastbound. On the way home from a little father-son getaway with my fourth at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. After a day of water-sliding, a professional epiphany at 60 miles per hour.

For 9 1/2 years, I’d worked with a small company doing sales/marketing/biz dev in the pharmaceutical training field. Enjoyed it, saw the company grow, but came to recognize that I had fundamentally different perspectives than the owner on many business approaches. Though we got along in a pretty transparent relationship, there was the constant sense that we were pulling in different directions.

Suddenly, driving home through the Poconos, it came to me. I wasn’t going to change. He wasn’t going to change. It was time to go our separate ways. If I was going to fulfill my professional desires and drives, and add maximum value, I had to “create it myself,” and not vainly hope that someone else would conform their business to my ideals, or custom-create the perfect position for me.

And what I had found I enjoyed most, over the years, was not selling. It was consulting. This, after almost 20 years in sales! But now, I was finally ready. I had the knowledge, the desire, the network, and ability to market. Gradually, a niche business consulting approach emerged in my thinking.

Giving what amounted to 7 months notice, we de-commissioned my role in the company, and after 10 years, I launched out as a consultant providing training strategy and expertise, as well as a unique vendor-client “matchmaking” service. I long believed that the best chance for business success is by defining, creating and occupying a unique space, and this was my chance.

The first year was hard. After 9 months, I began really questioning whether this thing was ever going to get “wheels up.” But then business steadily picked up, and now, I am dependent only on pleasing my clients, not on fulfilling someone else’s agenda. Wonderfully liberating.

How about you? Where was your professional “turning point” that started you on your course? Write it up on your blog and share the story!

(Image credit)

(this post was inspired by Director Tom (Tom Clifford), who did a Twitter post about writing up the 7 minutes that changed his life in the direction of becoming a filmmaker [once his post is up, I'll link to it]. Tom suggested a series called Turning Points – so, here we are! Readers are encouraged to write up their own, and I’ll link to any that participate!)

Here is CK’s take on her career…

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Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

Congratulations! As a business professional, you’ve outsourced a growing proportion of your marketing.

Whether you decided to or not.

Time was, companies could control their marketing messages to a large extent. They could craft their brand image and messages and pro-actively distribute that marketing to their target audience. Sure, word-of-mouth was always powerful in the shaping of a brand’s reputation in the marketplace, but the magnifying effect of conversation – “outsourced” marketing, if you will – was still limited.

No more. The trend is clear – the explosion of social media means that people-to-people conversations have a rapidly growing influence compared to traditional marketing/advertising. These “outsourced” conversations (esp. facilitated through on-line platforms) will increasingly impact a company’s reputation, for good or for ill (you’ll forgive the awful graphic below: I’m a thinker and writer, not a designer!)

Just yesterday, I noticed on Twitter that there was a graphic depicting the words “Delta Skelter.” It did not look good! My immediate impression – somebody is NOT HAPPY with Delta airlines. A quick Google search unveiled this. And now, this message about Delta is rattling around in my brain and my emotions, potentially impacting that company’s reputation. And, although I have not had that same experience with Delta, now I’m mentioning it on my blog as well, as a case study. Messaging, magnified.

The point is: outsourced conversations are already happening, and they now have exponential impact. It’s no longer one neighbor grousing (or praising) to 5 others. It’s people reinforcing or undermining your brand at lightning speed, potentially impacting thousands. Scary.

The market will decide your reputation and your brand value. Therefore, you’d better deliver! And, since the outsourcing decision has already been made, it’s time to join the conversation.

Hat tip: Chris Kieff for inspiring this rant.

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