Over half of IT personnel say they want to own their own consulting business some day. Many of those optimistic souls also absurdly believe they should start when the economy is the worst. Given the opportunity do it over again, any professional service would probably be avoided. The fact is if you’re one of these brave people, you likely don’t have the skill, personality, or drive to make it. The following points are the main reasons why:
- You have to sell to survive. Lean closer. There is a secret coming. It’s not really selling. Whatever you imagine about how to present yourself or your company is amateurish, boring, or obnoxious. Don’t even think about talking technical. Oh and 99% of supposed sales people are paper tigers with little heart and no more idea of how to present or close a deal than you. Even with the good old boy (or girl) approach of honest person trying to make a living, you will have limited success. Worst yet, customers and prospects will eat you alive with buying tactics. However, most of the time you’ll simply get strung out and unknowingly lose before you start, competing against veterans. If you can’t sell or don’t want to sell, go back to the cube.
- While you’re doing that sales thing, you also must continually market. It’s not just mundane brochures, flyers, and websites. You also have to do search engine optimization, blogging, articles, events, public speaking, and networking. Just like sales, you have to understand the tactics and market without bluster, while giving prospects something tangible and leaving competitors with questions.
- How are you with people? If the above points didn’t faze you, you must be able to hire, train, nurture, and manage a staff also comprised of non-technical people. Fortunately, the ludicrous thought that technical people can change jobs every 2 years and increase salary by 20% each time has died in infamy. However, the people issues of any business are often the most challenging with an example of customers or vendors hiring your staff. In fact, the most prominent problem is after all the effort put in by you, most technology firms are pirated by internal staff starting their own venture. Astonishingly, many customers will have no loyalty. Today, morality and legality seemingly don’t apply. You’re only solace is that the pirates will face a horrible fate in hell, their lives have no honor with cursed karma, and they rarely succeed.
- Consulting, software development, or related technical support is high risk. 70% of firms are not profitable and most new startups fail within 3 years. There are more moving parts and business aspects to understand than in virtually any other type of enterprise. You may know how to code or install a network, but what about the various aspects of business process like legal, accounting, human resources, purchasing, and facilities? Much less business 101 analysis of if you should provide an offering and how you will compete with or without it?
- Are you tougher than nails mentally, physically, spiritually, and even financially? Remember that technical suff – you must keep up with that constantly changing tide too. As an owner, all the liability rests with you. Unlike other professional services, you’ll never get so big that you won’t be customer facing or have to reboot a computer or crawl under a desk to check a wire. Information Technology has no terms like doctor or lawyer, so everyone (prospects, customers, vendors, and staff) is an expert from reading the latest technology article and will question your competency. Computer issues are inherently personal, so you will be told the most outlandish things in strident voice. Finally, no matter how good you are, a computer will often make you look foolish.
Faith in God, extreme diligence, and some amount of luck have been the keys to my success. My passion is helping clients realize business potential. I enjoy nearly all aspects and have been blessed with a diverse set of skills, both a business and technical education, and had the opportunity to practice for over 20 years.
During the wee hours of the morning, I’ve likely walked the dogs, gone to Golds, answered e-mail, and done some marketing like this post before 8am. From time to time, major manufacturers like Microsoft and Dell have selected our small firm in Tulsa over much larger markets to implement new technology, but we’re not a powerhouse. There is always someone bigger and better, with some of my peers more driven and successful. There are few slouches in our industry and contrary to popular belief there is not enough business to go around. If you’re not convinced, dive into the deep water. Otherwise, keep the madness to college basketball this month.