So you think you want to be a consultant?

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Witte Consulting Group, LLC now in its second year!

Among all the career options I’ve ever had, running my business was never really one of them.  The closest I ever got was having a dream company with my closest colleague and friend (we even named the partnership).  But when the cards were finally in place to start my own business last year, I jumped in and learned some key points.  For those considering consultancy, to give some shout outs to those who stood by me, to memorialize the occasion and with a nod to David Letterman, I’ve compiled my TOP TEN lessons learned: 

  1. Network, Network, Network:  I am willing to publicly say “you were right” to Jim Hamilton who had encouraged me to keep my external network active even though I was quite comfortably employed.  At the time, I placated him with a “yes, I will” and then always found reasons not to network: “I’m too busy” to “I’m not looking for a job”.  The real reason, which I have found to be very common: I didn’t LIKE to network.  I have realized two things: 1) there is a right way and a wrong way to network.  When you are doing it correctly, it’s not that horrible an activity and can actually be quite energizing.  And 2) If you want to develop your business, you must network…that’s it…so just do it. 
  1. Honor Thy Administrative Professional:  This should not just be a one-day celebration.  These are the unsung heroes that keep businesses running.  As I find myself alone in a room full of paper and folders and calendars and phone calls and events that need managing, I truly miss my team who provided partnership, comradery and much needed organization! So, a shout out to Annette, Anita, Judy, Joanne, Doreen and everyone else who kept me on track over the years. 
  1. Run It Like You Own It:  This was a common saying in the corporate world and a great way to develop an entrepreneurial spirit among employees and have them think twice before making costly decisions or push harder when making a new sale.  For the past year, I have HAD to run it like I own it and have found that both liberating and a little frightening!  Self-discipline, organization and internal drive are the skills I have called upon to succeed. 
  1. Respect your IT people: I always appreciated the work IT folks did to keep organizations running from a technology standpoint but until you have to buy your own computer, set up your own network, develop your own website, fix your printer, reconnect a router,  and then be your own tech support, you have no idea how much was done behind the scenes for you.  So, a shout out goes to these unsung heroes especially Samantha Toledo.
  1. Lend a Hand:   Whatever stage of your career, there is someone who could benefit from your expertise, or a referral, or just a friendly ear to be heard.  No amount of business should ever come before just being a good person. To those who have been there for me this year, thank you, I promise to pay it forward:  Adrienne Milics, Sharon Power, Rina Fiorenzi, Amanda Ruess. 
  1. It’s a BIG world out here!  For over twenty years, I worked for a global organization that had over 25000 employees. It isn’t the largest company out there, but when you are inside, it seems huge (descriptors included “the borg”, “the matrix”)  No matter the size of company you are working in now, understand that the world is bigger than that one microcosm.  I have been fascinated to learn about so many different industries, companies and innovations out here while I was developing an unfortunate myopic view about one organization.  Thank you to the associations who commit to bring us all together and leverage our knowledge to help us and the world succeed. Alexis Abuhadba, Tri State Diversity Council, Mt Olive Area Chamber of Commerce, Harry Browne, Patrice Shaffer, Linda Smith, RuthAnn Disotell, Debi Pinelli, Melissa Nichols:  thank you.  
  1. Embrace your inner imposter syndrome.  For years, people have been saying I should become a consultant; I was the last one to believe it.  So when you are alone in your office and you hear your inner self start to say: “I can’t do that” or “that’s way out of my element” or “they’re going to call me out for not being an expert”, I give you permission to Slap Yourself Silly and knock that off.  Seriously.  I have found an inner confidence and strength by taking a deep breath, reminding myself of who I am and taking the leap. And when that hasn’t worked, I have called on my support network for a dose of support, validation and encouragement.  Mike Adamsky, Scott Malaquias thank you. 
  1. Surround yourself with those who have gone before you and LISTEN to them!  As Aaron Burr advised Alexander Hamilton: “Talk less, smile more”.  There are so many good people out there and they all want to lend that hand (see point 5) and give some solid advice.  This isn’t the time to sell them on what you can do…it’s the time to listen and learn.  Thank you to those who were there for me including Jennifer Leonard, Pamela Trebour-Hill.
  1. Say YES often.  When speaking to early career professionals when they were curious how to grow within an organization, I’d always advise them to say yes and figure the rest out later. I remember clearly two colleagues who did this frequently when taking assignments that even included relocating to unseen places.  They embraced change and opportunity feeling confident that the rest of the package would follow.  Now, I say yes to anything that comes my way, reminding myself that it is a BIG world out there (see point 6) and the fun is in the journey.   
  1. Always be learning something new:  Hone your craft, expand your capabilities, read and stay current with business trends.  By attending workshops, webinar and training programs, I have learned new techniques, met passionate colleagues in the same space as me, and developed powerful alliances for the future. 

Want to learn more?  Or talk through what your options are and how to get the future you want?  Let’s chat!