• So you want to start your own consulting business…. Part 2

  • Last month I wrote about some of the important things to plan for if you want to start your own business. This moth I continue that discussion with more thoughts on the pitfalls and successes you may experience along the way.

    Build Your Team
    As a personal corporation or sole-proprietor you may think you have it all covered by yourself. In reality you need to surround yourself with a really good team of professionals and support staff – just like the big company you used to work for! A good network takes a long time to acquire and should include not just colleagues, clients and suppliers, but mentors and advisors. You’ll need a lawyer to help you set up your company, provide legal advice and (I suggest) review some of your contract language. You’ll likely spend a lot more time writing and reviewing contracts, proposals and such (which BTW is usually un-paid time). A book keeper and accountant are a must to keep you on the right side of the tax man and (hopefully keep some of your own money at the end of the day). You will also likely need to establish a really good relationship with your bank manager if any kind of loan, bank overdraft or other financial assistance is needed. Be prepared that everything from bank fees, credit cards to phone bills and insurance always cost more for a business than for personal. You will need a network of like-minded colleagues who can provide assistance and back up if you get busy; land a big project; or just want to take a holiday. All the support staff you were used to working with (admin, secretarial, drafting, field labour. IT, HR. etc.) will now be DIY or outsourced, so you need to plan ahead and build a good team.

    Maintain Good Habits
    If you are a one or two-person operation, you will have to look after every aspect of your business – or pay someone else to do some of those tasks. Working for your self requires a lot of discipline in getting clients, completing projects on time, looking after the bills and invoicing, chasing down late payments; even just doing basic day to day organization. I find it helpful to make and upgrade daily, weekly and monthly ‘to-do’ lists. It helps keep me on track, organized and (mostly) on time. It also gives a sense of accomplishment when I physical cross-off a big project from my list, and wipe it off the project white-board. There is also a huge feeling of satisfaction when a client responds positively – and pays a big invoice promptly. Good clients really make the job easier and more rewarding (shout-out to my great clients). But in order to get great clients, you need to provide great service; the kind of service your client will brag about to their contacts. If you work hard to provide superior service and great value you are more likely to get repeat and referral business – that’s the ‘sweet spot’ we are all aiming for. This takes expertise, attention to detail, honesty, integrity, time management and excellent communication – all the time – for every task, every client, and every project. A good or great reputation takes a career to build, but can be lost overnight with one bad project or disgruntled client.
    I don’t want to sound too negative; I love running my own company, but it’s a lot of work (and a lot of reward) and personally I can’t imagine doing anything else. But it’s not for everyone, and if you are thinking of trying it and want to be successful (not just financially, that is only one measure of success), you need to be fully aware of everything that will be involved, my comments are only a small starting point for consideration.

    Till next month - keep healthy, stay safe, and be good to each other!

     Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca