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I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours. -Kurt Vonnegut

Advice

Sam Walton nailed it: "There is only one boss; the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

  • Differentiate yourself by industry, something you are a really good at, rather than technology. Although having a tech specialty is certainly also a good thing.
  • Be accessible and appear professional.
  • You must be constantly selling. Nothing is more critical than selling yourself and your business, but everything is important. Sales, engineering, financial management.
  • Even the smallest firms need a vision and plan to march to. Know where you are going, develop a plan, and implement it. What do you want? How do you get from where you are, to where you want to be?
  • Avoid developing throw-away code and use hardware components you understand in order to lower costs for you and your customers. Take jobs that increase your core competence or leave you with something extra (like contacts, code libraries, or knowledge of new tech).

Inspiration:

Interesting rate calculator: http://www.crossfireconsulting.com/calculator.php

Showing Up

I think it was Woody Allen who said that 80% of life is just showing up. This might be the most important lesson in business, especially small businesses like consultants. We had several very dead, very large trees threatening the house and barn last year. They need to come down, so I called three arborists for quotes, leaving voicemails.

One called back within an hour and was here that very afternoon. He gave me a quote that day. Another texted back that he'd be here that evening. Later, he delayed the time. He didn't show up. The next day he texted an apology and a new time. No show. Another apology, and another time. No show. I finally texted back that I don't care to work with people who don't respect my time. The third's receptionist called and said I'd hear from a crew member the next day. A week went by.

Needless to say, the job went to the responsive first person. Now, this is a $6000 contract, which is not chicken feed. The other two lost out because they couldn't be bothered to show up. That is a cardinal sin in business… and in life. "The dog ate my homework" might work in school, but not in adult life.

A lot of small outfits contact me for business advice. The first rule of business is to be responsive. Be easy to do business with. Yet too many just can't learn that lesson. How many companies start a "weekly" blog or "monthly" newsletter and then start missing posting dates? Lots. I bet most. Deadlines are a pain, but a commitment is a commitment, and missed, is a strike against the company.

I know of only two embedded consulting companies that reliably keep up with their newsletters month after month. Two, out of perhaps thousands. As a consumer of services, how can I give my business to an outfit that can't meet even these simple pledges? Are you a consultant? If so, is your web site always up to date? Do you follow up with leads that same day? Are your company brochures complete, well written, and current?

Government Engineering Projects

  • CLIN = contract line item number; explains what is being purchased like labor, travel, product, etc

Page last modified on January 06, 2023, at 09:54 PM