AND REALITIES OF INDEPENDENT CONSULTING
Douglas Blaine Kenney
several years as the hard-charging manager of a Manhattan-based
"Big 6" national management consulting practice, I
learned that I had just been passed over for Partner by the Committee
and was out of a job on 12/31. I was thirty-eight years old.
was November 17th. That meant I had only three more paychecks coming!
Bummer! I had been doing a good job for my employer. The Practice
was pulling down good bucks, and I had been hoping for a raise and
the yearend bonus - but as a friend in HR told me over drinks that
evening, " Doug, you're just not tall enough or blond enough
to make Partner here; plus, Bob doesn't like you".
was my alcoholic, sadistic, brutal Senior Partner who literally
drove my young consultants to tears with his monumental rages and
his famous last minute major revisions. Many times my team would
be forced to work all night before the big presentation, rewriting
everything from scratch according to his whim - and then go before
the Client drained and grainy at 10 AM to give the presentation;
and then stand up for the customary grilling by the Client's lackeys
with a brain full of cotton candy.
Too much "pay your dues" going on here.
had enough of that type of boss during my years in the Marine
Corps and later, at Citibank (sometimes it was hard to tell the
difference between those two organizations); but the reality of
the situation was, that I had lost my Big 6 career.
not start my own consultancy? After all, I knew how to run a
consulting business, didn't I? I'd been running this Big 6 national
practice for years. I've been making steady big bucks for "The
Firm" - why not make those same big bucks and keep them for
Great idea! So I did it. And I got rich at it! Clients paid me -
directly - almost
Five Million Dollars in consulting fees, during the time I ran my
began as an Independent Consultant 22 years ago. Life is full
of surprises, and I sure found a lot of them, out here in the real
world outside the Fortune 500 and the big management consulting
I'd had a reputation as being a good planner in the corporate world
- I'd introduced PERT into Citibank while I was there; I'd planned
and budgeted and supervised many successful large technology projects
at RCA and Thrift Transfer Services and Citibank - and at "Big
6" I'd managed a bunch of major studies and projects - all
shocker! In the real world of singleton consulting, I found
that most of my planning for my own business somehow failed to work!
I could do it for the Client with his money, but, when it came to
my project and my bucks, I just couldn't be objective,
and I now know why surgeons never operate on members of their own
My fears and aspirations - and even my ego - kept getting in the
way of rational planning!
trying to market my own consulting services, for instance -
despite my experience with "Big 6" consulting - I did
my book "THE WISE MAN'S GUIDE TO THE TWENTY-FIRST
CENTURY INDEPENDENT CONSULTING PRACTICE" I tell you
everything that I did wrong in those early days and I show you how
an independent consultant can avoid my mistakes and make money doing
first real world lesson is that - as a "singleton consultant"
or "1099 consultant" or "independent contractor"
or whatever you call yourself - you cannot let yourself make the
same business mistake twice. It's your money, dummy!
waste money that could have gone into your retirement plan!
You've got to be a really quick study on the practical aspects of
your business - i.e., the marketing, the sales, finding an accountant
who actually understands what it is you do, before you set up your
bookkeeping system; actually proofreading the galleys before your
local printer runs off those 10,000 sheets of four-color stationary
that you need for the big Report; getting exactly the right mix
of phone/fax/internet lines properly on order with the phone company
before you actually need to make all those sales calls, etc.
an independent consultant, you're in a horse race with the clock!
You've got to build up that retirement plan before you age out,
or before your now-hot skill goes obsolete; or before the stock
market crashes again, or before you develop a medical problem that
prevents you from traveling, etc. You have no time to waste!
You simply can't afford to make the same mistake twice!
just one of my dumb mistakes! I spent a fortune over the years
on expensive office furniture and decorating work for my little
Home Office there in my walkup apartment near the railroad station
- but only once in 22 years, did I ever have a Client there!
my book, I show you how best to set up your home office, and
I teach you where to meet the Client in person on your own impressive
neutral turf, without spending a lot of money. Because if you've
got any extra money, you want to put it in the pension plan, not
in your office.
the years I spent a lot of money and time "keeping up"
with my field - not just the new technology, but also the key
players. Technology changes in an evolutionary fashion, and you
can keep pretty much abreast of the new stuff just by working in
the field -
the key players and the buzz words of the moment are fast-changing
fashion items that will be used to judge and qualify you when
potential Clients meet you; if you don't respond correctly, you
don't get the Job.
words originate in the "B" schools and in the think
tanks of industry leaders and in the marketing departments of the
hot manufacturers. To learn the Buzz words you've got to continually
talk to people in your field, and also, cruise the Internet boards
that cater to your skills; you need to subscribe to (and read!)
the trade papers, magazines, and book clubs, in your field.
also got to read the same newspapers your Prospects read every day
- so that you can talk about general interest stuff at lunch, or
on the golf course. You've got to attend those important trade shows
and seminars - including cruising the hospitality suites set up
by the vendors to attract their Prospects - because that is where
people see you and you get seen, and people know that you're active
in the field.
evening classes if you need to learn a hot new operating system
like LINUX, or how to use a useful package like MS PUBLISHER (you'll
be surprised how many times your success at a new Client will hinge
on knowing something like this). Here is money and time well spent
- this is part of what the Client is paying you to know.
potential new Client will make his permanent assessment of you during
his first twenty seconds of conversation with you! If during those
critical twenty seconds, you unwittingly reveal that "ATM"
means "Automatic Teller Machine" to you, when "ATM"
means "Asynchronous Transmission Mode" to him; or you
think "ABA" means, "American Bar Association",
while to him, it means "American Bankers Association"
- then hey, Buckaroo - you're history, even before your crumpled
business card stops bouncing in his office waste basket!
despite all the mistakes I've made, I've learned how to sell
my consulting services directly to the Client; no "bodyshop"
to take the lion's share of my fee. I've advised 58 major Clients
over the past twenty-two years of my own Practice - everybody from
JP Morgan and Citibank and the National Commercial Bank of Saudia
Arabia in New York, to Jones Intercable in Sacramento, to the Construction
Bank Of China in Shenzhen, to the "Handelsgesellschaft fur
Bank und Buro-Ausstattungen Normmobel Kassenraumeinrichtungen Ges.
I.e." in Vienna - helping them to plan, purchase and install
almost one billion dollars worth of technology and telecommunications
equipment, software and services.
also found crooks in their management and bugs in their software,
and electronic bugs in their phones. And, I've written tens of thousands
of pages of consulting studies and reports that few ever read, but
for which I was highly paid.
wrote and published a couple of books, and invented a couple
of gadgets - several successful, and one which made me a lot of
the years, I've had many opportunities to serve as an Expert Witness
in Court cases in several of the fields of which I'm skilled
- and I've had a lot of fun doing this. I've made a lot of money
at Expert Witness work.
all the dumb mistakes I made during my twenty-two year career as
an Independent Consultant, somehow I managed to invoice just
under five million dollars in consulting fees right off my own PC's
printer, and to take those checks - payable to me, alone - to the
bank; and I did all this while living and working out of a $650/month
Long Island apartment hard by the railroad station and the expressway,
and close by both JFK and LGA. With my wife doing all the typing
and administration. You can do it too!
I carried those invoices in and presented them to my Clients,
and then carried back the checks and put them in the bank. No "Boss".
No "Headhunter". No "Agency". No middlemen!
the Client failed to pay me - which happened rarely, but sometimes
- I figured out some surefire ways to get paid - and I teach you
how to do that, in my book.
I said I found a lot of surprises, when I left my "Big
6" management consulting firm to start my own Consultancy.
The first surprise was the difficulty of getting to decision makers
who you haven't met before, to make your pitch for work. "Doug
where?" Went the secretarial mantras, with
where" spoken from between clenched teeth,
and with a rising inflection. You see, all those years I'd been
introducing myself to executive secretaries as "Doug Kenney
from Coopers & Lybrand or Citibank or RCA
" and then
walking right in.
me! You see - all those years I had thought that they were reacting
to the "Doug Kenney" part of that - in reality, they had
only heard the "Coopers & Lybrand" part!
to do? This was an enormous problem - because while for a few
months I could pay the rent by getting work through people I knew
- at some point I would have to make rain with strangers.
book "THE WISE MAN'S GUIDE TO THE TWENTY-FIRST
CENTURY INDEPENDENT CONSULTING PRACTICE" covers all this,
and more! Go to the "ORDER FORM"
and use either check or credit card, for your copy, today.
to Real Life Independent Consulting Experiences