5 Tips For Starting Your Own Consulting Practice

July 26, 2017

Todd Herrmann

Professor Todd Herrmann shares his top business tips

This article was written by undergraduate Management student Alexandra McConaghy and originally appeared in its entirety in the Spring 2017 issue of Management Magazine.

Simmons Professor Todd Herrmann has worked as a management consultant and in executive roles within strategy and business development for more than 30 years. He continues to expand his career as an independent consultant and as a new Simmons faculty member. We sat down and chatted with him recently about what it takes to have one's own consulting practice.

1. HAVE A TRACK RECORD OF RELEVANT EXPERIENCE

It's important to build your resume in order to gain valuable and applicable skills. You should work on developing analytical, technical, interpersonal, communications, and industry-functional expertise to be a consultant. While it's highly unlikely that you would immediately go into independent consulting as a new graduate, working in research and analytics for an established consulting firm is a great foundation. With these skills, you can provide your clients with best practices while continuing to learn yourself.

2. GET INVOLVED IN PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS THAT FOSTER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Being a part of multiple networks will be beneficial to your growth in a variety of ways. Joining professional associations will not only expand your network circles, but will also allow you to gain valuable personal skills and knowledge from your fellow peers. Be active in the groups where you believe you'll gain the most value. You may have to research a bit to find the right groups; when you do, venture out to an event or meeting.

3. NUTURE YOUR NETWORK AT ALL POINTS IN YOUR CAREER

Professional associations are one avenue, but you'll want to branch out from there. As a consultant, one of the most important things is to have a strong network. Members of your network become your coworkers and your clients! You should sustain and build your professional relationships in all areas of business. Your Simmons connections can get your started. Don't think “what can I get out of this relationship,” instead think “what can I offer this important person in my professional life.”

4. HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN

When you're serious about creating your own consulting firm, developing a solid business plan is essential. It allows you to identify what is needed to start your own practice. Although consultants may spend lots of time thinking about strategy and analyzing opportunities for others, we must do the same for ourselves—taking the time to think through developing our own business. You may have great ideas to start off with; however, you also need to have targets and standards to demonstrate the feasibility of the business, and to measure your progress against. What types of services will you offer? What's a reasonable number of clients you might expect in a year—or at any one point because the work comes in fits and starts? How much will clients be willing to pay? How will you find your clients, and how will they find you? These are some of the questions that should be addressed in your business plan in order to help you along the way.

5. CREATE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

Creating your own personal brand and image is extremely important because consulting is a broad field and you need to set yourself apart. You need to define your approach and certify your experience to prospective clients. Being able to stand out will make you more attractive within the consulting arena to clients and others with whom you might collaborate on projects. It's a very rewarding part of the process!

To read the full article, check out the Spring 2017 issue of Management Magazine.