Chapter 1 – Overview of the Consulting Profession

Ever wonder if you could become your own boss. If you have expertise in the microcomputer field you can start a business based on the knowledge you possess or can acquire. Possible areas for a small computer business include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Desktop publishing
  • Computer sales and servicing
  • Networking
  • Web page development
  • Training
  • Application consulting

There are several reasons to become a consultant. The computer industry has been experiencing layoffs and downsizing for the last couple of years. By becoming a computer consultant you provide yourself with a very well paying job, which is dependent on your marketing and ingenuity, not how the stock market is doing or the acceptance of a single product or concept. You can start and manage your own business or you can operate as a computer consultant within the framework of other organizations. We will focus on self employed business operations for this course.

Why be a computer consultant?

Desktop computers are becoming integrated into almost all small businesses, but many haven’t the slightest idea of what or how to implement this marvelous tool into their specialized operation. This creates a natural marketplace for the computer consultant; small businesses cannot afford to hire a computer expert so they need a lower cost alternative … the computer consultant. The demand for these services should grow by leaps and bounds. In addition there are many other reasons to enter the consulting field, they include, but are not limited to:

  • Career survival in a turbulent Information Systems world
  • Interesting challenges and opportunities
  • Low startup cost in some cases
  • Finally, be your own boss, freedom

Types of Computer Consultants

There are three levels of consulting activities; the majority of consulting opportunities available in rural South Dakota are mainly on the first or lowest level. The three levels are listed below:

  1. Software/Hardware development and basic advisory services
    II. Systems integration/systems migration/other multidiscipline services
    III. Chief Information Officer consulting/superstar

    When you enter the consulting field with a limited skill inventory – one or two programming languages or a single hardware platform then the first level is the logical and easiest activity to enter. If you are experienced with several languages or Enterprise Resource Planning systems such as SAP or PeopleSoft, then the second level may be a better choice for you. Finally the third level is for top-level consultants who have a nation wide or international reputation as being an expert in one or more areas.

If you have spent your entire career working in a particular area, you should be the best person to identify a consulting opportunity in that area. Your success depends on having a pool of potential customers needing your skills. You should not forget that your present employer could be your best new customer. This can provide you with income until you establish a broader customer base.

Your success with clients depends on the following

1. Understand the general principle of a client’s business
2. Speak the customer’s language/terminology
3. Don’t over use technical language
4. Propose sensible, cost-effective solutions
5. Dress appropriately

Your success as a consultant depends on the following:
(The list was taken from a survey published by the Association of Management Consultants “AMC”)

  • The ability to deal with people
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Written and verbal communications skills
  • Professional etiquette
  • Self-confidence
  • Creativity
  • Ambition

In addition to proven technical skills you will need, or need to develop, the following business skills:

  • Marketing
  • Finance and accounting
  • Business law
  • Personnel management
  • General management

Before you decide to enter the consulting market you need to consider whether you have any of the following shortcomings

  • Inadequate or inappropriate experience
  • Insufficient business knowledge
  • You feel uncomfortable with a lack of job security
  • You take setback as personal defeats
  • You are not a self starter