September 20 - 22, 2021
The CPO's Corner
Am I ready to make a transition into consulting? What is the best way to do this?
Congratulations! Good for you for your willingness to venture into something new. As someone who’s worked in consulting, I’d like to share learnings on things you should think about before pulling the switch. (Am assuming here that you are looking at consulting in your own business as opposed to becoming an employee in a large firm).
- Before anything else, decide how you will keep a roof over your head and keep the lights on. Even if you jump right into a great assignment, you’ll likely have some periods where cash isn’t flowing in. Perhaps you’ll rely on a spouse or significant other to carry the financial load for a while, maybe you triple up on savings ahead of time to create a cushion. And remember that as a supplier you are subject to whatever payment terms your clients have in place. That means that renumeration for work done today may not appear for 90 days or so.
I recently counseled someone planning such a leap. As a former senior executive at a Fortune 500 company, she had been out of work for a while and was tempted to hang out her own shingle when she got the chance to do some work at a local business. But she was the lone wage earner in her family, had two college age children, and supported her in-laws. She was unlikely to earn enough to cover her expenses as an individual consultant – she either needed to get some partners and go after larger projects, figure out a way to supplement her income stream, or continuing interviewing for executive roles. (She chose the latter and landed at a technology company)
- Define your “Spark”. What do you do better than others? How do you define your specialty? Why would a potential client choose you versus someone else?
- Ideally, you have a great network with lots of people likely to hire you, or at least recommend you. If not, there are ways to get started by registering with professional placement firms that can help you find those first few positions while you’re getting your consulting sea legs.
- Its been said many times that “Procurement leaders don’t buy, they sell”, but it’s very different when you move from the buying side of the table to the selling side. It’s hard work, and the deadlines are set by your clients, not by yourself. That means, if you’re lucky, some long days and seven day work weeks.
- Consultants can recommend, they can perform analysis, they can suggest. But they can’t make the ultimate decision. After years of being in a leadership role, will you be comfortable with that?
Consulting can be fun and energizing, and a way to use both the hard and soft skills you’ve acquired over the years. Go into it with your eyes open and your prework done – then enjoy creating your business.
Joanna Martinez is a global procurement / supply chain leader and the founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC. She is a frequent lecturer and blogger on procurement topics and also provides coaching, strategy development, training, and cost reduction opportunity assessment. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to technology startups.
As either regional or global CPO, Joanna has led transformation initiatives for companies in many different sectors: among them Johnson & Johnson (consumer products), Diageo (beverage), AllianceBernstein LP (financial services) and Cushman & Wakefield (real estate services, property management). She has also held client-facing roles, effectively giving her the opportunity to “sit on both sides of the table”.