Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com. And it's featured guest time on our show and I'm very pleased to have with me here in the studio Casey Conner and Christine Lambden of Consulting Stance. Casey, Christine, welcome to The BusinessMaker Show.
Christine: Thank you.
Casey: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Russ: You bet. Well let's start, Casey, why don't you tell us about Consulting Stance?
Casey: Consulting Stance is a company we founded that ‘s focused on helping professionals develop consulting skills as well as learn how to start a consulting business.
Russ: Might be prime time for that these days right?
Casey: We're seeing waves out there in the market of really experienced, great people who wanna get out of the corporate world and don't really know how to get started. So we're teaching em how to take the skills they've already got and be successful.
Russ: I suppose there might even be some that are out there as free agents, not because they wanted to be but because they were laid off.
Casey: We're seeing lots of people who are out on the market that weren't planning on it.
Russ: Well Christine, what qualifies you guys to be doing this?
Christine: Between us we have a little more than 30 years of experience in consulting. I'll tell ya my story and let Casey tell you his story but they intersect pretty recently. I graduated from college and got laid off 3 times in 3 years by 3 different companies.
Russ: Okay, that'll teach you something I guess.
Christine: Clearly traditional employment options are not going to work for me and I discovered that I could get work here and there, bits and pieces. I didn't know it was called consulting. I didn't know what a consulting practice was or a client or anything like that. I was just doing temp work and technical writing and ended up building up a little business and selling it and then going off and working for a consulting firm where I learned all the stuff that I wish I had known when I started. So one of the things that we do is teach all that stuff that I wish I'd known.
Russ: Okay. And what's your background then Casey?
Casey: I've seen the consulting business from just about every angle. I started out with a major firm as a junior consultant straight out of graduate school, went into IT management where I hired, fired and contracted with a bunch of different consultants, then became a vice president with a consulting firm, then became an independent consultant working both some through staffing agencies and some independently. So if you're at a consultant negotiating table, I've sat in every seat.
Christine: Where we intersected is when he was the VP at the consulting firm, I was one of the primadonna consultants working for him.
Russ: Okay, all right. Is it right to say that you guys might be the consultants to consultants?
Christine: Absolutely, that's a great description for what we do.
Russ: Okay. Well you know as I've already sorta mentioned, it does seem like the timing is really right for what you're doing but it's also dawned on me, I don't think I've ever heard of anybody doing this before. It's rare that we have a unique business model here. Do you have competitors? Are there others that do this?
Casey: The closest we've seen is a company out of Australia that's attempting to do something similar and a few web sites that are left over that haven't been touched in a few years where people have started. But in general, we don't see anybody really focused on what we're focused on, which is taking the people who have great skills and saying here's how to be successful in consulting.
Russ: Now before I go any further, I wanna know a little bit about this name, Consulting Stance.
Christine: Well Consulting Stance comes from the metaphor that we use in our book, Everyday Practices of Extraordinary Consultants, that talks about being in your consulting stance where you are poised and ready to – prepared to handle whatever comes at you. The consulting stance is you're most prepared and most flexible.
Casey: In martial arts you have to nail the basic moves, blocking, kicking and punching before you can be effective at moving up to cotta's and weapons and all the other things and it's really similar in consulting. If you can't listen well, ask good questions, make people like you and some of those basics, you're never gonna get out of the starting gate as a consultant.
Russ: I've had some experience with a couple of consultants that knew martial arts very well. I guess that's where the two categories sorta cross. Well this is really interesting so I would expect that there are listeners in our audience that are – perhaps fall in the category of I've been thinking about doing that right now. So can you really teach somebody how to do this stuff?
Christine: Yes we can. What we have found is that the majority of the people who are considering doing this already have very valuable experience that they just don't know how to package or message, put together the package to approach clients. So we teach them that. We teach them how to start the business, how to get started, and we teach them what they have that is an asset.
Russ: Okay. It also seems to me like the number of companies that bring in consultants, both large, medium and small these days has got to be at an all-time high as well. Is that just my imagination or –
Casey: No, companies out there are looking for much more flexible employment as are the individuals in the marketplace. So you're seeing companies say, "Why are we hiring up when times are good and laying off thousands when times are bad? Let's just build our staff and then supplement with consultants when we have projects and need specific expertise." Cause those needs change so quickly in the market these days. Companies are getting a little smarter about it and saying, "Let's maintain some flexibility."
Russ: Right, okay. Do you guys actually maybe even compete sometimes with I don't even know who the final four accounting firms are but that often have like consulting arms these days. Would your consultants be hired by the m at times?
Christine: A lot of our consultant friends and graduates absolutely have worked as subcontractors for the big firms or have been hired as employees.
Russ: Okay, cool. All right now Christine you mentioned Everyday Practices of Extraordinary Consultants, you book and I wanna talk a little bit about that after this. We're talking with Christine Lambden and Casey Conner, founders of Consulting Stance. And you're listening to The BusinessMaker Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com.
Russ: This is The BusinessMaker Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com and continuing on with Casey Conner and Christine Lambden of Consulting Stance. Okay, the book, Everyday Practices of Extraordinary Consultants, tell us about that Christine.
Christine: Well Casey and I have worked together over the last 3 or 4 years. We've done a lot of helping each other out with solving problems with consultants. One day I finally took all the instant messages that we'd exchanged and dumped them all into a Word document and said, "I think we've got enough here for a book if we smooth it out and add some examples."
Russ: Okay, cool.
Christine: And we did.
Russ: That's cool.
Casey: And then she said, "Let's write a book." And I said, "Ha-ha, yeah, yeah, sure." And next thing we knew, over a few months of gathering war stories and putting some organization around it, we came out with a pretty good skills guide for how to get started and what the basic moves are that you need to have to be a good consultant.
Russ: Okay, so this book is targeted at your prime clients and customers, the prospects that wanna become consultants.
Casey: Yeah. And it even says ‘A Field Guide' right on the cover. You can read it on a flight. It's a pretty quick read.
Russ: Cool, cool, okay. So that's sort of a good entrée into this topic, you know we're getting the picture of what you guys do, how do you find these people? How do you attract the people that wanna learn skills to be good consultants?
Casey: We're learning web marketing for one thing and figuring out where to target the right audience. But we spent a lot of time at job clubs and outplacement firms where they're already talking to people out there who have 20 years of experience plus or minus, have great skills but have never started a business and really don't know what that takes. So we go talk to em, give em a little taste of the class, one of the modules and talk to em about the seminars that we host and that's how we've been drawing people in. And it's amazing the interest that people have in this topic. We've sent out email blasts the day before and had 50 people show up to come just get a taste of it.
Russ: Okay, well now, Casey mentioned a taste of the class and seminars Christine, does that mean that you do these things regularly?
Christine: We do. We are trying to do two a month. Right now we have one more scheduled in August in Austin on August 20th and 21st and then we also have one in Houston September 9th and 10th.
Russ: Okay, so these are like seminar, workshop type classes?
Christine: It's a two-day class were we cover not only the basic consulting skills and some pretty advanced consulting skills to make you successful but also we take you through all the steps required to set up your business. We take you through some decisions associated with what kind of consultant you wanna be. And each person who comes in thinking do I wanna be a consultant will walk out with absolutely. The answer to that question and their startup plan for how they're gonna go.
Russ: Okay, or is it possible that you would come in and go my God, this is hard to do. I don't wanna do this. I mean if you didn't wanna do it, it would be a good thing to know.
Christine: Absolutely. One of the things we're finding though is a lot of people think it's a lot harder than it is. It sounds more glamorous than it is. It also sounds harder than it is.
Russ: Okay. Have you done enough of these already to maybe have a track record of graduates that you know are actually out there billing some hours now?
Christine: We do. We have a lot of anecdotes, a lot of great stories of people. More importantly we have people coming in and calling us and registering for our classes because they heard about it from someone who was in one of our classes. We're getting a lot of referral business.
Casey: We do enjoy the gratitude from our former students that it's given them the confidence to go get started.
Christine: The people who come through our classes wanna work for themselves. One of the things we're saying is if you wanna work for someone else we'll help you find that person, but if you wanna work for yourself we're not gonna try to get you to come work for us.
Russ: Okay, do you know yet, are most of em becoming independent consultants on their own? That's what most of em are?
Casey: Most of em come in with that thought process already going through their heads and that's how they get interested and they walk out feeling like they can do it.
Christine: Our customers tend to have that entrepreneurial spirit you're always talking about.
Russ: Cool, okay well now you mentioned Austin and Houston, does that mean that you're gonna stay here in the Lone Star State?
Christine: Absolutely not. We are planning on going nationwide and we are also looking right now at taking it onto the web and doing a web broadcast class but for now we're not booking more than a month in advance.
Russ: Okay. At the end of the day there's a new company called Consulting Stance, your primary revenue stream from what I'm picking up or these attendees that go to these workshops and I guess people that buy your book. How do they buy your book?
Casey: Through Amazon.com and at consultingstance.com and we'll ship out a signed one through consultingstance.com.
Russ: All right, we'll have more with the Consulting Stance team after this. You're listening to The BusinessMakers Show heard here and online at thebusinessmaers.com.
Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com. And continuing on with Casey Conner and Christine Lambden, the founders of Consulting Stance. Well let's say Casey that we have a listener right now that's thinking maybe this is for me but they're kind of on the fence and going I don't know if I want to. It might be real hard to do. What would you tell em?
Casey: I'd say the great things about consulting as a business is that it's the cheapest business in the world to get into. You're not developing a product because you are the product. You really have to build your personal brand and that takes time and effort but you're not spending a lot of money to do that. So you can start tomorrow, you could hang a shingle out and become a consultant in a day.
Russ: Okay. Well I noticed when I went through the book it seemed like start at ground zero, this is how you should start your company, then winning clients. But what is the curriculum?
Christine: Well in the class we talk about how you design your business, how you start your business and then how you sell clients and we go through actually the anatomy of a proposal. In the book we talk about how you do the job once you've got the client and that's one of the things that we really dig down into what you do and say on your first day. How do you make friends with the people that matter?
Russ: Okay. I was impressed when I got into that level of detail and how to handle sort of the politics of the company.
Christine: The seminar builds on what's in the book. We also give everyone who registers for one of our classes a copy of the book so we don't want it to be the exact same thing. We want it to be more.
Russ: And can they find out details by going to your web site?
Christine: Absolutely. Consultingstance.com.
Russ: Okay, consultingstance.com.
Casey: Schedule and an outline of the training are both available there.
Russ: Okay. Now do you guys know, since you've been in this field for so long, I mean are there people that get tired of being a consultant? I mean both of you seem to be pretty passionate about it like it's the only career one should follow.
Casey: They say if you have a briefcase and a boarding pass you can be a consultant so some people get worn out on the travel. Other than that, the job is great because you're getting paid for your advice. It's a fun and rewarding job and you get treated a little bit differently as a consultant than as an employee. You're automatically credible; they automatically wanna listen to you so it's a great feeling.
Russ: Okay, well you mentioned the boarding pass too, I mean you even have, seems like a chapter in the book about how to handle the travel and how to minimize it. I've had several traveling jobs and I think I ultimately got to the point where you gave people advice but I wish I'd have known it right up front how to do that.
Christine: A big part of what we've got in the book and in our classes are the things that we wish we'd known 20 years ago.
Russ: That's cool. Well even, Casey, when you just said they treat you differently when you're a consultant and they do and that reminds me sort of the chapter in the book, I think it's about making presentations and when you're sort of presenting your results, it's not like everybody in the room is gonna wanna hear it and how you handle that. I mean sometimes you're even kind of an adversary to em but you're being honest to your cause. Did I describe that accurately?
Casey: Yes, you have to deliver with integrity. You are there to do a job. Regardless of the reaction you expect, you can't own the reaction, you just have to own the integrity of delivering the message. We talk about simple techniques of just how to present with some power.
Russ: Okay. Well, before we wrap it up here, give us those dates again for the Austin and the Houston seminar.
Christine: In Austin we have a seminar on August 20th and 21st and Houston it's September 9th and 10th.
Russ: Okay, and those dates are together right, it's a two-day seminar.
Christine: It's a two-day class so it starts on Wednesday morning, ends on Thursday afternoon.
Russ: Okay and they actually sign up at your web site.
Christine: They can register at our web site and they'll get all their information about where to go and what to do.
Russ: Which is constultingstance.com right?
Russ: Okay, well Christine, Casey, I really appreciate you coming in and telling us your story.
Christine: Thank you; it was a pleasure.
Casey: Thank you; really enjoyed it.
Russ: You bet. We've been talking with Christine Lambden and Casey Conner of Consulting Stance and you're listening to The BusinessMaker Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com.