Many would-be independent consultants worry that they do not have the transferable skills needed to make an impact in any business outside of their core sector of expertise. For most, this isn’t actually true. For operations experts, this is almost never true.
If you want to make a career change to owning your own business, it’s important to consider the skills that you have and how you could apply them to new situations, new industries and sectors.
As an operations consultant, your role is to find new ways for organisations to do what they do better so that they can achieve higher levels of efficiency (and ultimately, more profits). That means building or reforming processes that can scale, are efficient and aligned with underlying technological and human resource infrastructure.
These skills will be invaluable to almost any change project, allowing you to deliver operation refinements on the tail-end of any other project you take on, or simply come in to deliver improved outcomes based on a company’s existing structure. The specifics will change between every business, but the basics of efficiency, alignment and planning remain constant.
Think carefully about the abstract skills that you have and then apply these to different operational settings. Over time, you’ll learn a system that you can use to assist virtually any business, whether one that is interested in the production of widgets or a firm that makes highly-specialised software.
Despite the growth in consulting, the overall field has garnered something of a bad reputation in recent years. Consultants come in, throw around some insights and leave. Although you won’t be there executing every stage of a project, having a background in operations will allow you to construct strategies that take the execution into account, and deliver actionable steps to real outcomes.
This is hugely valuable to differentiating yourself. Companies want people who can deliver this kind of tricky accommodation of outcomes. You will stand out against a horde of run-of-the-mill management consulting.
So, how do you go about getting started as an operations independent consultant?
As any seasoned, independent consultant will tell you, getting started is often the most challenging part. The place you need to start is with your existing network.
You need to reach out to people you know, look to those who might hire you directly and those who can introduce you to others.
The most successful independent consultants look for opportunities wherever they can find them, whether through existing networks on LinkedIn or in face-to-face meetings that come about during the course of regular work.
Be honest with yourself about your network. Can it support the kind of client numbers that you need to stay in business as an operations consultant long term? Or do you need to expand your network before leaving your present role? Learn how to network through adding value, play the long game and be persistent.
Consulting partnerships are an excellent way for new consultants to begin branching out by themselves. A consulting partnership is an organisation that provides consultants with the support they need to build their own self-sustaining businesses. In a sense, these partnerships are a stepping stone to providing consultants with the life that they want: one in which they set their hours and rates, and get to keep all of the money that they earn.
There are several different kinds of partnerships, but the most appealing are those who avoid treating independent consultants as employees and instead see them as individuals to be nurtured so that they can operate their fully-fledged businesses in the future. Make sure you know the difference between consulting partnerships and associate programmes!
It’s important to note that the networking process of getting started as an independent consultant should occur BEFORE leaving your current role. Nothing is stopping you from building your network of possible clients and getting work lined up for when you do eventually decide to make a move and strike out by yourself. Stop reading blogs online, get out there and meet people today!