If you can't do it and can't teach it, maybe consult?

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Well, now that you have free time on your hands… What are you going to do? Let’s see. Maybe you’ve put forward your best effort and either didn’t enjoy what you were doing or found the work [or the company or its management, or both] to be less than inspiring. At this point you are probably going to either continue in the field you were in, return to one you knew before this, or strike out to do something new. Other than completely giving up and “retiring” in place, there aren’t many more choices to stay working in this world. In any of those choices, additional education and training could / should / will play a part. The more live experience and certified training you have, the easier it may be to find something. The other side of the finding employment coin is networking, because I believe that [excepting mass hires to fill new manufacturing plants] more people find [long term] positions through their friends, acquaintances, relatives, neighbours, colleagues, and people they meet in various social gatherings than are found through ad responses or employment services. The reason for this is simple, really. Working is still a social activity dependent on knowing the predictability of the people around you. Aside from the givens of honesty, integrity, and effort, dependability ranks very highly as one of the key attributes of people with whom we want to work. All your contacts noted above have a fair-to-excellent idea of your dependability in all sorts of situations. So, who is better placed to know what you might do? For people who have “done everything” and have an experience based sense of business ratios or calculations like Break-Even, you might even consider becoming a mentor to other businesses. In street parlance, this is consultancy – you know, those guys in suits that come in and make everyone’s life a misery for a while, leave a thick book, collect their money, and go away. Well, no, that isn’t what we mean here. There is another style of consulting that includes making things happen. There are “operational” consultancies that actually implement what they believe needs to be done and work with the business people to train them on the changes that are made, once the client agrees the need for that change. These companies generally make sure that the change works before taking it enterprise-wide through piloting the changes in smaller or closed environments, about the same as end-user testing in IT. Well-run, successful projects turn businesses around, make constructive changes to operating practices, and generally get the work done that the client couldn’t see or know how to do. Clients are often “blind” to these issues only because they are in either a “can’t see the forest for the trees” situation, or they are such specialists in their areas that relatively simple business practices are incomprehensible to them. Now, to do this, it helps to have a university degree in something, years of practice in business, plenty of understanding of financial and business numbers and control-type systems, and an MBA always helps, but it is not necessary. Trust me, the education is for “certification” purposes only. The more critical issues are your facility with numbers, understanding general business processes, and ability to listen to the client. After all, if you are helping smaller businesses, what they need are things like scheduling, pricing, marketing, cost controls, production engineering, dynamic budgets, sales management, bookkeeping or accounting, and a million other aspects to running a business that are not part of their basic skill experience that makes them money. Do not assume because your client doesn’t know enough about running the business that he or she is not bright – some of the brightest people I’ve known in small business just couldn’t care two hoots about those kinds of issues and wanted other people to take care of them. That those “other people” are not doing their job the way they need to is your job: re-structure the work, make it work, make them work, or maybe someone else would be more appropriate for the position. Small business clients need someone to help them understand what needs to be done or make sure that the things that need to be done are completed properly. Often they are too busy making the business work to attend to these things. For example, being a Master Electrician does not mean that you understand how to set up a pricing model based on break-even or what all the numbers on a Profit and Loss Statement mean. However, that Master Electrician could have enough people working for him to be pulling in millions – it is just disorganised and needs to be brought into good business practices. As a consultant, you might help him/her develop a pricing strategy for the work, but I doubt that you’ll really consult on how to be a practicing Electrician, eh? This kind of consulting is far more personally rewarding than the “white paper consulting”. And while those “suits” have their place in the business world, they would never consider the kind of work required in small businesses. But somebody needs to do it. What about you? Starting a practice in consultancy is another matter altogether. You can go that route, though it will take time, money, and intense networking to get it going. Then there is marketing while you are working for a client, not an easy division of time. One alternative is to work for an existing consultancy. There are generally management consultancies of most “flavours” in most major cities. Finding the one that might fit what you can do will take phone calls and conversations. But if you’re not doing anything right now and have the basic qualifications, it doesn’t hurt to enquire. Remember, the consultant’s job is to produce one thing: change. We wouldn’t be there if that was not the issue. Finding what it is and making it happen is the guts of the work.

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