Many HR professionals consider consultancy as a career path, but what are the nuts and bolts, and the pros and cons, of setting out on your own?
TallSky Consulting owner Eileen Harper always had the entrepreneurial spirit so after many years working in the public sector background she knew she wanted to run own business, preferably from her home base so she could have the flexibility to care for her young son. A decade later she’s still happy with her choice, although she acknowledges there are some downsides.
“I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I find people will often consult for two or three years and then return to corporate,” Harper said. “It could be that it’s not their cup of tea, but you also have to consider that I don’t know what I’m doing six months from now. Some people don’t like that sense of not knowing.”
Epitome HR owner Jamie Allison knew he wanted to own his own business for a long time and crafted his career path to suit that goal, working in a variety of industries and building contacts.
Allison said one of the pluses for him was the variety of the work and the ability to work in areas he was passionate about, such as campus recruiting and setting up a leadership conference.
“Obviously there will be times when I can’t choose, but as long as you can get the work coming in I think it allows you a little more control over what you’re doing and how you do ,” Allison said. “Entrepreneurs do have to spend more time working, but you get more control over when and what you do.”
Both consultants include caring for their children and adjusting to their schedules in the pluses for consulting. Harper is also training for her first Ironman competition so she can train 12 to 3pm if the weather is nice, unlike her corporate colleagues who have to either start before 5am or after 6pm.
Satisfaction and variety vs uncertainty and demand. See Page Two for the rest of the pros and cons.
“It’s rewarding. Even just the first time you get your own business cards with your company name on them,” Allison said.
Even at a higher level, HR work can become repetitive because you’re likely to be focused on the same goals or industry over any number of months or years.
“I like building things so I like being able to go in and help a company, then move on and help someone else,” Allison said.
“Even when you take a break, it’s not just walk or coffee,” Harper said. “I can do laundry or some gardening. I have dogs as well, and I can get my son from school.”
“You have to be comfortable with there being a little more uncertainty than you usually have,” Allison said. With no regular paycheque its key to be comfortable with not knowing how you’re paying next year’s bills.
- Do it all yourself
“Critical to consultancy is that you have to do everything yourself – from administration to bookkeeping to filing to contacting clients and being your own proofreader,” Harper said. She now has a part-time bookkeeper, but estimates she spends 30% of her time on admin tasks.
- Always on
“It’s very different to a corporate setting where you have your job and you go home at the end of the day,” she added. “As a consultant you tend to think about things 24/7.”
- Demanding clients
Managers can vary in attitude and expectations, but at least they have an idea of your workload. Clients only know their own needs and goals so be prepared to manage those relationships and make sure you’re delivering.
See tomorrow's story in HRM for tips on getting started in consulting.