I am new to consulting, having retired from executive management after almost 30 years. What are some of the ways I can differentiate myself from all the other retiring executives who are entering the consulting market?
First, "entering the consulting market" from business is not as easy as it appears. Having business experience and a robust contacts list is certainly a help, but no guarantee of effectiveness as a consultant or success as a business. There is a false logic to presume that business familiarity is all one needs to be a management advisor. This is like saying, "I have raised three kids, so I think I will go into pediatrics." Consulting, like medicine, is a profession, with specific skills, behaviors, body of knowledge. ethics and practices that need to be developed. The differentiation you seek comes not in your knowledge, but in how you apply it. Look at IMC USA's Management Consulting Competency Framework
as a guide to build skills unique to consulting, many of which executives often lack because it was not required by their past job.
Second, look for your edge in area you are passionate about, and I don't necessarily mean subject matter. Start with a notable characteristic about you known to others in your industry. When you were an executive, what were the accomplishments of which you were most proud, on what projects did you contribute in a unique and productive way, and for what were you known in the industry? Were you the go-to person to facilitate tough negotiations, or the one who could find a skilled technician to solve a problem, or the one who saw new markets before anyone else? You most likely already have an edge - ask your coworkers, business partners and industry thoughtleaders.Tip:
Being exceptional in an area does not mean it will be highly valued over the next few years as you build your consulting practice. Balance what you are passionate about with the likely passion of the executives who will be using your services. Your past high value is only the starting point. Create a practice development strategy that builds new capabilities that retain value in an evolving market.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA