Entrepreneurship and Consulting don’t usually go hand in hand. Entrepreneurship is all about taking necessary risks in order to develop, organize, and grow a startup, usually dealing with small businesses and other startups. Consultants are usually subject matter experts who share their knowledge and expertise to clients in order to add value to existing business functions for large corporations. For years I’ve always believed them to be polar opposites when it comes to navigating the corporate jungle. After working with startups and consultants, I’ve come to realize that the two professions are very similar. Here are 3 ways Entrepreneurs and Consultants are very much alike:
1. There is no job manual, they’re constantly learning on the job
Entrepreneurship is rarely a degree and must be learned on the job. There is no manual for being a successful entrepreneur, only books, networking events, internet, and numerous sleepless nights. There are hundreds of books and videos online that tell you how to build a successful small business or startup. Everything from picking your team to employing the right SEO strategy and even travelling abroad. All of that information can be instrumental in planning your business strategy, but it’s all in the execution, something you add to your Experience Bank and learn from first hand. While working on FreeSkies, we had to quickly learn about customer acquisition, navigate the venture capital jungle, and generate revenue first hand. That’s not something you learn in the classroom.
Consulting is very much the same. After joining Accenture, we were sent to St. Charles, Illinois for Analyst School, a 2 week course designed to quickly introduce new hires to various business and software tools often used by consultants. They covered business process modelling concepts, gathering requirements, conducting test scripts, and even Salesforce.com training, but with one caveat; there was the possibility that we would never use any of these tools in our day to day projects. With Consulting, you learn the necessary skills on the project and must be able to mold yourself to the specific project you’re assigned to. Consultants must be versatile and self-learners. There is no job manual.
2. They build and leverage their network
As an Entrepreneur, it’s crucial to start building your network early with early-adopters, investors, or potential partners. Starting a small business or launching a startup is no easy task, and starting one alone is even harder. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are those that have mentors that guide them through rough patches, partners who expand the breadth of their business, and investors with unwavering support of your common vision. While working on FreeSkies, we had a business mentor working out Research Park at the University of Illinois that helped us make challenging business decisions, we had an influential advisor, who helped us navigate venture capital and set ourselves up for investment, and we had strategic partnerships with various drone companies that allowed us to expand our reach and exposure.
Consultants build networks as well. As a Consultant, it’s your job to find a project that best suits your skill set. You build an internal resume, attend company wide networking events, and build strong relationships with project managers. This concept was new to me during my first month at Accenture. It was like finding a job within a job, but it’s that network that sets you apart from your peers and comes in handy when promotion season comes around. I remember when I started, the lack of direction and immense focus on building your own career at Accenture was astounding. It was our responsibility to reach out to project managers, find projects we were interested in, and control our career path. Consultants must build and leverage that network every day in order to be successful.
3. They mitigate risks and challenge the “norm”
Entrepreneurs are always mitigating risks and challenging the status quo. At FreeSkies, we had limited resources and time which meant that we had to take some big risks, but that also meant we needed to mitigate those risks to the best of our ability, whether it’s conserving funds, choosing customers, or taking a gamble with investors. With the current competition within startups, following the “norm” just won’t cut it. Entrepreneurs pour their heart and soul into their company, and they don’t let a “No” stop them from building their business. A “No” is just an opportunity to learn, understand, and grow. When an investor says “No”, Entrepreneurs ask “Why?”, they strive to understand and they challenge the “norm”.
Consultants mitigate risks on a day to day basis. Working with clients with approaching deadlines and cross-functional teams leads to a lot of disarray and confusion. Navigating that chaos and mitigating risks are the job of a Consultant. They must prioritize tasks, overcome challenges, and they challenge the “norm” when it comes to seeking out projects. They do their research on past projects managers have worked on, clients they’ve been with, and their hobbies and interests. When a manager says “No”, Consultants seek to understand “Why?”.
Entrepreneurs and Consultants are always on the move, learning on the job, building a strong network, and mitigating risks. Whether you’re a Consultant or an Entrepreneur, it’s apparent that there are many more similarities than you might have guessed.