Magazine article Training & Development

Dairy of a Consultant

Magazine article Training & Development

Dairy of a Consultant

Article excerpt

In last month's entry, David made the decision to start his own business with a partner. This month, he explores the preliminary steps they took to make their dream a reality.

2000 February 8

I've spent the last week scanning business publications at the local newsstands, bookstores, and libraries. I was going to see what the popular trade press, general interest journals, and other monthlies had to say about starting one's own business, but I've been distracted by magazines with names like Urban Gunsmiths, Long Haul Lugging, and Tag Sale Techniques--or something like those. I can't help but wonder, "Do people really buy these?"

Next, I'm trolling the Internet on a succession of evenings, way past midnight, looking for whatever insights are proffered there. I make a list of the things that my future partner and I should discuss if we're really going to be married to each other professionally. The courting is over. It's now time to decide which of us will take ownership of the business equivalents of doing the laundry and taking out the garbage.

February 9

Back in the division office (cleaning up commitments), I finally get the voicemail I've been expecting. And though I'd decided Plan B would be self-employment, the message still causes me to feel like I've been punched in the gut. I replay it a few times to make sure it's real (as if it would change on the third listening). Something about "we regret to inform you...after years of meritorious service...with much appreciation...." The ringing in my ears and pulsing in my veins are only slightly soothed by information about generous severance, and health coverage during the transition, and vacation pay. Buried deep within the message is the announcement that all employees will receive their year-end raises as of their paychecks...and so on. So, although my division was being invited to no longer participate in the company, it still gave us raises reflected in our severance. Score one for the bean counters!

This is also the day that every divisional employee decides that he or she is somehow the exception and shouldn't be treated like the "others." The hall carpets are worn from the feet parading to HR to plead to be kept onboard. The more inventive: "I'm not one of them. I'm ready to work in another division." Or "I never liked working there; I'm glad you did this. Don't you need someone to oversee international operations?" (from someone with a desire to travel).

February 10

My partner-to-be Jeff and I are similar. We both read extensively, have a fondness for fried foods, and see the irony (he would say "farce") in life. There are also differences. For instance, I'm thickly built, he's lanky. I'm scholarly and professorial; he's engaging and friendly. I listen to Howard Stern; he listens to National Public Radio. But we have traits that complement each other.

This day is such a day.

As a frenetic New Yorker by birth and upbringing, I rush into Jeff's office with my hands full of spreadsheets, business-plan templates, half-thought-out marketing ideas, and even a corporate name. Jeff quickly argues that the company name must include our names (like in a law firm) to show gravitas and to make it easier for clients to remember our names instead of trying to remember who works at Consulting Inc.

That bit of logic leaves me reeling. Jeff goes on to say that, owing to Clow coming before Zahn alphabetically, the name of the company must be Glow Zahn Associates. I want to hold out for 60 percent of the profits in exchange for agreeing to that but figure that's no way to start a partnership. I go with his idea--that simple.

Jeff, being from Oklahoma but having moved frequently in his career, is amused by my "in a New York minute" approach. Fortunately, this time he slows me down long enough to pull me away from the piles of paper I'd carted into his office, and he refocuses our collective energies. …

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