Brian started Strategic Learning Solutions in 1994. He’s shared some of his background below. Very interesting to see how little opportunities crop up and lead us in new directions. Brian’s shared some great advice in his comments below.
Why did I start my business?
I’d always thought about being an independent consultant, after years of consulting for other companies.
My big break came when I resigned my position as a consultant to the Department of Energy (DOE). I had been developing a training program on “Conduct of Operations” for senior DOE managers, and had just started teaching a series of workshops on the subject. My replacement was hired and for two weeks I coached him on the program and how to teach the lesson plan.
On my last day, the replacement was supposed to teach his first class, when out of the blue, he quit. This threw the contract into a state of panic, my manager, the two of the clients managers and I went to lunch to discuss the situation; at Spago’s in Caesars Palace no less. They tried to get me to withdraw my resignation, but I’d already rented a house in Florida, the moving van was packed and gone. The next suggestion was for me to take the project as an independent consultant to complete the remainder of the scheduled workshops.
I accepted their offer; this was the beginning of Strategic Learning Solutions.
For the next six months, I alternated between three weeks in Las Vegas, and then three weeks at home. After that I picked up a six-month contract auditing the Alaska Pipeline Corporation. Since then I’ve had four large contracts with Lockheed Martin, a second contract with the Alaska Pipeline Corporation, three contracts with a GPS Duratek, a waste management company, a year long contract to write procedures for the Trojan Nuclear Plant decommissioning, and IT companies like CSC and ActioNet and more recently to design/develop training programs for guards and staff at the GEO Group, a private prison system.
How do I market my services?
- Networking – Every contract I’ve signed has come about through networking. You live and die by who you know and how well you stay connected. I can’t emphasize this enough, you’ve got to stay connected and speak or write to everyone on your contact list at least every six months; if nothing more than to say hello and find out what they are doing. I’d also remind everyone that this relationship is a two way street, your contacts will help you if you help them. I keep notes about what everyone is doing and if they ask for something, I try to deliver.
- Deliver what you promise – Make sure you deliver on your projects. Most of my contracts come through people I’ve worked with before. They remember that I delivered projects that met or exceeded expectation, and were on time and within budget. One word of caution here is to avoid “Scope Creep” on your project (or at least document it well). Clear, honest, and frequent communication with your customer is essential to making a project successful.
- Relationships – Get along with everyone you work with, especially in the clients organization. You are not the star of the show, your customer is. Do anything you can do to make your customer look good. Go out of your way to be friendly to everyone, especially those that are difficult to like, you’ll be surprised how often this effort is rewarded.
Was it worth the effort?
In a word, Yes. Being able to set your own schedule is my personal favorite, but there are other perks like having lots of new adventures. I’ve worked on contracts from Portland Maine, to Portland Oregon; contracts in Alaska and contracts in Jamaica; contracts as diverse as the Lockheed F-16 and F-22 programs, decommissioning the Trojan and Maine Yankee Nuclear Plants, conducting cause investigations for defects in chemical and nuclear weapons storage containers, designing training for prison guards and lots of other interesting projects. I like change and love travel, so this has been the best of all careers for me.
There have been challenges and some periods when I would have liked a steady job. Fortunately, the challenges were overcome and the periods of uncertainty were short.
Welcome to Nudge Village Brian!
You’ve offered excellent advice to our village!