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TIPS FOR STARTING AND MANAGING A PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

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By John D. Gaskell, Retired Consulting Engineer

BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL

  • Consider various professions: Carefully consider those that interest you and for which you have an aptitude.
  • Shadow: Select your top 3 or 4 choices and spend a day with someone actually in that field.
  • College selection: Make sure that the college of your choice is accredited and will prepare you for the necessary licensure exam.
  • Gain minimum experience: Usually a minimum of four (4) years of “certifiable” experience is required.

GAINING EXPERIENCE

  • The job search: First, prepare a “resume” stressing the courses that have prepared you for your chosen profession. Make a list of firms in your area and deliver your resume in person. If you don’t quickly get a job, stop back to see the same people, employment needs can change quickly.
  • The interview: Be prepared by researching the company’s website. Make lists including: five skills and qualifications of yours, likely questions that you might be asked and enquires about the company. Ask if you can meet someone in a similar position and the person who will be your immediate supervisor. Send the interviewer a “Thank You” note or e-mail.
  • Start the job right: Once you have a job, do your best to be “exceptional.” Arrive early and leave late. Start a notebook (I PAD) to record information – anything that you might need again.
  • White papers: A white paper is a report or guide to help readers to understand an issue. When your work involves a new technical issue, read about it and take detailed notes in narrative form, including definitions of the various new terms. Add this “white paper” to your notebook.

AQUIRING RECOGNITION

  • Get known: As soon as you graduate, start attending meetings of local professional/industry organizations and join as soon as you are eligible. This will give you an opportunity to meet fellow professionals, and other contacts that will help you during your career and maybe even help you get a job.
  • Contact list: Collect business cards and start a contact list, including both business and personal information.
  • Gain credentials: Get elected “unopposed” to professional/industry organizations boards and gain a credential as a past president.
  • Win awards: Get nominated for prestigious awards that will distinguish you from your firm’s competitors.
  • Public speaking: Your work as an officer of professional organizations will give you many opportunities to hone your skills as a public speaker. In your professional career, you will be required to speak before both small and large groups.
  • Be prepared: Always be prepared to make a presentation.
  • It doesn’t just happen: “You make it happen.”

CREATING YOUR IMAGE

 

  • Write an article: Consider writing about one of your most recent interesting projects or about a timely issue in your industry.
  • Get your article published:
  • Select the most popular magazine in your industry.
  • Study previous articles, and “format” your article to match the magazine.
  • Include many pictures with captions and a “headshot” photo of yourself.
  • Include a brief biography (the same length as normally used in the magazine).
  • Call the magazine editor to introduce yourself.
  • Don’t submit the same article to more than one publication at a time.

 

  • Have “reprints” made: Design your reprint to be “one piece,” including the cover of the issue as the first page and your company description on the back page. Print in black and white on glossy paper with enough copies for your initial mailing, plus “stuffers” for your brochure.

 

  • Distribute reprints: Place your reprint unfolded (easily filed) in a 9 x 12 envelope (it looks more important in a large envelope). Mail it to your entire mailing list, even if the contact may not be interested in the topic or may not be a potential client. They will remember you as an “expert” and recommend you. Retain the remainder of your reprints to include when you distribute your company brochure or apply for a related project, and always leave a copy of each on the table in your reception area.

 

  • Enjoy the notoriety: Everyone will consider you to be an “expert” in your field.

 

MARKETING MATERIALS

  • Letterhead & business cards: Create elegant letterhead and business cards. Parchment with raised letters and no logo would be a good choice.
  • Brochure: Your brochure is the face of the company. It will evolve as your firm grows. Try to make it versatile and something that will make you proud and distinguish you from your competitors.
  • Mailing list: Your mailing list is one of your most important promotional tools. Expand it to include those who may recommend you. Send all mailings to the entire list. Send a minimum of two per year, including updates, announcements, and holiday cards.
  • Lists & forms: Create the lists and forms that your firm needs and expand your contact list.
  • Promotional items: Don’t overlook personalized note paper, post cards, pens, and anniversary stickers.
  • Announcements: Don’t forget to send out announcements of awards, new services/specialties, and anniversaries.

MARKETING METHODS

  • Expand the firm’s sources for leads: Include those on your contact list and search the internet and newspapers.
  • Offer new specialty services: There is usually no competition for specialty services and no limitation on fees.
  • Always consider public speaking opportunities: This is especially important when you are trying to promote a new service or new specialty. Try to become the spokesmen for your firm.
  • Seize opportunities: When something dramatic happens, be ready to take action. I am certainly not saying to take advantage of the misfortunes of others. But I am saying to look for opportunities, have the courage to proceed, and do it first class.
  • Entertain clients & potential clients: If a problem occurs with the services of your firm, clients are more likely to tell you and allow you to make corrections if they know you and your spouse socially. They are also more likely to give the next project to a “friend.”
  • Send notes: Never forget to send thank you notes, and look for opportunities to send notes of congratulations. You don’t even need to know someone to recognize their achievements.

Excerpted from ‘The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING’  © by John D. Gaskell, Retired Professional Engineer. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute this “Consulting Engineering” tip, upon condition that this message remains.