To become a successful consultant you must view your work as a business, not as a stop-gap between corporate jobs, says Herb Caesar, president of CED Solutions, a consulting firm based in Englewood that assists entrepreneurial clients in the real estate development process, including the securing of financing sources.
In today’s economy, more and more people are being laid off from large corporations — and those large corporations are becoming smaller, tauter ships. That means that for many people, becoming a consultant is no longer a layover between one job and the next. Instead, it will become the permanent career path, rather than “just a way to navigate through the tough times,” Caesar says.
Caesar will lead a free seminar on “How to Become a Successful Consultant,” at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at the Trenton Free Public Library. The seminar, sponsored by the Small Business Development Center based at the College of New Jersey, will address the tools and strategies that a person needs to establish, develop, and flourish as a consultant, no matter the field. Visit www.tcnj.edu/~sbdc.
Caesar has been a consultant for several alternative sources of funding for “a wide spectrum of small business as well as City National Bank of NJ and its sponsored UDC,” he says. He has consulted for micro-loan programs and also works with the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network.
Caesar founded CED Solutions in 1984. The consulting firm specializes in the purchase, rehabilitation, mezzanine financing, and management of residential investment properties. He graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s in 1979. He also earned an MBA from Columbia in 1981. He credits much of his success to what he learned playing basketball at Northeastern under coach Jim Calhoun.
“Coach Calhoun really instilled a sense of the need for team building in his players,” says Caesar. “That has been a big influencing factor on my belief in co-operative alliances.”
#b#Developing alliances#/b#. How to develop alliances is one of the most important things a new consultant must learn, Caesar says. No one person can be an expert at everything. Developing alliances with a number of other consultants who work in similar fields can increase your marketability and make you more valuable to your clients.
#b#Don’t think like a sub-contractor#/b#. Adding value for the client, Caesar says, is the big difference between the sub-contractor — the person who is just out to do a little freelance work between jobs — and the consultant who wants to develop a successful, long-term business.
“A sub-contractor comes in to do the job,” he says. “A consultant uses his own expertise, his intellectual property, to help the client to think about things in a new way and to become more efficient. A sub-contractor who is hired to do word processing, for example, comes in and gets the job done and goes on to the next job. A consultant comes in and not only handles the word processing, but discusses with the client how he can help the client word-process more efficiently in the future.”
As a sub-contractor, Caesar says, you are being compensated for completing a task. As a consultant, you are compensated for your knowledge and skill, and obviously this is a much more valuable resource to market.
Learn to listen. One of the most important skills a consultant can develop is the ability to listen, says Caesar. “This is a skill and a talent that is universally fundamental to quality consultants no matter what field they are in. You have to listen to the client to find out what his needs are.”
#b#Be a change agent#/b#. Consultants are hired because some change is needed, Caesar says. Unfortunately, most human beings have a basic dislike of change. That means that there will almost always be resistance to the new ideas a consultant proposes, even though the consultant has been hired to bring about change.
“You are the lightning bolt that jolts things loose in a company,” he says. “By our nature we get bogged down in everyday tasks. A good consultant should have the ability to come and see where the changes need to be made.”
Distinguish yourself from the crowd. “A sub-contractor brings a set of pre-packaged skills to every job,” adds Caesar. A consultant, on the other hand, learns from each job and so is able to bring more and more to the table with each client. This is what distinguishes a good consultant in the ever-growing crowd of people who are out there trying to make it on their own.
Stay motivated. It is also important for a consultant to continually stay motivated, to be looking ahead for the next opportunity even before the current consulting position has ended.
A business plan is a critical step for every business person, Caesar adds. “If you don’t have a plan to succeed, you are going to fail.” But the second step after developing the business plan is to follow it, he says. “Another one of the biggest reasons that I see businesses fail is that they have great plans they never bothered to execute.”