Advice for small business consultants
Interview with Erica Quigley
Introduction and Interview by David Wagstaff
This interview with Erica is part of a series of articles from entrepreneurs, compiled with the goal of providing other business owners and soon-to-be business owners with a realistic view of what it takes to run a business and some of the challenges commonly faced.
As I was approving new members to the Entrepreneur’s Network and came across Erica’s profile, a few things caught my attention.
First, she was relatively near me in the Philadelphia area. Even in an increasingly global business world, there’s something nice about finding people who are relatively local. While I’m happy and lucky to have very talented people in my team in Columbia, SA, South India and Macedonia, sometimes it nice to have people nearby. As a business owner, it can be important to consider when you want a local provider and when it makes sense to hire globally. For me, I use a mix of local and international talent. For graphic design and technical services, I have found amazing talent internationally. But when I’m hiring people for financial roles, accounting, and writing, I favor local talent. In some cases, you have to be aware of international laws, especially if you are concerned about intellectual property rights and confidential information.
Then I read that she uses techniques to help automate businesses, allowing you to focus on overall business goals and objectives without worrying about day-to-day operations. I have seen profiles for a lot of consultants before, but that was a unique offer, so I was curious to learn more.
As I read her interview, it was interesting to see how strongly people fall into the camp of always knowing they wanted to be an entrepreneur vs. arriving as an entrepreneur due to life situations or a need for flexibility. Erica is in the camp, “always knew”.
Business Process Flow Expert
Erica is a small business management consultant that helps small business owners develop a plan of action to achieve goals while working efficiently towards those goals.
I also found it interesting that she was beginning to feel trapped in the corporate world due to “golden handcuffs.” We have seen that from other entrepreneurs. While it’s nice to earn significant income in a corporate world, and it can provide a financial nest egg, if one does make the leap to entrepreneurship, it can also make it tough to let go. It’s easy to increase your standard of living when you’re secure with corporate income, but it’s often more satisfying to build a life for yourself with a business of your own.
I salute those who are able to make the leap from a solid, predictable income stream, and let go for uncertain income and lots of hard work that is frequently the life of the entrepreneur.
As you will read in Erica’s story, starting a business can be very stressful and can cause health issues if you don’t take the time to take care of yourself.
I also really connected with the part of Erica’s story where she talks about finding that she had to adjust her approach with clients to work in smaller steps and pricing her service to fit within the capital and expectations of small business owners.
When I started my first consulting firm, I worked with large companies and I would sell very large six-figure projects. Over time I’ve found I really enjoy working with smaller businesses, and like Erica, I have learned that producing consistent value over time can also be very rewarding.
When I was first approached by small businesses to provide management consulting services, I tried pricing projects as I had for larger businesses. While some smaller clients engaged me and were happy with results, I found over time I have been more successful with smaller upfront project costs and then providing consistent value over years at a time. People are more comfortable paying for services once they see what value can be produced. That is lower upfront costs lowers their risk. And for me its an investment in getting to know the customer.
Quigley Management Consulting
I grew up knowing that I always wanted to be my own boss. When I was a teenager, I would buy t-shirts wholesale and register as a vendor at local car shows to re-sell them. I loved the business aspect and the ability to control my schedule, but I always sucked at the sales side, so once high school passed, I let go of the idea and went on to college.
After graduating college, I started my corporate journey, always advancing at each company. It was thrilling for a while, particularly when I was leading large teams or implementing new processes. However, I always had that nagging feeling that I “someday” wanted to work for myself.
Months turn into years, and there was a period of time where I started to feel like I was at a point where I was making too much money to change my direction. But I wasn’t entirely happy. I was beginning to feel like my time was simply just a sacrifice for money, instead of enjoying my life and the way I spent my time.
I decided to start my business on the side and to really hone in on the people that I wanted to help and exactly how I wanted to help them. I knew that I wanted to use my operations management and Six Sigma training to help small business owners but was still lacking clarity and correct messaging. While I was balancing trying to find my way in my business, working my regular job, as well as my family, I began to run myself down. I ended up in the hospital because my body couldn’t handle the long hours and stress anymore and my vestibular nerve had swollen, causing me to lose my sense of balance and ability to focus my eyesight.
When I was discharged from the hospital, I spent the next few weeks at home recovering. I had to re-teach my brain how to balance and I had to take it really easy. I spent a lot of time sitting with my kids. In those moments, I realized how much I had been missing and my story became clear. I was supposed to help small business owners avoid this same burnout I had experienced. With my background in systems and operations management, I had the skills to help them reduce the amount of time they had to spend working so they could have more time to spend how they choose. I was to help overwhelmed entrepreneurs stop treading water and grow their business through implementing standard systems and processes.
I was thrilled to gain a few clients right off the bat and am so proud of their progress. To be able to increase someone’s revenue and show them the direct impact they can have on how much money they earn is empowering. I am so proud of my clients for embracing that and am humbled to be a part of their growth.
On the flip side, I didn’t think as much about the marketing and the personal interactions that play into the business interactions. I was used to doing work with large businesses and dealing in the tens of thousands of dollars. It was easy for me to see the value in my work because I knew that I would implement processes that would grow businesses.
However, I missed the mark a couple times on how I messaged and priced. I would overwhelm people with too much information, and I would get excited to tackle all their problems at once — and the price would reflect that sort of total overhaul. I’ve learned through many conversations and advice from various people that slow and steady really does win the race, particularly for small business owners who are very focused on capital.
I always took a lesson from each “failed bid” so that I could adjust my method and messaging the next time. Most importantly though, I didn’t let early setbacks discourage me. I just took it as a sign that I was getting closer each and every day to the process that would work best for me. It just took some discovery and lessons to get there.
With my personal experiences with burn out and with what I witness from the business owners I meet, it is exceedingly clear how extremely important it is to value your time correctly. It is not a “commodity.” Your time is what you make of it and spending more time working does not mean you are working hard. The hard work really comes in working through a problem and initial set up in order to create an efficient process that is solid, repeatable, and can guarantee results and scalable growth.
Entrepreneurship is an amazing world and I’m so happy I challenged myself to be able to make it. No matter what I come across, my days are happy, and I am ultimately in control of how I spend my time and who I work with– and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Quigley Management Consulting