July 4, 2012
Personal brand plus consulting: a recipe for flex success
The buzz on the parenting and work/life balance front over the past couple weeks has been about whether working women can "have it all."
A provocative essay in the most recent issue of The Atlantic magazine written by former State Department director Anne-Marie Slaughter laid bare the barriers that still prevent many parent professionals from realizing their career goals while also being present for their children.
Lots of people have expanded the discussion to encompass working parents -- both dads and moms. Rightly so, because the economic demands on families and the cultural mores have shifted. For example, 42% of new dads stay home with sick kids, vs. 11% of traditional dads, and 63% of new dads often watch their kids without their partners, as opposed to 18% of traditional dads, according to data that came out around Father's Day.
But it seems, at least for now, that it's more often women who are struggling emotionally, financially and professionally with how to balance personal life (read: kids) and work.
After a 14-year career managing strategic clients for Microsoft and others, personal-brand expert Lisa Hufford became a mother and quickly found, like many others have, that traditional work environments are not usually in harmony with the particular demands of parenthood.
But Hufford felt there should be a model where companies could still take advantage of experience, creativity and the best talent, even if the worker possessing those qualities chooses a flexible schedule.
With this in mind, Hufford, whom I met a few weeks ago, founded Simplicity Consulting, which provides marketing resources and "high-impact people-development programs" to companies of all sizes. Based in Kirkland, Hufford has more than 100 consultants and is expanding her company to other regions. She was ranked No. 56 in the 2011 Inc. list of 500 fastest-growing companies and No. 6 of fastest-growing private Eastside companies by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Hufford is also a speaker and consultant who teaches professionals how to succeed at the consulting lifestyle. She says that two market trends have combined in recent years to result in a growing shift from full-time employment to flexible teams: Companies are looking to grow while managing costs, and the 9-to-5 desk job is not the only way we think of work anymore.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, a full-time employee, a consultant or someone making a transition, Hufford suggests these five steps in order to "ignite your personal brand" and grow your business.
1. Know your personal brand. It's a combination of your strength and your passion. What do you know better than anyone else? Hufford elaborates on how to figure this out in her blog, seminars and upcoming book.
2. Find your niche. Hufford suggests looking externally for areas that aren't being serviced in the marketplace. Your value, she says, is the intersection of your personal brand and the needs of the market.
3. Have a clear vision. What do you stand for? If you want people to follow you, says Hufford, you need to know where you are going. Who is on your dream team? Find a mentor that "inspires and scares you."
4. Relationships and networking. Cheap networking (the transparent, fast-food version where you beg for help and use and annoy people) has a bad rep, but true networking is about building authentic relationships. Think about doing the right thing and the money will come later, Hufford says.
5. Build and rebuild your team. Get comfortable with failing, and with adapting quickly to the changing market needs (I love this). The pursuit of the perfect team (though it never will be perfect) is what makes building a business so much fun and so challenging, says Hufford.
Definitely food for thought. I'm coming back in a future post to explore the actual term "consultant" and see why, or how, it's different from "freelance." Should freelancers rebrand themselves as consultants? We'll see.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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