Friday, February 7, 2014

Finding Your Passion

What Can You Do?

Tom Sheppard

(excerpted from the soon to be released book "Executive to Entrepreneur: Launching Your Life on Your Terms")
Finding your passion, your chief aim in life, is the first step to building the fire in your belly that will help you to overcome all obstacles to attain that chief aim.

Amazon Topics Related to This Post

  • Finding Your Passion
  • Consulting
  • Success Self Help
  • Entrepreneurship Successfully Launching New Ventures

Google Search Terms Related to This Post

  • Career
  • Career Test
  • My Career
  • Coaching
  • Products

Top 5 Amazon Books on Finding Your Passion

Having determined what you really want in life, you  are prepared to use your assets effectively.

In your corporate career, you have developed certain skills and acquired certain knowledge.  You may or may not realize how specialized that knowledge really is.

A woman I worked with was an executive assistant to a senior executive.  She did her job very well.  She kept this executive organized and focused.  She filed his documents and key papers in good order and was able to retrieve them quickly when needed.  She kept his schedule in good order, helping him to block out time for his most important activities and separating the urgent and unimportant from the important  but non-urgent and those things that were both urgent and important.

To the view of many, she had an unremarkable skill set.  That is because they did not appreciate the skills and knowledge she possessed.  Instead of looking at the ways she helped her boss to succeed, they focused on the power and prestige of her boss.  Not pausing to consider how much less successful he would be if he had to spend time filing and retrieving his own papers, screening his own calls, and spending time trying to block out the unimportant things so that he could focus on the important things demanding his attention.
This woman dreamed of owning her own business, but thought that she would have to learn some trade to make that happen.  I coached her for some time and showed her that she already had all the skills she needed to use as the basis for her business.

How many small business owners could benefit from the services she provided to that senior executive?  Most would benefit significantly.  But, most small business owners could not afford the salary and benefits they would have to pay to attract and retain someone with her qualifications.

I coached her to do two things, she could either be a pair of helping hands, or she could be a source of guidance.  These two offerings took at least five different forms of engagement she could offer potential clients.  Each of these had different ways of making her money and transforming her skills into a business.

1.       She could rent out her services to qualified business owners.  She would come in and organize their office and then come into the office on a periodic basis to sustain that organization.  She would also teach the business owner her skills so that the business owner could manage to a degree without her.

2.       She could  train others to do what she does.  She could come into a small business and work with the much less qualified and experienced assistant the business owner could afford.  She would guide that assistant in organizing the office and teach them how to sustain that organization as well as understanding why things needed to be done in a particular manner.  She could then come back from time to time to make sure things were staying on track.

3.       She could help the small business owner to screen and hire a qualified assistant.  Knowing the mindset and skill set needed, my friend could bring her expertise to bear to help the business owner get the help he needed without wasting time and energy hiring and firing unsuitable candidates.

4.       She could offer her services in partnership with the business owner and get a piece of the profits or equity from the business that would result from her helping the owner to focus on what s/he needed to do to make the business revenues come in.

5.       She could create her own stable of qualified and trained assistants who she could then place on either temporary, permanent, or consulting contracts with small business owners.  In effect she would be a very specialized employment agency, but one with a unique value proposition: her personal intervention and training to make sure the assistants met her high standards.

I chose this example because it is less obvious than many others. But it follows a model for turning your skills into a business that is universally applicable.  I call it the Consultant Model.


Many people with highly specialized knowledge frequently use the Consultant Model as the landing pad for their exit from corporate-world.

In effect you get the best of both worlds.  You gain a degree of autonomy and control over your destiny that you lacked as an employee, and you retain the security of doing work with people, companies and an industry where you are comfortable and, hopefully, well known.

Some characteristics you need to succeed as a consultant are:
·         Do you like to work regular hours, or are you willing to trade regular hours for a schedule that may see you work evenings and weekends or long hours as you ramp up?
·         Is it important to you to have a steady paycheck?
·         Are you willing to do your own admin work, such as answering the phone, photocopying, responding to email, mailing out information, and other tasks that you might currently have other people to help with?
·         Do you need someone to tell you to start or keep working at a project?
·         Can you get up in the morning and start working without being told to do so?

What is a consultant?  

Peter Block, in his book "Flawless Consulting"  (recommended reading if you want to be a consultant), defines a consultant as "a person in a position to have some influence over an individual, a group, or an organization, but who has no direct power to make changes or implement programs. Consultants plan, recommend, assist, and advise.

Take note that if you are frustrated when you see what needs to be done and others won't do it, being a consultant may not be the right niche for you.  However, take heart.  Mr. Block notes that not everyone we call a consultant is really a consultant.

Some "consultants" are actually helping hands to get work done.  Folks in this role are usually called contractors. 

Consultants are usually paid by the hour, day or project, on commission, or based on performance. They are independent contractors and not employees of the hiring organization.

What are the risks of being a consultant?  

Consultants have freedom to choose their own hours, take vacations when they want, pick clients, refuse assignments and work with a variety of projects. However, to become a consultant, you let go of regular pay, administrative help, benefits and health care, tech support and other things many employees take for granted. When you become a consultant, you may also find yourself working alone, without the moral, creative and administrative support of co-workers.

A seasoned expert will often become a consultant after spending years in a field or industry. Seen as a true opinion leader, this veteran will often become a consultant by contracting back to their previous employer and business contacts. The seasoned professional who decides to become a consultant tends to be in high demand, because their specialized knowledge cannot be found elsewhere in the company. This expert will often become a consultant because their old company and colleagues beg them for help.

How much does it cost to be a consultant?  

Becoming a consultant can cost as little or as much as you want. Some people can become consultants simply by getting a city business permit and handing out their name and number. Others need websites, home offices, brochures, licensing, and other materials. By creating a business plan, you can figure out how much it costs before you take the plunge in becoming a consultant.
At a minimum, you will want to satisfy the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service for their definition of what substantiates that this is a business and not just a hobby.


Another model is the Coaching Model. The example at the start of this section actually incorporates some elements of the coaching model.

In the coaching model, you use your knowledge and skills to help others to develop similar knowledge and skills.  You help your clients to see their issues from a different perspective and to adjust their skills and gain the knowledge they need to get the job done themselves.

Master Coach Steve Mitten explains why he loves being a life coach:
·         It allows me to really make a difference in people's lives.
·         Coaching allows me to connect with a dynamic and diverse group of interesting people all over the globe, every working day.
·         It provides the freedom to work flexible hours from my home in winter, and the family cabin in summer. (There is never a commute, and I am always close to my family.)
·         It allows me to make a comfortable 6-figure income working about 25-30 hours a week and take off about 185 days a year.
·         It allows me to continue to learn and grow, and keeps me in a supportive professional community of open, caring and dedicated people.
Before you get too excited about that 6-figure salary he mentions, bear in mind that most coaches need to have a business doing something that earns steady income.  For most of us the coaching is a natural outgrowth of our success, as people see what we are doing and ask us to teach them how to succeed.
Mitten notes that there are three big factors that will largely determine your success or failure as a coach:

  1. You need to really enjoy coaching.
  2. You need to get good training and be constantly learning.
  3. You need to be a very good marketer.

The reality is that these three success factors apply to any entrepreneurial endeavor.  You need to enjoy your business.  You need to keep your skills and knowledge current.  And, you need to be able to market your business (aka your self) very effectively.

Your Own Shop

Your Own Shop is another model and is shown is point #5 of the example.  You can create your own company, hiring staff and training them to deliver the kind of service and knowledge that you provide.  In effect, you duplicate yourself to provide your services to more clients than you could service on your own.  The other alternative is that you expand yourself by hiring people with complementary skill sets so that you can offer a broader range or end-to-end services for your clients.  That way they can get a finished product from you instead of just being given one piece of the puzzle.

Your Products

But what are your products?  If you don't know the answer to this, you will never be able to build your landing pad based on what you do today.

Consider, what are the key elements of your corporate performance plan?  Those should give you a good clue about what products or services your current employer considers as the value you bring to the organization.

What is it that you do for your employer?  What accomplishments can you point to?  Make a list, and be sure to list all accomplishments for all employers, no matter how long ago or for how short a period you worked for them.  You probably should include accomplishments outside of work also.

It may take you a few days to put together this list.  You may have to sort through your old files and memories and even renew some old acquaintances. List each accomplishment in as much detail as you can.  Try to answer the following question for each accomplishment you list:
 How many people were affected?
How much time was saved by how many people?
How much money was saved per year?
How much revenue was generated?
What recognition was received?
What skills, knowledge, and abilities did you have to use to accomplish this?

If you cannot remember any or all of the answers to these questions, that is fine, list the accomplishment anyway.  When you start talking with your old chums from the company where you achieved it, they may be able to refresh your memory.  If all else fails, make a best guess estimate.
These accomplishments are your output, your product

Action Steps

1.       Identify your products
a.       Make a list of your accomplishments and responsibilities as found in your performance reviews and performance plans.
b.      Make a list of your accomplishments and responsibilities that you may have from any volunteer activities you perform.
c.       Use these two lists to create a list of your potential products and services. Focus especially on the products or services where you excel.
2.       Identify your current clients
a.       Consider who do you provide services to today? Who takes what you do and uses it to further their own purposes?
b.      Create a profile of each different type of person or function that uses your work to further their own ends.
c.       Use the results of these two steps to list out your potential clients and client types.

3.       Consider the model you want for your landing pad and select one to start with.  It doesn't mean you cannot add others later, but you need to start with one approach so that you can structure your plan around that approach.

Tom Sheppard

Next:  The Secret to Happiness

Topics Related to This Post: 
Consulting, Resume, Coaching, Career Test, Job Search

Books Related to This Post
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson, Phd
The Consulting Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Expand a Seven-Figure Consulting Practice by Alan Weiss
Flawless Consulting by Peter Block

Top 5 Amazon Books on Consulting

Amazon Top 5 Books on Success Self Help

Top 5 Amazon Books on Entrepreneurship Successfully Launching New Ventures

The Home Finders blog was created by ADB Properties and The Gold Seal Homes Group to provide a resource for people in the greater Charlotte, NC area to find peace of mind through quality, affordable homes. This blog features properties that are currently available to rent or buy from affiliates of The Gold Seal Homes Group ( All affiliates of The Gold Seal Homes Group agree to abide by high ethical standards and certain operating procedures that make it easy for people to do business with all affiliates.

No comments:

Post a Comment