What is your business plan and professional development plan for 2011?

I believe that if you don’t plan to succeed, then don’t plan on succeeding. With 2011 now in front of you, what is your consulting company’s business plan and further, what is your professional development plan in 2011?

Starting with the company you work for or own, is there a business plan documented and shared with the rest of the firm? If there is, what are the estimated volume, revenues, and profit margin?

Things to think about when planning is that if your profit margin dropped off last year, do you want to be projecting more volume next year or focus on improving the profit margin from last year? I would stabilize and build on the profit margin before I target increased sales volume/revenues. Without a document stating the estimated volume, revenues, and profit margin would be like heading on cross-country road trip without a map. You’ll get somewhere, you just won’t know where and when.

Think about that as we address that part of the business plan that identifies who will be your clients next year. Does the business plan estimate the revenues expected from existing/repeat clients? And how about a select few new prospects that your company would like to call clients in 2011?

MOVE FORWARD

When a company remains in the status quo, it is safe to say the company will really fall behind. An example of a successful business is McDonalds, who reinvents itself every year with something new to keep people coming back. I don’t believe consulting firms think this way. It’s not that consultants aren’t smart and creative, because they are, but creativity and thinking outside the box may not be a commonly drawn-upon skill because they are more comfortable with the technical aspect of the business. Wouldn’t the consultant business be turned on its head if a McDonald “attitude” firm proposed a 2011 business plan that included reinventing itself as well as targets for estimated volume, revenue, profit margin, repeat clients, and potential prospects?

If you don’t own the firm and the company may or may not produce a 2011 business plan, then what is your 2011 professional development plan? What are you doing to continuously improve your skills? Just like a company that remains in the status quo, if you, too, remain in the status quo next year, then you are exposing yourself to being a liability to the company over the long haul. If you don’t improve, then you fall behind because things change. Think about it. If you didn’t begin to embrace computers and software in years past, what company would want to hire you or keep you employed?

BECOME SKILLED

So start planning and document your 2011 professional development plan. It’s not too late, and it doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece or something your ninth-grade English teacher would give you a B+ for doing. It simply has to itemize the current skills, needed new skills, plus outside-the-box (McDonald’s) skills. What are some outside-the-box skills? Well if you are a design engineer, learn about maintenance management software, integrated process delivery, public speaking, or commissioning of HVAC systems. These are just four extensions of HVAC engineering.

To help consulting firms and consulting engineers like you, maybe the engineering community (such as ASHRAE) could create a 2011 professional development course titled, “The Andy Warhol, P.E. course.” Why Andy? Well it would certainly be a “McDonald’s reinvent yourself” curriculum. What little I know of this American icon is he was a painter, printmaker, filmmaker, illustrator, author, and leader in visual art movement. He was considered avant-garde and coined the widely used expression, “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.”

Wouldn’t it be great if you and/or the company’s 2011 professional development plan included completing an “Andy Warhol, P.E.” type of course that improves your skills in a category or two that would qualify as avant-garde (refer to definition)?

Avant-garde (French pronunciation) means “advance guard” or “vanguard.” The adjective form is used in English, to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics.

vs.

Avant-garde (engineering pronunciation) means “advance technology” or “vanguard.” The adjective is used in ASHRAE community, to refer to people or engineers who are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to design, project delivery, business culture, and client retention.

A byproduct of this avant-garde attitude is that it could be fun. So when you and/or the company sit down and document the 2011 plans for next year, don’t forget to add “experimental/innovative” goal(s) and itemize pertinent milestones to achieve within each of the four quarter of 2011 roadmap. The choice is yours: status quo (a.k.a. fall behind) and be a liability, or avant-garde, moving ahead and maybe you and the company might even achieve “your 15 minutes of fame” in 2011. ES

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