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How do I start a consulting company?

  • July 5, 2009 - 10:32 PM

Q I am a computer programmer thinking of starting a consulting company. What are some initial steps that may be required for getting my idea off the ground?

B. KRUEGER

A The two big issues are value proposition and competitive advantage.

What value will your business provide to your clients? How valuable is your expertise to clients?

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs would ask "Are we selling aspirins or vitamins?" People are much more likely to pay for aspirin because it stops the pain -- for example, an order-processing system that cuts cycle time in half and eliminates late or wrong shipments. If your expertise alleviates your client's pain, that's great. In contrast, vitamins are not necessities and can be delayed or skipped. They are much tougher products to sell, especially in a down economy. Develop a compelling value proposition that eliminates your client's pain.

Second, what is your competitive advantage? Hundreds of businesses provide computer consulting, and they have experience, a reputation, a list of clients and other cost advantages that you lack as a start-up. Again, ask yourself some hard questions. What makes you unique in this market? Why will clients hire you instead of your competitors? Do you have skills or expertise others don't have? Is there an unfilled need in the market that you are uniquely qualified to fill? Study your competitors to determine if and how you can win their customers.

And, finally, talk to a few people you can trust and who have experience in this business. Ask them to critique your plan and carefully consider their advice. Every business idea can be improved, and the best way to do that is through research and honest discussion with knowledgeable advisers.

MARK SPRIGGS, PH. D.

Associate Professor

of Marketing

University of St. Thomas

Opus College of Business

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