Entrepreneur Spotlight – When starting a consulting firm, it pays to leverage connections

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When you make the decision to leave big corporate and strike out on your own in starting a consulting firm, it pays to leverage your network and focus on personalized service to build your business.  In our blog series that focuses on interviews with Entrepreneurs who’ve risked it all to start their own business we are interviewing Mary (Mimi) Amabile of Amabile Consulting, an HCM consulting firm that helps companies large and small with every aspect of an HCM (human capital management) project.

SmallBizRising (SBR) – Tell us about your business….how you got the idea and what motivated you to start it?
Mimi – Amabile Consulting is a Human Capital Management (HCM) consulting firm that was started to provide clients with a more personalized level of service that most firms are lacking. We partner with our clients on a variety of HCM projects: implementations; upgrades; mergers & acquisitions; requests for proposals (RFP); interface design and development; report writing and associate training.

Prior to starting Amabile Consulting, I worked with HCM systems for almost 20 years – as a vendor, a client and a consultant. I experienced firsthand the challenges of each, and the most painful is the client implementing a project. They are nervous about change and overwhelmed with the amount of work involved. They need someone to take ownership of the project and challenges to ease both their minds and their workloads. They need a partner. That is when I realized where many consulting firms fall short. Most consultants work for a consulting firm with the client. I started Amabile Consulting to fill this void. We consider ourselves employees of each client; we are representatives of them. Their success is our success.

I strongly believe that if you are in a service industry, you should provide exceptional service every time. We do that.

SBR – What were some of the biggest challenges in getting your business started and bringing in revenue?
Mimi – Believe it or not, my biggest challenge was having the courage to leave the security of Corporate America. However, my desire to provide clients with the service they deserve far outweighed all my fears. I was fortunate to have developed an incredible network of HCM professionals over the course of my career – clients, consultants and vendors. Because this industry runs mainly on recommendations, I was able to reap the benefits of two decades of dedication and a strong work ethic by booking clients almost immediately.

SBR – What public/free resources did you leverage to help you to get going?
Mimi – I worked for a smaller consulting firm for several years, so I was familiar with running the front end of the business. To learn more about processes on the back end, I made use of the best resources I had – friends and colleagues with experience. I met with local entrepreneurs who provided much insight into having a business in the Philadelphia area. They were able to recommend an attorney and an accountant and provided some solid advice. I supplemented this information with extensive research on the internet.

SBR – What technologies did you put in place to help start/grow your business?
Mimi – My first step was to update my LinkedIn profile. I have many connections in the industry who use this site regularly, and as I mentioned previously, much of our business comes from word of mouth. I then purchased a domain name to provide potential clients with something more tangible. Although business has been steady since we started, my plan is to expand by broadening my use of these tools.

SBR – How did you manage your work/life balance in the beginning versus now?
Mimi – My work/life balance has actually improved over the past 18 months. The hours of a consultant are far from regular. A 40-hour week is not necessarily 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. There are late nights, travel and sometimes weekend work. Being free of the restrictions of corporate hours allows me to enjoy personal time when I would have otherwise been glued to my laptop waiting for a process to complete. In the beginning, I will admit that I almost felt guilty if I wasn’t spending all of my free time trying to build the business. However, now that I have gotten familiar with the rhythm, I know when it is okay to take a break. This is critical to being successful. Quality of work suffers if you are unable to maintain a good balance.

SBR – What are the biggest issues you face that prevent or slow down growth of your business?
Mimi – Running a small business is challenging. I have two roles: employee and owner. I find the most difficulty trying to step away from the employee role to invest more time in expanding. I love what I do.

SBR – What outsourced services do you use to help manage your business?
Mimi – I have an excellent accountant who prepares my tax forms and provides financial advice. The bookkeeping is fairly easy at this point, so I still handle most of it. This helps me to see where I can be most profitable and which expenses could be eliminated. I also work with an attorney to write and review contracts. Next year I plan to outsource web development. I may be creative when writing a program, but I am far from artistic. This should really be left to the experts.

SBR – What strategies do you use to compete against larger competitors?
Mimi – We let our service speak for us. We occasionally work on projects with consultants from larger companies. On all of these projects, we were the consultants that were extended or asked to return for additional projects. The decision to use a larger firm is usually made from high up in the organization. However, once they see the knowledge, experience and service Amabile Consulting provides, they realize that bigger isn’t always better.

SBR – What role has social media played in your business growth/marketing?
MimiLinkedIn has been a valuable social medium. In the beginning of my career, before social media existed, maintaining contact information for those in my network was nearly impossible. Being able to find and reach out to such a treasured group of professionals has benefited me greatly. I may have over two decades of experience, but I am not ashamed to say that I do not know everything. I can say that for the things I don’t know, I know who does, and I can reach them on LinkedIn. This site has also brought us business. Not only have my contacts recommended Amabile Consulting, but recruiters and staffing agencies have contacted me directly as well.

About Amabile Consulting

Amabile Consulting is a Human Capital Management (HCM) consulting firm where our aim is to make your life easier.  We provide expertise in areas that are usually uncommon in the day-to-day activities of you, our client.  We understand that projects can be scary.  They often involve many hours of dedication while maintaining your regular responsibilities.  At Amabile Consulting, projects are our day-to-day.  We have made our careers of these unique situations.  We can shorten the length of your project while giving you time back in your day.


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