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A monthly newsletter from the Rochester Professional Consultants Network.

Holiday Party Via ‘Zoom’
Cook Along with Devin

RPCN’s 2020 Holiday Party will be an interactive Zoom session. The entertainment will include NYOCHEF (aka Devin Floyd) walking the group through cooking a dinner, and provide cooking lessons at the same time.

To participate, purchase the items on the following list and join us in your kitchen. Note, this is a holiday party, you do not need to cook to join us in the fun!

Grocery List:

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 onion (yellow/cooking onion)
  • fresh garlic
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (the larger can)
  • 1 bottle White wine
  • rice (recommended whole grain brown rice)
  • 1 pkg chicken breast or thighs (boneless)
  • fresh basil
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh thyme

Beware the Business Plan “Swamp”

Do Consultants really need Business Plans?

A survey of 200 established Independent Consultants showed that, when starting out, only one-third developed a detailed business plan (from Bruce Katcher’s “An Insider’s Guide to Building a Successful Consulting Practice”). 

The discipline of writing a business plan forces us to do the critical thinking and calculating to flesh out our business (and shine the harsh light of reality on harebrained ideas). Consultants need to plan, but we need a simple process that asks the right questions, in the right sequence, at the right time.

We need to capture the essence of our business before getting mired in the details of a conventional Business Plan. Conventional plans are designed to appeal to business lenders and investors (who aren’t interested in funding solo consultants). Let’s look at how to (and how not to) “capture the essence” of a consulting business.  

The Business Plan Swamp

As a solo consultant, I often decide to finally write a good business plan “by the book”. I acquire Business Planning Software and dive in with vigor and excitement. I want to capture my business ideas while fresh in my mind.

But, I soon bog down in a swamp of details. I browse the template’s 28 pages and 150 questions, including Executive Summary, Confidentiality Agreement, Mission Statement, Philosophy & Vision, Goals, Target Market, Legal Structure, etc., etc., etc. The instructions tell me to write the Executive Summary last after completing all the other sections. But, I need a simple summary now!!!   

Swamp Fever

After a few days (or hours) of thinking and writing, my wading through the well-intentioned topics and questions saps my energy and enthusiasm. I know I should ignore all but the section I’m working on, but the depth of the plan overwhelms me like a fever. I get lost in the weeds. 

So, I flee the swamp, with intentions of returning to the plan at a better time (probably not soon). I’ve again wasted countless hours trying to do it the “right way”. The thinking I’ve done is useful, but I need a better way to quickly describe and evaluate my consulting business. 

Fever Cure

Eventually, you should complete your applicable sections of a Conventional Business Plan (SCORE has good, free templates). In the meantime, capture the essence and enthusiasm while your ideas are fresh. This simple format can give you a good start, and prepare you for a Conventional Plan. 

Business Startup Plan

  1. What consulting service will you offer and how will you deliver it?
  2. Why would clients want your service? 
  3. Who are they?   
  4. How will you find them?
  5. How will you get their attention?
  6. How will you contact them?
  7. What benefits (value) will you produce for your clients?
  8. How much will your service cost them (Your fees)?
  9. How much annual income do you need/want (or - what are your non-monetary goals)?
  10. How will you cover your personal and business expenses until your business can support you (or - how will you achieve your non-monetary goals)? 

Add any other questions you need. 

I wish you well in your Consulting Venture. 

Bob Lurz


Enhancing Human Capital
Lunch & Learn Updates

Upcoming December Meeting - Emotional Bank Account

Please join us for the next installment of RPCN’s EHC newly virtual Lunch-n-Learn on Thursday, December 17 at 11:30 AM via Zoom meeting. We will return to Building Trust with Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits…”  with a special focus on his concept of the “Emotional Bank Account.” We know that trust is critical in well-functioning teams (whether the teams be internal within a single company or external including clients, suppliers, and partners). This month we will discuss how understanding Covey’s Emotional Bank Account can help to build and maintain that trust. Some may remember that “The Emotional Bank Account and how building it can enhance trust with our coworkers, clients, and suppliers” was the subject of the April EHC Lunch & Learn, and we will delve further into it in this month’s meeting.

To get more information about EHC, please contact the EHC team at EHC@rochesterconsultants.org or join us on December 17 at 11:30 via Zoom. The luncheon is open to members and non-members alike, but please register as it will help us with logistics of organizing the Zoom meeting. To register, click here.

November Meeting Recap - Stakeholders

This event on exploring stakeholders provided an expansion of stakeholder awareness and possibilities of visualizing our impact as stakeholders. Although many of us think of stakeholder status primarily as it relates  to stockholders of a business, the reality is far beyond that. The message was to consciously perceive ourselves as stakeholders in different communities based on context. This can broaden our perceptions as we become aware of expectations and connections wherever we really are stakeholders. This in turn  can change our  expectations into an understanding  of our rights.

For example, as a townhouse owner I am a stakeholder in that community and in its management. The condo management is also a stakeholder in my condo and charges me fees for that maintenance. In turn my expectation is that it be managed properly, which also gives me a right to challenge my condo fees if it isn’t. Our status as stakeholders lies on a perceptual continuum from passive membership to active engagement when we perceive it to be appropriate.


Did You Know?

Key to Events

Some of the best features of RPCN are the many events and activities, most of them monthly, with most being free and open to the public – see below.

These include:

· Presentations – Speakers provide valuable information to aid consultants in their consulting businesses.

· Business Forums – Open, facilitated discussions where participants ask questions about how to improve their consulting businesses and other participants provide answers or suggestions.

· Technical Forums – Open, facilitated discussions where participants ask questions about technical issues: computers, phones, laptops, printers, etc., and other participants provide answers or suggestions.

· Board Meetings – RPCN does not run itself, but functions at the direction of the Board of Directors. The Board meets once a month and meetings are open to everyone. Numerous Committee Members, led by committee chairs, volunteer their time and talents to make sure RPCN runs smoothly.

· Lunchtime Forums – Special open, facilitated forums on subjects such as “Marketing.”

· Special Programs – These are programs outside of the regular programs. “Enhancing Human Capital (EHC)” is an example.

· Drop-In Consulting Clinics – A program where business are invited to access free assistance from RPCN members during the current pandemic.

· Members Only meetings – Attendance is restricted to members only. The meetings cover subjects internal to RPCN such as, “Website Magic for RPCN Members” and “Blogging for RPCN.”

· Surprise Thursdays –Informal gatherings on Thursdays before the fifth Friday of the month. At this point, BYOB.

· RPCN Socials – Informal get-togethers where business is NOT discussed. Subjects for the evening might be, “Stuff You Recently Learned” or “Favorite Holiday Recipes” and varies from month-to-month.

All of RPCN’s events, with the exception of Members Only meetings, are open to the public. During these uncertain times, all of RPCN’s activities are on Zoom, which has worked very well. We’re busier than ever – AND, you don’t have to drive anywhere to attend a function.

Each of these activities is described in more detail at rochesterconsultants.org. To register, choose Calendar of Events from the Events link on the menu bar and click on the relevant Zoom Registration link.

With all the choices, it’s easy to take advantage of your RPCN membership.

See you online soon!

Steve Royal


Update on RPCN’s Simon Vision Consulting Program

The sixth semester of Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN) Consulting providing Mentors to the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business (Simon) Simon Vision Consulting Program (Simon Vision) is fast approaching its conclusion.  

Due to COVID concerns and Simon still having much coursework being taught virtually, many students decided to take a sabbatical in the fall with plans to resume their studies in the spring. This reduction in the student body caused Simon Vision to scale back the number of client projects they accepted to 10 projects with a heavy focus on marketing strategy and some projects geared towards corporate strategy and growth strategy. 

If you are unfamiliar with Simon Vision, the program is an effort to increase experiential learning opportunities for Simon’s MBA and MS students. It is a student-run program that usually has 4-5 student members per team. Each team provides consulting to (typically) a local small business for 8 - 12 weeks, i.e. one semester. (In the semester that follows, Simon sometimes has another student consulting team take over another project for the same company.)

Participation in the program is voluntary for the students and is not part of the regular Simon curriculum. In addition to the RPCN mentors, there are a couple of faculty advisers who help the students run the program.

We’re looking for additional people interested in being mentors this spring. If you’d like to become a mentor, please contact me (my contact info is at the end of this article). We’re also looking for new projects for the spring semester. If you or a client or associate have a well-defined project that could be outsourced, Simon Vision could be a great source to get your project completed. Projects are typically staffed with four to five Simon Vision consultants and a project manager. Ideally, projects in the spring semester last about 10 weeks, longer projects may also viable. The leadership of Simon Vision will work with you to define a project that can be successfully completed within these constraints.  

The project can be any business problem and Simon Vision teams have successfully completed projects focused on marketing, business strategy, financial planning, operations, competitive analysis and the like. Examples of completed projects include reviewing ways to decrease seasonal fluctuations in sales, developing a financial plan to solicit funding, and exploring new marketing channels. So, you can see that the projects can take on a wide variety of topics. And did we mention that the student teams work for FREE!

Projects are vetted by the Simon Vision student governing board and typically 6 – 15 projects are chosen each semester. For the spring semester we expect to take 10 – 12 projects and expect projects to begin in mid-January.  

If you are interested in having a Simon Vision Consulting Project Team perform work for you, or would simply like more information about the program, (or even if you’d like to volunteer to be an RPCN member mentor to a student team) please contact Dave Bassett at dbassett@basstat.com.

RPCN Video


Watch the introductory video here.

RPCN Podcast

To listen to an RBJ podcast in which RPCN's David Powe and Laurie Enos talk about our great organization, click here.


Upcoming RPCN Events

Visit the RPCN website for a list of all upcoming events.

Tech Forum
Friday, December 4, 2020
8:00 - 9:30 a.m. 

Playing to Your Strengths: Your Roadmap to Excellence & Personal Fulfillment
Presented by Nermine Zakhary
Friday, December 11, 2020
8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

EHC Lunch N Learn
Facilitated by Dave Bassett
Thursday, December 17, 2020
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Business Forum
Friday, December 18, 2020
8:00 - 9:30 a.m. 

RPCN Board Meeting
Everyone is welcome to attend.
Friday, December 18, 2020
10:00 - 11:30 a.m. 

No meeting on December 25.
Happy Holidays! 

Interesting websites

Let’s start off with something serious – again from KnowItAALL

How to Overcome Your Reluctance to Ask for Help at Work
Greater Good Science Center / 11.16.2020
Excerpt:  When we seek help as an individual, a team, or an organization, we're better at learning and problem solving, more creative, more satisfied with what we do, more efficient, and less stressed and burned out. It sounds simple, and yet it's so difficult--which is why a great deal of my research has investigated how to make asking easier and more effective.

Okay, ready for some legal stuff?

Is Thanksgiving Day a Recognized Holiday in All Fifty States? Using Fifty-State Surveys to Find the Answer! 
Carolina Blawg: UNC School of Law / 11.17.2020 / *Author Is AALL Member*
Introduction: While you were likely already familiar with the list of federal holidays, you might not know that most states also have their own statutes recognizing state legal holidays. These statutes tend to include the major federal public holidays, but they also include unique days in honor of important individuals in each state's history. One way to quickly locate these holiday statutes is by utilizing a fifty-state survey. This blog post will walk you through using a variety of databases to locate fifty-state surveys.

And now for something completely different!

How Hollywood Makes Prop Money 
BoingBoing / 11.13.2020
Introduction: Prop money looks like real money, with one major difference, one side is blank. That wasn't always the case. The $1 trillion in prop money used in Rush Hour 2 was printed on both sides and it looked so real that people working on the set took bills and spent them in stores, resulting in the Secret Service seizing the money (which cost the prop house $100,000 to make) and burning it.

The 10 Happiest Songs, According to Science 
Mental Floss / 11.4.2020
Introduction: Several years ago, UK-based electronica band Alba surveyed an unknown number of English and Irish citizens to find out which songs make them especially happy. After compiling a list of the most popular answers, the band sent it to Dutch neuroscientist Jacob Jolij and asked him to figure out why those songs were such effective mood-boosters.

So what is KnowItAALL? AALL is the American Association of Law Libraries (aall.org).
Ruth Balkin has been a member of AALL for decades! (Also, RPCN)

Ruth G. Balkin


Membership Information

Not an RPCN member? You can join RPCN now to receive great benefits, including free admission to RPCN presentations, a listing in the RPCN Member Directory, and discounts to RPCN events. Click here for more information on joining RPCN.


Program Ad Sheets

At every RPCN meeting, and at our events and tradeshow booths, RPCN distributes the Program Ad sheets.

Ads are inexpensive and support RPCN. The cost for members to advertise is $20 for 2 months. For non-members, the cost is $40 for 2 months. The deadline to get your ad included in the January/February 2021 calendar ad sheet is December 18, 2020. Sign up for your ad here.


A note from our copyeditor:

Good day, RPCN members:

As you know, I “pre-edit” the RPCN newsletter before sending it on to Melanie, who puts the newsletter together. This note is just to help us keep things in order because the system sometimes becomes rather more complicated than it sounds here.

In order to help me to retain my sanity, and to avoid my stretching Melanie’s to its limits as well, would you please, if possible:

1. Get your copy of the newsletter to us as close to the 21st of the month as is possible. (It is much more efficient if I can edit them all over a short period.)

2. Put your name and “RPCN newsletter” in the subject line.

3. Make sure that the piece you have just finished writing IS the piece that you actually send us. 

4. Most of you are doing this, but please be sure to send it to newsletter@rochesterconstultants.org

Many thanks,

Diana Robinson


We want your news!

The RPCN newsletter welcomes news, success stories, tips, resources, events and other items that would be of broad interest to consultants. Submit a newsletter item to newsletter@rochesterconsultants.org for inclusion. 

Melanie Watson, Publisher 
Diana Robinson, Copyeditor

The deadline for submitting material for our next newsletter is the 21st of this month.

C


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