Launching a consulting business was a logical – and carefully considered – move for Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN) member David Powe
, partner and lead consultant in AIOPX Management Consulting
A corporate background
Powe came to Rochester from New Jersey, as director of manufacturing for Arch Chemicals. The company’s operations headquarters were in Atlanta, where he did all his interviewing. “They never told me the job was in Rochester, so I was shocked – I thought I’d be going back to the south, where I was from, but my friends in New Jersey all said I’d love Rochester, that it was a great family place and, if they had an opportunity to go back there, they would.” That has been the case, he said: “I can’t tell you how great it has been!”
Eventually, a larger company bought Arch and released all of its corporate employees. Powe spent about six months “going through a process of elimination for where I wanted to go in my life,” he recalled. “I decided I had three options to consider: find another job in corporate America, buy a franchise business or go into consulting. Another corporate job would have involved relocating or a complicated commute; I had a son in school and didn’t want to miss his life. The in-home nursing service franchise I considered was a non-starter for New York state – you couldn’t get licensed in time for the business to show a profit for at least two years. Consulting came to the forefront as best meeting my career aspirations and personal needs.”
Powe has an MBA from the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University and a BSCHe in Chemical Engineering from Tulane. He built his professional skill sets in some of the biggest companies in industry, including Tyco Adhesives, Shell Chemicals, GE and Arch. He is a GE Master Black Belt and an Aji Network Certified Business Professional. He has helped a variety of organizations and business functions “achieve extraordinary results” on domestic and international levels. And he was prepared for consulting – in his last two years with Arch, he functioned as an internal consultant. “I went to all the other company locations to help them start up, develop a structure and use operations excellence,” he said. “I had a home office.”
Powe’s company uses the operations skills he developed and applied in industry. “The business is based on a combination of factors from my career, leaning heavily on Six Sigma, Lean and Total Quality,” he said. “We help businesses improve their profits and cash flow by creating uncommon solutions and extraordinary results through operations excellence.”
A typical solution that Powe implemented for a client was applying several OpEx tools – Value Chain Mapping, 5S, Cycle Counts and more – to the client’s inventory control processes. “In less than a year, we were able to raise their inventory accuracy from a very low level to nearly 100 percent,” he said. “This accuracy has allowed us to help the client reduce cost and increase inventory turnovers, and set the stage for future cost- and cash-reduction projects.”
Powe wanted something other than his own name as a company identification. He came up with the AIOPX name using a technique he learned when working with General Electric. “They had a methodology for naming products that used five letters that don’t spell a word,” he recalled. (Think Xerox and Kodak!) “I wanted my business name to start with an A and include a reference to operations excellence.” The A and I stand for Ajabu Imani, Swahili words meaning great faith. “I knew that, to start a business after 30 years in the corporate world, I had to have faith, and I am a man of faith,” he said. In addition, he had seen that Swahili was one of the few languages that could be used to communicate across numerous diverse groups.
Powe launched his business officially in February 2012. His wife is his colleague on the business side and he may bring in associates further down the line.
Lessons to date
Powe considers his consulting business to still be in launch mode, although he has found success and fulfillment in his first year as a consultant, and has learned a few valuable lessons along the way. “You have to get used to knowing that you have to constantly produce new clients as part of doing business. It’s a different feeling from a regular job, with the security of a check every week. It’s invigorating and challenging – if you don’t do something, it doesn’t get done. And you have to network!”
If he were starting now, “I would pay more attention to the business end of my business – structure, tracking expenses, handling taxes and getting more help from professionals in other areas,” he said.
Powe has found benefits for his business in networking through the RPCN and other groups. RPCN has been “powerful in helping me apply my skill set to consulting,” he said. “There are incredibly giving people in the RPCN. Through the business and tech forums, I have received help on business structure, hardware and software choices, initial pricing of my service, how to write proposals and close deals.”
The RPCN Boot Camp gave Powe insights into many of the critical concerns of starting a consulting practice, including some of those topics and “live practice with my sales pitch, building an effective image in the business community, success stories from established consultants and building a marketing plan. Networking through RPCN has added dozens of new relationships with mentors, potential colleagues on future projects, and talented people who are willing to help me and my business. A great example is one of the new marketing consultants in RPCN helped me design my initial marketing materials.”
In return, Powe is active in the RPCN Marketing Committee and outreach efforts to enhance RPCN’s reputation in the area.
He also is active in Vistage, which facilitates networking among CEOs; he joined while at Arch and was invited to remain involved once he started his own business. He also belongs to the August Group and Webster Chamber of Commerce.
Powe is involved in networking for the same reason he started his consulting business: his primary ethic. “My approach to business and life is to give as much as I can,” he said. “One reason consulting seemed like the way to go is that I have more control over that – if I want to help out, I can.”