by Chris Swingle
The Rochester Professional Consultants Network (RPCN) monthly question-answer forums on business and technical issues helped Charlie Hancock successfully switch from a corporate job to a one-man firm in 1996 – and have kept him coming. At each forum, attendees can pose questions and get answers from the other professionals in the room, or just listen.
"I may not have a question going in, but I'll learn something," says Hancock of Fairport, an expert on medical device sterilization. "I do look forward to Friday mornings for that reason." Hancock has also benefited from using RPCN members' expertise in research, computer problems and copy editing to help him do his work better and more efficiently. He's also found consultants in the group to recommend to his clients.
His business, Charles O. Hancock Associates, serves makers of toothbrushes and of implanted cardiac devices, but the bulk of his clients are manufacturers of orthopedic surgical instruments. Hancock helps them develop the instructions to properly sterilize their products between patients. He is board-certified in regulatory affairs by the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS) and has served on the committees that oversee codes and standards in various countries.
Hancock attended his first RPCN forum 16 years ago after his corporate job was eliminated. He decided to try consulting; although he knew some former colleagues had abandoned solo work after struggling to find enough business. By contrast, in Hancock’s first year as a consultant, he more than doubled his take-home income.
"RPCN was a very substantial reason for my being successful," says Hancock.
When he was an engineer and manager in large companies, there was built-in support from personnel, marketing, accounting, legal and information technology departments. When you’re on your own, you have to figure all of those things out. A resource like RPCN can be the key to replacing that built-in support system.
At the group's forums, Hancock stays current by hearing about new software, apps and approaches such as cloud computing, which uses remote data, software and computation over a network. When a client directed him to use the company’s cloud, he was able to respond knowledgeably because of what he had learned through RPCN. "If I had been starting from zero, it would have been a real challenge," he says.
At times, he shares his knowledge about topics such as insurance. He points out that whether consultants need errors-and-omissions insurance depends on their business and their certifications. He also shares his experience that a consultant can challenge a contract that requires more insurance than is appropriate.
Hancock is an officer in organizations in his field, but he appreciates hearing various perspectives at RPCN from people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. "That's really valuable, and you can't get it anywhere else," he says.