By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, RPCN Communication Committee member
Many RPCN members provide consultation on product development and systems or organizational management. Bob Whipple
is unusual in providing something more ethereal and esoteric - but equally valuable: thought leadership on trust.
Whipple launched his consulting business, Leadergrow, Inc.
, and his Trust Ambassador
brand in 2003. He has been speaking, teaching, writing and consulting on leadership and trust ever since, providing insights into the benefits and strategic advantages of creating and strengthening trust in the workplace. Based in Hilton, NY, he usually works with clients onsite - "with senior executives on their own home turf" - and does some coaching by phone.
Here is a video interview with Bob Whipple:
His consulting business has given Whipple a "huge variety" of clients. "Right now, I'm working with one of the biggest companies in the area, as well as mid-sized and small businesses, the arts, nonprofits - and doing some individual coaching," he said. "I do a lot with colleges, manufacturing organizations, law firms, hospitals." They all have at least one thing in common - a desire to build trust among management, workers and/or customers.
Whipple's business manager and partner is his wife Kay. "I'm the face of the company and the content person, based on my background," he said. "She's the brains of the business."
Like many RPCN members, Whipple was an executive with Kodak before becoming a consultant; in his case, for 31 years. He went into consulting because "I didn't want to jump into another full-time job after I retired from Kodak in 2001," he recalled. "I kind of backed into consulting through teaching and writing, and always enjoyed working with groups. I felt I could help people and am glad that they will pay for me to do so."
Whipple has benefited from many relationships in building his consulting business: "It's always people - people helping people" that are the most valuable. "The key thing [for success] is not to be confined to Rochester," he said. "Get known around the country."
Whipple doesn't do any advertising to promote his business, although he did use that in the beginning. "Word of mouth, facilitated by my online presence, has been the most effective," he said. "One of my values is to give things away. I'm averaging about 10,000 hits a month from people coming into my LinkedIn groups, blog (www.thetrustambassador.com
), corporate site (www.leadergrow.com
) and other networks to see what I'm doing." That visibility adds to his credibility as well as brings in new clients. He also gets new business through client referrals and "a good chunk of business" through his involvement in associations such as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and Rochester Business Alliance (RBA).
For Whipple, the RPCN has been "a wonderful group of professionals who help each other. Whenever I have questions, I can call on an RPCN member, or go to the Friday sessions for advice."
Where Whipple sees aspiring consultants make their biggest mistakes is in "being too anxious for immediate results." It isn't enough to call oneself a consultant, hang out a shingle and make a few calls to drum up business, he said. "You have to be unique and provide high-quality work. You have to put in some time and effort to build up your business and national presence."
In addition to his consulting business, Whipple is very involved with writing and publishing. He just wrapped up his fifth book, which will be published by ASTD. It is about "how to maintain trust when a company is going through great transitions, such as mergers." He is putting the finishing touches on his sixth book, with his wife as co-author. This one will be about "the link between trust and motivation" and will use a new publishing technology from the Wharton School of Business called "Layers," which includes video and images, and provides ways for readers to engage with the author and other readers after purchasing a book.
As evidence of Whipple's belief in giving to and helping others, he is a member of about 14 professional organizations and 50 LinkedIn groups. He is most involved in Trust Across America: Trust Around the World and has been named one of its 100 Top Thought Leaders on Trustworthy Business. He is a member of the board of directors of the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation; founding member of the Rochester Chapter of Conscientious Capitalism; and active in the National Speakers Association, National Human Resources Association, Society for Human Resource Management, RPCN and ASTD.
Whipple's advice to colleagues fits nicely into his involvement with the RPCN and other organizations: "Don't be a hermit. Be out there as much as you can. Opportunities will only come to you if you're [visible and involved]." He isn't kidding -at one point, he was teaching 11 college courses at the same time, many in Syracuse. He urged colleagues to "get what you want, which isn't just money" - consulting can be the road to achieving fulfillment in one's work and a satisfying balance between work and family.
It's also important to take control of a busy schedule, he said, especially when there's too much on your plate: "If I'm overloaded, I cut back on one area of activity, such as the teaching or networking. Things always seem to bounce back - as soon as I get out there again, business comes back in, so I get to regulate and manage my load."
While visibility, networking and plain old hard work are vital to building up a consulting business, success comes down to one essential element, according to Whipple: "The amount of business you do is a direct function of the value you provide and the people who know and appreciate you."
Ruth E. "I can write about anything!"® Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher and speaker