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professional volunteerism

30 Second Launch Pad: Go to work every day

by Peter Osborne on May 23, 2010 · 0 comments

Sam Waltz

Sam Waltz is director of Mergers and Acquisitions for Investment Banking, Mergers & Acquisitions and founder of Sam Waltz & Associates LLC Business and Communications Counsel.  He is also former chair of the Public Relations Society of America. For more information on Sam or to contact him, click on his LinkedIn profile or go to his website.

What do you know today that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  I guess I may have been a slow learner, but in the first few years after 1993 I learned that (a) the professional competence and achievements that earned great commendation inside a big company like DuPont had much less immediate value outside DuPont in the short term; that (b) I needed to rapidly expand my perspective and understanding of business to an altogether different level than I used in DuPont (which I joined in 1977 and left in 1993); and (c) marketing and business development were more critical than even I had imagined, and I worked in that competency.Finally, too, consider a couple of other things.  Geography is part of your branding, and I picked a great Delaware location, on Route 52 in Greenville, DE, but I’ve realized that my practice would have been altogether different if I had located it just up the road in the Greater Philadelphia area, (e.g., Great Valley or King of Prussia).  And give some thought, even at the beginning, to “asset-building.”  Not so much financial assets, but business and practice assets (e.g., Intellectual Property (IP) via core business processes such as Content Knowledge).  For example, I found that our own clients valued – more than I’d ever realized – our intimate knowledge of our Delaware/Delaware Valley market, and our ability to help them “navigate the market” in political, civic and business terms.

What was your most important early decision (e.g., financial, organizational, marketing)?  Call it a decision, or personal branding, or marketing, or whatever you want to call it, but…

I decided early in 1993 when I founded Sam Waltz & Associates LLC Counsel upon leaving a senior role in the DuPont Company’s External Affairs function that, if I wanted to sell our professional services to Business Leaders, I needed to be one.  So, within the scope of my own interests in Public Policy and Public Affairs, I became involved as an active volunteer in the State Chamber and County Chamber legislative committees, which led me within just one year to be elected Delegate, and ultimately Chair, of Delaware’s Delegation to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business convened by President Clinton.

Similarly, within that concept that I call “tithing with your time,” I became active nationally in my global professional society,, leading to a seat on its board of directors/executive committee in 1996, and serving as its national/global president in 1999.

Those two areas, different sides of the same coin, were critical to me in building a personal brand and a professional brand, both within our market and within our industry.  Each required lots of time, and each still requires time because I remain very active, but the result was enormous personal and professional satisfaction with some business residual benefit as well.

Can you offer one piece of advice to help a new consultant get through the first six months?   Go to work every day.  Rather than wait at home on your phone to ring, rather than wait on business to come to you, go out and find it.  Find it through early meetings every day, through volunteer committee work, through helping people regardless of whether they’re a paying client, to building your brand and marketing yourself.  In other words, your day and your work is not just about the work you do, but it’s about building your business. 

What people too often fail to realize is that being a consultant is being self-employed in a business, and you have to do many, even most, of the things that anyone in a business must do.  When I hung out my shingle in 1993, I started every day that I could with a 7:30 or 8 a.m. meeting, getting me out of the home office, full-speed ahead, suit and tie.  Some peers who left DuPont who were not successful hung around at home, not in business attire, running errands, mowing the lawn, and they found their resolve to launch a consulting business was all-too-quickly eroded.