Hiring Associates
Leaders I Like to Work With blog entry

Early on my business, I realized that the only thing holding me back from making more money and taking on bigger projects was myself – I could only work so many hours in a day and was good at some things but not everything. The opportunities that I was seeing in the marketplace needed more than what I alone could deliver, and yet I did not want to build a traditional consulting company with multiple partners, employees, or bricks-and-mortar overhead.

As a result, I decided to create a simplified business model in which I as the owner/principal consultant would have 5-7 strategic alignments with other established consultants in areas in which I had less expertise, and I would act as the account manager and project manager, as well as the primary consultant. I would get the business, put together the team, and manage the consulting engagement, which typically lasted from 6-18 months. These team members were my associates, although in legal terms, I was the prime contractor and they were subcontractors working under my company’s name.

What I learned, much to my horror, was that not every other consultant had the same business values as I did! (Looking back on it, why I assumed otherwise is beyond me.) Some canceled at the last minute if they got a better gig. Some charged for in-town travel time and mileage to visit clients, where I saw that as just the cost of doing business. Some wanted to charge for every minute they talked to me or my client, much like a lawyer or accountant (which does not work well with fixed price contracts.) Some wanted to retain all rights to whatever they produced (which was in opposition to many of client contracts.) Some competed with me for my own clients once they got in the door! (Very painful when that happens.)

After about a year of skirmishing and realizing that my company’s name, brand, and profits were at risk, I decided to start all over again. I let all of my early associates go and decided to become more structured in my approach. This time I started by writing a “Code of Honor” – a set of business values – that I would ask every associate who works under my company’s name to commit to, as well as a legal document defining our relationship.

This business model has worked well for me over the years. I have been able to survive two recessions and one market bust (the tech bubble) sometimes with thin margins, but still there. I have also been able to ramp up quickly when needed and provide a full-service approach without the overhead typically charged by a larger firm.

RESOURCES: For more on my approach to hiring associates, check out my 6-page article Beyond the Handshake which I presented in the past. 

Cathy Perme is the co-owner of Perme & Peterson Associates, LLC.

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Fizz! How to Succeed as an Independent Consultant author Cathy Perme also wrote Confucius in My Cubicle: Practical Wisdom for the Leader in All of Us, released by Wisdom Editions in 2017.

rich set of suggestions
Cathy's marketing and selling background makes for a rich set of suggestions for getting business and building one’s brand. I think it is rare ...
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Barbara A Tuckner
Cathy's marketing and selling background makes for a rich set of suggestions for getting business and building one’s brand. I think it is rare for an independent consultant to "give away" so much of their business engine and expertise. That adds up to a heap of generosity; something that is remarkable in the "friendly" competitive consulting world.
rich set of suggestions
Barbara A Tuckner
down to earth and practical
Down-to-earth, practical, and provides plenty of tools to use to develop your independent consulting business. Cathy takes a constructive look at how to succeed by ...
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Meghan Jost
Down-to-earth, practical, and provides plenty of tools to use to develop your independent consulting business. Cathy takes a constructive look at how to succeed by intelligently marketing yourself, engaging others, and keeping it all in balance with your personal life.
down to earth and practical
Meghan Jost
dozens of ideas
Cathy gives dozens of ideas about networking effectively, making sales calls and using social media and she doesn’t minimize the effort that has to ...
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NES
Cathy gives dozens of ideas about networking effectively, making sales calls and using social media and she doesn’t minimize the effort that has to go into it. It’s a reality check for anyone who thinks they can just hang up their shingle and become a consultant, but a great guide for anyone who’s willing to put in the hard work to be a success.
dozens of ideas
NES
from a to z
Cathy will take you from point A to Z on how to successfully become an independent consultant.
Charles Bever
Cathy will take you from point A to Z on how to successfully become an independent consultant.
from a to z
Charles Bever
methodical steps
For those that take the leap, Cathy's methodical steps will surely be helpful in achieving success.
Kevin Walsh
For those that take the leap, Cathy's methodical steps will surely be helpful in achieving success.
methodical steps
Kevin Walsh
recommend to anyone
I recommend to anyone starting a business.
Patricia Jayne Keefer
I recommend to anyone starting a business.
recommend to anyone
Patricia Jayne Keefer
years of lessons
Cathy shares years of lessons and a broad breadth of practical consulting and business experience in a very clear and engaging guide for starting and ...
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Ted Clark
Cathy shares years of lessons and a broad breadth of practical consulting and business experience in a very clear and engaging guide for starting and developing a successful consulting company. Highly recommended.
years of lessons
Ted Clark
I appreciate Cathy sharing
I appreciate Cathy sharing what she’s learned over the past 30 years about how to succeed as an independent consultant. Her advice is straight forward, ...
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Amy Brown
I appreciate Cathy sharing what she’s learned over the past 30 years about how to succeed as an independent consultant. Her advice is straight forward, thoughtful, organized, and easy to follow.
I appreciate Cathy sharing
Amy Brown
Learning Experience Face
This has been a truly learning experience and has helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Anonymous
This has been a truly learning experience and has helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Learning Experience Face
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drove to closure horse
Took a very complicated and dynamic set of realities and personalities, surfaced underlying issues, facilitated a robust and healthy interaction, and drove the process to ...
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Anonymous
Took a very complicated and dynamic set of realities and personalities, surfaced underlying issues, facilitated a robust and healthy interaction, and drove the process to closure and action.
drove to closure horse
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Cathy Perme