I’ve been in design/NPD consulting for about 9 years, mostly in the Twin Cities, but my wife and I are actually from MO/KS. With a few exceptions, most of the product related work in that region seems to be POP/display/packaging oriented, which are categories I have zero interest in. The Twin Cities are a fabulous place to live, have a great business climate with a healthy level of VC, medical and consumer product related work, and I know my way around the local scene, etc. However, my wife and I aren’t from here and we would like to return home. We literally spend every available vacation opportunity visiting our families and haven’t taken a real vacation in years. I have a strong portfolio, plenty of client/business experience, and a stack of cash that could fund a consulting business venture for 2-3 years or so. I’m trying to wrap my head around a couple things: 1) with all the communications technology that is now readily, cheaply available, how much of a stretch is it to continue working in the region/industries I understand from 7-10 hours away? Specifically, has anyone else had success in doing this? 2) Does anyone in the MO/KS region have a better window into the region’s current product/VC/NPD climate (non-POP/disp/pkg)? Am I missing something important? 3) What would some of you do or think about if you were me?
I’m in a different industry but in my consulting practice I’d say 98% of my clients are elsewhere. Not just out of town but out of country/continent, etc. I’ve been running my consultancy for almost 5 years now. Thank you skype and email.
I’m based in the greater Chicagoland area and have been doing device design for nearly 20 years. Good clients here but also a lot in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, San Diego and a smattering across the country and Europe. The most important thing about consulting is the relationship. A good relationship will always trump distance. Medical devices are a bit old school and my clients like a face-to-face on occasion but not often. Worst case scenerio, you fly out for the kick-off and concept review meetings. But with smaller projects, a face-to-face is not necessary. A six-figure project with C-suite involvement requires a face-to-face, or two. Trade shows are also an excellent place to see the old and meet the new all in one place.
You make sacrifices when necessary. I am in suburban gulag until the kids are out of school (CPS sucks). In 10 years, Old Town here I come.
bcpid, are you talking about retaining the current clients you have in the area? If so it seems like you would be in a good position to go remote as the relationships are already there. Most of my work is with clients outside of the bay area, frequently outside of the states, and often outside of the country. I fly a lot, especially as iab pointed out for kickoffs and for key deliverables and specifically on big projects with high up stakeholders, but the stronger the relationship, the less I tend to have to fly.
As Richard pointed out, a video chat can be huge.
Well, it sounds like you and your wife really want to be back home. If it is that strong of a pull, it is reasonable to assume you will be happier there, which may lead to better or major satisfying work. If I had the funds to pull the trigger, and was int he same situation, I think I would go for it personally.
As a thought, since you have family there, would it be possible to do a test run? In other words work out of a remote location for a month or two next summer to see how it goes with your clients as an experiment.
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I think I can count on a handful of clients to supply enough work not to lose money at first. My larger concern is client acquisition - that seems like the more difficult piece to do from a distance, although I know it is doable. Any tips on that front?
Getting new clients I think depends on the industry as some are more local focused than others I would think. For me I’m I’m lucky they all come to me. Pretty much no local footwear industry though I’d imagine I could probably get more work if I was in a hub like Portland or Boston.
Sales is the part of consulting I loathe. I never worry about the job in hand, I worry about the next job. And again, it is all about the relationship. Network with your handful of clients. When they go to a new company, network there. For me in medical, networking at tradeshows was a worthwhile expense. It is also easy to cold call at tradeshows but I would estimate only 5-10% of my new clients were generated from cold calls. YMMV.