This is The Solopreneur Life’s “Featured Soloist,” the purpose of which is to give all of us a glimpse at how other solopreneurs operate their small businesses. Today we meet Kent J. McDonald. If you would like to be the “Featured Soloist,” please send me an e-mail, Larry@TheSolopreneurLife.com.
Name of solopreneur:
Kent J. McDonald
Name of business and city:
Knowledge Bridge Partners; Prole, Iowa
Type of business:
Business analysis training, coaching, and consulting
When did you officially go into business?
The company was officially incorporated January 1, 2007.
Why did you start your own business?
Before starting my own company, I did contract project management and business analysis through a staffing company. I originally decided to start my own company primarily for tax purposes (so I could sub-contract as a 1099) but also because I wanted to own my own business. Early in 2009 I signed on full time at a company at which I was consulting at in order to take a Program Management job and because I was concerned about future work. I effectively was able to wait out the worst of the recession as a full-time employee, but realized that working as someone’s employee was not my style, especially this particular employer. I went back out solo in the fall of 2010 and have since changed the type of work I do from contract staff augmentation to primarily training and coaching.
What was the best thing you did when you were starting up your business?
Probably starting a business where I had immediate income from the contract work. I was able to smoothly transition from working for a company to being a sub-contractor without any reduction in income. The downside to doing this was that it was harder to make the shift to training and consulting because it felt like I was leaving behind the “sure thing,” but I was eventually able to make the move.
What is a mistake that you made that you have learned from?
Renting office space when I really didn’t need it. I live about 30 minutes from Des Moines where my daughter goes to school. Since the nature of my job does not require me to go into an office all the time, I could work from home. I felt that I spent a lot of time driving back and forth to my daughter’s school. As a result, I rented office space in a variety of different arrangements, including a shared office space, and my own private office. In all occasions, the expense was really not justified. Now I find that if I have things to do in Des Moines, the local coffee shop works just as well, if not better, as a work space for a few hours during the day.
What is your biggest current challenge in the business and what are doing to try to solve it?
Up until recently my biggest challenge was cash flow. Because I often sub through another firm, I was having to wait 60 to 90 days for payment. I addressed that issue by establishing a clear agreement of 30 days net with all of the organizations I sub contract with. That has helped cash flow tremendously. Now my biggest challenge is too much travel. I am trying to find more business with local companies or finding work that I can do remotely.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Move my mix of business to reduce the amount of travel I need to do and increase the percentage of revenue generated from writing.
Where do you want to be with the business in five years?
Right now, the majority of my income comes directly as a result of spending my time at a client or working on client work. I want to shift the mix such that the majority of income is generated from writing. Basically to a bigger degree than in one year.
What are your main software programs?
WordPress, Evernote, Excel, and Quickbooks
What lifestyle choices have you had to make to stay in business?
As I mentioned before, I was fortunate that I was able to start a business doing contracting, so I did not have to go into debt to start the company and I did not have to radically adjust my standard of living. My family currently uses my wife’s benefits which restrict her options a little bit. Probably the biggest lifestyle choice I had to make recently is the amount of traveling I have to do. I am in the process of trying to even out the ratio of traveling to a saner level.
What are your strategies for staying competitive?
• Staying in touch with other practitioners in my chosen field.
• I stay active in the agile and business analysis professional communities. For example, I am the chair of one of the more prominent agile conferences in 2013, which provides a lot of good connections in the community.
• Reading a lot of information related to business and projects in organizations.
• Finding opportunities to continue working as a part of projects to “keep my hands dirty” so that my skills don’t get rusty.
Do you need a second household income to support your lifestyle?
My income is the primary income, but my wife also contributes considerably to the overall household income, and she carries the benefits for the family.
If your business should fail, what is your fallback position?
Go back to working as a contractor for consulting company or *shudder* go back to work as a business analyst for an organization.
If you could start your career all over again, what would you do differently?
I am pretty comfortable with my choices, but one thing I would probably do differently is get more actual experience writing code.
What’s your advice for aspiring solopreneurs?
If you have something you enjoy doing, and it solves a problem others have, don’t over analyze it, jump in and do it. It is very easy to spend too much time reading about how to do something and never find out if it will really work. The best way to find out if something will work is to get out there and do it. I’m still trying to follow that advice myself in some cases.
My other piece of advice: it is O.K. to say no.
Are you glad you became a solopreneur? Why or why not?
Definitely. My last stint as a full-time employee taught me that I do not enjoy working in a corporate setting. I find the politics and bureaucracy to be soul sucking. I still have to deal with both politics and bureaucracy, but it is with my clients, and it does not impact everything I am trying to do.