What do you get when you mix a high unemployment rate with a highly educated (some say over-educated) society? Consultants, of course. Lots of them. After all, if you’ve been in corporate marketing for 25 years where you were fortunate enough to have your employer pay for you to become a “master of business administration” just before they stopped paying you altogether… who better to run a marketing firm!
There’s a running joke in the agency side of business–that is, the outsourced, non-corporate world of marketing experts in whatever capacity. The joke is this: whenever there’s a layoff, we get more competitors. And, while there is no greater proponent of entrepreneurship than me, I still have a good measure of cynicism when so many people hang out their own shingle.
What’s the problem? Experience. In business ownership, that is, not in marketing. You may have been an invaluable asset as a designer, writer, or ad strategist in your previous organization. But that experience only equips you for producing deliverables. Now at the helm of your own business, there are new challenges to face. And not just the obvious: accounting, tax, HR, sales, etc. Even within the marketing discipline, the task of the consultant is far different than that of the in-house expert. A consultant must identify the problems and devise solutions long before they can begin to execute the plan. It’s this high-level consulting which many so-called marketing consultants struggle to deliver, or altogether overlook.
What then is the answer? Should we, the marketing community, shun these up-and-comers in an elitist mentality? Does a professional “marketing expert” designation need to exist? Or could a journeyman program be designed for those who endeavor to start a marketing business?
In many ways, that journeyman program already exists. It requires but one act of humility: self designate as such. More than a few of the well-respected marketing consultants I know today began under a less noble declaration–the freelancer. Though less glamorous on a business card, freelance is nonetheless where the skilled tradesman–those who are not yet ready to fly solo–fit best in the delivery mechanism of outsourced marketing. Not as a harsh relegation to a lesser call, but in preparation for a role that he/she may not yet be prepared to fill… but one day, I am confident, could.
Start your business, but start at the beginning. And, good luck.