Business Services and Consulting Sales Leader to Fortune 500 Companies – Mentor, Dan Nichols

Business Services and Consulting Sales Leader to Fortune 500 Companies – Mentor, Dan Nichols

Summary

 

Young people who set high goals for themselves should read this article. It is a good example of what you to can achieve with hard work and persistence no matter what your background. Dan grew up on a farm in the Midwest but knew early on that he wanted to succeed at the highest levels of American business. He prepared himself by getting a business degree in college and by choosing his initial jobs in areas that would broaden his business experience and help him reach his ultimate career goals. This article should also be read by anyone interested in consulting and marketing as a career because it provides insight on the personal traits it takes to be successful selling yourself and your company’s services.

 

Overview

 

image1I grew up on a farm in Illinois. I enjoyed ranching, farming and respected the hard work and strong character of people who work in agriculture. But I had a strong desire to live a better lifestyle than my parents and achieve more monetary success. So I decided to focus on a career in business. In researching various business careers, I learned that a common thread for all business people at the top rungs of the largest companies was some grounding in both accounting and finance. It is important that a business leader understand how to evaluate and control a business’s performance through well disciplined finance and accounting protocols as well as the best ways to finance and grow that business. Consequently, I decided to study accounting and finance in college with a major in finance.

When I enrolled in college I knew that I would have to pay for it myself and that I didn’t want to take on a lot of student loans like I was seeing many other people my age use to finance their education. Instead, I went out and got a full time job in a bank, first as a teller and then later as a branch manager. I was able to arrange my schedule to make this work. For example, most of the time I was able to get off all day Tuesdays and in the mornings on Thursdays and scheduled my classes for those days. Because of this job, I was able to pay for all my living expenses and college expenses. That job also had the additional benefit of teaching me basic business lending practices and allowed me to move around different bank branches where I was able to interact with a variety of bank customers.

Because of my bank experience and consumer and commercial lending, I felt that having a strong accounting background was critical to running a business and took my first job with a company that would give me that accounting experience. That first job was with the financial reporting department of a large public company. But I had also interviewed with one the top five accounting firms and was called back after six months. I spent six years at that firm starting in a staff position and reaching the level of senior manager. In that position, I was in charge of the accounts for approximately 30 companies with several of them being large, marquis companies. There I gained a lot of experience that helped me when I later became a business services consultant. For example, I worked with a rapidly growing startup that’s whole accounting system was on QuickBooks. They could not produce the kinds of financial reporting they needed to raise the additional debt and equity financing they needed to maintain their growth. I led a team that reorganized the entire accounting department and also stepped in and basically became the company’s controller until the new accounting system was in place. I also worked with a company that did a large acquisition. The acquired company’s accounting systems had to be integrated into the parent company’s systems and again I acted as a temporary controller until the transition was completed.

After six years I was offered a promotion at the accounting firm. But it required a move that I didn’t want to make. You should understand that when you work for many personal service firms like accounting, law and investment banking, there is a point where you are either promoted to a higher management level or you potentially stay at the current level. Not accepting a promotion because you do not want to move will normally take you off of a career track that would lead you to the top rungs of theses kinds of companies’ management. I realized this and began looking for another opportunity to advance my career that didn’t require me to relocate.

I soon found a job at a computer services firm as a Director of Transformation.In this job, I generally worked with a ten-twenty person team doing business process reviews, analysis and developing ways to improve the customer’s overall business model. I did well and was offered a promotion. But I felt that to advance myself further I wanted to get more direct sales experience. So I looked for a job in consulting where I could sell consulting services to large, Fortune 100 companies and was hired as an Associate Partner with one of the largest computer business systems consulting firms in the US. I have worked there now for over eight years and was fortunately promoted to partner after 2 years.

 

Responsibilities of a Business Services and Consulting Sales Leader

 

 In my present position, I sell my company’s professional services, not computer hardware, and then manage the team that goes into the company and delivers those services. I am usually working with the companies Chief Financial Officer, Chief Executive Officer and Controller. I also often work with a company’s Treasurer on ways to improve cash management systems and the company’s Chief Information Technology officer on ways to improve computer business systems. My company prides itself on being a one stop consulting shop for all types of business servicesfrom cash management and financial reporting to integrating systems from an acquisition into the parent or to setting up independent systems for a company that has been spun off from a parent.

Obtaining consulting contracts from these large companies is competitive and requires a lot time and monetary investment. I usually manage a sales budget for one customer proposal that can run between $500,000 to $2 million. If we are successful, the teams I have managed to deliver these services under our contract have been as few as a dozen and as many as 800. Sales revenue for my company from an individual project can run between $10 upwards of $100 million and normally takes between six to nine months to complete.

To be successful in this kind of selling, you must be people oriented and able to listen to and understand their needs. Plus you have to understand that people do business with people they like and trust. This is a guiding principal for all sales. This means you must set strong ethical standards for yourself and your company. I have sometimes had to turn down profitable business because I did not feel what the company wanted us to do met these standards.

The companies that you might work for as a business consultant set sales goals for you that you need to meet to be able to stay in your job. This creates stress. The job can also become stressful because of tight deadlines and the responsibility of managing large projects. You are also required to travel a lot in this kind of sales position. Although I am able to live where I want, I do spend a lot of time away from home, which can also cause stress in your family. Understand that like many other jobs where you can earn a good income, the time you must commitment to that job is something you and your family must be able to handle. Many people cannot.About half who start in these kinds of business consulting positions wash out in a couple of years.

One of the big advantages to this kind of career is that because it is so competitive and results oriented, you are judged on your own merit and how you perform not the schools you attended or your social standing. Someone like me who grew up in a rural community but with a strong work ethic can successfully compete in this kind of job against someone who was able to go to more prominent schools. In fact, it has been my personal observation that the most successful people in the field of business services consulting are those people who had no particular advantages growing up other than a very strong desire to succeed in life.

One of the disadvantages of this kind of career is that it is age sensitive because it is so stressful. As a result, few people are business consultants at this level after they reach age 50. They are then usually promoted to the company’s general management or chose to move on to a general management function in another company.

 

How to Prepare Yourself in High School and College

 

 It is a good idea to take all the English and speech classes that your high school offers you. In any job involving sales it is important that you have the ability to communicate well in writing and when you are speaking. You also need to take all of the math that you can. Math is important because it teaches you how to solve problems, something you will apply every day as a business consultant. You should also take all the computer courses you can so that you understand computer systems.

When you go to a college for a business degree, you will have to decide on a major. Majoring in marketing is not the best major to let get you into business consulting even though it is in partly a sales position. It is more important that you understand business processes and take a full load of accounting and finance classes. After you graduate, you need to go to work in jobs like I did that will broaden your business experience. Look at these initial jobs as an extension of college where you learn and gain experience in one area and then broaden your experience and knowledge base by looking at other positions within or outside your company. As you gain business experience you will eventually be able to apply for the better consulting jobs with the larger firms where the opportunities are the greatest.

 

 Summary

 

I have enjoyed pursuing my own career path and would recommend this kind of business consulting to anyone who wants to test his or her abilities in a highly competitive business environment. You are judged entirely on your ability to perform.If you have the desire to succeed and are good working with people and understanding their needs, you can build a good career for yourself following the same general career path that I did. Plus there are good monetary rewards that have been a strong motivator for me. I have an income in the middle six figures and am a partner. That position comes with a benefits package that includes health care, retirement savings and company stock. But regardless or the career you eventually choose, I would urge you to set your career goals high and choose a career that will let you use all of your individual ability.

 

US Bureau of Labor Statistics for Management Consultants

 

This data is the closest that is available from the Bureau for a job similar to a Business Systems Consultant. The Bureau describes the job used in their survey as “proposing ways to improve and organization’s efficiency and advising business managers on how to make organization more profitable”.

There were 718,700 people in this consulting field at the time of the survey in 2012. The expected growth rate between 2012 and 2022 is 19%, higher than most other jobs categories in their survey.

The median annual pay in 2012 was $ 78,600 with the lowest 10% earning $43,070 and the highest 10% starting at $142, 580 and going much higher.

 

 

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