“The beauty of management consulting is that you can come to it from any area of business where you've been successful, as long as you've had some training in consulting skills,” says Drumm McNaughton, chair emeritus of the Institute of Management Consultants USA. “This business boils down to you sharing your expertise and advice—for a fee. You need excellent listening and communication skills, plus an understanding of how to build a sustainable consulting practice” if you want to work for yourself.
Loraine Huchler, 50, of Princeton, New Jersey, spent six years testing military-aircraft engines and eight years designing chemical products and usage guidelines for a Fortune 500 company. Thirteen years ago, at age 36, she decided to launch her own consulting practice. “My husband is older than me and took early retirement, and I have an elderly mother-in-law who needs some help,” she says. “I had no interest in giving up my career, but I wanted to spend more time with them than a corporate schedule allowed.” Huchler now consults for manufacturing clients all over the United States and Canada and spends 50 percent of her time on the road; she admits she puts in 20 percent more hours now that she's the boss.
For Huchler, flexibility hasn't meant working less. Instead, owning her own business has meant she has more control over her schedule and the freedom to work remotely. She earns more than her old corporate salary, and every few years she and her husband take several weeks off to travel. Last year they spent three weeks in France. “This is not a profession you do while you're waiting for your next job or to extend your earning power in retirement. You really have to be the rainmaker,” she says. “But I get to come in and make lasting changes for my clients. That's what drives me.”
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