Lessons Learned as a New Consultant

Kathy Arney

By Kathy Arney, President of KEA Canada

Almost exactly one year ago, I found myself at a crossroad in my career. Should I search for the next position or explore a dream that I thought couldn’t be realized for another 10 years – launching my own company focused on helping the charity sector and those who make it possible. And so KEA Canada was born, and what an adventure the first year has been!

Take the opportunity to learn. I found starting a new venture is a bit like taking a sabbatical. I had time and space to focus on learning, on creating something new. I switched to Apple from PC, built a website, registered my business and obtained a GST number, and practiced selling myself instead of selling something else. I also developed a business strategy, established short and long-term goals, a budget, and understood the revenue I needed to generate to become sustainable. Applying your knowledge and skill to build your own business is refreshing. During the times when I worried whether it would work, I took comfort in the fact that the learning and the business would stay with me no matter what.

Embrace the generosity and wisdom of others. As I began to network and seek advice, the number of amazing people who took the time to share their advice, wisdom and support for this journey was incredible. I have always been proud of the amount of collaboration and support that professionals in educational advancement exhibit. And that feeling continued to grow in speaking with philanthropists, other consultants and small business owners, friends and family. I learned that all you have to do is be open and to ask. And I am committed to paying that forward!

Adapting to a new work environment. Every arrangement has pros and cons. Working in a busy office environment, how often do we dream of working from home, the flexibility of having control of your time, of having fewer interruptions. And while I embrace those aspects, I still miss the activity, the teamwork, the interruptions, the routine. I had to learn to find new ways to get the interpersonal connection I craved and to not become isolated. Journaling became an important way for me to capture how and what I was feeling and find solutions for moving forward.

The dichotomy of self-employment and security. Losing a steady paycheck is very scary. You have to be prepared for this before embracing self-employment. And although it continues to be scary, there is also empowerment in more directly controlling your destiny.   I can focus on areas I am most interested in pursuing; I can work as hard as I choose in building business; and can give myself permission to take time. You really have a different kind of security than you do as an employee.

Your Network and Reputation are critical. Your network requires constant care and feeding. No matter who you are, your current position or your ambitions, take the time to build your LinkedIn profile and connections and your social network identity. My network was absolutely the key to a successful first year.

Have Faith! Not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from definitely takes getting used to, and requires that your personal financial planning can handle variable income. But your plan really can work! With a solid strategy, strong network and reputation, an openness to learn from your experience, and an ability to have a bit of faith, it can be an extremely rewarding choice.

Kathy Arney has spent her career growing organizational capacity and improving results and has a passion for enabling people to reach their full potential.  She obtained her Commerce degree from Queen’s and is a chartered accountant. Through her career developed an expertise in fund development, capacity-building, strategy and operations. Her background in executive education, higher education and the arts are built on a solid business and management foundation. Kathy is President of KEA Canada.

One thought on “Lessons Learned as a New Consultant”

  1. Congratulations, Kathy, on taking the leap of faith and forging a new path. I share your experience, insights and thoughts venturing into self-employment and non-profit consulting. All the best to you 🙂

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