I just finished a webinar for a large group of “Masters in Organizational Development” students. The participants were current and alumni grads of a global program (you’d recognize it), and this commencement-like meeting dealt with a common dilemma they face upon completion; “Internal or external…what do I do with this degree?  Should I consult internally, or go out on my own?”

We covered many relevant considerations, none more powerful than the entrepreneurial economics in our business. Exciting too was the consensus that, inside or out, you are self-employed – if you practice in OD, it’s your business. Here are the eight simple truths that can make the difference between surviving and thriving on your own.

  1. Offense or Defense – you can’t save your way to prosperity! Adequate defense is a given, but generating capital is king. In my last blog I paraphrase a common refrain, ‘nothing happens until someone buys something!’ It’s true for any entrepreneur – your first consideration is the sale, the approval, the sponsor, the project.
  2. Active or Passive – how will income be generated? Will you sell services or product? Most in our business only consider their time in trade, which leaves them vulnerable to the roller coaster of ‘doing’ at the expense of all else.
  3. 100 for 50 – the properly crafted agreement. Whether inside or out, but especially out, too many think believe they can deliver 2,050 applied hours in a year. This leaves no time for relationships, selling, planning, visioning or building the business! The viable formula is 100 percent of the money you need, in exchange for 50 percent of your time. Trust me on that.
  4. Make One Sale – not a dozen. Making a small sale takes about as much time and energy as it does to make a big sale. Get buy in to the overall plan and budget – not approval for a project. Sell to the integrator – the entity with aggregate responsibility – not every single dealer, wholesaler, distributor, franchisee or outlet. Make one sale.
  5. The Funnel of Opportunity – it takes at least 3 to 1.  Our parents used to say ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. The same is true here – if you’ve only one project, one sale on which to rest all your hopes, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.  Think of it as a funnel that has holes in it! Not everything that goes in the top comes out the bottom.
  6. Intellectual Property – it has value! Whether it’s a paid client project or an internal assignment, maybe you CAN maintain ownership of IP…find out how. Intellectual property adds value to the P&L and the balance sheet.
  7. Partner for Success – they fund it, you own it, everybody wins. Think of partnering with a trusted client. The sponsor gets first-hand input on design and significant price breaks. You get the IP – and get it built – without risking your life’s savings.
  8. Forms of Wealth – inner, physical, career, financial, social, adventure, legacy…what fortune are you building? Research the different forms of wealth and design your own payout.

Now that you work for yourself – you get to make the call.