CXO

CIOs-turned-IT consultants offer tips on striking out on your own

Starting your own IT consultancy can be fraught with challenges. Here's some practical advice about finding your niche, setting up shop, and minding your finances from former CIOs who have taken the plunge.

Independent IT consulting is becoming the career of choice for a growing number of CIOs who are leaving the corporate world — some by their own accord, and some due to fallout from the U.S. economy. These new IT consultants have found that forging a new career path means wrestling with a number of nuts-and-bolts details and coping with a bit of culture shock.

Computerworld's Julia King recently published an interesting article in which former CIOs and IT leaders who have turned to consulting offer their hard-won advice. The article focuses on these five areas:

  • Find your niche
  • Work that contacts file
  • Setting up shop
  • Mind your finances
  • Navigating the cultural changes

Here are several of the tips they provide:

On finding your niche: "It's important to specialize, and you should lead with those two or three things that you are best at. If you specialize in everything, people won't know who you are," says Laraine Rodgers, founder of Navigating Transitions, a Tucson-area consultancy, and former CIO for the city of Phoenix and Xerox Corp. On minding your finances: "Chances are you won't see a return for a good 12 to 18 months," says My CIO's Moez Chaabouni. "You need willpower and reserves to sustain the lack of income for 12 to 18 months. You need to stick it out at least 18 months and maybe even longer given this economy." On navigating the cultural changes: "As embarrassing as it is, one of the most difficult parts for me of going from executive to consultant was I had to take care of myself," Barry Mathis says. [Mathis, a former CIO at Bradley Memorial Hospital in Cleveland, Tenn. (renamed Skyridge Medical Center) is now an IT consultant specializing in health care for H.I.S. Professionals LLC.] "I was so used to someone taking care of my schedule and reminding me of appointments, and when all of a sudden they're not there, it's a culture shock. You're your own salesperson and secretary."

One major benefit to branching out on your own? Barry Mathis cites being able to spend more time with his family. "I have seen 100% more of my kids' games than when I was a CIO."

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Mary Weilage is a Senior Editor for CBS Interactive. She has worked for TechRepublic since 1999.

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