Welcome to our second series of the Healthcare IS Podcast. The next set of podcast episodes will be geared towards individuals who are interested to hear how others have transitioned from full time employment to contract consulting. In this episode we are visited again by our popular guest Dave Wolfe as he shares his career path in consulting and the choices he made that lead him to a successful profession as an independent consultant.
Listen to the episode here: Healthcare IS Podcast
* Below you will find Dave’s written responses to the questions asked.
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- What originally attracts people to consulting?
- When you first get into consulting would joining a firm be the best thing for you?
- What factors lead to this decision?
- Is it recommended that people start with a consulting firm? Why or why not?
- What general advice should someone have who's thinking about becoming an independent consultant?
You may also like: Getting Into Healthcare IT Contracting
How long have you been consulting for?
I have been consulting since 2002.
What originally attracted you to consulting?
Like many professionals, I entered consulting during a transition in career. I was a Vice President with CVS as a General Manager and VP of Business Development with the specialty pharmacy division. Through acquisition and merger, I was displaced. I took the next 6 months to strategically decide what path to pursue. I had the opportunity to implement a pharmacy system for a start-up hospital in Indiana and begin my career in Healthcare IT consulting.
When you first got into consulting why did you feel that joining a firm was the best thing for you?
When I first got into consulting, I started as an independent contractor. But, the key point is that I partnered with a pharmacy management firm for the pharmacy system install at the new hospital. This lead to other opportunities through the firm so I started an LLC and hired additional consultants to support the implementations. Partnering with the firm was important because it provided the “pipeline” of projects and future work.
What were the factors that lead to your decision?
After being on my “own” for a few years, I joined a consulting firm with a major drug wholesaler when the work through pharmacy management company began to slow down. This change allowed me to learn additional skills (e.g. 340b program management, ambulatory pharmacy start up, business plan development). With that said, because I was a consultant for several years just prior to joining the company, my start up curve for the new position was very short.
- As an independent contractor you will always be tempted to join a firm for the “security” of a salary, benefits, and being part of a larger company. Especially in times when the opportunities start to slow down.
- After two years with the firm, I decided to go back on my own as opportunities in the CPOE space started to grow tremendously. I really enjoyed the IT consulting and found it very rewarding (financially, professionally, and in more of an autonomous manner).
Knowing what you know now, do you recommend people start with a consulting firm the way you did? Yes or no? Why or why not?
If you have never been in a consulting role, I feel that it is a good idea to join a firm for several reasons. If you join the right firm, it gives you the opportunity to explore consulting with the right training and skill set development necessary to be successful. You can have a very rewarding career with a consulting firm, but you lose the personal autonomy and financial growth that can be realized by doing it as an independent contractor or starting your own company.
What general advice would you have for someone who's thinking about becoming an independent consultant?
Everyone knows that an independent contractor can make more money simply because you have lower overhead and can make more per hour. But as an independent contractor, you must make the time to find the next project. I have been able to keep my pipeline full by doing a great job on the projects that I am engaged in while at the same time partnering with firms like Healthcare IS that are constantly looking for the next gig. Before going out on your own, realize the responsibility that comes with being an independent contractor. You are responsible for your own benefits, you pay quarterly taxes, and you have to keep your project pipeline full. You are a sales team of “one”, and with that comes all of the pressures associated with it. Be honest with yourself and your family, that it is the right fit for you.
- Develop relationships with firms like Healthcare IS. Participate in professional trade organizations. Publish your work. And do not be afraid of asking for a referral.