I can’t believe it’s already been a year since Taharima Habib Consulting was registered as a business.
To celebrate stepping into THC’s second year in business, I wanted to take some time and do some reflection that a colleague of mine from a few years ago introduced to me at a staff meeting. I wanted to share my learnings, and of course my objectives and hopes for the new year.
WHAT PUSHED ME TO GET STARTED?
The decision to start my own business came to me after months of “soul searching”, reading, applying to jobs that were similar to the one I had left. The spiral of having all the time to myself and not finding anything that fit who and where I was in my life in that moment (fall of 2021) was maddening and scary, to be honest. My partner, and now fiancé(!), told me to stop looking for jobs to apply to, because he knew that if I started a job after I had left one where I felt unfulfilled, I would be giving myself 100% to another organization’s goals and risk neglecting myself all over again. He asked me why I couldn’t invest my skills, my talents, my time, my care, into myself instead of another company.
The first thing I did after he told me this, and after I digested that maybe he was on to something, was talk to my therapist about it. Together we walked through the pros and cons of going out on my own, and of course addressed the fears and self-sabotaging thoughts I had about myself. Once all the talking, the crying, the writing and the rallying were done, I started to feel excited. I was excited about setting my own boundaries and making my own rules, and trying - praying - to see them through. I was ready to invest in ME. I dug deep into my past behaviours, my past work relationships, analyzed my highs and lows and finally made the jump to registering myself as a self-employed, sole-proprietorship business.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED THIS PAST YEAR?
If you have read my 6-month update article, you know some of the things that I have learned in the first 6 months of 2022. Here are some lessons that surfaced a lot in the last 6 months.
1. The assessment call with a client to decide if the contract is right for us is essential but not a foolproof practice.
There is so much that can happen between when we decide to take on a client and when we sign the contract. Changes in leadership, teams, projects, funding, organizational priorities can have significant impact on our contract. Unanticipated delays, shortage in capacity, diminished collaboration and communication on the client’s end can change the expectations and outcome of the project altogether. It’s important to stay in constant contact with the client and to iron out as many contingencies as we can before heading into the contract signing phase.
But wait, there’s more.
Even more changes like the ones mentioned above can take place between the time we signed the contract and when we’re in the execution phase. It’s always important to remember and refer back to the scope and timeline agreed upon in the contract when deviations and changes to deliverables are requested. Communicating with the client and asking them to have the contract amended and to include the necessary changes (and be clear about how it affects the time and budget) is not about being nit-picky or rigid (don’t let that perception of your practices keep you from having good practices) — it’s about respecting our boundaries, and being conscious that we have other clients and our time and efforts are due to them as well.
2. You need trusted colleagues to share your struggles with.
Being a consultant is so heavily dependent on interpersonal relationships, not only with our clients but also with our collaborators. Working alone has had it’s ups and downs, but definitely working with colleagues who are also consultants has been a highlight of last year. Having someone to talk to about work related stress, struggles and just talk things out together is incredibly important. We build a container of trust and confidentiality, and we can honestly open up about how we are dealing with our ongoing projects. I find that after a constructive venting session, getting things out there on the table to dissect together and find solutions or — just paths to think about some more — has unlocked my creative thinking many many times.
I want to thank all my fellow consultants who have mentored me, vented with me, and ultimately made me a better and more creative problem solver through our passionate exchanges.
3. Every meeting, situation, and set back is an opportunity to learn and document.
If there are 2 words I have used more and more during my first year of consulting, and 2 words I will keep using with all my clients and myself this year, it has to be: PAPER TRAIL.
WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Trust me: notes from a meeting, journaling after a difficult conversation, documenting a set back (what, why, how, next steps), all of this serves many purposes. Firstly, it helps us track what we are doing and what is going on in different projects. But, most importantly, it helps us track how we deal with our work. And not just the technical aspect of producing work (how many times a deliverable was changed, what processes were used to produce a deliverable, time spent on a task, etc.); track the emotional aspect as well. Jotting down my reactions to news, the client’s non-verbal cues during a meeting, etc. It all matters. Looking back to those notes and learning from them helps us hone our craft, grow from our past mistakes, focus on what we want to change, what new boundaries we want to set, or what skills we want to enhance in the future.
Everything is an opportunity for us get to the next level as a consultant, and as a person.
WHAT AM I LEAVING BEHIND IN 2022?
Undervaluing my skills because I’m “new”.
If I am going to walk the walk of valuing lived experiences and transferable skills, I have to stop undervaluing my own experience and abilities to attract clients who prefer the cheaper option.
Knowing our value does not mean playing into capitalism and charging astronomical fees for services. It means that we invested in honing our skills, practicing, sharpening our talents and we want fair monetary compensation for what we bring to the table. As much as I am mission and community oriented, I want to be in a position to create opportunities for myself and for others in my business — and pay rent.
WHAT AM I BRINGING INTO 2023?
Not working from a place of scarcity.
Last year I told myself that since I was working for myself, I could plan my time in a way that leaves room to focus on my personal growth as well as my professional growth. I set my work hours to exclude working Fridays, and communicated that honestly to my clients and colleagues who were very receptive to it. I also left a lot of flexibility in the work week to put time into my own business. I was able to do this by realizing that I did not want to be in a position to take on more work for the sake of working and producing no matter the cost. There is enough work out there for everyone. I was not in a race with others to snatch a contract if it was not a fit for me. I believed in my abilities and in my connections and knew that the work that was meant for me would find its way to me.
I invested my time in my network and I saw the fruits of my labour as clients walked into my life. I worked on myself by reminding me not to chase work or measure my worth by how many clients I had or how many projects I was taking on. This mindset really helped me to 1. Reduce creative blocks, 2. Show up fully for my clients and for myself, and 3. Believe in the work I was doing.
WHAT AM I STARTING IN 2023?
Pursuing long-term commitments.
This year, I really want to find organizations where I can build some long-term ties. This will look like “in-house” or “retainer” consulting services on different projects within the organization, working with different teams and meeting different objectives together. The thought of accompanying people on their journeys and projects is really exciting to me and close to my heart. Coaching has always been a big part of my work, whether it’s directly written into a contract or a by-product of working closely with staff members. Long-term commitments to organizations will also allow me to pursue the building of capacity within teams, support organizations find the connecting thread between departments and staff members.
As a consultant with different interests and expertise dipping in various areas of organizational development, these kinds of contracts would bring my skills under one roof for a very holistic, 360 service package.
Can’t wait to make so many new connections in 2023.
If you have a project that you think we can work on together, don’t hesitate to reach out today!