My Approach to Jobs: Consult With Before Joining

My job resume reads long when considering the several startups I co-founded. But as a full-time W2 employee, there’s been four since college. There was IBM Global Business Services, Chainnovations (acquired by Chainalytics), SalesWise (including Burner Rocket, acquired by VLG Marketing), and now, AUTIT. In each opportunity since IBM, though, I never applied. They came from deliberate, sometimes cold, outreach from me. What set these job acquisitions apart from traditional hiring processes was that each started with consulting as a test of how we would work together.

I’ve applied seriously three times since my initial post-college job at IBM. Two of those, I withdrew my application after initial rounds. My experience ranges from large corporations (including my co-op with UPS during college) to early-stage startups. The two opportunities I withdrew from were companies between 50-100 employees. They were firmly in the growth stages. My interests lay in building early companies rather than just scaling.

When evaluating new opportunities, I’ve been fortunate in timing of companies in their stages. But also, I have enjoyed showcasing my capabilities while also evaluating the company’s fit – creating a consulting arrangement first. Here’s how this process has worked out for me:

  • Chainnovations. I worked with IBM Global Business Services as a Logistics Consultant straight out of college 2008. However, the economy was tanking, and in March 2009 while I was in between projects, I was informed I would be let go in 30 days. Turns out 36% of my group was joining me. Within 30 minutes of that call, I looked up the company my friend worked at. He mentioned months before it was a very small company, like a startup. I figured I could give this a try and learn as much as possible, so I could learn about starting a company in the future. I called the number on the website. Turns out, I was talking to the CEO and Founder. Since I had 30 days of pay till being let go from IBM, I offered him free work as a “test drive”. He agreed, and within 30 days, I had an offer to join. I had a job before I was let go from IBM; whereas, many of my fellow IBMers took several months to land on their feet.
  • SalesWise. After Body Boss, I started a consulting shop called Five Points Digital to figure out my Next Big Move. I consulted on sales process improvement projects to supply chain to app and from website build to project management. I wanted to network and find problems to help inspire my next startup. Problem was that I didn’t unearth that aha idea. At the end of 2015, I ended the consulting shop, and made the decision to join an early-stage startup to learn how to scale. Almost the exact next day at a coffee shop in Atlanta Tech Village, I saw the CEO and Founder of a startup I had met two months ago while I was consulting with another company. I told him I was looking for my next steps after I finished writing my book. We sat down and agreed on consulting work for a month to evaluate working together. During my time, I focused on helping launch marketing campaigns for the company’s new product while providing input on a sales structure. Within two weeks, I had an offer from the company to join to which I accepted.
  • AUTIT. This is fresher given I just received and accepted the offer two weeks ago. After the sale of Burner Rocket, I was transitioning out of the company the rest of the year. That meant Jan 1, I would no longer be employed. I had been evaluating options for my Next Great Move since the acquisition anyways. Problem was that I didn’t have any ideas or problems I was passion about. Nor was I excited about the macroeconomics for 2019-20. I also recently got engaged. 2019 was going to be the year that required greater stability. Thus, I was on the lookout for other full-time opportunities. Serendipitously, I read about a startup in the supply chain space having raised $2.7M seed round. After a quick review on LinkedIn suggest they were extremely early-stage. I dropped a couple messages to the CEO and COO over the next week expressing my interest to speak to them. I eventually got a reply from the CEO to sit down. Subsequently, I met with the other co-founders (COO and CTO), and we agreed on consulting for the next two months. I had started a different supply chain consulting project for the rest of the year. I was only able to offer AUTIT a handful of hours to which they were eager to try. However, the supply chain contract never fully took off, so I was able to shift my time over to AUTIT. With the supply chain work cancelling, the AUTIT team offered to bring me on full-time earlier. Within 1 month of our contract, the team extended me a formal offer.

Quick notes: It was after Body Boss and before SalesWise when I consulted with several companies. A few companies and I worked together to explore working full-time after our initial contracts. However, none of those materialized into full-time positions. Those initial consulting arrangements allowed responsible parties to realize we were not good fits. I learned about how teams worked together, trajectory of the companies, etc. Early consulting allowed me to dive in without risking longer term objectives.

Before AUTIT (and after Burner Rocket / SalesWise), I applied to Google. This would have been a good opportunity to be a part of a company that was at the cutting edge of technology. Meanwhile, they would pay well and make up for the deficits of working in startups over the years. This would have been a deliberate move to learn and build up a seed fund for a future company. However, this hiring process didn’t go too far.

What’s all this mean to folks looking to make moves? Paths can be very different than the traditional apply-interview-offer format. My path has been relatively the same the last several positions. My motivations have changed, but I have aligned goals to the process I felt would be most advantageous to the value I would bring. I don’t “interview”. I don’t “apply”. Though I keep an updated resume together, I have not used it much – certainly not for my last several positions, not even during our early talks. I know my value, and it does not fit on one page.

Figure out what works for you. Then, try to control part of the process to put you in the best position to achieve your goals.