Why Consulting Can Be Better Than Retiring

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We are all ‘consultants’ in a way. The strength of this network is the hundreds of individuals who, when they are active in our meetings, see first hand that they know more than they think, and what they know has value. In effect, AAPN is a human library of close to 700 professionals. The obstacle we face to applying our skills is that we have day jobs.

Stop and think about this. Imagine a work environment where you could take leaves to work quickly on target projects where you were the perfect fit to solve a problem. Harvard forecasts a new kind of consulting business model called The Facilitated Network. They focused mostly on the facilitator. I argued back that they took the network for granted. We started building this one in 1981. Its hard to build a network of actual people, especially when they come from over 30 different industries that comprise our supply chain – from the cotton field to the clothesline.

Several years ago, Jeannamarie Cox and I spent a day with an apparel factory manager. We toured. We watched. We listened. Then we asked him what he wanted to do strategically. He had 3 things. First, he wanted to get into design and product development with 2D/3D technology and take on more responsibility for the front end of the cycle. Secondly he wanted to invest in ink jet sublimation printing for short cycle quick turn fashion prints. Finally he wanted to invest in lean manufacturing to gain more flexibility.

This same executive had our 2012 AAPN ASIA/AMERICAS REPORT CARD graph of 31 scores taped to the wall asbove his desk in his office. It showed gaps favoring Asia in 21 of the criteria. His actions were directly meant to close those gaps for him.

We have members proficient at all 3 of those goals. We have vendors too but actual factory peers know the inter-relationships and that for every technology you invest in, you need new processes and new skills and they all tie together. A crack team of his peers could have come in and in a fraction of time a first timer would take, have laid out the plan and the actions.

If I’m right, then in between ‘work’ and ‘retirement/consulting’ there may exist an even better step – a facilitator. I am waiting for the first factory to ask for this and for us to put together our first team to help them solve a problem others in the network have already solved. Then it won’t be a Harvard theory. It will be an AAPN fact.

Read Jonathan Chew’s take on the subject in Fortune Magazine here

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