Establishing a Safety Consulting Business

No doubt many of you, for whatever reason, have, at some time thought about going out on your own as a safety consultant. Having done it sometime ago, I could never go back to having a boss! The personal and financial rewards can be great as can the losses. To be successful you will need experience, knowledge, a big network, heaps of guts and a plan! Making the transition from being a Safety Professional to a Business Person will take you out of your comfort zone. 

Establishing a safety consultancy company

by the late George Robotham

Introduction

For the last 6 months or so I have had a part time project of establishing a new OHS consultancy company. Most of it I have done myself by exploring the internet or getting books out of the library. There will be specialised areas where you will need expert help but my advice is to try to learn how to do as much as you can yourself. There is no shortage of business consultants who will try to separate you from large amounts of money. I did my work to a tight budget, so had little capacity to get outside help.

I am a long way from being a business systems expert and I advise you of the limitations of the following. It is simply a road I went along and learnt a bit in the process, maybe some of the lessons I learnt have messages for you.

Business plan

I have a 35 page business plan which is probably an over kill but I found the discipline required to complete it allowed me to define the nature of the beast I was dealing with. I got a handful of books about business planning out of the library and combined their recommendations. You may wish to get your business adviser to review your plan but put in the work initially yourself. A thorough business plan is a must have, you are asking for trouble if you do not have one.

Marketing

My advice is to attend some marketing training as this can make a big difference to your success. You need a marketing plan. There is a lot you can do yourself after you get the basics, maybe do the hack work and then pass it by an expert. You will need remarkable differences, a positioning statement, vision, mission statement, marketing strategy and marketing activities.

Web site

You need an I.T. person for the technical side but there is a lot of the design you can sort out for yourself. Giving something of value away free will draw people to your web site. Read up on the marketing side of web site design and explore other web sites to establish what works.

Training and development of company staff

Company staff need to be at the fore front of latest developments in the field.

Accountant

I chose to establish the company through an accountant. You can do it yourself a bit cheaper but I decided the stuffing around was not worth it. You need an accountant with realistic ideas about how much tax you should pay, better still if they have a business advisory and bookkeeping services.

Banking

Sometimes the smaller banks are a better proposition, for me, parking and being open on the weekends were important.

Products

Your marketing knowledge will help you define your products. Based on my marketing training the 2 key success factors in business are to fill a need and differentiate yourself from others doing similar things. Find a niche and fill it. You have to do a needs analysis in your target market. You can do some of this yourself but I got 2 reasonable quotes from marketing consultants. Both involved focus group interviews. You need to do the things other consultants are getting a lot of work in plus have unique products others are not supplying.

Competitor intelligence

It always pays to know what the other blokes are up to.

Promotion

Explore avenues for promotion through Chambers of Commerce and safety, training and H.R. professional organisations.

Strategic partnerships

Are there other organisations you can align yourself to for mutual advantage?

Government assistance

See what government assistance is available, in my case I obtained a free of charge assessment of my business plans.

Miscellaneous

Prepare learning resource materials, business cards, hard copy promotional materials, uniforms, product information, press releases etc.

REVIEW OF PLANS

Put a lot of planning into the start up of the business. Once your plans are formed facilitate a force-field analysis or S.W.O.T. analysis on your plans with a group of trusted associates. As a minimum the business plan should be reviewed. There is a good chance a number of changes to the original plans will have to be made.

Financial projections

Once your plans for the business are clarified work with your accountant on the financial projections to see if you would be better off going fishing instead.

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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