Would you like to start your BA contracting career knowing you can turn to experienced BA mentors for help and with a network of supportive peers behind you all the way?
If so, you’re in the right place at the right time. The first Outstanding Outsiders for New BA Contractors programme is starting in March 2014. Read on…
As a new or prospective BA contractor, you’ll be on your own as you have never have been before. After working in a job, you may wonder if you are ready? Do you have the right skills? How will you be able to deliver all the time, when you’re only human. On top of this, there are all the complexities of running a business for the first time, planning ahead, dealing without pensions, sick pay and all those things that are usually part of a permanent job. What about a website? How best should you deal with agencies, particularly when the going gets tough. What about time between contracts? How should you plan for that and how much money should you set aside to cover these gaps?
Which of these apply to you?
- Isolation and the lack of a team As an employee, you have always had a team to bounce ideas off, to ask about their experiences and to share things with. Now as a contractor, you’ll often be an outsider and it can feel quiet alienating. At the end of each contract, you’ll be moving on. Where will you find a supportive team of people that lasts beyond each contract?
- Lack of career development As a contractor, it’s easy to get stuck at the level you enter the market at. With clients wanting people who have worked on precisely the same projects beforehand, it’s easy to become stuck in a ‘ground-hog day’ role, with no progression. How can you avoid this trap?
- Personal development? Once you’re a contractor, you need to pay for your own training. People tend to focus on training in their specialist areas, but realise that their in-house counterparts have access to all sorts of personal skills development, from personality types to dealing with conflict. It’s easy to miss out on what can make the difference for the most challenging and senior work in the future.
- Wanting to be perfect to deliver a superb service for their clients. Many new contractors wonder if they know enough, if they have the skills and if they are ready to take this step? Many of the best contractors would like to enhance their skills and knowledge to cover whatever their clients need and feel bad if they can’t do this well. Some feel that they have to prove themselves all the time, while others worry if their clients will realise just how much they don’t know!
- Need to hit the ground running There is no six month learning curve at the beginning of each contract. The client expects you to hit the ground running, which is very different from starting a new permanent job.
- Training It’s hard to find good training that covers what you need when you need it. Then you’ll need to pay double: for the training itself and missing a paid day for each day of training.
- Paying full prices for courses and conferences. As a contractor, you will need to pay the full, open prices for courses as you can’t bring training ‘in-house’ as companies can. Conferences such as BA2014 often extend discounts for multiple bookings from one company, but contractors miss out again.
- I have a Business? As a new contractor, there is so much to set up: a company, accountants, insurance, links with HMRC, paying corporation tax and more. What with this and the demands of a new contracting role, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the longer term. Without a vision and plan, contractors often move from contract to contract without progressing. Where would you like to be in five or ten years time? If you are clear now, you are more likely to put in place the steps to achieve your goals.
- Finding clients? Clients are the lifeblood to contractors and most work with agencies to find them. How can you be known to an agency as more than just a name and matched to great work? Can you gain work directly, bypassing agencies? How would a website work and what should it say? What about social media; which ones are worth investing time in?
- Insecure You’re moving from a permanent job, with a monthly salary and benefits, which may have included pensions, sick pay, health care and more. While the rate for each day of a new contract might be look good, it’s always only temporary. What will happen next? What if anything happens to me?
- Legislation such as IR35 can be really tricky, especially if you’re working for just one client at a time.
And last, but definitely not least, many of the best BA contractors feel:
- Lacking in Confidence Although your friends probably think that you’re really confident to be becoming a contractor in a tough economy, there are times when you wonder just how good you are and if you’re making the right move!
These challenges are just the tip of the iceberg. It can be tough as a BA contractor out there at the moment!
Contracting doesn’t have to be all challenges.
While it is tough, there are many compensations. I’m sure you won’t miss the office politics that each full-time employee needs to deal with? It’s great to be able to be neutral in an office. As a contractor, you will be your own boss, ultimately, and you can decide when to work and when not to.
With a network of supportive peers in place, there would always be someone who you can ask for up to the minute advice about any complex situation or technical topic and, of course, you’d be happy to reciprocate if they needed help with your own specialism.
If you had a clear vision of where your new business as a BA contractor was heading, you could gradually specialise, increasing your rates over time and becoming quite selective about who you worked for. Becoming a thought leader in your area could really help this consultancy style work to develop. Perhaps you might only work a few days a month on site, charging a fee which left you enough time to write books, spend time with your family, working pro bono for charities you support or whatever suited you? Perhaps you’d choose to work virtually and get more done. It’s up to you where you’d like to go!
Companies now are looking for far more than BA contractors sitting on seats. They’re asking for more from their contractors and recruitment agencies. Many companies are looking for knowledge transfer from contractors to their own people. They’re looking for contractors who are true business professionals, willing to work not just on day rates. If you can demonstrate that you are an outstanding outsider, with the skills, knowledge and support to be able to transfer knowledge and develop their people on top of getting the job done, you’ll be at the front of the queue. This will help you with IR35 as well, which can’t be a bad thing!
Yes, as a new contractor, you can have a lot of freedom to choose your own course for the future. Are you going to use this to head where you want to go, or just wander from contract to contract?
In 2007, just before the credit crunch hit, I left a great job at a multinational company that I really enjoyed working for, and set up as an independent. Since then, I’ve worked for companies all around the world in the fields of business analysis and project management, usually developing skills with others.
I was crazy when I set up on my own: rather than using my network and working as a contractor, I decided only to work with new companies. Instead of using agencies, I learnt how to do my own marketing, using systems and processes to raise my profile. It could have gone horribly wrong and, if so, the end result would have been me looking for another job and considerably poorer!
But it didn’t. It worked. My profile was raised in my chosen area: supporting people working on tricky projects. (By tricky projects, I mean risky projects with ambiguous requirements and virtual teams and stakeholders who aren’t convinced.) My multinational clients often approach me directly when they have a need I can meet. I’ve been honoured to mentor some exceptional business analysts and project managers individually. My virtual summits in business analysis and virtual working are attended by thousands of people. Recently, my second book came out: ‘Business Analysis and Leadership: Influencing change’, co-edited with James Archer. I also contributed a chapter for the ‘Gower Handbook on People in Project Management’ and my first book was ‘A Short Guide to Facilitating Risk Management’, co-authored with Ruth Murray-Webster. In December 2013, I toured the Middle East, working with clients and giving a keynote, with time to enjoy the winter sunshine! And all of this has happened during the worse economic downturn for decades.
I really enjoy helping other people succeed and flourish, and, if I don’t know something about business analysis, I can usually put you in touch with someone else who would be able to help you.
For me, two things have made a huge difference:
- the ability to tap into networks of people all over the world, both as peers and potential clients,
- the support of systems, processes and technology, which allow me to do so much more from my attic in a Midlands market town than a tiny business could ever have done in the past.
In 2012, I launched a new, supportive network/hub of contractors in the business analysis space so that they could together overcome the challenges and fulfill their potential to make a huge difference to their clients, their families and the world. This is the Outstanding Outsider programme for experienced contractors and consultants.
Now I’m ready to launch a new group for those new to BA contracting or considering taking the leap. It will build on the successes of my previous programmes and provide what many people have asked for – a supportive network, there when you need it, and input from people who have not only survived but thrived after leaving a permanent job. You’re invited to read on and see if this would work for you.
Joining me to support the group is Alex Papworth
Alex has been a BA contractor for 13 years, so he has loads of experience to draw from. He will be providing subject matter expertise to the group over the year ahead. Alex has worked with many FTSE 100 companies, mostly in banking. He has had a number of repeat contracts in that time and previous clients specifically request him for his particular skills.
His other professional passion is in supporting the BA community, where he has built a large network of business analysts. He hosts a monthly panel discussion with Yonix, covering topics of importance to business analysts. In addition, Alex provides resources for BAs at his site www.bamentor.com. Alex knows the power of this sort of group mentoring programme as he was one of the first Outstanding Outsiders. He says: ‘I’m delighted to be joining with Penny to provide the sort of tailored service that I could only dream of as a new contractor many years ago.’
The programme builds a network of new contractors working in business analysis, along with those who are considering a move into contracting.
The programme will provide the space for deep, trusting relationships to build across the network. Unlike other networks, yours will have a professional facilitator focusing on this group each week. Penny will support you and your colleagues to co-create what you need as a group.
The areas covered by the programme will be dictated by the needs of the members. These could include:
- Introduction: You’ll explore what your strengths are as an individual and as a group, building a shared understanding of the goals and dreams of each person. This is where mutual benefit will begin to arise, as you identify what you have to offer each other throughout the programme. You will build up a picture of the interests and challenges facing each individual and decide what are the highest priorities for your group to tackle.
- Starting the contract: As a contractor, you’ll be expected to hit the ground running, so in this session, we’ll draw together the best advice on how to start a new contract, with tips and tools that can help you get going quickly in the first thirty days. Who are the people to meet and the relationships to build? What are the things to avoid? How can you build a great first impression? How can you lay good foundations for the rest of the contract? What are the key differences from permanent employment? What are the common pitfalls and how best can you avoid them?
- Finding the next contract: It’s easy to forget about the next contract when you are spending every working hour doing great work on your current contract! We’ll consider how best to keep your CV at its best, in the minimum possible time, and how to work with agencies effectively. What about networking, websites and social media? Don’t worry, we can cover those too.
- Time Management as a Contractor: With so much to do, it’s easy to get sucked into a longer and longer hours. However, there are ways to balance your future goals and your current contract and we’ll explore these together, plus how you can put them into practice.
- Perfect? No! Networked, Yes! Using the identified strengths of the group and a group forum, you’ll work out the best way that you can support each other to deliver the best for your clients. While Penny is able to train many aspects of project management and business analysis just-in-time, you can expect that the network will provide access to a huge range of support in technical and other areas. You’ll also have access to the experienced BA contractors in Penny’s Outstanding Outsider group and be able to ask them for advice too.
- Your Business… Many BA contractors end up lurching from contract to contract, taking whatever is offered. We’ll support you to develop a vision for you and your new business so that this doesn’t happen to you. Where would you like to be in five or ten years time? How much would you be working? What areas would you specialise in? Would you still be contracting?
- Developing Confidence How can you build confidence as an new Outsider? This session will look at things you can do that will develop your confidence, usually from the legs up, through practice. Developing confidence is the biggest benefit reported by Penny’s mentees.
- Working with Power and Politics While many new BA contractors enjoy escaping from day-to-day office politics when they become independent, the reality is that understanding how power and politics work within the organisation you’re contracting is key to making an even bigger contribution. We’ll explore the theory and plan how to put it into practice in your projects.
- Influencing and Negotiating Again, both influencing and negotiating are key skills for those who want to become really effective contractors. We will look at theory and research, which is often quite counter intuitive, and how to apply these in practice in a project setting.
- Technical Sessions Penny is also a Senior Instructor for ESI and has training thousands of business analysts and project managers in the UK, the Middle East and mainland Europe on most aspects of project working. Along with the skills of the group, we will be able to run technical sessions on topics as varied as planning, requirements workshops, risk management, business process, finance, enterprise analysis, elicitation and much, much more.
- Soft Skills Sessions Penny is particularly interested in leadership for business analysis and developing soft skills in facilitation, conflict management, negotiation, influencing and has colleagues who specialise in other soft skills areas. Many new BA contractors find they miss out on training and development in these areas compared with their permanent employee counterparts. Will you? In addition to the monthly content session as listed above, you will receive monthly Q&A sessions covering questions that people need to sort out right now, tapping into the knowledge and wisdom of the group.
- Discounted Rates As a group of contractors, new Outstanding Outsiders may be able to gain access to training providers’ ‘in-house’ rates where a group want to cover a particular training course together. You’ll also be able to access group discounts for conferences and other events.
This group programme is for people who are considering working as BA contractors or who have started recently. It’s for those who want to become outstanding over time, with a clear vision for how they plan to develop their work.
To make the programme work well for all, we are looking for participants who are:
- keen to learn and willing to put what they learn into action;
- open to feedback;
- willing to contribute to the success of others;
- able to commit to attend at least 75% of the scheduled sessions;
- able to share their own experiences (adapted if required for confidentiality);
- willing to maintain confidentiality about what is shared in the group.
We’ve designed this programme so that there are additional benefits to you:
You’ll be part of a group
As part of a group of people all committed to an outstanding start as a BA contractor, you’ll find that the group will help you to take action and to keep your commitments. How does this work? We find that participants who commit to doing something to all of the others, tend to take action rather than show up with excuses next time. This group camaraderie and trust will build over time, forming a strong network and removing some of the isolation that comes with being a contractor.
The chance to work closely with another person with similarly challenges
For those who would find this helpful, we’ll be encouraging participants to find a partner that they can work with one to one during the programme, holding each other to account for the actions that they commit to. Taking part in this ‘accountability partnership’ is entirely up to you.
Tap into the knowledge and experience of the leaders and the group
There will be a huge range of experience in the group. You’ll be able to get feedback and advice from others who are also new to contracting and are facing many of the same challenges as you.
Grow your network
Participating in this programme is a great way to expand your network with others in the contracting world. You’re likely to develop relationships that will last long after you leave the programme as well as tapping into other people’s networks, skills and perspectives.
Share and contribute
By taking part in this group, you’ll be able to share your own experiences of what works for you and make a difference to others in the group.
Something to look forward to…
This programme has been designed to be really effective, but also to be enjoyable and inspiring too, so we trust that you’ll look forward to it! Not least amongst these are the social events. The first group of Outstanding Outsiders met up for dinner a few times and were invited to Penny’s book launch as her special guests.
And last, but not least…
You’ll have both Dr Penny Pullan and Alex Papworth, the BA Mentor, as your supporters and advisers. Penny really enjoys seeing the results as other people develop and grow new possibilities for their future. Alex has a history of solid experience as a BA contractor and is well known for his BA mentoring services. You’ll be able to bounce ideas off them, share your stories and tap into their extensive international networks in the BA world.
The programme consists of a series of live, virtual sessions facilitated by Penny. Each month, there will be a live, online meeting with shared screens focusing on a topic of interest. These generally run on Thursday evenings for around an hour. We meet up for a conference call for half an hour one Friday lunchtime each month, so that we can share situations, ask questions and support one another. We use robust technology with web cams, shared screens and conference lines. Each of the virtual sessions will be video and/or audio recorded and can be played back should people like to listen again. To get to know each other better, there will be additional opportunities to meet up for dinner or at training events, some specifically for this group, however this programme itself is delivered virtually to allow people to join without having to travel long distances. This means that you can join in wherever you live in the world.
Online Modules and Discussion Forum
The live sessions will be supported by online modules on each topic covered, with more information and examples, and a group discussion forum, giving access to Alex Papworth’s advice as well as other members of the group. The online part of this programme is delivered through a web-based virtual learning environment that can be accessed through any computer or tablet with a good internet connection.
Ongoing access to Penny one-to-one
Through the virtual learning environment, each member can interact with Penny one-to-one, asking and answering questions in a secure and confidential way. You’ll be able to see your interactions over time, showing you how you have developed your understanding since joining the group.
The programmes will start in March 2014 and we would expect that most people would like to join for a minimum of six months. The live calls will be held each month on Friday lunchtimes at a time to suit the members, with focused online sessions on Thursday evenings.
There is nothing else like this programme on the market; it is specific to those new to business analysis contracting or considering taking a plunge! While many contractors crave a deep network like this, the only networks available right now are professional networks: much larger and without the level of connection and support of Outstanding Outsiders. In addition, you’ll be supported directly by a mentor, Alex Papworth, and well-known business analysis author and leader, Dr Penny Pullan.
So how much should it cost? Penny’s individual VIP mentoring costs £1000 per month plus VAT, and delivers. However, this level of commitment is not practical for many new contractors at the moment, so she’s designed a way to deliver many of the benefits in a group programme, where you can also build up your network.
When you join Outstanding Outsiders this session, you’ll pay £147 (plus VAT if you’re in the EU) per month. Should you prefer to pay in a lump sum, you can purchase six months membership for a fee of £782, a saving of £100 on the monthly fee over six months. This fee is a valid business expense and can be offset against your new company’s corporation tax once your company is running.
Penny is the host of the BA summit each November and the Virtual Working Summit each June. All the Outstanding Outsiders who are members at that time will gain an upgrade to VIP attendance, receiving all the recordings so that they don’t have to listen in on the day.
In addition, when you attend a training course put on by Making Projects Work during your membership, you’ll gain an extra month of Outstanding Outsiders for free, effectively giving you an extra discount!
Understanding your strengths will be key as you build up a plan for your business over the next five to ten years, so when you join the programme, you’ll receive a book and online assessment to do just that.
Penny is well known for her free BA summit and teleseminars, which have been described as engaging, inspiring and helpful. You may have joined in yourself? We’ll build on this to ensure that the sessions to support you are engaging, inspiring and helpful too, and that the modules are useful and really help you as you put what you learn into practice. This programme has run for a whole year already, proving that it works.
Here’s what one of Penny’s BA one-to-one VIP mentee’s said about working with Penny:
Here’s what another mentee said, this time, this time an accountant:
What happens if I have to miss a session?
The programme will be available for you to use at a time to suit you. Your only commitment is a half-hour call at lunchtime and an hour’s session one evening each month. While those who are able to attend all of these calls will get the most from the programme, we know that life doesn’t always work as expected, so we will make sure that there are recordings available within 48 hours of each call or webinar.
It’s tough making the transition to being a contractor in the world of business analysis. But there is no need to be alone. This programme will support you to develop a deep network with others who are interested a successful transition, just as you are.
You’ll be working with others who are just as committed to developing their skills. You’ll be supported throughout by Penny, Alex and the group who you’ll meet with every couple of weeks. You’ll have access to modules online and video plus audio recordings, so you can learn in the ways that suit you best. More importantly, you’ll share the journey with others who will hold you to account to make sure you put what you learn into practice.
To sign up for the Outstanding Outsider Programme for New BA Contractors, please register your interest here and Penny will be in touch with you, by e-mail initially to schedule a half-hour session by phone. During this conversation, you will be able to work out whether Outstanding Outsiders is right for you now and Penny will be able to consider whether you would be good fit for the programme and the group as a whole. If, at the end of the conversation, both of you are convinced, then you will be sent your introduction to the programme and initial assessment.