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Becoming an IT consultant: Do's, don'ts, disasters to avoid

Becoming an IT consultant: Do's, don'ts, disasters to avoid

Thinking of striking out on your own? Ex-CIOs who have made the jump share their hard-won advice.

Navigating the cultural changes

As much as he hates to admit it, one of the biggest culture shocks for Mathis was learning to function without a support staff. "As embarrassing as it is, one of the most difficult parts for me of going from executive to consultant was I had to take care of myself," Mathis says. "I was so used to someone taking care of my schedule and reminding me of appointments, and when all of a sudden they're not there, it's a culture shock. You're your own salesperson and secretary."

Changing your professional lifestyle can also be tough on your family, Mathis says. He spends a lot of time on the road, staying in hotel rooms. He books his own travel through an agency that charges him a flat fee of US$20 per trip.

"When you've been traveling first class and the limo picks you up and someone is there to make sure all the arrangements are flawless and then you don't have that level of support, it's a shock," agrees Computerworld columnist Bart Perkins, a former CIO and now managing partner at Leverage Partners.

"It's a little bit intoxicating that people will pay me for what I know, but I travel a lot," says Mathis. "People don't buy services over the Internet. They'll read your proposal, but they want you to come to them and present it. My wife will tell you there are times she wishes I was still a CIO," he says.

On the upside, however, Mathis is able to schedule three- and four-week family vacations and get to more of his children's ballgames. "I have seen 100% more of my kids' games than when I was a CIO," Mathis says.

"But in the middle of dinner if the phone rings and it's a prospective client, I take the call," he says. "When you're only eating what you kill, and something comes across your path, you chase it."

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