How the Bomb Factory Prepared Me to Run a Successful Coaching and Consulting Business

A significant part of my Organizational Development (OD) tenure was spent at a company in the Aerospace and Defense industry and specifically in a Missiles division. So many of my co-workers lovingly, and jokingly referred to our workplace as the Bomb Factory! 

Obviously bomb-making was not my charge. I did play a critical role though in helping leaders and teams perform well together to reach company and customer objectives. My work was unlike that of most OD consultants, which now, as a business owner, gives me a competitive advantage over other executive coaches and strategic planning facilitators. I truly enjoyed my work and the people there and can look back fondly at the profound ways the Bomb Factory prepared me to run a successful consultancy. Here are the top three.

1) I Had to Sell it

In many companies, Organization Development is an overhead function. So most internal OD Consultants are tasked by their company’s senior managers to develop and implement programs such as improving the new employee on-boarding process or increasing employee engagement. Those programs are applied company-wide.

However, at the Bomb Factory, I was responsible for identifying, generating and justifying the programs my team members delivered to our internal customers at various levels in the organization and in various functions and product lines. So that meant my approach had to be focused and customized. Instead of an overhead expense, the money the leaders spent on my programs came out of their operating budget. So I had to give them some pretty compelling reasons to hire me.  This gave me lots of good practice at selling “people stuff” to Program and Engineering Leaders. This required me to identify how the money spent on me and my team would help them reach their business goals. It turns out this is a pretty critical skill to have.

2)  I Got to See if the Darn Thing Actually Worked (and fix it if it didn’t)

Frequently, an external consultant or even an internal OD consultant will conduct an assessment, make some recommendations and then leave the customer to implement the recommendations. Or, he or she may deliver a program (hold a series of training sessions, facilitate some problem solving or goal setting workshop) and then move on. In my experience at the Bomb Factory, I was there to help implement the recommendations, see what worked and didn’t, and make adjustments as needed.  This gave me a unique perspective most OD professionals don’t get. The proven success with one customer made the offer more compelling to the next internal client.

As a bonus, in the course of the implementation, the next problem was uncovered which led me to the next piece of work with that group. The ongoing relationships allowed a deeper level of trust to build which allowed for greater willingness of those internal customers to try the next proposed intervention.  

3) I Got a Big Picture View

This is a big one.  My experiences with internal customers at various levels in the organization and in various functions and product lines enabled me to see the business from a more comprehensive view.  Because of this unique experience, as an external consultant today I am aware that the “people” issue I may be trying to solve is potentially a small slice of a much bigger problem that may be related to other departments or inter-department issues.  I understand that my solution may be ineffective or less effective until other issues are resolved.  Because of this I ask questions that revolve around the business as a wholenot just a small piece of the business I have been asked to “fix”.  My awareness and understanding of this brings more value to my customers.  They know I am able to understand how issues relate to business objectives.

Now It’s Your Turn!

I’m interested to hear from you. What experiences uniquely qualify you to do your work so well?