When Chevron Corp. in early 1990 told Lonnie Wilson that he was being transferred from El Paso, Texas -- where Wilson was the technical manager of a Chevron refinery -- Wilson decided to retire and start his own consulting practice. For those following in his footsteps, though, Wilson recommends doing things a bit differently than he did.
"I did not have a desk. I did not have a client. I did not have a piece of letterhead," Wilson recalls. "All I had was an idea of what I wanted to do, and the fact that I didn't want to leave El Paso."
After a 20-year career with Chevron (IW 500/3), Wilson formed Quality Consultants in April 1990. Although the seeds of his consulting practice had been planted years before that when he became smitten with the teachings of W. Edwards Deming, the move still came as a shock to his friends and colleagues.
"Everybody thought I was patently insane, because the classic advice is never try and find a job unless you have one," Wilson says. "But I just started out cold turkey."
Things turned out OK in the end, though. Leveraging the relationships he'd established at Chevron and at a local community college -- where he taught classes on statistical process control and other topics -- Wilson quickly landed clients.
"The truth of the matter was my first year was extremely good," he says, "and my second year was as well."
Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case for Jeff Gotro.