Promote your specialty. From a marketing and referral
standpoint, specializing will help you differentiate yourself
or your small firm. Identify your key strengths. For
example, if a project requires federal permits and that’s one
of your specialties, you improve your chances by making
sure that your federal permitting experience is well known.
Under-promise and over-deliver. Initially, my tendency
was to jump on any request, under bid and not push back
on unrealistic client expectations. This was followed by
stress and disappointed clients. The hardest self-discipline
was to pass on any potential work. A colleague advised
me to let the marginal ones go and focus on the solid
feasible jobs that had a likelihood of success. Success begets
Establish the scope of work. The clarity and detail of
the scope of work will drive the success or failure of your
relationship with the client. It must be reasonable, fair to
both and very specific. If this is new for you, be sure to
assume nothing. When glitches and misunderstandings
surface, hoping something will simply take care of itself
doesn’t work. Meet with the client. Work through the issues
and document everything.
Know the required processes. If you plan to do work
for government agencies, be sure to study up on their
contracting process. They are uniformly complex. If
you plan to expend the effort to bid, you need a clear
understanding of what is required or you may sabotage
your chances. And be wary of the firms that offer to bid
on your behalf. Some are legitimate and charge a fair
commission, but some are scalpers charging high fees with
little or no success record.
BEFORE YOU DECIDE…
A common thread among the happiest and most successful
people in all walks of life is that they enjoy and have a
passion for what they do. So, you may as well be one of
those folks, too!
Before you jump into consulting in the right of way
profession ask yourself some key questions. Do you really
like what you’ve been doing for the last 30 years? Are you
prepared to step up and hustle doing it for another five or
ten, or even 20 more years? If the answers are yes, then
you are set. If the answer is, “No, I’d really rather train
sled dogs or build sailboats or go to cooking school,” then
think twice about jumping in to a second career as a right
of way consultant.
I’ve been retired from the Feds for almost two years now.
My camping gear has been used twice. My star-gazing
telescope is in the garage under a dusty plastic cover. And
my list of woodworking projects has not only remained
uncompleted, but I can’t even find the list anymore. Am I
complaining? Not at all. But do I have more free time and
flexibility now? Absolutely.
Joe Liebhauser, SR/WA
The owner of PHED, LLC and an associate in
the consulting firm of Abbey, Stubbs, and
Ford, LLC, Joe specializes in land acquisition,
permitting and related consulting services.
He has over 30 years of Federal experience
in land, minerals, water, and environmental
management in the Bureaus of Reclamation
and Land Management, where he served as
Realty Officer, Review Appraiser, Area Manager
and Resources Director. He has over five years experience in the private
utility industry and private consulting. Joe is a graduate of California
State University in Chico and is a past President of IRWA Chapter 44 in
Las Vegas, NV.