Many individuals retire from full-time employment and become consultants. To enhance your prospects of establishing a successful consultancy, consider relocating to an industry Porter cluster. A Porter cluster is a geographic concentration of related industries or functions. This includes the core companies that comprise the industry as well as the institutions, suppliers, vendors, government partners, and industry groups enabling industry to function at peak efficiency.
Examples of Porter clusters relevant to chemists, biologists, and engineers include the concentration of petrochemical companies on the U.S. Gulf Coast between Houston and New Orleans. These are the oil companies and oilfield service companies located in the Houston area. There are also many biotechnology companies located in Boston, San Francisco and San Diego; and a large number of pharmaceutical companies in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, and the so-called Research Triangle Park. Companies located in these “Porter Clusters” near other companies similar to their own because the synergies they can obtain increase innovation and reduce costs.
If you have developed expertise in a specific technology or commercial field relating to a particular type of business, retiring to one of the Porter clusters can provide you with a large number of potential clients within a relatively small geographic area. This facilitates frequent face-to-face meetings that foster good business relationships. Many people still prefer face-to-face discussions to electronic communication. Thus geographic proximity to clients and potential clients can promote the growth of your consultancy.
Sometimes research centers, technical centers, company headquarters and manufacturing facilities are tightly clustered in a section of a city rather than being spread out over a sprawling urban landscape. For example, a 10-mile stretch of I-10 in Houston, Texas is home to more than 300 large and small oil industry firms. These include ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, and CITGO. Firms providing services to the oil industry include GE Energy Services, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and Weatherford International. Equipment and chemical suppliers also have offices and technical centers along this strip of highway.
The key to obtaining synergies resulting in successful Porter clusters is developing collaborative relationships. Professional associations can help promote and facilitate these interactions. For example, the American Chemical Society and other groups have large and flourishing local organizations in Houston as well as many other Porter cluster hubs. Many or most of their members are employed in or serve the oil and gas and petrochemical industries. Their frequent local meetings benefit both individual chemists, engineers and their oil industry employers in both keeping their professional skills up to date and providing forums to meet colleagues from other firms and discuss non-proprietary technical matters. They also provide opportunities for consultants to met potential clients. Consultants can use the association’s newsletters or list serves to advertise their services.
The many Porter clusters large oil and gas industry employment draws these and other organizations to frequently schedule regional, national, and international conferences in the cities. These provide additional opportunities for initiating and developing interconnections between organizations. For example, Houston’s Offshore Technology Conference provides an interaction point for engineers and others working for oil and gas companies and their suppliers around the world. More than 30,000 professionals, including consultants, attend this annual conference and tradeshow. These conferences provide opportunities for consultants to meet with long-distance clients and potential clients without incurring major travel expenses.
The bottom line is if you have a desire to do something different, retire to a new line of work or want to start out on your own, you can do so as a Consultant. Keep in mind of the Porter clusters near your current residence or take a chance at an opportunity to move to a new location and expand your personal and professional horizons.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.