Is consulting the ideal IT exit strategy?

With an aging baby boomer population, the number of retirees or those thinking about retiring is on the rise. But before they buy a timeshare in Florida, many are looking at consulting work as a viable option on the road to their golden years.

This, at least, is the trend among CIOs that were polled in a recent survey by Toronto human resources firm Robert Half Technology. Out of a randomly-generated sample of more than 270 CIOs from Canadian companies with 100-plus employees, the survey found that 52 per cent of respondents said they were somewhat likely or very likely to consider consulting work as a transition to retirement.

Conversely, 43 per cent of respondents, when asked, “How likely are you to consider consulting or project work as a means to transition to retirement?” replied, “Not at all likely,” while five per cent were undecided.

Igor Abramovitch, division director of Robert Half Technology, said many CIOs aren’t ready to go immediately into retirement.

“It’s an industry that they spend a lot of time in, so they don’t necessarily want to quit cold,” said Abramovitch. “They may not want to retire right away. They may want to bridge it.”

Some of the benefits of doing this include less stress than a full-time position and the ability to hand-pick which projects they do.

“It’s an easier way of doing what you like and being flexible in what you want to do,” said Abramovitch.

That’s certainly was the case with Roberta Fox, who is the president and senior partner of Fox Group, a consulting firm based in Mount Albert, which is approximately 45 minutes north-east of Toronto. Prior to forming Fox Group in 2000, Fox, who has over 23 years of consulting experience, served in a series of executive positions with HP Canada, EDS Canada, Deloitte Consulting and AT&T Solutions.

“For me personally, it was the ability to focus on specific areas to help businesses and to escape from the corporate politics and to work with a cross-section of companies at the same time,” said Fox, outlining her main reasons for becoming a consultant.

Likewise, Abramovitch said the latter is another benefit of running your own business.

“When you’re a consultant, you’re most likely not going to be managing a lot of staff, if any,” he said. “You don’t have the headaches of being an executive in terms of the responsibility.”

In addition to the style and nature of work, Fox added there are also monetary benefits to working for yourself. Her income tax, for example went from 55 per cent when she was a full-time employee working for a company to 18 per cent currently.

“The tax benefits are much better being self employed consultant than being a corporate executive,” she said. “You can be semi-retired and work two, three days a week and take home more than when you were doing the 60 hours full time.”

Fox is also consulting and managing director for the Grayfox Institute, which trains people on how to open up their own consulting business. Fox said people need to not only be able to work with the subject matter (IT in this case) but also have business management experience, artistic and creative abilities to solve client problems and be able to sell themselves.

“You need to have all four of those to be a good consultant for the long term,” she said. “Most people just think of the subject matter.”

The Robert Half Technology study did not look at non-executives but Abramovitch said it would be interesting to survey that group in future research.

“I would be interested to see what this would be for non-CIOs,” he said. “I think the percentage of people who would like to do consulting would be much greater.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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