It’s hard for us “old timers” (or “long timers”, if you prefer) to believe that the Professional Consultants Association of Central New York is celebrating its twentieth year in 2012. That’s a long time for any organization to survive — especially for one whose members are so commitedly independent.

In the beginning, PCA was a loosely-connected group of a half dozen or so men and women who gathered monthly to share coffee and information about consulting and business in general. Some were former employees of national or regional consulting firms while others were refugees from Corporate America. Some were experienced consultants and some were new to the profession. Each had a different area of expertise and body of knowledge they had accumulated over time. The only thing they had in common was their interest in becoming the best independent consultants they could be.

None of the original members remain involved with PCA today but the foundation they laid down hasn’t changed much over twenty years. While PCA is now incorporated as a Sec. 502 (C3) not-for-profit organization, current members still come from a variety of backgrounds and still have different areas of expertise. Some have many years of consulting experience and some are relatively new. They still meet monthly to share coffee and information, bound by that same common interest — the desire to become the best independent consultants they can by sharing their experiences and learning from others’ experiences. As one member expressed it many years ago, “I don’t expect to live long enough to make all the mistakes myself.”

The monthly meetings give members an opportunity to learn not only from each other but from outside experts as well. This year alone, there have been programs exploring the effects the new health care law will have on business owners, practicing the fine art of negotiation, using social media to grow your business and making sure you get paid for your services fully and promptly. Future programs include learning how to control your expenses, promoting your practice through print media, avoiding costly scams and developing and adhering to a code of professional and personal ethics. The opportunity to sit and talk with Central New York business leaders in a “shirt-sleeve” atmosphere gives members a valuable insight into the business of doing business.

Over the course of its existence, PCA membership has grown and contracted in cycles as new members arrived while former members left the field, accepted employment in another company or simply became too busy to allow them to participate. Currently, PCA is in an expansion mode. We invite all independent professional consultants to attend a meeting and explore the personal and professional benefits of PCA membership. We believe the value you will receive far exceeds the time you will invest.

Dick Snyder is the president of the Professional Consultants Association of Central New York.

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