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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

2 Months as a Food Safety Consultant

Given the attention my “2 weeks as a food safety consultant” got, I thought I’d provide an update recapping the first 2 months (plus a week). As a data lover I’m looking at what topics garner the most interest, and that post did! Maybe some of you are considering a career change. I’ll hold off on expanding upon the motivation for my change and the planning that went into it (which was a lot!), and focus on these past 2 months.

It’s been good! I have several clients, and at this point probably have about as many as I want in order to maintain high quality work and individual attention. The projects and topics are varied. All interest me and I see the potential to do good and make a difference. I’ve had the great fortune of working in some visible roles and interacting with thousands of people over the course of my 20 years, so I have not had to do much begging, at least not yet.

I’ll start with my technology woes. One of the biggest differences in this new business is email. I’ve been on Outlook for decades. Transitioning from an outlook based email to a gmail based email (yes, my runs on gmail) has been a challenge. My personal gmail account was my junk/spam email so I never actively used it, and it has some quirks I don’t like, but I’m adjusting. I also made the mistake (maybe?) of setting up a business yahoo account first. I am constantly checking both. I’m trying to bifurcate: Clients go to the gmail/ email, and volunteer efforts (e.g., talks, webinars, articles, mentoring, committees, listservs etc.) go to the yahoo one. This complicates managing calendar invitations though. I’ve just about transitioned things to a google calendar.

The other hassle has been Teams. I’m admittedly partial to Zoom. Teams is part of my MS Office package but meetings will only open in the browser not the app, and only after I hit refresh on the link roughly 3 time. It’s so weird.

Accounting woes are next. I’m good at math, but apparently not when invoicing people. How embarrassing! Because I started the business about halfway through the year my accountant suggested just tracking things on a spreadsheet vs subscribing to a service. Perhaps she thought I would abandon consulting life come 2024, or didn’t think I’d have as many payments and expenses as I do. This is an area where I need a better process. I also quickly realized that submitting invoices on the first of the month is not great for cashflow.

Another economic consideration is determining which meetings I pay for. There are registration fees, airfare, hotel expenses etc. Am I willing to pay out of pocket? Fortunately, I’ve been able to negotiate some good trades and barter agreements so some meeting expenses are covered or subsidized. But as I finish this post before heading out to IAFP, the expense is definitely front of mind. It’s expensive!!

I had been concerned that losing my association affiliation would put me out of the loop in terms of news. That either hasn’t happened or I am blissfully unaware of what I am missing out on. I did have to re-subscribe to lots of news services (including government agencies, so I get primary sources and not just someone elses interpretation of news) (these got to the Yahoo email, as noted above). I’m also lucky to have wonderful friends in the food safety community, and we chat, so I feel connected.

Having seen people at the CPS meeting last month (another expense!), I was surprised at how many people said I looked relaxed or refreshed. I do feel that way. I am a moderate introvert and hadn’t realized how spending full days on virtual meetings had worn me down. Now that I have the time to write more (blog posts as I wish, and various technical pieces for clients—from magazine articles to manuscripts, and best practice guides to continuous improvement plans)—I definitely feel more invigorated. I’ve had much more time to work on myself too—exercising, pursuing a project management certificate, and reading all kinds of books (currently on Atomic Habits. It’s fascinating!).

So 2 months in, I can say this has been a very good move for me. It’s a good fit. And to commemorate it, and my upcoming birthday, my wonderful friend Dr. Laura Strawn crafted all sorts of swag for me- hats, glasses, shirts. My hope is that within the next year or two I can grow the business with one, maybe two more people, and at some point have a booth at one of these meetings where I can give away cool Food Safety Strategy swag. For now, I hope to see you in Toronto!

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