Going Out on Your Own Professionally


  • How to evaluate the opportunities available in leaving an agency, consulting firm or company to establish one's own planning practice, potentially including personal satisfaction, professional achievement and financial benefit
  • How to understand the obstacles in leaving an agency, consulting firm or company to establish their own planning practice, including obtaining financing, attracting clients, achieving visibility and growing a business
  • How to understand the multitude of ethical issues involved in leaving an agency, consulting firm or company to establish one's own planning practice, including handling of confidential information, soliciting clients and conflicts of interest


Leaving a planning agency, consulting firm or company to establish your own planning business can be daunting, but also a great opportunity for those with an entrepreneurial bent or simply a desire for greater independence. To succeed, one must have a sound business plan, a willingness to work harder and more independently, and sufficient determination to get through the start-up phase. One must also be acutely aware of the ethical minefield to be navigated in this process. Ethical issues may arise in connection with preparing to leave an employer, soliciting clients, representing one's capabilities, commenting on one's former employer and on competitors, and avoiding conflicts of interest. The AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct sets standards for addressing these issues. Guidance also is provided by the APA Ethical Principles, rules of other professions and social standards of ethics. This program features two professionals who have taken strikingly different paths to success in forming their own businesses. One left a large consulting firm early in her career, started her own company and built it up over 35 years. The other spent most of his career as a land use lawyer and development executive, but ultimately left a large national law firm to become a sole practitioner. Also trained and experienced as a planner, he coupled his legal practice with planning consulting, as well as mediation of land use conflicts. Both have served on planning commissions. Through their experiences, they illustrate the pitfalls and the gratification in establishing one's own planning business. They also address extensively the ethical issues likely to be encountered in this process. This course qualifies for 1.5 Ethics CM.