The Up Side of Consulting

Here’s a post I had drafted for submitting as a resource to MosaicHub, in response to their call to members for ‘the Top 5 things businesses need to know about your area of expertise’.

Here are five top thoughts that we at the A-Team, believe would be beneficial for businesses who engage consultants, for those wanting to start a consulting business, as well as for people seeking a career in consulting. While they are based to a large extent on the A-Team’s experience and focus, it will also provide a certain insight into consulting in general.

To begin with, here’s a thought: The purpose of consulting, is not consulting, but the client.

1.  Never does a one-size fit all – while industries, products or services and even markets may be identical, the A-Team’s solutions to client problems are built factoring even less conspicuous factors like promoter aspirations or management vision for a business. Thus, no two solutions to seemingly identical business problems are exactly the same. So don’t let consultants sell you solutions that you feel aren’t in the best interest of your company

2.  No silver bullets here – you’ve heard of ‘easy come, easy go?’ We at the A-Team strongly believe that is exactly how quick-fix solutions are. While we might be able to quickly patch up urgent problems with a tactical outlook, all our strategies essentially apply for mid-to-long term growth of the company, which is akin to laying a strong foundation before a huge building comes up. Only strong foundations make for lasting results. If consultants promise you magic potions, you’ll know something’s amiss

3.  Who wants ridiculously expensive ‘paperweight’ reports – We have heard numerous stories of larger companies spending fortunes on consulting assignments, only to be left with a painstakingly prepared, albeit attractive report that no one at the company can make sense of. The A-Team, since inception, decided to stay away from merely fancy reports and focus on simple, effective and implementable strategies. We ensure that all our strategies are broken into logical, step-by-step tasks that are easy to understand and implement by the respective persons or teams at our clients’ company. Our retainer-based engagement model allows for our close association with businesses during implementation of our solutions. Do remember to ask your consulting firm ‘how easily implementable will your solution be?’ at the initial negotiation stage itself

4.  Grey haired scholars are a lot, but not everything – The bigger consulting firms normally look at recruiting fresh graduates or postgraduates and train them on the job. And respected consultants advising large businesses are people who’ve spent decades seeing cyclical patterns of those industries. With Small & Medium Businesses, the problems aren’t similar. Cyclical industry cycles apart, SMBs deal with smaller but way more critical problems than MNCs do. And unlike MNCs, where efforts and effects can take long to show, it’s do-or-die several times a month for younger businesses. Young businesses might need more nimble and creative types of solutions, requiring a younger breed of people. Planning the vision and long term journey of the company, on the other hand, would benefit greatly by having some seasoned advisors to build stronger foundations on which growth can be built

5.  Stop at nothing – this one’s for aspiring consultants, nothing should stop you from becoming a consultant, if you have all of these – a logical and analytical mindset, and a transparent, ethical and unquestionable intention to do all you possibly can to add value in one or more areas at your client’s company. I had cleared several case study rounds at a few tier II consulting firms, but never made it through their final interview round. General feedback was that while my analytical skills were really good, my oral communication was not as concise and crisp as your average consultant [go figure!] The learning for you is, if you can solve problems logically and analytically, and have the noblest of intentions for your clients, nothing in the world should stop you from realizing your consulting dream. And this comes from someone who, 19 months down, has a few grey hairs of his own, to ‘show’ his distance run.

If you are interested in reading on, this is a little background story about A-Team Business Consulting that led to the above learning.

A-Team Business Consulting is a Management Consulting service committed to working with enterprising Start-ups, Small and Medium Businesses in India and abroad, in areas of Medium-to-Long term Growth strategies and Customer Delight strategies, with the objective of becoming their Growth Catalyst of Choice.

Back in 2012, prior to starting A-Team Business Consulting, I sought the advice of some very senior and experienced persons from industry on my intention of working with deserving small & medium businesses [SMBs] in areas of growth and customer-focused strategies. While I saw a huge unaddressed demand, I wanted their perspective too. The overwhelming advice I received included a considerable amount of optimism, acknowledging a huge need for growth consulting for SMBs. The advice, however, had a heavier share of forewarning, for reasons ranging from the fact that it is an extremely difficult space to establish a sustainable business model; or that younger companies are reluctant to pay high consulting fees, and that consulting was best left to the grey-haired stalwarts of industry [indicating those with over 20 years of experience, and who had ‘seen and lived through all kinds of industry cycles’].

I still felt strongly about my intention to help SMBs, so, taking their suggestions and warnings, I dived right in.

I’ll admit, it has been the roughest 19 months ever, and unfortunately most of the business is still operated single-handedly by me, but I have built a highly capable six-member external consultant team, and with over 16 assignments to our credit, things only looks optimistic. And while the A-Team is still a long way from being a smooth-functioning and scalable model, and more importantly, an established brand in consulting.

And has it been worthwhile? When an ‘extremely passionate about their young business’ client is so delighted with your recommendation strategies that they invite you to be a co-founder and help grow their business, that is the stuff that keeps us going. Or when, upon completing a small assignment for the company of a truly visionary 40-year old industry veteran, he sits beside you and softly expresses interest in having the A-Team partner with them for the long term; that is reason sufficient enough for us to endure all odds and grow, so that we may help deserving businesses grow.

If you believe you are building a great company, do get in touch with us, we would love to be of any assistance we possibly can, in areas of Growth Strategies, Customer Delight Strategies, and Ideation.

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