Why did you decide to go into consultancy?
Ever since my late teens I always knew that I wanted to run my own business one day but I never had the ‘golden idea’ that I thought was good enough to take a risk on. Then of course as I became more and more successful in my corporate career the risk of setting out on my own became larger.
What precipitated me eventually taking the plunge was more by coincidence than design. I was BT’s Procurement Director for their worldwide spend on recruitment, consultancy and professional services at the time and over an 18 month period I designed and delivered a transformation programme that a variety of my peers kept telling me was a real step change in how consultancy and professional services was traditionally bought in the marketplace.
The work I was leading in BT came to a natural conclusion and I decided that I wanted to try and help other buying organisations realise similar benefits. Then once I had started the business I realised that my ‘buyer’s insight’ was also of great value to those service providers who wanted to engage more positively with the procurement profession.
What does your current role involve?
The vast majority of my assignments tend to be ‘situational’. Some clients will want me to provide training and coaching support to their people, others will ask me to be more hands on. It all depends on the commercial or customer relationship challenges they are facing at the time. I deliver most of the assignments myself although I have built a strong extended support network that I can call on whenever I need it.
How has your career developed?
My corporate career had three definite phases. In the first phase I was responsible for buying all sorts of direct goods and services such as telecoms network infrastructure and consumer equipment for onward resale. During the second phase I traversed the company in a wide variety of product and commercial management roles, eventually becoming what you could call an internal change agent. I trained to Black Belt standard in Lean Six Sigma and I was used in different parts of the organisation to initiate and drive improvements in their business efficiency. My career went full circle in 2007 when I was asked to go back into the procurement function to spearhead an improvement in the way that BT bought consultancy, recruitment and professional services.
What qualities do you think make a good consultant?
I will answer this question from two directions. To a consulting firm a good consultant has a high intellect, excellent interpersonal skills, lots of self-confidence and a very strong work ethic. To a buying organisation a good consultant will be someone who can be trusted to do what they said they can do when they said they would do it. They will be genuinely personally motivated to deliver the best possible project outcomes.
What are the characteristics of a good consulting firm?
In my personal experience of both buying from and working closely with consulting firms there are three key ingredients you should look for. Firstly a firm that knows what it is really good at, no matter how large the firm they cannot be brilliant at everything (although their sales pitch will often say otherwise!); secondly that they are sufficiently confident in their expertise that they will always base a large proportion of their fees around results; and thirdly that they are actively trying to influence the wider market thinking in their sphere of expertise.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of joining the profession?
The consulting profession is not for the faint hearted and you need to be comfortable in conflict situations (making change happen in organisations is hard), you need to be able to deal with frequent changes of focus and direction (often led by clients who don’t know what they don’t know) and most importantly you need to have a passion for excellence.
What is the Consultancy Buyers Forum?
The Consultancy Buyers Forum supports buyers and clients of consulting services by enabling anyone who is involved in a purchasing decision to share knowledge and experience with their peers and to learn from the good practice of others. It also enables MCA members to increase their contact with procurement professionals and clients, and to influence the buying process.
Our vision is that over time the Consultancy Buyers Forum will become the networking group to join for people with any form of involvement in how their organisation spends money on consulting services.
To deliver this vision we will seek to provide Forum members with an array of benefits that will not be as easily (or at all) accessible elsewhere, including the opportunity to meet and take part in joint activities and create a ‘one stop shop’ for any information and guidance that can help to inform buying decisions.