After studying Industrial Management at university, Martin Rice developed his consulting skills in a variety of roles, in both industry and consultancy firms. He moved on to become an independent consultant, before founding his own company, Next Level Impact.
Deciding early on what I wanted to do
A career in management consultancy appealed to me from an early age. Whilst at secondary school, I participated in a programme run by one of the large practices that was designed to increase awareness of leadership and management among secondary schools pupils. I thoroughly enjoyed working with others to solve business problems and was suitably inspired by the course facilitators. At around the same time, I started to develop my entrepreneurial capabilities by organising discos and parties at weekends.
At university I undertook a BSc in Industrial Management, which included Business Studies, Mechanical Engineering and French. Highlights from my time at university are founding the student business organisation AIESEC at Queen’s University and establishing the Seidokan karate club and being the first person to achieve a Full Blue from Queen’s for achievements in the sport of karate.
My early career
Upon graduating, I took on a graduate management trainee position with a local manufacturing firm, which specialised in the production of Irish linen. My role was essentially that of an internal consultant, with particular focus on quality related issues.
After gaining a few years of manufacturing experience, I decided it was time to gain exposure to other areas of the business world and took on a role as general manager for what at the time was Northern Ireland’s largest independent music retailer. I particularly enjoyed the troubleshooting, problem-solving and business development aspects of the role and within a year had accepted an offer from a locally based consultancy firm.
Within a short space of time I came to the realisation that whilst I loved the work, my personal values were in conflict with those of the business, so I decided to set up on my own and become an independent consultant.
I was in my early 20s at the time and these were the days when the general perception of a consultant was someone who had spent the majority of their career working for a household name company and had risen up the ranks of management before being headhunted by a large consultancy practice. I quickly established a reputation for professionalism, quality of added-value work delivered and responsiveness to client requirements.
However, my client market was exclusively restricted to locally based small businesses of under 50 people and the level of work that I was being commissioned to undertake was variable, so I decided to simultaneously pursue other business interests and founded a security services agency providing security and door staff to pubs and clubs in the greater Belfast area.
Expanding my expertise
After a few years of operating as an independent consultant, my reputation had spread to the extent that I was being regularly approached by established consultancy practices to undertake work on an associate basis. One organisation in particular, a boutique firm specialising in general human resource consulting, wanted me on board full-time. They had an international client base that included a number of public sector organisations and larger private sector clients.
That was particularly attractive to me, so I joined the firm and within two years the founding partner and I formed our own partnership. This lasted for several years, during which time I got married and started a family.
Forming my own company
The return on investment that I was getting at the time from my consultancy business did not equate to the personal, professional and family balance that I wanted to achieve in my life, so after much discussion and deliberation I founded Next Level Impact. My wife and I are both directors in the business and have a small core team of full-time staff supported largely by a wide network of associate consultants and strategic partnerships. Our vision is to ‘unleash potential’ for both individuals and organisations and our values as a business are:
- Delivering positive impact
- Striving for excellence
- Personal, family and professional balance.
Next Level Impact has an international client base made up of public sector, private sector and not for profit organisations. I do virtually no international travelling at the moment and leave this to other members of our team. In addition to having a much more fulfilling family life, I have run three marathons and lead my national team to victory in the World Sports Jujitsu Championships.
I head up the National Sports Jujitsu team and have more time to generally undertake a wider range of interests. I am voluntary director in a number of not for profit organisations and Regional Chair for the Institute of Consulting.
If you are seriously considering management consultancy as a career, you should know that it is certainly not an easy option, with long hours and challenging assignments. However, if you want a career where virtually no two days are the same and you have the opportunity to make a real, lasting and positive difference to the individuals and organisations that you work with, join the Institute of Consulting in order to gain a greater insight into the profession.
Best wishes in finding your personal, professional and family balance and I hope that the future will give you every opportunity to unleash your full potential.