My own career began in 1979 at BT just after Margaret Thatcher was elected. My early work was in HR but later I moved to roles involving management training, internal consultancy and implementing change programmes. When I first got involved in consultancy work I knew I had found my niche. I really enjoyed the research and analysis work and working with clients to develop and implement the changes.
Management consultants can work for consultancy firms but many consultants work in-house for large organisations. As such there is always movement both ways between consulting firms and organisations in industry or the public sector. The skills of a consultant are extremely valuable therefore not only to the consultancy industry but also to a wide range of organisations. This makes it an excellent career choice.
I joined Coopers & Lybrand in London (a precursor firm to PricewaterhouseCoopers) in 1986. Coopers served as the launch pad to my career in consultancy and is one of the reasons I am where I am now. Within the first year I had worked for clients in sectors new to me including automotive, IT and government and in countries I had not previously worked in including USA, Germany and Sweden. I also started to work in different fields including cost reduction, procurement and IT implementations.
Quite simply my years at Coopers constituted the most intensive period of on-the-job training of my life. In addition to new sectors, cultures and consulting fields I also learnt how to write compelling reports, deliver professional presentations, facilitate workshops and how to sell to and influence board members. If you have the right attitude, working in consultancy can really help you to develop. Quite quickly you find yourself working with very senior clients and you receive useful coaching and development for consultancy partners and colleagues.
Whilst at BT I started a part time MA in Management Learning at Lancaster University and finished it whilst at Coopers & Lybrand. The course was based on self directed and experimental learning which meant I could use my experience and work in consultancy to complement my studies and vice versa. Research and keeping up to date with management techniques is an important part of consultancy.
In 1992 I joined a small consultancy firm called Beaufort. I wanted to start my own firm and before taking the plunge I was keen to learn how a small firm ran. There I sharpened my sales skills selling work around the globe.
I started Techniques for Change in 1994 with the following mission “We are committed to enabling organisations to drive successful change internally through the provision of consultancy skills and practical techniques.” Since that time we have worked with people from seven of the world’s top ten companies, over 50 of the FTSE 100 companies, one in four of the European top 100 companies and over 60 NHS trusts.
We have always been involved with training consultancy professionals and two years ago launched two great qualifications from the Institute of Business Consulting, the Certificate in Management Consulting Essentials and the Diploma in Management Consultancy. They both help people develop their career in consultancy, be it internal, external or both.
I still consult personally and enjoy it massively. In recent years I have helped to redesign and restructure a major UK energy company, run a culture change programme in a major European company and worked on many change programmes around the world. The fact that you are charging high fees for your time, advice and inputs means that you are constantly challenged to perform well and I like that.
As a consultant I don’t believe you could ever find the work stale because there are just so many opportunities to develop. Even in January I was still learning whilst working in Dubai for the first time.
Finally, as with many careers, consultancy can impact your personal life. Pressure peaks due to deadlines and periods spent working away from home are common. I believe it is possible to manage your work/life balance but it is up to you to do it. I learnt early that managing how much I take on and how long it takes me to do it was up to me. As such, I have had the opportunity to spend quality time with my wife and two children.
When my children were younger, my family would often travel with me on consulting trips away. The project based nature of consulting means that with careful management you can work flexibly and spend time with family and friends. The rewards socially, intellectually and financially have also been good. Consulting does not suit everyone but it certainly suits me.