Have you ever paid a premium price for a piece of consultancy work and felt short-changed with the results? Or received a consultancy team who didn’t match the experience of the sales team? We hear those stories all the time. In fact, we used to experience them every day.
Traditional profit driven consultancy
These observations are symptoms of the profit-driven culture in traditional consultancy. Decades of expansion and a meticulous ‘up-or-out’ system has resulted in a hard sales culture at the core of the industry. Firms depend on a ‘land and expand’ approach to hit high sales and profit margin targets. Consultants are objectivised to expand the project scope and create new projects as soon as they arrive at the client’s offices.
The focus on selling can be so intense, work can be agreed without knowing who is going to do it or even having the right consultants. The result is that junior and unqualified people are put on to a client account and told to step-up.
What’s the impact?
The pain of this model is felt by both clients and consultants.
Work commonly doesn’t meet expectations or get done on time and on budget. Instead, scope is expanded, new complications are uncovered, and projects with further reliance on external parties are created. The consultancy team gets bigger and stays longer than the client hoped. Working relationships can become fraught, and often the client’s desired benefits are never achieved.
Of course, this is frustrating for the consultants who work in the consultancy industry too. They’re often under pressure to sell at the same time as getting the job done. They compete against their peers on every project. Each consultant will have multiple, often conflicting, internal targets, bureaucracy and performance management to contend with, all distracting from client delivery.
Well trained people with great work ethic, skills, experience and a client dedication are being let down by the profit-driven culture.
But, there’s a new way, values-driven consultancy
We’re re-inventing consulting with values, not profit, at the core.
Our values were created by our clients and members. They reflect what clients are looking for and how our freelance consultants want to work – delivering impactful pieces of work that make a real difference to an organisation’s bottom line. Values like “Get stuff done” keep member and client focus on actions that matter. Other values like “No Bull” encourage straight-talking and eliminate consultancy speak, which is often annoying to clients and unproductive.
“Contribute to the collective” is key to enabling a freelance movement to act cohesively and with the same benefits of a traditional consultancy without the drawbacks. Members share expert points of view and methodologies. They create tools together for all Handpicked Society members and others to use. For example, the people section of our website features insights from our members and the work they do.
Future of work practices, the expansion of flexible work space and availability of cloud technology is making this new approach possible. Keeping fixed costs low means we are free to put values (and not profit) at the core of our movement. It also means clients are charged fairly and members paid commensurately with the accountability of their roles. For example, members fees are paid based on client satisfaction and acting in line with our values. There are no sales targets, no distractions or incentives to extend the project. Work gets done by a collaborative, handpicked team, who focus on the work and remain aligned to client goals.
Unfortunately for traditional firms, they don’t have this luxury. Their benches of permanent staff, fixed building costs and legacy technology, means they need the profit-driven approach to survive. They can have a set of values and many of them do. But when overheads are as significant as theirs are, they can’t put their values at their core and use them to drive all decisions as we can and do. For example, when deciding who we would like as Handpicked Society members, we don’t only look at capabilities and experiences. We have a stringent approach to understanding their motivations and behaviours and whether these are aligned to the Handpicked Society values. It’s also a two-way process, so every member has proactively chosen whether our values really work for them.
More and more of the best consultants are choosing to work in this way. By the time consultants have great expertise and experience, they are self-selecting the values-driven consultancy approach. The freedom of choice, the capacity to deliver projects they are experts in, and the ability to work flexibly are key feedback themes we hear from the members who join us. Many also tell us that they are very happy to be free of the bureaucracy, targets, and politics of traditional firms.
Being driven by values like “Do the right thing”, doesn’t just mean helping charities and being environmentally friendly (both of which we do). It means doing the right thing in everything we do. Our whole movement is set-up to attract, operate and encourage behaviour in line with our values. Nothing in our processes, reward mechanisms, cost base or approach contradicts that. We believe that’s the difference between values-driven consulting and profit-driven consultancy firms that have a set of values.