A good consulting firm needs to be successful from three aspects: Delivery, Sales and Recruiting. This is often considered the three-headed monster of consulting
The three headed monster
Delivery, the act of providing services to clients, is the firm’s primary product. It relies on a defined methodology and qualified people to deliver those services.
Sales are necessary to bring in paying clients that put the food on the table for everyone involved. Most firms rely on the delivery folks to provide leads, develop relationships and develop proposals in order to sell projects to clients. But they also have a sales department with account reps to develop new leads and ultimately sell their services.
You can develop all the methodologies and sell all the projects you want, but without someone to recruit qualified people to deliver those services, no client billing takes place and no food gets put on that proverbial table.
If a firm is only good in two of those aspects, they will most likely fail. Firms that are good in all three of those aspects can fail if they don’t figure out a way to make them work in concert with each other.
If you speak to someone from each area, they will most likely tell you that theirs is the toughest job.
Sales professionals will tell you that their job is tough because if they don’t bring in business, they don’t get paid. Most make a modest base salary, but primarily rely on their commissions. They also know that if they don’t perform, the consultants on staff will begin losing their jobs when the projects dry up. There are cold calls and relentless rejections before getting to a yes answer. It requires a special skill to get in the door to sell something intangible like professional services.
A good recruiter seeks to understand the needs of the project in order to staff it with qualified people. Most projects are staffed with a core of existing employees that have been with the firm long enough to understand the firm’s service offerings, methodology and culture. But new employees are often needed to fully staff a project. The recruiter needs to know the skills required for each resource, the experience level needed, the approximate time frame each will be required and the expected salary or hourly rate they are willing to pay. If candidates with those specific criteria are not available, the recruiter needs to determine which of the criteria can be sacrificed.
Blending it all together
The delivery folks are the front line team that has to face the customer. The sales team may promise the world to make the sale, but the delivery people have to figure out a way to get it done on time and within budget. They need to communicate their staffing needs to the recruiting team, interview and approve each new staff member. If recruiting provides four candidates for a position and none of them meet the needs, it’s back to the drawing board and they have to reiterate their needs to recruiting. This can delay the start of the project.
These teams can’t run as separate silos. A well run firm, where all three groups work together requires strong management that unites them as an integrated team to insure optimal employee and customer satisfaction.
Management that is partial to one group at the expense of another eventually erodes the morale of all three groups. The critical skill for any manager in a consulting environment is to keep each component of the three-headed monster playing nice with each other.
Does your firm blend the components of the three headed monster effectively?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.