As the owner, principal consultant, and chief cook and bottle washer at The Fintech Strategy Group, one of my main objectives has been to keep a steady flow of consulting business coming in. It took a little while to build momentum when I launched my practice 2 years ago, but I’m fortunate now to have a number of great clients and a pipeline of business. As the business has grown, I’ve wrestled with the challenge of how to scale the company beyond just me as a one-man band.
One option would obviously be to hire another consultant.
This would potentially allow me to focus on the higher-level strategic challenges faced by my clients, and offload some of the more routine analysis work. Indeed, I’ve found that I’ve been reusing some key frameworks for things like competitive analysis and voice-of customer research. So, bringing someone else on board would certainly enable me to take on more clients.
However, going from 1 to 2 most likely wouldn’t result in a commensurate increase in the value we can provide to clients.
Sure, we could potentially tackle more projects for more clients. But just having another capable junior consultant wouldn’t necessarily increase the scope of work we could take on. I’ve found that churning through more small projects isn’t nearly as interesting or engaging as solving larger, more strategic challenges for clients. So, unless I can find an experienced consultant with a highly complementary set of skills from mine (a challenging hiring proposition to be sure, particularly in the current environment), I’ve been reluctant to add additional headcount to my practice.
Instead, I’ve chosen to expand horizontally on an ad hoc basis and focus on value.
I’ve found that partnering with other consultants within my network has enabled me to take on larger, more complex projects and expand my business. For example, earlier this year I had a prospective client, a publicly traded payments company, that was looking to conduct research and analysis to inform and guide the go-to-market strategy, positioning and messaging for a planned SMB card product launch. I partnered with several former colleagues from my PayPal days who have struck out on their own, one a market research expert and the other a highly experienced marketing executive. We built a strong, albeit temporary team, with me tackling the product strategy and competitive analysis piece, my market research partner managing the quantitative survey work, and the marketing exec putting together the go-to-market plan.
In the end, we collectively did great work which resulted in a very happy client. Plus, it was fun to be part of a team, all pulling together. Across the three of us, we were able to take on a piece of work that none of us would have been able to bite off on our own.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve partnered with a handful of past colleagues-turned-consultants (from my PayPal, MasterCard and Payoneer days) on a variety of projects. I’ve built up a stable of talented potential partners, which has allowed me to go after bigger, more interesting, and more lucrative projects. Even though I’m not increasing the actual number of projects that I’m able to take on, I’ve been able to scale the business in terms of project size and the overall value I’m able to provide my clients.