by Cameron Batt, founder of Crum Consult
Despite what some interviews and inspirational quotes may suggest, creating a multi-national firm is more than just luck. In fact, if you have the right team of people on your side and can communicate effectively, you won’t need much luck at all. Of course there are more factors than just being able to articulate yourself and having a good support system, but at the foundation of any successful businessperson, that’s most of what lies there.
In this article we take a look at the soft-skills required to create and manage a services firm that operates on a national and even global level.
The type of services firm that this article will focus on are management consulting firms specifically. Unlike marketing agencies and similar service-based firms, management consulting requires a broad knowledge-base of all things relating to business. Marketing companies are usually centered around providing quantitative results, which can be detrimental in some aspects. For example, if you are solely focused on bringing in sales through PPC, you may see neglect in other areas. Marketing agencies are not always focused on your bottom line, which is where a consultant will be a preferential option.
Another reason why this article is focusing on management consulting firms is because I founded one of the fastest growing management consultancies and the insight I’ve gained can be useful for any business founders.
Before carrying on, it might be helpful to shed some light into why I decided to start a management consulting firm. Back in 2016, I created a blog that published content relating to finance, after months of getting no where, it took off. Within weeks the blog had turned from a hobby into my main source of income and provided me with an insight into the business world that I would not have otherwise received. I sold the blog in 2019 and spent some months deciding what I wanted to do next. The main skill that I had developed from building the blog was the ability to market content and assets online. This lead me in the direction of starting a marketing agency, but it didn’t seem to fit my skill set as my knowledge in business development would be neglected by focusing on marketing other businesses. After some informal discussions with the team that I had constructed from my days of financial blogging, it seemed like a consulting firm was the logical business to establish. Not only could my marketing skills be put to use, but I could help grow client organizations and help solve their fundamental problems.
Finding clients isn’t easy, but finding a team of people that can represent your firm in the same manner that you do can be even more challenging. At Crum Consult, the team began as a handful of consultants and marketing experts that I had encountered in previous ventures, this team then expanded as clients requested more from our team. In only 5 months, Crum Consult has added dozens of large clients to the books and continues to take on new challenges every day.
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for, the opening of the golden chest. Some real insight:
What Is A Management Consulting Firm?
A consultant can be an individual who provides expert assistance or advice in a specific sector such as automotive, banking, energy and many more. Consultants can give advice to people and businesses. Despite the term being broad, there are many ways in which you can tell someone apart who is a consultant in contrast to other professions.
To start, a consultant gives expertise to clients that lack direction and guidance in their industry. In return for experts advice, clients are remunerated by a monthly fee. Although, some consultants are kept on permanently as large companies may require frequent advice.
The way that I look at the consulting role is comparable to that of the genius bar at an Apple Store, just for businesses. Regardless of your problem, a consultant should have the ability to understand your issue and either solve it or have the skills to pass your problem up the chain in order for it to be solved. There are many types of consultant, ranging from tech consultant to SEO consultant. The problems that a business may face could require a firm with a specific capabilities.
What It Takes To Develop A Multi-National Company.
There is a common misconception that it takes investors, incubators and startup accelerators to take your idea and turn it into a business, this is not always the case. My first blog cost $10 to establish (hosting and domain), and was started as a hobby whilst I was in college. Marketing doesn’t always have to be expensive either, with digital businesses you can utilize social media and outreach to secure media placements. Whilst it does help to have some budget to spend on marketing, it can be done almost completely free.
Despite my initial experience in business being with an internet-based company, the skills required to make it successful can be transferred to any medium. Small businesses and large conglomerates have a vastly different corporate structure, but the essential goals for all businesses are the same, mainly being to make a profit and keep doing so until it is no longer possible. To do this, the individuals up the chain in an organization should keep these points in mind at any stage of their career. As stated previously, the “individuals up the chain” can be the founder, CEO or anyone who has the capabilities to alter the trajectory of a business. This even relates to shop owners and local-store managers.
A Strong Team.
Behind every successful entrepreneur is a team of individuals who work as a support system, assisting with important decisions and giving the person driving the ship an unbiased opinion even when it may potentially lead to a negative initial response. Elon Musk may have said it best, “Talent is extremely important. It’s like a sports team, the team that has the best individual player will often win, but then there’s a multiplier from how those players work together and the strategy they employ.”
Network Of Connections.
Building connections comes as a result of good communication skills. Networking is about sharing, the sharing of experience, ideas and more. Active network is essential when growing a business, with your network including friends, family, colleagues and other individuals in your industry.
If you research the backstory of many NASDAQ company founders, you will come across the fact that most of the founders had expertise in their sector, even before establishing their company. For example, if you are looking to launch a startup in the healthcare sector, it would beneficial if you had qualifications or a history in that sector. Operating a consulting firm has highlighted just how important industry insight really is. Clients in all sectors look to us in order to provide insight into their sector and the larger business landscape. It isn’t possible to start a business that requires knowledge in many industries and grow it successfully on your own. This is why we look to hire consultants with considerable expertise in a chosen sector.
Target and Goal Setting.
This can be true for not only the founder or company executives, but in fact all levels of staff can make use of this point. Despite what many inspirational quotes and motivational infographics may have you believe, hard work alone is not enough to take your business idea from startup to conglomerate. For many, the thought of hard work means the ability to stay up all night working, exerting a great deal of effort and energy. 80% of new businesses in the US fail after the first year and the failure of those businesses cannot be singularly attributed to lack of hard work.
At the beginning of a startup’s life, there is typically 1-5 people working on the project. Each one of those people must have a plan, with tangible goals, that will result in the completion of a task and the byproduct of completing these task will take the business to the next level. To put this into context, many business owners that approach my firm for consulting will lack strategy for their business. We work with them to set these goals, once they have an idea about what they must do, they can work hard at achieving these goals.
Many of the businesses that fail will come as a result of the business owner working hard at something that isn’t effective at growing the business. For example, if you are looking to drive sales to your product through social media.. working hard at designing a leaflet to post through people’s doors won’t bring in results. Working hard at building relationships with influencers will.
What Skills Are Required?
Taking your business from startup to multi-national organization will require specific hard-skills, but these are dependent on your industry, business structure and what resources you have available. So I am going to cover some of the soft-skills that have enabled me and many other business owners to find success.
The way that you convey a message can be the make or break factor that determines your businesses success. When dealing with people inside the company, communication is key as you will need to convey your ideas to someone who may not see your overall picture for the business. When dealing with people outside of your team, such as clients, you should have the ability to break down complex theories into more understandable concepts for people with little knowledge of the subject matter. For example, marketing agencies use advanced tools and methods to boost client businesses. The owners of these businesses are not likely to understand the abstract concept of A/B testing, PPC and link building. So it is down to the marketers to break these ideas down and communicate them in a way that is more understandable from a business owner with no previous knowledge on digital marketing.
Being innovative in a proactive sense instead of a reactive sense can be vastly beneficial. Having a forward-thinking mindset can allow you to forecast future problems before they have arisen and find a solution in a more time effective manner. Predicting the future would be a skill that everyone could appreciate, unfortunately this isn’t possible. By forward thinking, I am referring to the analysis of a current situation and planning for future outcomes based on information that you have currently available.
Being able to look at your own character and see flaws is arguably one of the most important factors in business. You can have all the help in the world, industry insight and an amazing team around you.. but if you’re not able to take their criticism on board, then you may not have any of it. For most founders, your business is like a child, you hope to take it from a small idea and grow it into a household name. Although, when you become emotionally invested in your business, it can be difficult to see any faults in it. Shows like Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank highlight just how difficult it can be for a business owner to look at their business from a third person. As hard as it is, you should try to be the biggest critic of your business and maintain a balance of optimism and realism.
Cameron Batt is the founder of Crum Consult, a global management consulting firm based in London. He is a financial analyst and economist, Cameron also writes for a handful of business-related publications such as Entrepreneur and Equities magazine.