Around 18 months ago I vividly remember a conversation with Samantha, my wife. It was about leaving my great job after ten years and setting up our own consulting company with, my now business partner, Dave Jepson. She gave me a look that I’ll never forget – brilliantly supportive of someone standing on the edge of a career cliff and about to jump into the unknown.
So roll forward to today and Partners in Change has recently completed its first year – what have we learned?
1. Vision and principles are good things – have some and stick to them
In the initial wave of excitement, we created a few principles and elements of a vision that we passionately believed in. We weren’t too ambitious or even very clear, as we couldn’t see much into the future. However we were confident that we had enough good principles to get going. On reflection, we haven’t wavered much from these early principles, even when it may have been easier to do so.
2. Consulting can be consumed differently, so be flexible
Clients and colleagues value flexibility. We didn’t (and don’t) believe that all consulting has to be multiple resources, five days a week for six months. Clients are smart buyers and know how to ‘right size’ their needs, so flexing to that need is good.
3. Balance cost and value
At times, consulting can lose the alignment between the cost to the client and the value that is actually being delivered. We set out with a principle of being ‘lean and keen’ on our costs, which helped to get that alignment in check at the start, however it is much more about the continual delivery of value to the client – every single day.
4. Focus on ‘how’
Within the change consulting world, we believed that whilst it might be straight-forward to get the right experience, it isn’t always so easy to apply that experience in the right way; a way that can be consumed by the client and that is relevant to their specific situation. We’ve focused hard on this and always will do.
Above all else, always do the right thing by the client. Enough said.
5. Be ‘guided’ by the business plan
It would be madness to start up a new business and not have a reasonably robust plan for the first few years. However, we started with the right principles (see ‘lean and keen’ above) and with a focus on doing the right things, to some degree the numbers have taken care of themselves. Yes there are decisions to be made, but we haven’t needed to compromise in any way.
6. Nurture and protect the brand
We live in a world where brand recognition and acceptance is crucial. We wanted to be clear on the basics – what we do, and why and how we do it; how we offer a particular service and why? We didn’t want anyone thinking we could do something that we don’t or can’t, so having that initial clarity was important. Our own honest reflection is that we’ve a bit more to do in this space, however we’ve got a good base to move forward from.
7. Take time to get the best people into your team
Setting up Partners in Change has probably been the biggest learning point of my career so far. I now understand a bunch of legal and corporate rules that I had never needed to previously think about.
Dave and I have also recognised that our passion for business and brand is something that is personal and that is fine. We have some very talented people in our team and we have delivered some great stuff in our first year, however the whole team don’t need to be as passionate as we are about the strategy and brand, and that’s absolutely fine. Why? Well simply because what you want the team to do is focus on delivering the job and doing that brilliantly…
Our first 12 months have been very hard work and we’ve been on a steep learning curve. We’re proud of the delivery to our first clients and the green shoots of the brand that we are establishing.
If there is anyone out there thinking of doing something similar, then my advice is simple – go in with your eyes open to the hard work and steep learning curve, however above all it is an incredibly liberating experience, and one I’m glad I jumped at – just go for it!
Dave Chatham – Partners in Change Consulting