I’ve worked with founders of ventures and leaders of enterprises in plenty of professional roles. I have given keynotes on how to grow or innovate, or, worked as an extension of their team executing strategies, or, as an essential strategic partner when they use our ecosystem at Epicenter.
As a founder myself, we had consultants on many occasions, and it never went as well as it was touted to be at the start of the engagement.
Most consultants we worked with were talented, no doubt, but there is simply something amiss with this approach. I found that it took time, patience, in the end, limited ROI on the money and time spent.
That said, consultants do play an essential role in certain occasions. However, I would argue that you want to rely on best practices from out there but keep the execution & knowledge in-house. I find this to be especially true, around setting growth strategies or innovation strategies or creating structures to unleash more innovation or growth.I’ve worked with founders of ventures and leaders of enterprises in plenty of professional roles. I have given keynotes on how to grow or innovate, or, worked as an extension of their team executing strategies, or, as an essential strategic partner when they use our ecosystem at Epicenter.
In organizations we work with, there is no shortage of ideas and ways to approach the problem at hand. Sometimes there could be fatigue, and you need external perspectives, which I would argue is different than engaging with consultants for 3000€/day or more to problem-solve.
The only exception might be resource-consulting when you know what you are looking for and need execution help. The price tag, of course, would also be way lower in most cases than the above day rate.
You need a new perspective on problem-solving. However, you want the knowledge to stay in-house.
Consulting typically involves the consultant giving a bunch of ideas to the client to help problem-solve. In truth, especially the founders of companies rarely need new ideas. They have tons of ideas, but they typically require more clarity in their not fully formed opinions & ideas to take shape.
While established enterprises might have more complex growth or innovation issues, I would argue that the answer is probably within their walls than outside of it.
So what most times leaders & founders are looking for are answers to questions along these lines:
- What are the best practices that we can follow to solve problem x?
- What mistakes should we avoid?
- What structures do we need to create to get this going?
- Are we making the right choices here?
- How do I go from Point A to Point B, now that I know that’s where I need to go?
In these types of questions, you want the critical ingredients of a successful execution strategy such as passion, clarity in objectives, success metrics, access to resources (people’s time & money), planning & timeline, etc. in place. I would argue the above needs to be within your team. No consultant is going to give that to you unless they share the risk & upside with you in the execution, not just the thinking.
Coaching vs. Consulting
If consulting is about bringing skills to the startup, coaching is about nurturing skills within it. A great coach doesn’t come with the right answers. They come with the right questions — Dave Bailey, founder coach in the UK.
The right coach should come with the following ingredients to help you get clarity:
- Truly empathize with the challenge you have: There is a definite feeling of understanding of your problems, ambitions, and thoughts
- More questions than answers: Questions which you either take for granted, or, questions you have never thought about before, or, questions you have thought too much about but never quite felt enough comfort in the answers you have had so far. You start realizing how consistent or not your reasoning is, how logical or not your approach so far has been
- Experience & Best practice sharing, not orders or instructions: You want the coach to share his/her experience, understand why a particular strategy worked or didn’t, and ultimately what this could mean for you. You do not want orders and instructions on what to do since your situation and execution prowess is unique for you and your team
- Toolkits to give you clarity: The coach should structure the work you need to do into easy toolkits to approach for you to do the work. The methods and toolkits should help you track your progress and keep you accountable as you try to move from Point A to Point B.
- Networks: It is a big advantage and a vote of trust if coaches can open up their relevant contacts & connect you to the right set of business networks to help you reach your goals faster.
To surround yourself with the right type of support that understands you nudges you in the right direction, and helps you avoid unnecessary mistakes is a big influence for your future success. Pick wisely. Keep the knowledge in-house and execute faster.
We run coaching sprints with scale-up founders & leadership teams within enterprises. Our coaching sprints are 6–12-week sprints with a razor focus on problem-solving and a strong bias towards execution. Companies pick us to get clarity, speed in execution & new networks while keeping the knowledge in-house.