Starting a new consulting firm doesn’t at face value sound like the entrepreneurial fairy tale that we so often like to dream about. No one is going to write a book about this journey. There is definitely no scalable product that is going to conquer global markets, and those much-vaunted J-curve economics are hard to achieve when a business is so dependent on human effort. And yet, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Until recently, I was a partner in a prestigious global consulting firm. You will not hear me say a bad word about my experience there. I am forever grateful for the foundations I received, the clients I met, and mostly, for the truly wonderful colleagues who made a difference in my life. However, I was never meant to be a partner in a professional services firm. I am a business builder, and despite the entrepreneurial rhetoric, it is genuinely difficult to exercise those muscles when time utilisation dominates one’s agenda.
So why is building a new consulting firm so exciting? Well, to put that in context, exciting is obviously a relative concept. It’s not like bungy jumping or heli-skiing (neither very appealing to me anyway). The reason I am so hooked is because nothing I have done in my career so far has had as broad an application of the strategic, operational, sales & marketing and people challenges that I was so desperate to cut my teeth on when at Business School so many years ago.
After a wildly successful first year, where is the line between fast and too fast when it comes to growth? How do we balance client demand with the risk of over or under supply when it comes to talented individuals who can help those clients? How do we create a culture that is so distinct that the most talented individuals in their fields with a plethora of options actively choose to work with us? How do we create a firm that is not just better but different – i.e., create a whole new category of professional advice? There are many other daily dilemmas that we debate as a team, but perhaps I will write at another time about that last one. A different category of professional advice? Really?
Back to my enthusiasm for the business building journey I am on. There is no feeling quite like having a spark of an idea, having friends and well-wishers tell you that you are out of your mind but then doing it anyway, and then seeing your baby start to succeed. There is no feeling quite like finding others who share your passion and are willing to take the plunge with you. And there is no feeling quite like seeing customers (in our case clients) loving what you have created and being grateful for it.
Rarely in my career have I felt like I am making the world a better place but suddenly I do. We are building a business to help other businesses build their business. Not via incremental improvements, but via the crazy step change dreams that give even visionary executives pause when it comes to articulating what many will see as a little bit unrealistic. I want to partner with all the crazies out there… the Chief Executives and senior leaders who have a vision of what their organisation could look like years from now that is so different to where they are today that it would almost be unrecognisable. I am on a business building journey that is all about partnering with amazing visionaries who visualise the impossible and then say let’s do it anyway.
Almost every great business story has that common element. Very rarely are books written about the leader who decided to aim for a 1% improvement or decided that rationalising costs should be the highest company priority. And no one is going to write a book about Vibrance Partners either. However, we exist to help organisations make real the ambitions that sit well north of a big hairy audacious goal. We are on our own entrepreneurial journey, and it is fuelled by making real the ambitions of other visionaries who are yearning for a removal of the invisible handbrakes that stop them from unleashing the full creative powers of the people they lead. How exciting is that? I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
A proven entrepreneur, an innovator, and an expert in agility, growth and new talent. Founded and built McKinsey’s digital and data practice in Australia & New Zealand.