What did you do previously in your career, and what made you choose the independent path?
I started my career working for chemical group BASF, first as a trainee in Germany, then as an internal supply chain consultant in Brazil. A year after I returned to Europe, I left to start working as a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Cologne, Germany.
I stayed with BCG for six years until principal, working in a broad range of industries and across three continents (Europe, South America and Africa). The more adventurous locations included Donetsk (Ukraine) about two years before the war, and inspecting remote mines in the Amazon rainforest.
Whilst I was deciding between following the partner track versus pursuing a more independent career, I had the opportunity to work with my father on an M&A project in the healthcare industry. This was the trigger to leave employed life and start my own company, working as an independent consultant, deal broker, and entrepreneur.
Working as an independent consultant gives me the opportunity to continue in a job I enjoy, while providing me with both the resources and the personal freedom to pursue my own business and personal projects. I’ve found that the share of interesting and truly rewarding projects is much higher in my independent consulting life than in my previous roles.
What are the other main activities you do alongside your consulting projects?
I’m currently working on my second business start-up (my first attempt at an online start-up in cooperation with a large German TV company closed a couple of years ago), and every couple of months I support my father on M&A or licensing projects in the healthcare industry. I have many hobbies and travel a lot. It’s quite rare for me to be bored…
You have a lot going on. How do you balance it all?
Having a life outside of consulting helps. I like to take breaks between projects and am adamant about not working on weekends. And of course you get quite organised after a while, so my time at home is mostly free time.
And what are the most fulfilling aspects of what you do?
I like to see how a group of (at Eden McCallum always nice) professionals quickly transforms into a great team when a new project starts. I also really enjoy the challenges and uncertainties of project work: getting to grips with something that is (at least partially) new to me, to solve a problem or identify new opportunities for a client is hugely interesting and rewarding, especially when you see that your recommendations are implemented.
As an independent consultant, why do you choose to work with Eden McCallum?
To be honest, I came across Eden McCallum by chance. In fact, they contacted me after seeing my profile on an online platform. I have been contacted by other freelance consulting firms before (and after), but none of them have managed to match Eden McCallum’s professional approach, friendly style and effective processes. This continues after recruiting, i.e. when it comes to staffing, support in emergencies (I’ve had two already), or invoicing/payments. This is why I haven’t worked with any of the other companies so far – it has been either my own projects, or Eden McCallum. No regrets!
What have been some of the high points in your work with Eden McCallum?
Supporting a PE-owned firm in better understanding their market and clients to develop an accelerated growth strategy, and to later support them in the VDD for their successful sales process was a great personal and business experience. Another great project was supporting the turnaround of a large corporate B2B service provider, where we went in with a small project and ended up successfully reshaping the pricing policy and supporting a full cost reduction programme.
But in the end what I remember most are great people: client staff, the Eden McCallum partners and independent colleagues I’ve worked with, the great receptionists at the Eden McCallum office, the support staff in general, and especially the team assistants who are great at organising meetings etc. The assistants even managed to book me on the last free seat from Birmingham to Berlin before Easter, on the morning Brussels airport suffered a terrorist attack (and my connecting flight was cancelled), while I was presenting at a Steering Committee.
Not forgetting the benefits of a great team – even spending a British winter on a project in the less picturesque parts of Middle England became a good experience, as well as being a great source for “consulting war stories” to entertain friends and family.
In what ways does being independent influence your impact on projects?
I find that when clients know you are an independent consultant (even though we act and work as a team when working on an Eden McCallum project) you have more impact – clients see you more as a person and as an expert advisor. When you work for a traditional consulting firm, the focus is on the brand and the partner. As an independent, you tend to have more meaningful interactions more often. In my experience, this is why the average independent consulting project tends to have more impact.
How does working with Eden McCallum differ from working within a traditional consulting firm?
Over the years, I have found that on independent consulting projects recommendations are almost always implemented by the client. Part of the reason may be that the share of smaller or PE-owned clients is higher, and these clients always care a lot about the outcome. However, even when working for large corporate clients, I haven’t yet come across projects that ended up collecting dust in a drawer afterwards. Maybe independents are more closely involved with the client teams during the project, or maybe we independents are less pushy to sell “non-essential” projects.
I’ve also found that on Eden McCallum projects you consistently get a great team spirit. The independents working for Eden McCallum tend to be quite senior and have their own careers, and consequently you don’t have internal competition standing in the way of working as a team.
What would you say are some of the characteristics of a successful independent consultant? Any advice for those considering this path?
First of all, you need to be a good consultant who likes his job as otherwise you won’t last long in this (or probably any) industry. You should have a clear view of your strengths and weaknesses, because whilst you’ll get feedback and learn a lot on projects, you will obviously find less people development and guidance than in the traditional firms. It also helps to have some financial independence or alternative sources of income as there can always be longer stretches without projects. In exchange, you get a great deal of independence, better pay, and more personal freedom to explore your own personal projects (or take time off!).