What did you do previously in your career, and what made you choose the independent path?
I worked in industry before moving into consulting with McKinsey. After a decade there, I went back to a corporate role as Strategy Director for BT before taking a job in the City. I was about to start another role, when Monika Morris (a Partner at Eden McCallum, whom I knew from McKinsey) called and asked if I’d consider doing an interesting sounding project with Eden McCallum. I did, and ended up doing another dozen projects with that particular client, as well as a variety of others, and enjoyed it. So it kind of just happened!
What are the main other activities you do alongside your consulting projects?
I am quite involved with a range of tech start-ups in the UK and abroad, sometimes in quite intense roles such as Finance Director when a company needs short-term support. I am also happy to be more at home and to wake up with the family, rather than travelling all the time. Jogging is another important part of my life – I find it keeps both mind and body fresh!
And what are the most fulfilling aspects of what you do?
On a personal level, I really enjoy learning a new industry. Lately, for example, I have had projects in publishing, basic research and healthcare, and all of them have been great for my curious mind. Aside from that, it is always nice if the client achieves something which they might not have without my support. I also feel good when I think I have found an answer to something particularly tricky!
As an independent consultant, why do you choose to work with Eden McCallum?
I suppose initially it was serendipity, and I also knew many of the Partners previously. Pragmatically, it comes down to the interesting projects that are on offer, and the people I get to work with. I also appreciate the relative administrative ease! I work directly with some of my clients, and I know that getting paid at the end of the project or dealing with bureaucracy such as ex-EU VAT, for example, is not always the easiest process.
What have been some of the high points in your work with Eden McCallum?
It is always nice to be able to bid farewell (over a lunch of course) to a client at the end of a successful project, rather than try to think about prolonging it or selling the next one. When that client then calls, maybe some months later, to ask you back for another project, I find that gratifying.
In addition, some of the more ‘agile’ projects I’ve worked on have been really rewarding in terms of showing instant impact – kind of ‘wow, we did that today and customers are already using it.’
In what ways does being independent influence your impact on projects?
There are many aspects, but I quite like the ability to stay connected that you don’t always get in a traditional firm – a few hours every now and again with a client to ensure that they will be able to execute the plans we have jointly come up with. For example, there have been occasions where we have recommended a particular organisation structure and then later I have been sitting with the client at an interview panel to actually help appoint candidates for the key roles.
In what ways is working with teams of independent consultants different from working in a traditional consulting setting?
I am always impressed by how Eden McCallum is able to magic a strong team for almost any kind of a project. I find it’s a trade-off between having the shared training/culture in a traditional consulting firm, and the diversity that being an independent team brings.
What would you say are some of the characteristics of a successful independent consultant? Any advice for those considering this path?
I would probably suggest similar characteristics for many professional roles: open mind, curiosity, positivity, dependability, focus and productivity…For some, the independent role is a convenient stop gap, but for those with a longer independent stint in mind I’d say that having other activities which are hopefully a bit easier to turn on and off as needed will help make most of the flexibility as well as relative uncertainty that independence brings with it.