Brett Alston, a managing partner and co-founder of Revel Consulting, also believes size matters. In a recent piece on the current hiring situation in the consulting industry, Alston explains his theory that in a struggling economy, it’s the smaller players that are better able to project and set the pace for future growth, while larger firms are more concerned with cutting costs and shedding excess weight. (Of course, this doesn’t quite seem to be the case for outsourcing giants, who are currently seeking to grow their numbers.) Alton’s speaking more about the traditional consulting houses that follow an up-or-out promotion scheme and put hundreds of benched consultants on the chopping block.
Small and mid-sized firms, by contrast, are better able to fare in a faltering economy by adding key, talented consultants with proven track records, laying the foundation for strong growth when the economy bounces back. As such, many smaller firms, often more nimble with respect to industry fluctuations, see this downturn as an opportunity to add value and talent to their ranks—an approach Alston calls “picking the M&Ms from the trail mix.”
The key for these firms is to weed out the best consultants with a proven track record from the rest of the bunch (the plain salted nuts, according to the metaphor)—Alston points out that bad hires can cost upwards of $30,000. Once firms have these gems in their grasp, they must hold on to them for the long haul by putting in place the necessary support, incentives and instilling a sense of empowerment. Such flexibility and attention to the individual is, indeed, the domain of small firms, which don’t have as much of an established culture or bureaucracy as larger firms.
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