On Running a Consulting Firm

So most of the consulting firms are run as partnerships (as you might have already figured out). There was an experiment in the late 90s where a then leading firm was bought over by an IT company, and that saw stagnation for the next few years until the consultants did a “management buy out” in order to rid themselves of the IT company’s controls. By then, though, valuable time was lost, and last I heard this company was severely lagging its peers in terms of reputation, among other things.

As I had mentioned in the earlier post, the rut sets in once partners reach “steady state”, where they have an established set of relationships that they milk to get more business. And as I mentioned, it’s hard to get out of this rut, until employees start leaving protesting the poor quality of work, and lack of opportunities to make it big. And that starts sending the firm into a downward spiral. So what is it that the firms must do, in order to keep themselves dynamic, and not get into this kind of a rut?

The answer is something that is practiced by most leading consulting firms. Every few months or a year, these firms add to the partnership pool, mostly by promoting from within their ranks. Once thus promoted, it is the new partner’s responsibility to expand and generate new business for the firm, and he is not able to piggyback on the relationships established by the established partners. And thus, in his process to expand and get himself established, he has an incentive to take more risks. And take on projects with long-out-of-the-money option kind of payoffs.

Regular promotions to the partnership level means that there is always a bunch of partners who are thus taking risks, and that keeps the firm dynamic. I don’t know how well this works in practice, but in theory at least, this helps firms from getting into stagnation. That this is the model followed by most leading management consulting firms indicates that this is probably an appropriate approach.

So, if you think your consulting partnership is stagnating, get in more partners. Promote. Or make way. And keep the group dynamic and a great place to work.

Reliance Retail?

So on Sunday morning when I went to Reliance Fresh down the road I saw this guy who runs a vegetable store nearby frantically running between shelves, stocking up huge quantities of fresh vegetables. If this were a government store, and if this were license-permit raj, we could have said that this guy was hoarding vegetables.

While this explained why you seldom get fresh stuff at Reliance Fresh later in the day, it made me wonder if Reliance Retail is actually a retail operation. Given the amount of vegetables that this retailer was buying it seemed like it was more profitable for him to walk down the road and source the stuff from Reliance Fresh, rather than traveling a few kilometres down the nearby KR Road to source from the city market.

So thinking about it, this is probably reliance fresh’s strategy. Apart from selling to retail customers, they also make money out of supplying to nearby retailers, who take advantage of the lower prices at Reliance Fresh in order to make a margin for themselves and avoid the long trudge to the wholesale market.

I’m sure Reliance Fresh doesn’t particularly have a problem with the deal, except that they might lose out on customers who know about the poor quality of vegetables one gets there in the evening and so decide to not shop there for other groceries also. Customers know when to get good stuff so they don’t mind. The retailers obviously don’t have a problem.

Neat, ain’t it?