Episode 204: Clark Beecher: How consultants can make successful career transitions
Our guest today is Clark Beecher, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Beecher Reagan, the largest U.S. executive search firm that exclusively focuses on current and former consulting talent.
In this episode Clark provides tips on how to best work with executive recruiters – both when you are looking for a new role and when you aren’t.
He also provides his perspective on how recruiters and employers view a stint as an independent consultant. So if you are an independent consultant considering a return to the corporate world, his tips on how to position your recent work may be particularly relevant.
To learn more about Clark’s firm, visit https://www.beecherreagan.com/
Will Bachman: Hello, Clark. Welcome to the show.
Clark Beecher: Hey, Will. Thanks for having me.
Will Bachman: So Clark, let’s start with what are some of the top mistakes that consultants make when they’re looking for a full-time role at a company?
Clark Beecher: Well, Will, that’s a great question, and I actually get asked what they should do as they think about transitioning out of a consultancy into an operating company, operating role, or even private equity-backed company.
I think the first thing is don’t let the tail wag the dog. I think a lot of people kind of let the process dictate the career path. I think you got to kind of formulate a couple of things you’re interested in, and take a look at those unilaterally.
And also, I think one of the big mistakes that these people make, besides letting the tail wag the dog, is not looking up at the right times in their career. I think there’s some natural position or natural levels within a consultancy that you need to raise your head up and evaluate should you stick with the consultancy or go somewhere else.
I think there’s one, engagement manager, to use McKinsey nomenclature. So somebody that’s three to five years post-MBA, I think it’s a good time. We see a lot of demand at those levels within industry, so Fortune 500 and private equity. And then two, I think it’s at that associate partner, or the senior manager, or that principal-equivalent level, when you’re bumping up against partnership is another time that’s great to evaluate. I’d say probably 40% of the intake within corporate and private equity is at that level. The other 40% is at EM. And then, the 20%’s probably in that partner window.
I think once you make that partner, commit to making that partner, you got to give yourself four years. I think four to six years into the partnership is another good time to pick your head up. Once you get past that, it’s kind of the point of no return, in my opinion, when it comes to evaluate making the move. We’ve seen a lot of people make that move at the most senior levels.
Typically, it’s via clients they currently serve and have a trusted advisor relationship at the board or C level that that transition happens. It’s not through, obviously, executive search, like me or through traditional channels. It’s more relational.
And then lastly, I think not understanding what you want to do when you make that transition. I talked about in the first comment, don’t let the tail wag the dog. Meaning kind of pick a few things as a private equity you’re interested. Is it also corporate? What are the roles? I think kind of define yourself going in.
I think there’s a lot of candidates that we see, well, I’ve done some FS. I’ve done some consumer. I spent 10% digital, 30% in operation. You’ve got to be pretty defined, when you want to go and look. That doesn’t mean you have to define yourself three or four ways for three or four different channels, but don’t be everything to everyone. You kind of have to pick your poison in making that transition.
It doesn’t mean opportunities won’t present themselves that do different things within a company or within a private equity firm or portfolio company, but you definitely need to pick your poison or a few poisons, if you will, as you decide to start evaluate and making the move out of consulting into more of an operating role or support role.
Will Bachman: Let’s talk about the right time. So you mentioned there are some right times. What are the wrong times to think about making the move?
Clark Beecher: Yeah, I think I mentioned one in the earlier question. Once you get too senior, there’s just very few jobs. The demand to make the move is greater than the supply of those opportunities. So once you get 15-20 years into consulting, you’ve been a partner for five plus years, it becomes more difficult to find the right role.
For example, a lot of that transition goes, especially how strategy in the strategy roles or transformation roles, or if you’re more in the operations side, supply chain, head of supply chain, procurement role. But if you look at on a corporate level, there’s only one chief strategy officer. There’s only one chief transformation officer. There’s only one head of procurement. The demand for people who want to transition at that point, just given how long they’ve been on the road and in the profession, and wanting something different, the demand outpaces the supply. Now, at the more junior levels, as I talked about, the EM or AP, to use the McKinsey nomenclature, you probably have more demand than supply, which is obviously a great dynamic to have as you’re trying to make that transition.
Will Bachman: What I’m hearing is if you’re transitioning before you get to the engagement manager level, your one or two, there’s less corporate demand for folks with only one or two. Maybe they’re wondering like why didn’t they stay to engagement manager?
Clark Beecher: Yeah. It’s about you’re training as a consultant moving into an operating company or a private equity firm, or portfolio company, or private equity firm, you’re training on experiences and repetition. Unfortunately, year one, you don’t have a lot of experiences and repetition. The same thing with year two.
I think there’s two ways to leave consulting. If you’re an undergrad, obviously, you’re going to back to three years after an undergrad. You know, make the decision if you want to go back to consulting or not obviously, the incentives for consulting firms to pay for you or partially pay for you to go back and get that graduate degree will tie you back into coming back, but make that decision pretty quickly.
Second, you’ve got to be known for something to make that transition. So if you’re a first-year person and you are a generalist and you’ve touched a lot of different industries and a lot of topics within that year or two, you’re really not defining yourself yet, and I just think it’s a bad time to make the move. People we see make that move at that level, honestly, when you start looking at their resumes five years from then, they’ve just done a lot of different stuff and still are not well-defined. So it’s definitely better, EM, AP, and then a couple years, three to five years into the partnership to look at those exits because I think you will be known for something in your tenure and your exposure to a variety of things and what you’re known for will be well-defined.
Will Bachman: And I think I also heard that you don’t really want to think about a transition in this sort of right after you make partner for the first couple years. It’s like either transition when you’re on the cusp of it, or if you make partner, for Pete’s sake, just stay for four years and build experience there. And then, you can transition at a higher level?
Clark Beecher: Yeah. I mean, I think you trade. I think there is a value trade there that you’ll make. I mean, there are people who take first and second-year partners. But if you look five to seven years out, your income potential actually pretty much flattens at that level versus if you trade five years into it. You’re going to enter at a higher income level in the people that we see five years post that transition. At a more senior level, their income continues to increase.
I think if income is important, it’s not important to everyone, you’re just not making that trade. I think you’re not making that trade for the value upside financially between a second year AP and a second year partner. It’s pretty much a wash.
My also opinion is and my counsel here is if you’re a partner, the greatest part of a partnership is your exposure to the C level executives. We talked about it a minute ago. Most people in those senior levels make those transitions to management teams that they have served, made an impact on, clients they served, made an impact on that have sponsorship. You’re building a network at that point. You may be behind those partners as an EM and AP and not as visible, but the value you’re going to get as a partner, year zero to five from a relational standpoint, you can’t trade for dollars. You can’t trade for experiences. It adds a third dimensions quite honestly to your tool belt, if you will.
Will Bachman: Let’s talk about the right way for candidates to interact with a executive recruiter, like yourself. If someone is looking for a role, do executive recruiters want consultants to reach out and send you their resume, or are you really not that excited to get resumes? What’s the right strategy for people that are should you be sending resumes out to recruiters? Talk about that a little bit.
Clark Beecher: Unfortunately, we work for our clients and not our candidates. The better ones kind of tow that balance and make sure that we do the best for everybody that is a stakeholder in the employment process. We try to do that here at Beecher Reagan, obviously, because we’re a boutique specialist firm.
I think unsolicited resumes will turn off a lot of executive recruiters. Now, I think everyone probably listening to this, if you’re gainfully employed at a top-tier consulting firm or Big Four, or what have you, you’re probably getting a ton of calls in this market environment.
My opinion here is if you return those calls, start early in your career, start building relationships, even if you’re not interested in going, if it’s people in your network looking to make the transition or just to help that executive recruiter out, I think that’s extremely valuable. They’re going to remember you in the network and when things come up, they’re going to call you first.
I think the second thing to that is make sure you take that list of executive recruiters and start to narrow that down over time. You want to find people that specialize in who you are and what you do, and what you want to do. There’s firms out there, like the big firms that kind of do everything, and it’s not that you want a relationship with other firms. You want a relationship with the partner or the search consultant that actually can help you make that transition. So find specialists around your domain, around your capability, around what you want to do, and narrow that search relationships, if you will, down to people that you can help them and they could help you.
Will Bachman: So you say typically executive recruiters are not excited about unsolicited resumes, but let’s say that you’re in a niche. Maybe it’s telecom, maybe it’s home furnishings, and you’ve identified the recruiters in that space. If recruiters don’t want unsolicited resumes, do you get someone who knows that person to introduce you, or what is the right way to initiate that conversation or reach out to that executive recruiter?
Clark Beecher: Look, I think that’s always good, but I think back to my comment a minute ago, it’s better to start returning recruiters’ calls early in your career. Even if you’re not looking to move, you need to build relationships with recruiters. On solicitation of resume or even on warm referrals, not as good as building relationships with the right people during your career.
Most recruiters are not looking for transactions, believe it or not. We are looking for people that can help us find the right person, that may be you. And if it’s the right timing, and you have the right skillset, and it’s the right client situation, but that may be your friend, Bob, or your friend, Sally.
I go back to the most sticky way to build relationships with folks like ourselves is to obviously take the calls and help out all you can. And as you do that over time, narrowing it down. I think second best is probably a warm referral.
Career services, by the way, we have solid relationships at our firm with career services at all the major consulting firms. If you announce that you want to go do something different, we’re probably going to get you. One way or the other, you may not know it, but through career services and transition, we’ll get visibility into this [inaudible 00:11:44] But most consulting firms are very, very good now at wanting to get their transitioning consultants and future alumni into the right roles.
Will Bachman: You mentioned… So you’re not excited about unsolicited resumes. Warm referrals are so-so. Returning phone calls is awesome. What about reaching out to a recruiter in your space and saying, hey, I’m not looking, but I am really well-connected in home furnishings or telecom. If you’re ever looking for folks in my industry, I’m happy to help you guys out.
Clark Beecher: Yeah, I think that’s maybe fine, but maybe in a slower market. But if there’s someone listening to this podcast that’s not getting five calls a week, maybe you try that initiative. It’s a pretty hot market out there. Not only us, but I know the folks that we compete with, day in and day out, and the candidates I talk to are getting five, six phone calls a week, right now.
You’ve got to remember we’re in a world and a lot of people listening to this didn’t live in a world without LinkedIn or social media. We’re in a world where everybody is highly visible. So when I first got in this business, there wasn’t any visibility. There was no LinkedIn.
I think it’s more about them finding you, but maybe go research it and reach out to people. But again, I think don’t do it aimlessly. Make sure they specialize in what you do and they have a track record with placing people like you because, for example, I special in consulting talent.
I get probably 60 a week, unsolicited resumes from people I don’t specialize in. And even though we try to do a touchpoint, sending them back thank you and we’ll call you, but it’s just not what we specialize in. We just don’t have as much time and we can’t help you at the end of the day.
I do get these unsolicited resumes. I get 70 a week, 60, 70 a week from people I can’t help. And thank God we have an automated response that touches them, and tells them we’ll give them a buzz. But recruiters [inaudible 00:13:45] big firm that’s a generalist firm or a specialist firm like ours, there are people that specialize in what you do. You’ve got to find those people and build relationships with those people. Again, I think we’re in an environment today, where those people should be finding you on a weekly basis.
Will Bachman: Okay. And your firm, my understanding, Beecher Reagan really focuses on… Correct me if I’m wrong here, that sort of associate partner level higher. Actually, instead of just guessing, why don’t you tell me what you guys focus on in terms of what level of seniority, and what types of roles you’re focusing on? That’s probably better if I just ask.
Clark Beecher: Yeah. Our firm, we’re a specialist executive search firm and our who specialty is consulting talent. And what I mean by consulting talent is we specialize in people that currently work at a consulting firm or have worked at a consulting firm and didn’t last five years.
And then, we really work with three different types of clients that come to us. Obviously, one, there’s other consulting firms. They want to make investment into industry, functional, geographic practice areas. Two, we work with, I’d say Fortune 100, 200 corporations, who want to transition that talent from consulting in-house. And three, we work with private equity. And in private equity, both at the operating group and deal side, but also with the portfolio companies.
I’d say the level we typically work at is probably 50% associate partner, 50% that five-year partner. And the type of roles we traditionally work on within corporate and private equity in particular, I’d say there’s really four. One, key strategy or strategy leader. Two, chief transformation office or transformation leader, supply chain procurement. We also do some IT. But the roles that we work on typically support the corporate agenda, reporting to the corporate offices within the company as a support executive. The roles I just explained or within the team are those people that lead those roles to support the business unit or call center agenda.
Will Bachman: Talk to me a little bit about some of the trends that you are seeing in the types of roles open and what skillsets your clients are looking for, what kind of roles they’re looking to fill with consultants?
Clark Beecher: I think rewind a couple of years ago, the strategy role, and it was a big role and it was kind of defined in my lifetime of being an executive search professional, I think those roles are still out there. It’s the natural evolution [inaudible 00:16:18] strategy leader or somebody on the strategy team within a corporate entity. I’d say today it’s kind of more in the more actionable, more outcome-based strategy, like sit with the CEO and the business unit people, and help us think through what we do with our business over the next one, two, three, four, five years.
Things move so fast now. I think the transformation role has become the new strategy role, in my opinion, the chief transformation officer and being on the transformation team. Meaning rolling up your sleeves, understand the outcomes that need to be achieved over the period of time they need to be achieved, no matter growth or cost, and owning the driving of those outcomes. I think that’s the biggest trend I see.
We’re seeing that not only enterprise-wide at a corporate level. We’re seeing that within operating groups of private equity firms. We’re seeing that within portfolio companies and private equity firms. I think anybody can drive transformation, it would be institutional, corporate, or functional is the hottest thing out there right now. And we’re seeing it in flavors as well, like digital. We’re seeing it in analytics. We’re seeing it in operations. We’re seeing it in finance. We’re seeing it in human capital. We’re seeing it in IT. We’re seeing it enterprise-wide, but also within some of the corporate functions.
So if you are more of a specialist in finance, or IT, or people and change, there are roles out there. But I think it’s to roll up your sleeves, go get an outcome is the new strategy role. It’s not thinking about it and what we should do. It’s about how we make it happen.
Will Bachman: Tell me a little bit more about what the chief transformation officer actually does. I hear that title a lot and transformation is really banded about a lot. It’s kind of a new buzzword, but can you give me maybe a couple specific examples of what a transformation is, and what a chief transformation officer does?
Clark Beecher: Yeah, I’ll give you a private equity example. So we work with the largest private equity fund in the world and one of their portfolio companies they acquired I’d say probably three months before they brought us in. Their first initiative was to change out the leadership with the management team, which they did.
And then, the second thing they did was say, okay, this was a value-based play, by the way. It wasn’t a growth play. It wasn’t a distress play. It was a value-based investment. And one of the things after that they said is, all right, how are we going to drive both… What are the four things we need to do with growth to grow the company? And what are the four things we need to do around the operations and cost side of the business to drive greater EBIT.
They defined those four things and they called us and said we need to go get [inaudible 00:18:51] I think this private equity company in particular has noticed that it’s not… The historical way it was done within a situation like this is the CEO, 10% of the COO, 10% of it CFO, and 10% [inaudible 00:19:09] So it was kind of the magic time of the corporate officers and the management team to drive this. Unfortunately, that was a full-time job. And so, I think this private equity firm in particular said, look, we’re going to go hire somebody to drive this.
So this person came in and literally was responsible for the four growth initiatives. They set the timeline. They actually figured out how it was going to get done, how much of it was going to get done internally, how much would they have to outsource, how much would they have to hire to actually drive those outcomes. And then, on the cost side as well.
And so, this person over the defined period of time is accountable for meeting those metrics, and they report directly to the CEO and the management team. But also, they report directly to the deal partner or the private equity side, who owns the success and failure of that business.
So it’s really making those things real. It’s not about thinking about it. It’s not about drawing it on a board. It’s literally like, okay, if we’re going to grow $1 million in 12 months, where do we need to be in month three, month six, month nine, against that? You own that. If you’re short on that, you’re not going to be in the great favor of the private equity firm and the management team. And if you’re long on that and you’re beating expectations, you’re going to be in really good shape.
Will Bachman: Okay.
Clark Beecher: But the good news is compared to a strategy role, they pretty much give you all the resources to make it happen. Obviously, within reason. That means you have to go out and partner with a consulting firm. You’ve got to go get a headcount or you need to figure out the pieces to make it happen in the time frame everybody agrees to. They usually give you autonomy on getting those investments and to make it happen.
Will Bachman: All right. So Clark, let’s say that someone is thinking about leaving their consulting firm in one to two years. Maybe they are a two-are EM. They’re looking. They’re going to make associate partner, they think, but they really decided they don’t want to keep traveling forever. So they’re saying, okay, two years from now, I want to be leaving and I want to go and get one of these chief transformation officer roles. What are the things that person should do now to prepare themselves well for the market? Which might be different than if you’re saying I want to stay at McKinsey for the rest of my life, you might be focusing more on firm leadership activities or something. But is it relationship-building outside the firm? Is it raising your visibility with thought leadership? Is it just doing awesome on projects? What are the things that are most important to outside buyers, to outside employers, to really make sure that you are the best-positioned for getting a great job?
Clark Beecher: Yeah, I think [inaudible 00:21:49] and you don’t have a lot of control over this sometimes because and how consulting firms work, you get a partner that loves you and they sell different types of engagements and you work on different types of stuff. The thing that I can tell you, stay closest to the outcomes. Stay closets to the money on the projects you work on. The theory stuff that we all went to college and got an MBA on, the sexy stuff is no longer what people want, quite honestly [inaudible 00:22:16] we do. it’s really about people that know how to drive outcomes. And so, as you plod along in your consulting career, as much as you can, you want to work on outcome-based, no matter if that’s on the revenue side of the equation, on the cost side of the equation.
When you walk into a interview, when the time is right, you want to be able to say we drove this on the revenue side, and that needs to be a number. We drove this on the EBIT side, and that needs to be a number, and you need to have some great reputations and explain how you did that and enabled the client organization to do it.
I think too, work on your influence skills. It’s one thing to ride on a team and your partner is doing all the influencing at the client. But when you get in a corporation and it’s big and complicated and as you’ve seen from a consultant standpoint, the ones that tend to win and get the business and the jobs longer term have great influence skills. And so, continue to sharpen those skills. Continue to develop your ability to shape the corporate agenda, to think on your feet, to be able to move at-will from topic to topic versus having something prepared every time you walk in.
And then lastly, I think your relationships. No matter what you do, I don’t know if this is important to getting the job, but I think people downplay their relationship-building. No matter if you’re in a consulting firm, you’re going to be a partner, obviously building relationships is important. No matter if you’re going to go to corporate, I will tell you, your stakeholders, you’ve still got to build relationships.
So continue to refine those relationship-building skills. Build them there. Some of those may be useful to you as you continue in your corporate or private equity career. But it’s the ability to build relationships, connect with people, influence people, and be able to show a track record of results is what’s going to get you further along in the corporate world and the private equity world than people that come in without them.
Will Bachman: All right. What are some timelines that folks should expect for how long these searches actually take if you kind of declare to your firm, hey, I’m planning to transition out. How long does it actually take, and maybe that duration is different depending if you’re at the EM level versus you’re at the AP versus the five-year partner level?
Clark Beecher: Well, the more senior you are, the longer it’s going to take. At the EM in today’s market, three months. In 2010, six months. So it depends on how obviously frothy the employment market is, so let’s call it three to six months depending on market conditions. AP, I’d say it’s probably the same, maybe 10% longer. And then, once you get in that partner, you’ve got to be prepared for six to nine. Again, it’s more about the right roles. There’s more scrutiny on your candidacy, more competition for those roles. So I think three to six, three to six, six to nine, depending on seniority.
Will Bachman: Let’s talk about independent consulting a little bit, a world close to my heart.
Clark Beecher: Yeah.
Will Bachman: So some folks asked me, hey, if I do a stint in independent consulting and then decide that it’s not working out or I want to go back to a corporate job, how do potential employers view a stint as an independent consultant? Let’s say you’ve done it for two or three years. Is that viewed favorable? Do they look poorly upon it, like the person couldn’t get a job? What’s sort of the impressions people have, and how can you present it in the best way if you do decide to go back and get a job?
Clark Beecher: Yeah, I think it’s situationally, Will. The good news is it’s more accepted, day in and day out, as your business and other businesses grow around the independent consulting market. And what I mean situationally, one, I think it does show entrepreneurship. It shows that you actually have created a craft and you wanted to go try to sharpen that craft and you have the ability and the desire and the risk profile to actually go out, do it on your own. I think no matter what you do in life, no matter if it’s continue on independent or want to go out and get a job, that entrepreneurial spirit versus the an employee your whole life is an asset in your tool belt.
A second part of that, I think it depends on are you doing it for lifestyle or not? I think these companies are getting more sophisticated around assessing some of these independent consultants and are you pretty utilized? Are you working 60 to 80% of the year, or are you kind of doing it as a halftime thing just because you wanted to do other stuff? How committed are you professionally to your craft? So that’s a situational thing. So if you’re going to go do it, make sure you actually do it as a career and as a real job versus doing it as going skiing six months out of the year and working six months out of the year because you want to ski more.
And then lastly, I think it goes back to what I’ve said before. Make sure you’re doing impactful work and not just pet projects. So you need to get into situations where you continue to build your reps. You’re continuing to build your engagement experience. You’re continuing to make an impact, influence client organizations to do things that they are uncomfortable sometimes doing and need to do, no matter what.
Will Bachman: That’s very helpful. So in terms of it sounds like you want to keep track of all your projects, be focused on projects that really demonstrate impact. What about somebody who is… I hear some people tell me this, which is, hey, I’m kind of looking for a full-time job. But while I’m looking for a full-time job, I’m open to independent consulting opportunities and I’ll put my cards on the table. My normal response is don’t sub-optimize either one, like sort of either do a full-time job search, which is kind of itself a full-time job, or do independent consulting, but don’t try to just sub-optimize your search by trying to do consulting. But what’s your opinion on that for people that are doing a search? Maybe it’s going to take them nine months and they try to do some consulting on the side?
Clark Beecher: Yeah, I’m probably with you on that. I don’t think you can be both. I think it’s going to be a mixed message. Not only to the people you’re trying to consult to, but also to the people you’re going to try to be employed by.
Look, I think everybody should evaluate, should I go full-time or should I do something more independent? I think it’s a real career option now. I think there’s enough demand out there to keep people billed. I think the monetization of it actually will look a lot better than being an employee in a consulting firm. I think the autonomy you’re going to have over your life and your career is great.
But I think if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to come out and say I’m committed to it for 12 to 18 months, and go give it a real go. Or to your point, you’re not committed to it, go try to find a full-time job. And at some point, you think you can go do independent consulting as that process plays out, or you don’t find something you really want to go do, then commit to the independent consulting track. But again, I think my opinion on this is anything you do, you’ve got to go give it 12 to 18 months and really go give it a go as a full-time pursuit versus trying to split a dollar. As I always like to say, you’re splitting your time in half trying to do two different things because you’re going to be more successful doing one thing, 100% of the time, than do two different things at 50% of the time.
Will Bachman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You kind of hinted at the following earlier, when you talked about you need to define yourself and kind of pick your lane. When you are talking to candidates, what are some mistakes to avoid, some things not to say? I imagine one of them is to say I’m leaving consulting because I really want a better lifestyle might not be the smartest thing to say, but what would some things that are just like not good answers?
Clark Beecher: Yeah. I’m going to be very candid. I’ve done so many corporate placements of consulting talent into, they travel. They travel. There may be some jobs that don’t travel, but the jobs that you want ultimately, you travel. I think lifestyle is a pretty soft driver, to be perfectly honest with you. Look, people want people that want to go take the wall. And take the wall means go get things done, and that means am I going to get on a plane, five days a week, I’m going to get it done. If I’m going to go get… If I’m only going to be there one day a week, I’m going to still get it done.
I think what you have to look at is why you’re making the transition. If it is lifestyle, then probably keep that in your pocket. I will caution you that the lifestyle is not going to be perfect on the other side, most cases. But it’s going to be more about rolling up your sleeves and getting closer to the outcome. As a consultant, you obviously are hired to do that. Going into an organization, hopefully your skillset gets more acute and you train yourself to actually [inaudible 00:31:32] businesses in the P&L capacity or in a mega call center capacity as a step two after the transition in, in more of a support role. There’s no right answer, but the wrong answer is lifestyle.
Will Bachman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, I believe that Beecher Reagan has developed your own kind of assessment technology, right? Your own assessment process of candidates. I’d be interested to hear about that in terms of what dimensions that your firm is looking at and how you go about assessing candidates.
Clark Beecher: Yeah. So two years ago, we embarked on building the only occupational-specific assessment tool that actually assesses consultants. And I think when you look at the industry as assessment, it’s evolved quite a bit in the last five to 10 years. Nobody’s really done anything occupational-specific, which is interesting and also a head-scratcher, all at the same time.
So [inaudible 00:32:34] wanted to really get an understanding of what would consultants do, what makes them tick, and be able to present that data to our clients. Both in the selection process, but also within the development and onboarding processes. And what it gets to is really three things.
One, your ability to build relationships, your engagement, like personal engagement style. We’re looking for the behaviors and the characteristics of people that, I said earlier, could build relationships and influence, and work in ambiguity and think on their feet, and be able to transition in a conversation from one to the other, if it comes out of left field. So we actually can get at that.
Two, we’re looking at what I call engagement style or leadership style, meaning how do you engage with other people? Are you a roll up sleeves, ride on the bus, drive the bus, I can do anything on the bus kind of person, or are you kind of sits in the corner office and barks orders to the people that work with you?
And then lastly, it’s values. I always say a collection of values is a culture and we really want to know what drives you. Is it for the greater good of the institution? Is it self-preservation? Is it… Name a couple different things.
And by the way, so assessment is not a test. I want to be very clear. It’s really to help candidates develop their careers and understand what they’re great at, not great at, where they need to develop to be better. And it’s also for our clients to really understand the people that they’re getting. What drives them, what motivates them behaviorally, and how to onboard them more successfully. And then, how to actually develop them as executives within the institution over time.
Will Bachman: How do you see consulting changing? And maybe focus on that when you get asked by consulting firms to help bring in some talent to strengthen a practice or strengthen in geography, could you just talk about that work a little bit? How do large consulting firms go about that and think about that whole process, and what are some trends that you see there?
Clark Beecher: Well, I think it’s all topical. Consulting firms for the most part, no matter who they are, are very innovative because they’re reactive to client situations and client situations change daily. In today’s day and age, compared to when I got in the business, 20 years ago, they change faster than ever as well.
And so, I think when you look at this from a consulting perspective, when people are trying to hire other consults, number one, it’s about build and grow, mostly. Can we build capabilities? Can we build geographies? Can we build industries and get greater expertise in those things, and get more scale?
Two, I think it’s about the capability. What don’t we have that we need? I think the biggest challenge for consulting firms, when they develop people, the people development process, they self-referentially develop people.
So when you go back to McKinsey in the 1990s, they developed a lot of generalists because in the 1990s, McKinsey was still a pretty generalist firm. They didn’t develop IT people. So one of the first projects I worked on in 1999 was helping McKinsey get into the business technology space [inaudible 00:35:45] operations in the OE space in 2000 because [inaudible 00:35:49] develop more generalists. If you want supply chain skills, you’ve got to go hire that because we’re not developing that on our core generalist agenda.
So that’s typically what they’re looking for. Today, fast forward, it’s gotten more and more acute. Digital capability, design capability, deep analytics capability, predictive modeling capability. We’re hiring people that can help understand very complicated nuances of topics, and that’ll continue.
But also, the generalists, the guys and the women that can actually sit at the top of the house and help the executives, who don’t know anything about data analytics still or digital at a fundamental level, they understand it’s disruptive and it’s changing the way business happens. We’re still looking for people that can help shape that agenda and get those people comfortable with the changes coming down the pipe. That’s pretty disruptive to their business. So they’ve got the person that can understand things and may not be as deep, or the woman that can understand things that may not be as deep, it’s a dying profile but it’s one in high demand.
Will Bachman: So it sounds like less and less generalists are not in the highest demand right now, it’s more really focused on these different specialty areas, analytics, or supply chain. That those sorts of more focused skillsets?
Clark Beecher: Yep. I agree. Well, I think you’ve got to put it on the revenue and the cost side. Digital is a word too, right? Like transformation. There’s digital, which is customer channel product on the consumer side and then there’s enterprise, right? How do we take digital technologies and make us more efficient and effective as an organization? I think in that bucket too, artificial intelligence starts to come out on the enterprise side. Artificial intelligence becomes a digital technology, right?
So there’s different flavors of it. There’s just not like one digital profile. There’s different nuances to even the nuances.
Will Bachman: I’m curious. I always like to ask guests, Clark, in terms of your own personal work style, what are some of the habits that you follow, that you’ve either developed recently or that you’ve had for a long time that you find help make you much more effective?
Clark Beecher: Try to be who you want to be and not what everybody else wants you to be, and understand where you’re going. I think those are three things that I hold dear to me. And there’s a lot of noise always in the system, no matter if you work at my firm or you work at PepsiCo or wherever. There’s a lot of noise in the system and you’ve got to stay pretty much focused on what you want to be, the value you can bring. And at the end of the day, the long-term goals that you have for your organization, that’s where you [inaudible 00:38:39]
Will Bachman: Any book recommendations that you have? Books that you have often recommended to folks or gifted?
Clark Beecher: I’m pretty simple. I’ve read a lot of great books out there, but my favorite business book of all time is E-Myth. Very fundamental, how things work. It was written in the 1990s. It’s still pertinent today. Everybody will read it and say it’s the most simple book, but it makes so much sense, and it’s basically how business works and how you get from being a practitioner to actually being a business of practitioners. I don’t mean that from a consulting standpoint, but you know.
There’s one example of Ray Kroc in there and how at the beginning of when he went with McDonald’s, he thought it was the making of the burger. But then, it became how do we actually scale making burgers in multiple locations? It’s one of the great books in the history of business, I still think, and it comes from a very simple place and I still think the world operates like that. If we can all kind of embrace what it teaches you around the fundamentals of business and scalability of business. I think the folks in Silicon Valley have done a good job with that book. It’s something that you can use every day. I still use it every day. I think I read it in 1996 for the first time.
Will Bachman: Clark, where can folks go, if they want to find out more about your firm?
Clark Beecher: Yeah, so our website is www.beecherreagan, B-E-E-C-H-E-R-R-E-A-G-A-N dot com, or you can find us on LinkedIn. We’re here.
Will Bachman: And we will include a link to that in the show notes. Clark, it has been fantastic having you on the show today. Thanks so much for joining and sharing your insights on consulting and what comes after consulting for a lot of folks. Thank you so much.
Clark Beecher: Well, thank you for having me, Will.