Consulting 2010: Think Hollywood

The latest recession has changed the consulting business model profoundly. It goes beyond slashing revenues. Deep staff reductions have created an unprecedented talent pool of freelancers and contractors. Meanwhile, those who are still employed (or busy as soloists) struggle to staff critical projects. Do you go with your in-house team to keep your numbers up or reach further—inside or outside your firm—to get the pivotal resource that will push the envelope in delivering great client work?

Two words: Think Hollywood. Daniel Pink, in “Free Agent Nation”, writes persuasively about the shift from the organization man (or woman) to free agent. And what better example than Hollywood? I propose it’s time to borrow a bit of their business model.

When Spielberg (or Eastwood or Scorsese) makes a movie, he starts with a key partner(s), usually a producer who manages the money and the business end so he can focus on his vision for the project. The next step is to assemble the key leads. Of course, he wants exactly the right talent for the roles. And while he may have some favorites, the cast never looks exactly the same twice. It can’t—every project is unique.

It’s not just those in front of the screen (client-facing) that matter to a great director. He will choose the cinematographer whose lighting best brings the story to life. The assistant director who creates the atmosphere that engages the full talents of the cast. The crew who can turn a foul day on set into a fun and successful shoot.

What would happen if you staffed every consulting project by only choosing the team that will produce the best possible result? Might you deliver the best, most fun work you’ve ever done? Might it open the door for more of the same? Would you make less money? Or more? Would you produce mediocre work or your best ever? Isn’t it worth it to find out?


  • Gloria Ruhrmund

    Hi Rochelle,
    Great article, because I have been grappling with a number of aspects of being a consultant. Specifically the working alone has become an issue and also having to provide end-to-end solutions doesn't suit me, because I have specialist skills and want to focus on giving a client those. Unfortunately I think although the client can see the value in my services it means they still have to bring on more and more consultants/vendors etc to implement my strategies. So I have in fact started to partner with a number of the best people in my busness to give my clients a great solution. Those who were previously considered my competition are now my business partners and I realise this is actually a win-win situation. Of course it has hurdles of its own, but if one takes time to carefully select those partnerships then it can turn out really well. Thank you for writing.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Hi Gloria,
    Yes, being a solo specialist can sometimes be challenging. I like your solution to partner–I think it's critically important to be able to focus on your "sweet spot" while still being able to have enough work to keep you busy. In addition to your bringing your partners in to your clients, they should be introducing you to theirs. Referrals to/from great advisors will grow both your practices faster….

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