5 Lessons Learned Working With Startups: A Management Consultant’s Perspective

5 Lessons Learned Working With Startups: A Management Consultant’s Perspective

19-Sep-2016 by Christo Thekkel

From the outset, management consultants and startups seem like two opposing forces. The former is focused on providing advice for clients. The latter is focused on turning their ideas and dreams into reality. During my time as an Intrapreneur in Residence at the Startupbootcamp Smart City & Living 2016 program I have realized that these forces actually complement each other and have more shared values than initially expected. In this blog, I would like to highlight some key insights I have gained during working side by side with the 10 startups from the Smart City & Living 2016 class.

Opposing forces?

Traditionally, we can observe various contrasts between management consultants and startups. Both can be extremely smart, driven, persistent, creative, and determined. But there are some major differences. Consultants are experts who provide advice on a range of topics. Entrepreneurs are in charge of a newly established business and tend to be more pragmatic, more focused on the bottom line, and more attuned to real world contingencies.

Common ground

During the past months, I had a great opportunity to work closely with the 10 innovative startups within the Smart City & Living industry. My role involved supporting the teams, helping them with business model development, market research, pitching, go-to-market strategies and creating investor material. By collaborating closely with them I realized that consultants and entrepreneurs have at least one thing in common: Problem Solving!

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As a management consultant, you help clients with effective ways to fix problems and reshape their resources, processes and business model. As an entrepreneur, you build new solutions to tackle problems and translate a vision into reality, together with other changemakers.

Fuelling Disruption: Lessons Learned

In order to grow and thrive, large and small organizations are seeking for external innovation to better anticipate the challenges associated with disruption. Both utilize the available collection of resources to develop new possibilities and ways of tackling problems. In addition, they are both faced with fast-paced environments and must evaluate on the most effective ways to create value and remain relevant.

These commonalities should trigger both forces to build and (re)design the businesses that will solve the problems of tomorrow, together. There is a perfect storm of conditions brewing that makes collaboration between consultants and entrepreneurs a viable solution to fuel disruption.

Read Fuelling Disruption: Smart City & Living 2016 Trend Report

My personal takeaways from the Startupbootcamp Smart City & Living 2016 program can be of help for collaboration between a consultant and a startup:

  1. Jointly delivering results & launching initiatives rather than focusing solely on providing recommendations for each other.
  2. Utilizing the strengths of both sides, blending the best of structure and creativity.
  3. Leveraging the combined network both for the launch of new initiatives and businesses (e.g. clients & partners, VCs, and the broader startup ecosystem).
  4. Sharing the best practices and lessons to develop each other’s talent (e.g. proven methods for business modelling, hands-on experience with growth, approached for raising investments).
  5. Getting hands-on! It is highly recommended to initiate a pilot project to test the collaboration in early phases.

The road ahead

In a time of hyperconnectivity and great change, it’s more important than ever to understand our changing world and how value is going to be created. By joining forces, consultants and entrepreneurs can stay ahead of rapid changes and fuel the next wave of disruption, together!

Christo Thekkel is a Senior Consultant at PwC Consulting. He has functioned as an Intrapreneur in Residence at Startupbootcamp and has been awarded "The Most Valued Mentor Award" for the Smart City & Living 2016 program.