Best Practices in Advisor Management

  • Charlotte Gregson
  • October 12, 2022
Advisor Management

Earlier this year I  attended the PEI Operating Partner Forum for the 4th time. It was interesting to note how prevalent the topic of human capital was. The importance of the power of the ecosystem in terms of access to external advisors like lawyers, banks, consultancies, and freelancers was widely acknowledged to be a crucial part of developing a world-class value-creation team.

Not only was the importance of external help noted in order to optimize the commercial model and drive growth; but a Blue Ridge Partner’s recent CEO study concluded that providing management teams access to a talent network was the most essential capability that operating partners could bring to the table.

This same trend has been mirrored across the consulting industry, with the majority of top-tier firms exploring the use of associate networks, that they either run themselves or partner with providers to maintain. In some cases, it is now mandated that a fixed percentage of case teams should be staffed with external talent.

However, before engaging external support, there needs to be clarity around what the problem is.  The kind of solution you’re looking for should influence the kind of support you seek out. For example, an independent consultant is suited for longer-term transformation project work whereas a brand-related question might call for a marketing expert.

Hire an independent consultant if one of the three scenarios fits your situation:

  • You have a clearly defined problem to solve and don’t have the right skill set or experience in-house
  • You need someone hyper-focused on the project or initiative, who is ready to hit the ground running and can provide additional capacity
  • The final solution needs to be owned and delivered by your organization, but a consultant with specialized expertise can make sure it crosses the finish line

Find the Right Support

When it comes to finding the right external talent, working with people you have collaborated with in the past certainly de-risks things, but you should also look at other options to find the ‘right’ fit, in terms of experience, culture, and price point.

Working style is a key component often neglected in the search for the right independent advisor but should be a critical part of the selection process. In the words of COMATCH co-founder Christoph Hardt, ” the success of a project is to a large extent not determined by hard skills, not by the quality of the analysis, and not by the number of hours put into the project, but rather the working style of the consultant “. Great collaboration is at the core of most successful projects, and the best way to ensure that this happens is to find someone who fits the company culture.

Additionally, the management team is key in terms of choosing the right support. Even if you have worked with someone before, politics plays a part as does the capability of the in-house team. I recommend taking the time to align with the management team on what they think they will get out of the work. Ultimately, you will have to get buy-in from them on whatever the outcome of the project is, so de-risk the situation by looping them in as early as possible.

Ensure Project Success

One of the main reasons that projects don’t succeed is that there is a misunderstanding about how the project should be managed, what the deliverables are, and what a successful outcome looks like. To alleviate this, we came up with some best practices to ensure that you get the most out of your independent advisor.

  1. Scope the work correctly and have a few different people/organizations pitch
  2. Ensure that you have management/team buy-in upfront for the work and use of external resources so they decide who to hire
  3. Ensure the independent advisor is onboarded well
  4. Set up a meeting cadence for progress updates and stick to it
  5. Stay involved throughout the process both in terms of steerco meetings but also back channels into the organization
  6. Ensure you have sight of the output early on to avoid any last-minute disasters
  7. Help to build excitement around the process, especially in the case of transformational topics

In short, open communication, planning, and transparency are key when looking to hire an independent consultant. As the freelance revolution continues to redefine the world of work and the consulting industry, it is essential that you have a strong process and understanding of how to integrate freelancers into your company. The future of work is here, and it’s freelance. So keep up or risk being left out.


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