We’ve come to have a particular understanding of what a startup is – typically a small, tech-focused company oriented towards great innovation. From the start, then, it would seem that consulting businesses are excluded from this definition; due to their reliance on experience, consultants can be somewhat backward looking and aligned with the establishment. Consulting firms just don’t mesh with the disruptive nature of the startup world.
With this in mind, then, it may be worth re-conceptualizing both how we imagine a startup and how we think about consulting. Both seem to be experiencing a boom and their growth seems to be interrelated. And while startups rely on the wisdom of consultants to grow and succeed, consulting businesses appear equally eager to borrow from the startup world.
One reason that it’s worth starting to think about consulting, under the right circumstances, as a startup business has to do with the rise of service-oriented startup companies. In general, it’s been harder for service startups to thrive because they aren’t easily scalable, which can generally inhibit their growth. You can hire more people to work in app development, but only the perfect candidates qualify to work in service.
Think Profit Potential
Another reason we should consider consulting to be in the same category as the startup sector is because of its potential for enormous profit and growth, even though it’s much harder to replicate the knowledge of a consultant compared to that of an IT professional or app developer. For example, 26-year old Sam Ovens built a $10 million consulting business in just four years, even though he can’t clone himself in pursuit of knowledge replication. Great consultants are in extraordinarily high demand.
Think Investor Interest
Consulting has become such a compelling industry that even investors are taking notice and putting their money behind consulting firms in the same way they would with an interesting new start-up. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Jason Towns of The Towns Group has been named as one of D.C.’s 50 On Fire, a member of an elite group of innovators transforming the city and readily attracting investors.
Towns’ consulting firm has drawn in $10 million to launch an investment fund for minority startup founders, further emphasizing the connection between these two sectors. His firm specializes in working with startups and is committed to helping new startups learn their limits and understand the complicated world of funding.
Finally, the consulting industry understands that the startup world has a lot to offer in terms of inspiration, so why not foster connections between the two sectors, even if only at an aesthetic level? That’s the approach Ntiva, a decade old IT consulting firm in Virginia, has taken with its office.
If you pay a visit to the Ntiva offices, you may find yourself feeling a bit confused. Is this really a consulting firm? The open office plan features mobile work units, nap pods, and a playful atmosphere that immediately channels places like Kickstarter or Spotify. Startups may draw their knowledge base from consultants, but consulting firms can draw their energy from startups.
The world of consulting is diverse and innovative, much more so than our traditional image of the field might lead us to believe. It’s time to start thinking about consultants as game changers to the way we think about startups – and preparing for the new world consulting firms are determined to create.