How to Quickly Understand a New Client or Company in a Short Amount of Time

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Before writing this blog, I went back and forth on the messaging that I wanted to give my audience about consulting. After multiple iterations, I’ve decided to be as transparent as possible in order to drive conversations between both those in the industry and those outside of the industry. For those of you that do not know, I work for a management consulting firm that specializes in solving hard technology, process, and organization problems while also helping to accelerate the execution of their solutions. During my time here, I’ve worked on 5-6 projects, each ranging anywhere from 10-20 weeks a piece. As consultants, we have a limited amount of time to not only understand complex issues, but also to understand our client and provide them with a long-term solution. In my previous blog, I wrote about what a typical week on a project looks like. For this blog, I wanted to take a step back and show the reader the depth of pre-work that happens prior to us ever even arriving on-site.

“Fayyaz we received a call from <insert company>, we need you in <insert city> for the next 10-12 weeks to conduct a technology health assessment.”

The very first thing I do upon hearing this is Google: “What is a technology health assessment?” Ok, I’m kidding, this type of work is our bread and butter, but within each project there are always unique challenges that differentiate it from any other project. For example, I was asked to do a vendor selection for a manufacturing company seeking an FP&A tool, and my very next project was to find a donor management tool for a non-profit organization. Both clients fundamentally had a similar need, but the landscape, product, and people changed. Having these unique variables is what makes consulting fun – because no two projects are exactly the same.

Prior to arriving at the client there are three concepts I focus on: The company background, current events, and the people I’ll be spending a majority of my time with.

1. I go to their company site and read about them, their executive team, and gather any other information I can from Google. Pro tip, if you click the “News” tab in Google, you can see what relevant press releases have come out in chronological order.

2. If the company is a publicly traded company, I read their 10-K. For any new consultant, you’re welcome. It took me a few years to learn this trick. Within the 10-K you get an idea of what’s coming, what the client cares about, and pick up a lot of relevant information on why they hired you to be there. The best part about this is that the 10-K is written for shareholders i.e. it is at very high level that any business person can easily consume.

3. I check out their LinkedIn profiles. People are hesitant to go to other people’s LinkedIn pages because they can see that you viewed their profile. I do not understand that concept because 95% of the time the client has already done the same thing to get a feel for who they are going to be working with. In fact, I like that they can see if I viewed them because it forces them to look at my profile if they have not already.

After about two to three days of research, I’m very confident I can have conversations about the company, the problem, and have an idea of how we should go about solving it. At this point, the team is planning timelines, scheduling interviews, and coming up with relevant questions we can ask based on our initial findings and what we already know. Again, this process moves very quickly, and right when we land we’re off to the races. Doing the right amount, and kind, of pre-work makes it easier to quickly gain an understanding of your client and their company in a short amount of time, which means our clients can get the answers they need faster.

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