By Laura Sweeney
April 29, 2010
The consulting industry has changed significantly according to the co-founders of international management consulting firm The RFP Company. Gordon Perchthold and Jenny Sutton have decades of knowledge and experience and strive to share with companies how to maximize the use of consultants In their book Extract Value from Consultants, “Enabling Clients to Make Strategic Choices” embodies their mission to efficiently and effectively help their clients.
Corp!: RFP is different from a traditional consulting firm. What makes it different?
Perchthold: The consulting business in U.S. is a multi-billion dollar industry. We’ve found over the years that it gets more and more sophisticated and clients are not getting the full potential value. A lot of companies let the consultants decide the problem. The consultants will put it in their own context in order to get the business. We help the company find the problem on their own.
Corp!: What are some misconceptions people have about consultants?
Sutton: I think consultants have a role to play. They do provide value and they are a valuable management tool. Some people say “Companies spend too much on consultants.” They missed the point. It’s not that you shouldn’t hire or spend too much on consultants; the real question is “Did you get value out of them?” Consultants can challenge organizations. They keep the ideas of their clients from stagnating.
Corp!: What are common mistakes businesses makes when hiring a consultant?
Perchthold: One mistake is that the problems are not being defined properly right in the beginning. Another is hiring the wrong type of consultants. Many businesses continue to hire consultants to work on site. They hire them based on a specific capability, where they are strongest, and choose the consultant to determine the problem at the moment. But when they assign the follow-up work to the same consultants, they run the risk that the consultants are getting farther and farther away from their core expertise and clients receive less value.
Corp!: What inspired you two to begin your own company?
Sutton: We had worked in Japan at ABeam Consulting, which was spin-off of Deloitte in Japan.
We found that as we became more senior in the company as partners responsible for an important part of the practice, we were doing less and less of the actual consultant work ourselves. What we really enjoyed was the consulting; having time with the client and helping them solve their problems. We wanted to get back to the fun part of the job ourselves.
Corp!: What is the most important lesson you have learned in business?
Sutton: Being honest with people that you are dealing with and not hiding bad news, not sugar coating things. You need to be able to tell people things they don’t want to hear. You have to handle each situation with integrity
This is another, more personal lesson: nothing is forever. Things change so fast it’s good to have an idea of where you ultimately want to be as a company or as an individual. Nothing stays the same for very long.
Corp!: What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
Perchthold: We like to be outdoors. We like hiking, skiing, running - I just finished the Tokyo marathon - and trying to stay in shape. We try to stay active when we have our free time. We like traveling, if we didn’t like traveling we would be in a lot of trouble (laughs). We enjoy seeing the different cultures.