Consultancy vs Full time work – is it for you?

As someone who has only ever been employed by a company for the last 25 years, I was always fascinated with the concept of consultancy. It seemed to be the thing you did when you got too old to be employed in the industry (about 35). I think I always used to think it must be a slightly unsatisfactory type of work, just getting involved with the feedback and strategy but not the execution. I think overall I was naive about it and didn’t really understand how many types of consultancy there are and how many people are involved and my own involvement so far has opened my eyes to this way of working.

After leaving Spotify I started Bertozzi49, my own company that I started in my 49th year. It was time to explore what this consultancy lark was about. The first thing I would say is there is a difference between someone who has decided to do this for the rest of their career or for a temporary period of time. In my case it is for a temporary period of time, allowing me time to focus on my new business (soon to be announced and not in the media space) and any full time role interviews. I think perhaps that makes it harder as you don’t necessarily invest in marketing yourself hard and your messaging is not as focused but on the other hand, it means you are likely closer to being a practitioner vs a serial consultant and further from the sharp end of business.

I am excited by the projects I have worked on so far, one was a project evaluating sales structure and approach for a ‘grown up’ but they rightly wanted to plan for future scaling, it was short and sweet and focused and fitted into my own view of a ‘second opinion’ approach. Another was much more in depth, over a longer period and was a genuine chance to get close to a company’s business, a big media company at that. The second was tougher for me, as I really wanted to go deeper and further into the business and see our proposals executed but that’s not our job and I think that’s what you have to get used to in many cases. However, the upside of that is that you get to be really brave on your strategy, you are unencumbered by existing baggage, internal politics, personal or corporate targets etc and allows freedom of thought which is a nice change from having to cope with the day to day as well as strategising. I think the worst thing I can do as a consultant is not be straight, honest and challenge the thinking, hopefully the business you are working for is open to that and not paying people to validate their own formed views.

Interview processes are SLOW and so this kind of work is very useful to keep you sharp, thinking about the industry and importantly out in the market place talking to the wonderful network. It is also a chance to learn about an area of the business that you may not take a full time role in, but by understanding it better is adding to your overall expertise and knowledge. When I move back into a full time role, I know these experiences will be invaluable to that company. As I start my own business in the automotive sector, these learnings also help shape how we plan for the future as well.

I would also say that this is where social media comes into its own, my LinkedIn network and Twitter network has been amazing through these last few months and provided me with so many good leads and opportunities so I highly recommend to all those starting out in your career, start building your network now, don’t dismiss social and don’t be that person who says ‘do you ever do any work?’ based on someone’s social activity, more fool you in my view. These platforms could be the bedrock of future business or people helping you with your own business, I dont know where I would be without the support of the network here on Linkedin.

I am excited to announce two more projects in the coming weeks that I will be more visible as I will be representing the companies in the market to some extent, so more to come on that – they are in two incredibly exciting companies and can’t wait to get the news out there and start to get some momentum in the marketplace. Bertozzi49 well and truly firing on all cylinders.

So overall, I think this approach to work can be very fulfilling, you can learn a lot and help many people and businesses. I think if you are still heavily drawn by wanting to do the execution part and seeing all your hard work come to fruition (thats me) then perhaps there is still another salary job left in you, but if you like the strategy part and the variety of consultancy then I would highly recommend it! Whatever you do, good luck!

Should advertisers pay more to keep agencies inefficient?

With every year that goes by the advertising community continues to look for more and more opportunity to drive down pricing and increase value from agencies. No one can blame them, a whole auditing and procurement business needs to exist and why should good work or good people get in the way of the procurement officer hitting their bonus? 

There is some irony that the companies advertisers use to drive efficiency also create more and more work for agencies through a pitch process to also justify their role. Meeting after meeting, tests, projects, hands on sessions, formal pitch meetings, digital focus, more forms and oh some pricing at the end. It means that agencies continually come under the strain of having to find new opportunities to earn or save money. Their only their options.

In the camp of saving, we talk a lot about making things more efficient. The whole Trading Desk model has been put under that camp, but you know, perhaps we should look to our media channels that have come with the most history. I find myself wondering why we need different TV buying departments in today’s world. We have teams of people in agencies that all do the same thing, give or take, their roles are clearly defined, they all work on the same systems, there could be no finer example of an opportunity to streamline a business. This is not just about my group but all of them. Do we need multiple buying departments by agency?

I think that if we are to keep up with the relentlessness of procurement and pitching we should do a couple of things. First lets re shape the businesses so that there are some key trading people in London but consolidate the buying into single group operations, based somewhere cheaper, where you train people to come and do a 9-5 job, they get paid, they go home having worked bloody hard.(God forbid you even employ people without degrees?)  Would advertisers be happy with that? Could they stomach the fact that agencies do as media owners do and have multiple conflicts and teams all working together across agency silos? Well that I guess is the core of the issue, if they are fine, all well and good, if they are not then they should pay more for making the agency groups run in a less than efficient way.

Second, lets start challenging the advertisers to change their business for the better rather than be lap dogs and respond to whatever they want. ‘I can be whatever you want me to be?’ We should try more along the lines of ‘your business is structured really badly, you want some good advice?’ Consultancy comes cheap in advertising and media, the advertisers should take more advice, it is designed to help on reflecting the changing landscape. I had a refreshing meeting where an advertiser asked me to challenge him more on how he should structure his business for the new world of RTB and Data. How nice it was to have a decent debate on that, and imagine the possibilities. If only there was more of that.