George Blomfield

Founder of a boutique management consultancy focused on practical strategy and operations improvement solutions.
Managing Director
@
Blomfield Consulting

How did you get here?

As early as I can remember, I knew I wanted to start and build a business. Taking the big leap to start a consulting firm was the product of three prior career stages.

After completing undergraduate and master’s degrees in Engineering, my first career stage was as a project-based engineer on civil construction and mining sites. Working as an engineer makes for great experience early in a career – young engineers find themselves with budget and schedule responsibilities and must move quickly up the learning curve to succeed. Through this stage, I developed real and practical skills for driving project delivery at the front-line in construction and heavy industry environments.

Completing an MBA at Oxford University provided the springboard for me to move into my second career stage as a Management Consultant at Partners in Performance where I worked as a Senior Associate and Manager for four years. Through my time at Partners in Performance, I developed and applied the full consulting toolkit across sectors including mining, power and utilities, construction, and government. Collaborating with frontline staff and senior business leaders to deliver value impact on a significant scale was the highlight of my time at PIP and set me up with the base-level consulting skills needed to start a consulting firm.

The third career stage for me was working as a contractor with Expert360. This was the perfect hybrid between full-time consulting work and building a business. I have delivered multiple projects through the platform where I worked with top-tier strategy consulting teams.

Since finishing my last Expert360 engagement I have started a small consulting firm undertaking engagements either independently or with a small team across manufacturing, construction, mining, technology, and hospitality industries.

What options were you considering?

When I left Partners in Performance, I had ambitions to acquire and run an operating industrial business. I had done some reading on how to acquire a small business and I saw this as a potential pathway for me. For example, I explored acquiring engine servicing and trailer manufacturing businesses.

My plan was for contract consulting to provide the means for me to pursue searching for acquisition opportunities. After missing out on a few target firms (and having a great time delivering contract consulting engagements), I shifted my focus away from searching for a business toward completing more contract consulting engagements.

While I primarily used Expert360 to source work, I also drew on personal and professional relationships to deliver short-term practical strategy, business improvement and program management office consulting projects. Through this experience, it became clear to me that there was sufficient demand in the market for me to consider building a firm.

How did you make the decision to take your current role?

There were two decision points on the way to my current role. First, deciding to step away from a full-time management consulting role into contract consulting and second, deciding to start and grow a firm.

In my last few weeks at Partners in Performance, Rachel, from the Expert360 team reached out to me on LinkedIn to see if I would be interested in contract consulting. Talking through the process was reassuring and helpful, ultimately giving me the confidence to pursue the contract consulting opportunity. I started my first contract consulting engagement within weeks of leaving my role at Partners in Performance. The engagement was with a new client in an industry I hadn’t previously covered. Rachel and the team were amazingly supportive through the transition process – at this decision point, I felt like the move out of a full-time role wouldn’t have been as easy without their support.

As my skills and experience developed working as an independent contract consultant, I found my time was more valuable when I was supporting and coaching other team members rather than delivering analysis and outputs myself. Moreover, there is a natural ceiling to earning potential when delivering engagements as one person. With these considerations, I changed my focus from delivering individual projects to pitching potential clients and delivering projects with a team. This was the pivotal point for me to start a consulting firm.

What are you doing now?

While working as a contractor through Expert360, my role was to deliver strategy consulting work while embedded within consulting firms.

Currently, I am leading a small team to deliver practical operational, and strategy consulting and Program Management Office engagements.

What does your day to day look like?

On the Expert360 engagements, typical tasks were to define the scope of work, complete analysis, organise client interviews and have regular check-ins with the consulting team. This experience was like working in a consulting firm. The main differences were, I was accountable for delivering the work only – not being pulled away by management overhead like training and interviews, there was much less internal reporting, there was significant flexibility – I could take time off between engagements, and the rates were higher than working for a firm.

In my current role, my main tasks are to work with my team to deliver engagements, work with potential clients to build a pipeline of work and engage with candidates to hire in the future.

What do you love about your job?

When I started doing independent contracting work through Expert360, I loved having the choice of engagements and working with consultants from other firms. At Expert360, for the first time in my consulting career, I was able to pick and choose engagements that interested me and say no to ones I didn’t want to pursue. Through my experience, I found I picked engagements with people I really wanted to work with ahead of an industry or service offer. One highlight was working with Eddie and the team at Genesis Advisory – they were very sharp strategy consultants who delivered high quality work quickly. We built a strong relationship over several engagements. To me, Eddie is now a trusted advisor I reach out to when I need advice on engagement delivery and hiring. Expert360 and contract consulting enabled this broadening of my network.

Since starting a consulting firm, I have loved the excitement of building a business and working to deliver its potential. I have met so many great clients and potential hires that I can’t wait to work with in the future. I also love the process of delivering consulting engagements end-to-end, including working with a client to understand their challenges, preparing an approach, pitching, delivering the work, sustaining the changes, and measuring the impact. I hadn’t experienced this end-to-end view in prior work.

What do you not love about your job?

There were times where I missed the comradery of working with a team over the ‘long haul’ while working as a contract consultant. While at Partners in Performance, I built strong friendships and professional relationships that developed from years of working with my peers. These opportunities were the result of having shared experiences in the firm. Stepping into contract consulting means that building relationships like this won’t eventuate in the same way.

Now, the things that keep me up at night are the pipeline of work and delivery quality.

Over the past year, the longest engagement I have taken on has been two months. This means that at any one time, it can feel like I am only weeks away from being without a consulting engagement. While I have always been able to find work, this lack of certainty/ security can be draining and stressful.

There is no one more senior to check delivery quality. The quality of the consulting outputs including analysis and recommendations shared with my clients are approved by me. I aim to complete thought through robust consulting work; however, it has been a big shift knowing that the final output isn’t tested with a senior partner.

These are two elements that make building a consulting firm challenging, and I have had to deal with them over the past year.

What advice would you give someone deciding what they should do?

My advice for someone thinking about trying contract consulting is to ‘just go for it’! Many of the perceived risks do not materialise. Before leaving my full-time role, I was worried about not having sufficient work through the year, being stuck at the ‘delivery’ level and not being able to re-enter a corporate role while I was an independent contractor. This wasn’t my experience at all. I found that there are loads of projects to be staffed on throughout the year, professional development continues through delivering engagements and I have had offers to move back into consulting and industry. Expert360 is a great place to start the independent contracting journey.

For those thinking about building a firm, my advice is a little more tempered. There is significant uncertainty and many more challenges than just contract consulting – it really isn’t for everyone. I recommend starting small, focusing on a particular service offering or even client and building your IP base as you deliver work. I have met with some clients over several months and not progressed to delivering an engagement, then met others for one or two coffees and it has turned into work. It is important to be ready for these ups-and-downs when deciding to start and run a consulting business.

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