“The entrepreneur needs to become aware of the fact that there is no concept of ‘stagnation’ in business. You either grow or you regress. Even if you chose to stagnate, you might still need the aid of the business consultant to prevent regression.” Nicolas Plesea
MD: Is the Romanian entrepreneur distrustful of management consultants?
NP: I think that there is considerable skepticism about management consultants or business advisors. The Romanian entrepreneur finds it hard to trust the consultant, especially since he has not yet been educated to make the difference between ‘consulting’ and ‘execution’: mainly that he pays for the design, not for its consequent execution.
In my experience, there is an overwhelming majority of Romanian entrepreneurs who are only looking for ways to increase the sales. In their view, more sales is the only path to follow for the improvement of their company. Solely focused on sales, control-obsessed and addicted to micromanagement, the entrepreneur’s company lacks important profitability concepts and more important the concept of (i)-liquidity. The lack of liquidity (being paid late) kills the business, despite reporting accounting profits. Other areas that are often underinvested are project management, marketing and the mix of the two, product management. Also, the R&D costs are hardly seen in any P&L report of a Romanian company. Thus, one may conclude that the Romanian entrepreneur finds it unworthy to pay for ‘intangibles’.
MD: Do you put the blame on the entrepreneur?
NP: Not even remotely is it my objective to point the finger at the entrepreneur! On the contrary! My aspiration is to build bridges between entrepreneurs and consultants.
Too often I sadly discover that fellow consultants are the ones who have fueled the entrepreneur’s mistrust! Consultants themselves have been focusing on sales to the detriment of real project management. I have seen situations where the consultant purely verbalized what the entrepreneur wanted to hear, solely for the sake of the sales closure. I have witnessed even worse situations of consultants providing advice on a single matter, disregarding and omitting multiple other business aspects involved, simply because they themselves had the expertise only in that specific professional area or practice. Therefore, this is precisely my goal: to turn around the entrepreneur’s perception by providing an authentic consulting service and thus a multidisciplinary solution! This is also the reason why I endorse the idea of a center of excellence, an association of consultants with different backgrounds (Finance, M&A, Legal, Tax, HR, Marketing) who can jointly provide a legitimate and honest solution to the entrepreneur’s business challenge.
MD: How do you plan to bring these consultants together?
NP: I have already attracted professionals with diverse expertise under the newly established Finpoint umbrella. We are seeking for senior business partners – executives from the business, not necessarily consultants per se – people who have had a relevant exposure and input to strategic assignments in their corporate companies and who are currently ready to exit the corporation and enter the business advisory field. These people are credible consultants in the eyes of the entrepreneur as well! They are not lecturing, they are no theoreticians, they have been there, done that already! They have not been born into consultancy from their junior years, which is just another local reality that raises the entrepreneur’s mistrust.
MD: What is motivating these people to join the network?
NP: I will answer your question, please bear with me for a brief background description 😊.
The whole ‘security’ idea (job security, financial security, etc.) has become obsolete. ‘Commitment’ is being translated as ‘performance’. ‘Security’ thus becomes ‘flexibility’. My favorite author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, Anti-fragile), beautifully catches on the idea of continuous evolution versus building security. Antifragile is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks (up to a point, then falls) and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. The employees are experiencing the stressors of a changing world whereby offering their long-term commitment is no longer a basis for retirement plans. In fact, what has been for many years the corporate employers’ main strategy, i.e. becoming more resilient (adding a CFA qualification or ACCA because they become theoretically a better asset for the employer) is no longer a winning strategy in the longer term.
In the corporate environment, when you reach the highest growth level, you become an entrepreneur. First an entrepreneur within an organization (an intrapreneur) – you begin to assume the risk of making mistakes, the risk of change, even the risk of failure. You might then follow this path in successive corporate organizations, until you eventually make the change outside the corporation.
Moreover, when you have reached a maximum growth point in the local organization, you also become very aware of the fact that Romania has become an execution / shared services country for the corporate operations and that strategic roles are hosted by the headquarters only. At this level, you can choose to expatriate and continue your corporate career at HQ. Or you can choose to stay put, as long as the company keeps you locally on the same position. You will however soon find out that self-preservation (because this is why you indulged this situation) is not the future. And this may become your Big Bang moment and the first step into consulting.
And this brings me back to your question. The executives described before, those who switch from business to consulting, are also well aware that they need valid support for large-scale strategic consulting assignments. Thus, the need to come together, to associate, to partner in projects where they will at times be project leaders, at times members of the project team for their specific specialty area. This tremendous flexibility will ensure the authentic consulting service I was talking about in the beginning of our interview, as well as the valid multidisciplinary solution sought after.
MD: How will your network operate?
NP: We plan to work online and offline. The online platform will have mainly an education and information role (e.g. information on how to grow your local business across borders, how to finance your business) and will provide some off-the-shelf consulting advice on the business topics already mentioned (Finance, M&A, Legal, Tax, HR, Marketing).
The offline work is where we will join face-to-face with the entrepreneurs. We will organize Group Consultancy get-togethers – these will be a mix of workshops and consulting sessions for small groups of entrepreneurs, people who are not willing to attend theory classes, but to interact and share business situations and challenges.
And, of course, we will get proactively involved in working with Romanian entrepreneurs for their individual business quests.
Cover Photo © Finpoint