February 25, 2013

Fulfilling Needs

As my time with Kenway Consulting approached the 2.5 year mark, I realized I had been helping the same client for almost my entire time with Kenway and performing much of the same work.  While I was not unhappy, this was not what I had envisioned consulting to be.  I envisioned myself moving from project to project, client to client; not staying in the same place for too long.  As someone who struggles with keeping a tidy work space, I figured I would probably never have that issue again.  By the time my space became untidy, it would be time to move on.  Alas, my desk was turning into a mess!  It was about that time our CEO, Brian King, recognized that for some of our clients, our company was becoming something it never intended to be:  a staff augmentation company. Some of Kenway’s clients, and subsequently, some of Kenway’s employees had fallen into this trap.  We then decided to market and adhere to a model where Kenway would contract with our clients to provide consulting services rather than people, addressing needs rather than filling seats.  What this meant was each Kenway employee was going to provide services to clients based upon the scope, capacity and skill sets needed as opposed to submitting resumes to fill a ‘role’.  This decision was meant to add value for our clients by maximizing consultants’ strengths based on the unique scope of work needed for each client.  Subsequently, as we found out, it challenged us as employees as well.

Personally, I viewed this as a great decision and as 2013 approached, I found myself actively participating in the relatively new model.  On January 3rd, I went from spending all of my time at one client to splitting time between two clients.  This change empowered me to transition some operational work to permanent client employees, which saved the client money. The change also allowed me to be more consultative and to provide more value to my client.  For the new client, I dove head first into my new responsibilities with the enthusiasm of having a new set of services to provide that lined up directly with my skillset.

Now that I am entering my third month providing services at multiple clients, I truly understand the importance of time management.  No longer am I managing my time at one client to ensure I complete a variety of weekly tasks, but I need to make sure the services I provide meet or exceed the requirements of all clients with whom I am working.  The juggling act is constant and thanks to our increasingly virtual world, very doable.  Within each week, the percentage of time I spend at each client varies.  In my case, over time, the split has been roughly equal, but it is not as simple as turning one client on and the other off.  Each day requires some degree of checking in to make sure things are under control, whether it be checking email or a quick phone call with a key stakeholder.  While this may sound like a lot, the trade off is the days fly by, and I find myself being more productive than I have ever been.  Most importantly, I know that the time I spend is filled with the most valuable activities for each client.

The benefit that I find in this model is the variety each day brings.  I do not have any days that blend into each other.   Imagine your typical job where you have your list of milestones to accomplish in a given five day window, Monday through Friday.  For the most part, those days tend to blend together as you get closer to that 5pm Friday carrot.  The commute is the same, your wardrobe essentially contains the same basic ingredients, and you can probably predict the moods of many of your coworkers.  However, as I have become entrenched in this model, I do not have the same schedule on consecutive days.   I find myself mentally thriving off the daily diversification, and I am less likely to fall into stagnant periods.  My clients are benefiting from a reinvigorated consultant who is able to bring fresh ideas to the meeting room and a deep knowledge about the services I am providing.

A byproduct of providing services based on my skill set and client needs is the elimination of a constant state of urgency.  If I am at Client A’s office on Monday, that means I may not be back in their office until Wednesday.  However, I am still able to allocate any necessary hours on Tuesday, through the use of collaborative technology, to make sure I am not missed while I am not physically at Client A on that day.  I always end my days by sending a document out for approval or making sure I send out any emails that might take the recipient a day to respond.  Then when I return in 2 days, more often than not, the answers are in my inbox, and I am ready to pick the ball back up and run with it.  This minimizes the amount of time spent waiting on someone to respond back.  While I’m waiting on answers, I’m off servicing another client.

As my experience in this model grows, it is becoming clear to me what a benefit this is to Kenway’s clients.  I see the positive impacts it is having on me, as a Kenway employee, ranging from the adrenaline rush of tackling new challenges each day, to a diversified daily approach, to doubling my list of personal contacts, to an overall positive attitude.  My clients are benefiting by receiving the right mix of resources to optimize the value we provide. Resource strengths are being maximized, and inefficiencies are being minimized in this model.  It has even provided me with the energy to keep two desks clean.

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