The Rules & Rigors of Consulting

With more than 40 years of experience in operational growth and improvement, both as a consultant and as an executive with Crayola Corporation, Peter Christian has served more than 300 companies.  Earlier this month, CONSULTING magazine published an online article written by Peter that provides valuable tips on the consultant and client relationship.  Read the article entitled “The Rules and Rigors of Consulting” here.


Top 25 Consultants in 2019

In the latest issue of its online magazine, CONSULTING is highlighting the top 25 consultants who are making a big impact in our industry in 2019.  Be sure to read the Q&A for each consultant as there are interesting insights to be gleaned to help your consulting career!  Read the latest issue of CONSULTING magazine here (free subscription required).


Inefficiencies with Big Company Consulting Models

Recently, we highlighted the rise of boutique consulting firms, and how firms like Croixstone address inefficiencies inherent with traditional, big company consulting models.  Interestingly, Accounting Today published an article with data that shows that nearly 75% of Big Four consulting projects cost more that clients anticipated.

The data comes from a survey conducted by Source Global Research which found that U.S. companies generally expect to pay $2,000 – $5,000 per day for a management consultant.  That said, 70% of Big Four consulting projects end up costing more than the client’s initial estimate, while 18% of the projects cost significantly more.  Only 2% of Big Four consulting projects end up costing less than senior executives at client companies expected.

Read the article published by Accounting Today here (free registration may be required).


Disruption in Big Consulting

As a boutique consulting firm, Croixstone provides clients across the greater Charlotte region with on-demand expertise from project consultants who deliver improved focus and deeper expertise at a lower cost than the “big” guys.  Our business model is helping to disrupt the legacy consulting model.

As businesses become more informed, they recognize the inefficiencies that are inherent in the traditional big company consulting model.  The drivers for these inefficiencies include:

1.  The big consulting business model hasn’t changed with the rest of the world.

2.  Partner incentives at big consulting firms do not always put client needs first.

3.  Huge overhead costs are built into the rates.

4.  Big consulting firms have many hammers, but not every problem is a nail.

Learn more about consulting industry disruption and the rise of boutique firms here.


Is the Business Card Dead?

Let’s say you are preparing to participate in a professional networking meeting in Charlotte this week.  Your elevator pitch has been perfected, and you are feeling on top of your game.  But then a nagging question arises that throws you off base.  Should I, or should I not, present my business card to new contacts?  Has the rise of LinkedIn (and other tools) rendered the business card obsolete?

Our strong belief?  The business card still matters.

Following a meeting with a local business executive, the Croixstone team engaged in spirited discussion last week about the merit of the business card.  While some people feel strongly that this longstanding business communication tool is passé, we are resolute in our belief that the business card absolutely still matters.

Yes, LinkedIn serves an incredibly valuable purpose.  And, yes, many millennials are quick to say that the business card is pointless.  We would offer that the business card is an essential tool in your personal branding tool chest.  Like any tool, you simply need to know when the card is appropriate to present.

Know your audience and the environment.  If you are attending a networking event at the Duke Mansion with people from traditional, conservative professional groups or companies, you can be assured that your business card matters.  Attending a hip tech gathering at Camp North End the following evening?  You might be best to leave your business card tucked safely in your pocket.

Also remember that your business card, when designed with care and intentionality, is a powerful tool to represent, and differentiate, your personal brand.

Read more opinions on the value of the business card from 16 public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising leaders who serve on the Forbes Agency Council.


Customize Your LinkedIn Background Photo

In follow-up to previous blog posts, we are highlighting another topic in the ongoing series of articles in Forbes entitled “The Baby Boomers Guide to LinkedIn.”  

The third topic in the series shifts focus to your LinkedIn Background Photo.

Rule #1 – Customize Your Background Photo/Banner
Take the time to customize your background photo/banner. You are not a “generic” professional, and it is vital that your presence on LinkedIn sends the right message.  By customizing your background photo/banner, you are also demonstrating that your understanding of tech and social media is “current”.

Rule #2 – Choose the Right Image for Your Personal Brand
Choose a background image that supports your personal brand.

Rule #3 – Choose an Image that Complements Your LinkedIn Headshot
Pick an image that works well with your LinkedIn headshot.  You may need to do some trial and error experiments to get this right.

Rule #4 – Know the Right Size
The size of your background photo/banner should be 1584 wide x 396 high.  Canva is a great tool to use for sizing of photos for social media purposes, and it is free.

Click here for more tips and to learn how Bill Gates has customized his background photo!


Mainstream Mindfulness

Last week, members of the Croixstone Consulting crew attended an educational seminar hosted by HopeWay Foundation, a Charlotte-based 501(c)(3) that supports mental health wellness.  The guest speaker was Dan Harris, ABC News anchor and author of 10% Happier and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.

Dan Harris has become a huge advocate of mental health wellness, and meditation, following his personal experience with a nationally televised panic attack.

Meditation has become fully mainstream, and companies like Google, Nike, and Apple are proponents of mindfulness training.  Learn more here.


LinkedIn Photo Tips

In February Forbes launched a series of articles entitled “The Baby Boomers Guide to LinkedIn”.  This series provides great insights for the highly-experienced professional. 

The second article in the series focuses on 5 things to know about your LinkedIn photo (and, yes, you MUST include a photo on your profile). Here’s what you need to know:

1.  Headshot Only
Nothing else should be in the picture but your head, neck, and possibly the top of your shoulders.

2.  Professional Attire
You want to convey the right professional image so choose your outfit carefully. For men:  the formal business suit and tie is not seen much on LinkedIn unless that is your normal workday attire. These options are recommended instead: dress shirt open with jacket works very well for a classy look; dress shirt and tie; or just a collared dress shirt with a sweater or dress shirt. No casual shirts, short sleeve polos or t-shirts. For women:  a plain solid color outfit works best. Solid color dress, jacket, sweater or blouse.

3. Smile
It is best to smile to show enthusiasm and zest for life.

4. Lighting
Poor lighting can make any of us look older.  Outdoor lighting can be advantageous – especially on a cloudy, overcast day.

5.  Background
A plain background is best and less distracting.

Learn more here.


In Demand Projects + Skills for Consultants
Have you ever wondered what demand exists in the consulting marketplace for your skills?  Well, we have your answer courtesy of Forbes magazine.  Earlier this week, the magazine published an online article listing the most in demand projects and skills for “independent” consultants (the article is using this term to reference consultants who apply their skills outside the big firms like McKinsey and Accenture).
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The most in demand projects for consultants include:
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  • 61% Strategy:  Marketing + Sales Strategy, Growth Strategy, Opportunity Assessment, Product Strategy
  • 22% Operations:  Business Processes, Product Launch Planning, Supply Chain
  • 9% Transformation:  Business Intelligence and Analytics, IT/Tech Transformation
  • 4% Organization
  • 4% Interim Executive
The most in demand skills for independent consultants include:
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  • Project Management
  • Market Landscape
  • Growth Strategy
  • Strategic Planning
  • Supply Chain
  • Program Management Office (PMO)
  • Corporate + Business Unit Strategy
  • Product Development and Launch
  • Market Access and Value
  • Innovation Strategy
Read the article to learn more about the leading industries using independent consultants, the company size leaders who use independents, and more.

Keep Informed!

The December 2018 issue of Consulting Magazine is now available.  Access is easy (and, best of all, complimentary)!  Simply register to become a free ALM digital reader, and you’ll receive free access to Consulting Magazine Online and the digital edition.

The current issue highlights the women leaders in consulting who are making a big impact on the industry.  Be sure to read the “ShortTakes” interview on page 4 where PwC’s Vice Chairman and Advisory Leader, Mohamed Kande, discusses the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Read the December issue here.