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  Q: When is Strategy Consulting not Strategy Consulting?

A: When it is called “Growth & Venturing”

When a sector of the strategy consulting market has managed to grow by double-digits even in the pits of 2003, you know it must be addressing a hot topic.
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When it’s a new breed of firm riding high on this growth – rather than McKinsey or Bain – then perhaps it’s time to give this type of work a whole new name.

And so it has come to pass that “Growth & Venturing” is the new buzz phrase hot on the lips of every strategy consulting Partner. For “corporate venturing” or “growth and innovation” consultancies have outperformed the more traditional strategy consultancies by leaps and bounds in the years since the dot-com crash.

Yet Top-Consultant’s discussions with Edengene CEO Tim Thorne suggest it will be far from easy for traditional strategy firms to break into this growth market. The firm currently finds itself capacity constrained by a simple shortage of consulting partners who have the mix of entrepreneurial and strategic flair plus the consulting business development skills needed to operate in the market (Edengene has launched a campaign for £200k partner level candidates to address this constraint, for those in the market).

Growth & Venturing – the growth phenomena explained

So what is this new type of consulting and why such a surge in demand? Edengene CEO Tim Thorne explained to Top-Consultant the drivers behind the increasing take up of their services:

"The Edengene Growth and Innovation 2004 Survey found that 89% of large UK companies are under investor pressure to deliver more growth. In response to this pressure, investment in organic growth, innovation and venturing is large and increasing, with 79% of companies already making substantial investments and 82% expecting to invest at least as much, if not more, in the future.”

Major clients like BT, Powergen and Nokia have sought to employ consultants that can help to grow new businesses from scratch and assist in the development of innovative new products, so as to achieve commercial success in the timeframes that investors are demanding. This is quite distinct from strategy consulting work where consultants would typically identify potential strategic options for a company and then leave the client to drive those ideas forward.

The key to moving from such strategic advice to the hands-on involvement of creating a new business or product is… having the right personnel on board. Firms like Edengene will typically recruit staff who have experience of both consulting and running their own businesses. This explains why it has not been easy for more traditional firms to get a foot in the door, since this is simply not the typical profile of your average fast-track consultant. For those with this rare mix of skills, expect a rush of headhunter calls for the remainder of 2004.

Edengene comes of age

Edengene shot into the limelight this year when the Management Consultancy Association presented the practice with their “Best Small Firm” and “Operational Performance Gold” Awards for work on BT Business Plan and BT click&buy.; In just 15 months from launch the BT business plan had attracted over 170,000 SME customers and generated over £100 million of revenue for BT. It is innovative and entrepreneurial projects like these that have led to top line growth of over 25% in the 12 months to January 31 2004. In real money, that meant a turnover of nearly £6 million, with profits leaping by over 135% to £850,000. Edengene now employs a team of 50, only four years after its launch – and all this achieved during a widely acknowledged consulting downturn.

Commenting on the firm’s current predicament, CEO Tim Thorne highlights:

" The only thing that constrains our growth now is the ability to recruit more of the right people… Finding the right mix of consultancy skills and creative flair has proved a challenge and that is why many of Edengene’s staff have, at some point, run their own businesses. We are constantly looking for partnership level consultants with both strategic and entrepreneurial flair – but they appear to be a rare breed. Our salary and benefits packages compete strongly against even the larger consultancies, so why oh why can't we find them?"

Related links: Edengene launch senior recruitment drive to sustain growth
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