Running an international Management Consultancy service with Mervyn Stanley
Posted on 24th May 2021 by Marketing Executive - Katherine Ducie
As part of our Meet The Freelancer series of blogs, we interview many freelance professionals from a range of industries.
Starting his own consulting business in 2012, Mervyn left behind his career as a Commercial Director in the banking sector to pursue a new challenge and a better work-life balance.
In this article, we discuss with Mervyn:
- His motivations for becoming a Management Consultant
- The type of consultancy services he provides
- Sourcing clients internationally
- Transitioning from a corporate environment to being a self-employed consultant
- Challenges faced by Management Consultants
- Advice for new Management Consultants
- Tips on finding freelance work
What made you decide to become a Management Consultant?
Mervyn says: “Eventually after almost 30 years of working in commercial banking, I decided that I wanted to do something different from banking, that capitalised on the wider business skills I had gained during my career.”
“I’d always had ideas myself that I wanted to provide business consultancy support, particularly in sales, business growth and business development. One thing I’d always been attracted to in my career had been helping firms grow their business.”
“That for me was far more interesting than simply crunching the numbers, so it seemed logical to setup my own business and focus on helping companies grow and develop.”
Through your consultancy work, what types of businesses do you work with?
“I work with all types of organisations, based both in the UK and internationally, large and small.”
“We’ve got clients based across all sectors including oil and gas, construction, food and drink, financial services and professional services. It’s a pretty broad church.”
“Typically, if you’re working for one of the larger multinational firms, they want you to come in on a specific project and help support them to achieve the goals and the aims of that specific project. There’s also the small clients that might have maybe only half a dozen or a dozen employees but want to grow their business and that can be a slightly different challenge.”
What is your service offering?
“As well as providing training and consultancy services, we can also act as an interim sales or business development director.”
“You get parachuted into a company and help support them with any growth challenges they may have. Sometimes the larger organisations need you to scope out a strategy and work closely with an existing team for a particular opportunity they’re working on and that’s where they can bring in our interim resource.”
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
“I had to go back and complete a 5-year MBA after having been out of studying for so long. I ended up doing an MBA at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.”
“It was almost like going back to school, but I knew that despite having various business and banking qualifications, in order to be able to consult on the wider business piece and all sectors of business, I needed to gain a formal qualification as well.”
From working in a corporate environment to being a self-employed consultant, are you glad you made that transition?
“Yes, 100%. It’s the best thing I ever did because I feel like I’m building my own business. I’m steering my own ship and that’s really important to me. It’s also meant that although I work long hours, I see more of my family.”
“I used to have to travel a lot. I was constantly in London, Manchester and Edinburgh for meetings. Numerous nights away during the week meant I was missing my family growing up while now, I can adjust my workload accordingly to have that nice work-life balance.”
“I’m based in the North of Scotland and so you resign yourself to the fact that no matter the client, or whatever business sector you’re working in, you’re going to have to travel because most of your clients are going to be in the South.”
“There’s always going to be an element of travel, but with the increased use of technology both now and post COVID, we’ll probably see ourselves travelling much less as we’re using virtual platforms such as Teams and Zoom a lot more.”
“I’m currently working with a client that we’re about to roll some sales and business development training out for who are based in Bahrain. Rather than doing lengthy one or two day long training sessions for them on their business development strategy, we instead roll these out over a number of weeks in regular virtual two hour chunks.”
“This allows us to monitor the progress of the training and watch as delegates embed the learning in their ongoing working practices. The success outcomes of the training has risen hugely as a result. I only wish we had done it this way years ago!”
How did you manage to source clients internationally?
“It was really reputation and also working with some energy companies in Aberdeen who had offices abroad.”
“Often an oil and gas company may have a base in Aberdeen as well as having offices in the likes of the Middle East, Houston, Singapore and so on.”
“We were fortunate enough to work for one organisation, who had a branch in Dubai, and they had passed the outputs of the training on to the Head of Business in the Middle East who was interested in our Business Development Accelerator program which we delivered.”
“He then moved to another company and asked me to come in and consult for that organisation. It grew from there.”
What do you love most about your job now?
“It’s the sheer variety at the end of the day. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic clients in many different business sectors.”
“The variety that brings is really exciting. You don’t know when you pick up the phone to a new enquiry what that opportunity may be or who & where that company are based.”
What challenges have you faced as a Management Consultant?
“The biggest challenge is time, especially when working with clients abroad. You’ve got the different time challenges, in terms of time zones.”
“What I have found is that it’s best not to be customer facing every day. When I first started the business, I wanted to be in front of a client, working in their business supporting them, five days a week.”
“If you do that and you’re operational 5 days a week, you don’t have the opportunity to grow your business. You’re so busy working in the business, that you’re not working on the business and so therefore I’ve always left myself one day a week to promote and develop my own business.”
“In the early days, I had worried about missing out on the potential revenue that 5th day could’ve generated, however it has helped me to develop the business into a far bigger entity than perhaps it would have been had I just stuck to working 5 days a week on a customer facing basis.”
What piece of advice would you give to any new Management Consultants starting out?
“Don’t get hung up on being overly operational – look to spend some time yourself working on the business rather than in the business. Think, how can I scale this efficiently?”
“It sounds really basic but you’ve also got to quickly establish a certain level of income as well, because if you’re working as I was in Senior Management for the Royal Bank of Scotland, you get used to having the salary, the bonus, the health care, the car and all that goes with that. You want to try and get back to that level as quickly as possible.”
“For the first two years I went really hard at it and almost burnt myself out.”
“I wasn’t perhaps taking the advice that I was giving others, so I decided to revisit my own business model and see what could be done to work smarter. For me, that was by taking that one day a week day where I work on the business, typically on a Friday.”
Are there any tips you can share on finding work when you’re a freelance consultant?
“I think there are a number of elements to consider:
- Reputation is key, delivering great value and having happy customers creates this. If you have happy clients, they will undoubtedly help promote your business.
- Build a website that really represents your business and what you do well. Use case studies whenever possible. I’m redesigning my website just now and one of the things I’ll be doing is highlighting more testimonials and case studies. Ask a client who is particularly pleased with your service, if it’s a brand you want to showcase on your website, if they would be happy to provide you with a couple of sentences – a testimonial – to use on your website. It’s a competitive space and many of our competitors are very good at outlining what they “can do” for clients. ‘Can do’ is fine but it’s no substitute for ‘have done’. ‘Have done’ is when you’ve done a great job for a client and they’re absolutely delighted. Testimonials and case studies demonstrate this.
- Engage your marketing efforts on social media. It’s reasonably inexpensive to do and it can provide you with some amazing analytics that allow you to target new prospects. Demonstrate your thought leadership via LinkedIn and Twitter. You also have your website where you can create blog posts and push out content.”
You can find out more about Mervyn and his services at cameroncarnegie.co.uk
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