BLUE SAGE on BUSINESS
An Interview with Pamela Campagna
President, BLUE SAGE Consulting, Inc.
What do you most like about your job?
Because I work with many companies and organizations, I’m able to carry what I learn from one situation to another. The variety and constant challenge of solving client problems is really intriguing. As a Certified Management Consultant (CMC®), I am bound by the requirements of a global organization to deliver quality results in an ethical manner.
Why does your work stand out from others that do what you do?
My clients can speak to that: “I had the pleasure of working with Pam at a few firms, one where I hired her as a consultant to help launch new marketing and sales initiatives under an extraordinarily tight timeline. Pam is a strategic thinker who cuts through the noise and identifies the high impact issues and opportunities. She maps out clear plans and then tirelessly executes. Pam just jumps in and does what it takes to achieve the desired targets and immediately earns the respect of the teams she works with. I would highly recommend Pam! “
What questions are you commonly asked, and how do you answer?
Many clients aren’t sure how to work with a consultant. One common question is: “I’m not sure where to get started.” Once the client begins to describe the issue in their business (and with my prodding and probing and discussion), I can get a general sense of where we need to start and how I can help them. Sometimes we “don’t know what we don’t know”. That’s where I come in!
If I were a client, what should I know about your business?
There’s no magic in consulting. Just like many other professions, there are methodologies and processes and best practices that can be followed. Being able to solve problems, think strategically and act with urgency to improve the client’s situation should be the most important role that a consultant can play. Consultants who are committed to the business of consulting and have a lot of successes under their belt can save companies a lot of time and money.
What is the most memorable client engagement that you’ve had?
Several years ago, I was contacted by a company that was looking for help to reorganize their sales organization. Once I started to ask what product they sold (and to whom), what the plans were for products and services in the future (they weren’t sure), how profitable each product was (less sure) and what the business strategy was for the company….we realized that what was missing was a strategy for the company and specific plans to implement it. The sales force wasn’t broken. The company’s strategy was. We started what turned out to be a 4-year engagement, by working on their strategy, then on their product line offerings and go-to-market plan. The engagement was especially worthwhile for the client as it moved their business into a direction much quicker than they had imagined.
Are most of your engagements that long and complex?
By its very nature, the work that I do involves many elements of the client’s business. Whether it’s creating a marketing strategy or developing a program for customer retention, the consulting work tends to be more complex. However, there have been many instances where the project was straightforward and the goals were clear so the work that we did was mostly to execute the project.
What are the most common types of work that you do for your clients?
Our clients in B2B, manufacturing, technology, healthcare and non-profit organizations look to us for:
- short term help on a business issue
- long term advice on operational improvements
- growth strategies for a lagging product line
- skills development for teams and individuals
- guidance on how to develop marketing initiatives
- leadership for change and transformation initiatives
- operating model and process improvement development
- special, unstaffed projects
The projects and engagements span a wide range: we’ve gone to Capitol Hill with a client to support their lobbying efforts as part of their business development strategy. We’ve developed distribution plans and processes with Amazon for another client. We’ve worked with a large pharma to understand the impact of their investment in medical education. Dozens of engagements have included product launches, services implementation, press and analyst relationship development and staff development. And every single engagement is unique.
How do you stay up to date on tools and happenings in your industry?
In addition to my consulting practice, I am an Adjunct Professor at Boston College and a Professor at the HULT International Business School where I teach Global Strategy and Global Management. The combination of in-the-field experience with my clients, and teaching and collaborating with students and faculty in higher education are a great source of information and inspiration. In addition, we invest our resources in continuing education and ongoing personal development.
Can you name a few trends that you think will have an impact on the consulting industry?
The landscape of the workplace is changing. The concept of a “job for life” doesn’t really exist anymore. The distinction between a contractor (someone who is between jobs or who is a person-for-hire) and a consultant (someone who follows a specific competency framework and builds a business) is confusing to companies that are looking to hire a competent supplement in their organization. Often, the alternative of a large agency or a big consulting firm is too cumbersome for companies that want to get a job done quickly without a lot of overhead.
The trend of “talented resources on demand” will continue and offers an opportunity for consultants like me and the BLUE SAGE team to provide value to clients who are looking for proven results from a team of experts who have years of experience in a number of businesses and challenging situations.
Does this mean that you work alone?
Actually, it really depends on the needs of the client and the requirement of the engagement. In some cases, I work alone on a particular project or as a retainer-based outsourced consultant. Other times, the project may require subject matter expertise or additional bandwidth to be completed. In that situation, I call on BLUE SAGE Associates with whom I’ve worked over the years. They work for the client as an extension of the my team. In addition, I often work with internal teams in the client organization to get the job done.
What are some of the pitfalls of the business?
I’ve spent thousands of hours across hundreds of projects helping my clients to navigate through change, build their strategy and run their businesses. I can typically get a sense of how the working relationship with the client will be, based on how discussions go as we figure out how to work together. I can also get a sense of how challenging an engagement will be based on early interactions with potential clients.
Sometimes, the early interactions are an indication that the working relationship is not a good fit. Take, for example, the company in New York that was looking for help to get their marketing activities and infrastructure in shape as they were preparing to seek another round of funding from an investor. I was introduced to the company through one of the key stakeholders, and had several conversations and meetings with their leadership. After that first meeting, it became very clear that the President of the company didn’t understand how a “solid” company might run – as they themselves had very little business experience. That’s not unusual, and it allows a consultant to be a “teacher” as well as a consultant. It also became clear during that first meeting that the President was more comfortable doing the work that he had always done instead of taking on more of a leadership role. He spent his days writing copy for the website and code for the product instead of building a team to take that product to market and sell it.
I’m a firm believer in studying best practices and learning by them. I believe in having a sense of urgency and driving toward a goal in an organized fashion. In this case, indecision and “business as usual” were the way that this company runs, and they were not prepared to take action to change. So for them, the timing wasn’t right and it was clear to me that the client was not a good fit for BLUE SAGE as I could not serve them well. In this case I respectfully pulled out of discussions and I continue to stay in touch with the stakeholder if I can help them in the future.
What is the best way to determine if working with a consultant is the right thing for a business leader?
I rarely come across a leader who thinks that they “need a consultant” in their business. Typically, there is a business need – a pain, a challenge, an opportunity – that needs some attention. Sometimes an objective perspective from an outside third party is what’s required. In any of these scenarios, a qualified consultant should be able to get a sense of the business need and outline areas that might be explored. There are different methodologies that we use depending on the nature of the business problem and the level of complexity. In some cases it may be as simple as defining a plan and then moving to implement and manage the plan. Either way, the best way to understand whether or not a consultant is a good solution for a business leader is to start a conversation.