How consulting firms should ask for a startup’s help

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Every year we field many requests for input into reports and strategy white papers from consulting firms.  We’re generally happy to help, as our contribution to these reports provides valuable input to policy decision makers, which ultimately can benefit our business.

In light of the recent articles on how startups should interact with a corporate, I’d like to do the reverse: help corporate consulting firms interact with startups.

So here’s five things consulting firms should remember when asking for a startup’s help.  (And how startups should protect themselves)

If you’re getting paid, then we should be too

If your firm is billing $4-5k a day per consultant then it’s not unreasonable for a startup CEO to ask for some of that. I’ve seen firms offer lunch, offer a $100 gift voucher, but that doesn’t really cut the mustard.

Time is the most important commodity a startup founder has, and they’re sacrificing their time for your report. Whilst it might seem to you that a two hour workshop isn’t much, it really, really is when you’re running everything as a startup CEO.

If we’re paid to contribute we won’t be thinking of all the other things we should be doing while sitting in your workshop or roundtable. You’ll have our full participation.

Be transparent – tell us who your client is

A few years ago, I’ve was passed an invitation from one of the “big four” consulting firms inviting fintech startups to help “create the roadmap for fintech in Sydney”. They wanted to know who was doing what in the fintech space, and they positioned it as a strategic white paper.

Actually, the report was commissioned by a large financial institution who was canvassing where disruption was occurring – not to look for acquisitions, but as a defensive play to protect them against disruption. Ouch.

Be specific with the outcomes of the report

If you’re doing a YAGROS (Yet Another Generic Report On Startups) tell us, but don’t be offended if we decline your invitation as these have been done-to-death and without tangible outcomes, they’re often a waste of our time.

However if the report is specific and has a clear outcome – for example a report on “how a state department should deploy an innovation budget” or on “how to encourage startups to join a new precinct” – it will be met with much greater enthusiasm!

Let us control how we’re presented

Participation does not automatically mean endorsement. Ask us if we’re happy to be mentioned as a participant first. Sometimes we’d rather our personal or startup details be left out – particularly if this is a disruptive industry.

Follow up

Finally, if we have helped you – please follow-up and let us know the outcome. We like helping out in these reports and we really like to know that our time helped you and made an impact 🙂