For over 20 years, Malcolm Clarke has been providing management consulting services and leading project teams across entire enterprises. His experience ranges from pure business to pure technology, with a common theme of finding practical, applicable solutions to business problems as a consultant and an executive. He has participated in creating start-ups, moved small to medium businesses to the next level, and worked with large organizations across many different industries.
Malcolm is a strategic partner and principal consultant for a Toronto based firm Wellington Consulting Group and took some time this month to speak with the Fifty Thousand Foot Team to share his story and insights into the great profession of Consulting.
Your career in Consulting
1. Tell me how you first got involved with Consulting?
My independent consulting career started in 2000. I had gained a bunch of experience the prior decade delivering some pretty cool initiatives – built some data centers, ISP and wireless carrier networks and was even working on how to put maps on phones, Lol! I had also played a central role in transforming the company I had worked for since graduating from University. Consulting seemed like a logical next step.
2. What do you find most rewarding about being a consultant?
The most rewarding thing about being a consultant is working with a wide range of intelligent people to help create change. The freedom of not being constrained to a single line of work keeps it interesting and gives you more control over your destiny.
Work life in a small firm
3. Tell us about the consulting firm you partner with?
I’ve partnered with Wellington Consulting Group. I have had a long work history with Wellington’s President, Brian McConnell. Our business relationship started in 2003. At different times I’ve been a subcontractor, client, and employee to Brian. It’s worked out well for both of us over the years.
4. What advice would you give other consultants who are thinking of partnering in a small firm?
Pay attention when opportunity presents itself. Trust your judgement and look forward. Be practical – if the situation can result in more business for you, and you work well together, maybe that’s a better option than trying not to do it all yourself. Two can be better than one and it can help with the run rate of business. Being part of something more than an independent practice presents an opportunity to develop a stronger brand, and share the effort and reward building intellectual property.
5. How do you and your partners split your time between growing the firm and serving your clients?
Brian’s role is primarily in business development. The priority for me and the other partners is to be billable. However, we all contribute to business development – working on proposals, taking time to understand what clients need, lunches and events, doing talks, participating in industry groups, white paper development, etc.
Technologies impact on consulting and customers
6. How do you see tech advancements affecting the consultant industry?
Process automation, AI, machine learning, advances in managing and moving massive amounts of data and blockchain are going to be the biggest disruptors. These technologies all focus on one thing – getting results faster.
Consulting will need to keep up – specialized skills, subject matter expertise, the ability to change and adapt quickly, bring experience to the table effectively and help clients find practical ways to bring solutions to their market faster.
Blending in with the team and not seeming like a consultant is the new measure of success.
7. What technology innovations do you see having this greatest effect on your customers in the next 3-5 years?
I think the ever-increasing speed and ability to access, process and analyze more and more data is having a monumental impact on our customers. As consumers, our ability to independently make better decisions faster and to find the useful data points we need instantly has huge implications – social, environmental and political. These are the big rock items that our customers will need to adapt to.
Traditional operating models in the Finance Industry, for example, are already being forced to transform to keep pace with customers who know their data and have access to the tools and information they need to make better decisions.
The result is a shift to lower fee products and services. FI’s are being forced to find new ways to persuade you to trust them with your money. To do this they’re going to need to invest in understanding their data much better.
There’s a lot of work to do here.
8. Can you tell the readers what passions you have outside of consulting?
Outside of consulting, my priorities are family, community and getting outside.
Consulting work has at times meant an unbalanced life. The moment that changed was a stretch of work when I was hardly home, and my daughter told me I wasn’t her dad. Ouch! From that point forward, I took time between contracts to just hang out with the family and make their priorities my own. I’m not perfect, not even close, but I’m much better now at balancing work and life than earlier in my career. Over a decade later, for example, my kids and I still do karate together. Easier to see the gut punches coming at least 😉
Community is important too. A lot of my work is in finance and I spent most of my time downtown. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race. Staying involved in the community helps keep me grounded and gives me a set of other priorities beyond work and family. It’s a chance to give back and make my city a place to live not just work. I organize an outdoor rink in my neighbourhood (https://edithvalerink.wordpress.com) plus I coach and am a board member at Willowdale Hockey Club (www.willowdalehockey.com).And finally, I love the outdoors – fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, gardening, nature walks, pretty much anything outside. I aim for those zen moments when you feel like your part of nature.
The future of consulting
9. Being in a consulting field that is constantly growing and advancing, how do you manage to stay ahead of the competition?
By staying connected and being part of the network. I subscribe to a lot of industry stuff, but I find it’s just background radiation. The real news and opportunity come from the people closest to me – clients and colleagues.
Staying involved and connected with industry groups like 50000 Foot is critical. You’re only one or two people removed from knowing someone in the Canadian workforce. If you’re not involved, you’re on the outside.
Fifty Thousand Foot is a community for Independent Consultants and Small Consulting Firms providing support and services to help our members succeed in today’s economy. Join today to take your consulting firm to new levels.