How to build a culture of growth in a consultancy

The Playbook: how to grow an agency successfully

Lauri Eurén

A culture of growth is something every agency and consultancy wants but many fail to implement. A people business involving hundreds of projects moving at a rapid pace makes this hard. Eventually, the inefficiencies start to restrict growth. Profits decline and finally plateau as more and more middle management is hired to keep things going. Consultancies start fuzzing too much about internal processes.

We believe to few consultancies focus enough on the processes that fuel growth. The series of articles presented in this text will give you a guideline on how to set up the processes that help turn your consultancy into a self-perpetuating growth machine where every consultant, salesperson, and management team member plays a key role in growing the business and helping your clients succeed.

What does a culture of growth mean?

A culture of growth in a consultancy or an agency business is about having every team member oriented on growing the business: bringing in new projects and delivering great results for clients. In the optimal world, once a consulting business reaches a certain size, it becomes a snowball rolling down a hill - growing and growing. As consultants are delivering results at clients, there's always more work to be done and the teams grow. Meanwhile, if you're optimally organized in sales and finding new business, you'll have enough new clients so you're able to grow sustainably.

It sounds simple, but to master it, there's quite a bit of things to consider.

Step-by-step guide for creating a culture of growth in a consultancy

1. Help your consultants become trusted advisors

Everything starts with making your consultants aware of their skills and capability. They're in your company through a tough recruitment funnel. They've studied relevant subjects and have been trained to do what they do. Most of them have years of experience in the working world, many from relevant industries and positions. Make it ingrained in your culture to be vocal about people's capability. This should be a part of your onboarding and development discussions. No one will sell if they don't know they can.

Consulting is only partly about subject matter expertise. Make your consultants aware of the concept of the Trusted Advisor so they can truly help your clients succeed. Help them be the eyes and ears for new opportunities at existing clients. Actually, have them read The Trusted Advisor, which we'll introduce in the next article. This will introduce them to the concept.

2. Define and follow an account management process

If you don't have a account management process, you should. Make sure everyone knows who's responsible for what. Most agencies work with their clients sporadically, without any leadership whatsoever. Whenever there's something noteworthy happening with the client, you should act on it promptly and professionally. Opportunities rarely materialize with just aggressive waiting. Active sales is what keeps the world spinning.

You should have at least three levels in your account management process: strategic, tactical, and operational. You should also be drawing roadmaps together with your clients at least quarterly. But how do you get there? More on that later.

3. Forecast your capacity to make better decisions

In order for you to make better decisions about the future, you should have an up-to-date view of your project portfolio: both tentative and confirmed plans. Creating an actionable capacity forecast and having a robust process in place for resource management to maximize billable utilization are tasks that sounds simple but can feel daunting day in, day out. To succeed, make sure you have the right tools, culture, and incentivization practices in place. Changing the culture from top-down to bottom-up doesn't happen overnight. Read more in this article to nail this and start involving everyone in the process of building an up-tp-date forecast of your business and projects.

4. Create a realistic budget that motivates your team

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. Budgeting is your company’s way of aligning on next year’s goals. Don’t just give your company random numbers to execute on, but backtrack your numbers and make sure the targets can be reached. This makes it easier for you to motivate your whole team, and you have solid estimates to use as basis for decision-making. Don't get hung up on the numbers you've initially set, but be ready to adjust your budget as time passes. Market situation might change drastically, or you might win a big deal out of the blue.

5. Lead your sales systematically

All too many consultancies run their sales without realistic target setting. Very few know how many meetings they should have with new and existing clients to hit their revenue targets.

You should backtrack your targets to actual clients, proposals sent, and so on, to estimate how much effort it’ll take to reach those. Also, incentivize and make it easy for every single team member to log new business opportunities into your system. All potential opportunities should be communicated with the relevant people: perhaps someone knows about that specific industry, has experience from a similar case recently, etc.


If you succeed in what's described above, you're in for a treat to say the least. Growth, as pictured in the series of articles here, is a self-perpetuating process. It feeds itself. To get there is no simple task, but we encourage you to implement these practices if you haven't already. In the end, these are in the core of how agencies should operate.

Reach out to us in case you'd like to know how Operating can act as a backbone for all of this making sure you'll never miss a lead, have the right people on the right projects, and so you can predict your future workloads to make the right decisions in sales and recruitment.

Lauri Eurén

Lauri Eurén is the CEO & Founder of Operating - a former consulting professional with experience from hands-on consulting as well as leading an agency operation.


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