Weekly Blog #2 - Being a Consultant - Part I (update Jan '20)
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
I will use this platform in the upcoming weeks to post insights on how my work life started out as a business consultant and what I've learned from that. It shall help me to reflect on my past and I hope it will be an interesting read. I will also use these posts at a later stage to complete other parts of the website and to learn what kind of writing style I will use to create more interesting and engaging content...
Part I - Becoming:
I got my first real job in 2007 as a trainee in a small start-up consulting company. We were specialized in what is called "Lean Operations" and "Lean Manufacturing", ergo, reducing "waste" as a result of doing "non-value-adding work" and optimizing production processes.
I would work 50-60 hours for 12-16 weeks twice a year as a full-time consultant and study 50-60 hours a week for the rest of the year. For me it was tough since I haven't been a good student, I just don't know how to "learn" for tests and exams. But it was also tough getting into that job since a lot of people applied for only a few free spots.
Working, however, was not as tough since I really enjoyed it and was willing to put all of my time and energy into it. The only thing that stopped me from spending even more time at and with my clients was my own managing director who told me that others earned "one or two Euros more" and therefor had to work longer - so he regularly sent me home a little earlier than everybody else.
Writing more than 40 applications to various companies to get the job and one of the spots at the academy taught me that I am:
1. not good at dealing with rejection and
2. not putting enough effort into things I don't really care about - in this case companies I didn't really want to work for.
Fortunately, the outlook of getting the job I really cared for at that small business consulting company helped me to gather all my motivation and put up enough effort for the company to hire me even before the official application period was over.
I learned a lot as a young business consultant. I learned that the distance from one embarrassing situation to the next equaled exactly the distance it took to make one step forward. At least that's what the COO of one of our biggest clients - a person that I highly admire to this day - told me once. I took myself far too serious. That was a struggle I didn't overcome until I became a full-time consultant in 2013.
I never really liked going to university to study. It felt like an obligation that created a physical pain in my stomach. Unfortunately, the drive home from work made me pass the autobahn exit leading to the university even during work periods so I constantly faced this pain and the reality that only finishing my studies would secure a spot as a full-time consultant. And that was my ultimate goal at that time. I admired my co-students who were able to create learning-systems, learning-groups and had no issues passing exams. I never managed to create a system to learn better and get the stuff from the books into my head. But I made it through. And I made some good friends on the way, even though I wouldn't consider myself to be particularly good at networking.
Working with my clients however was a great pleasure so I tried to spend as much time as possible learning from them and helping them to create better processes and sustainable improvement within their area of responsibility. During a 3,5-year period I was able to work with companies from various sectors such as finance, automotive and the chemical industry.
One particular engagement sticks with me the most. After one of my first bosses quit the company to become the CEO of a small manufacturer for air gun pellets and projectiles he hired me as an interim CIP (continuous improvement process) manager for six months. I was only 22 but it was a great sign of trust in my abilities. I managed to improve different processes in different departments from handling raw materials to producing, washing and packaging different types of air gun pellets in a leaner, more productive and more cost efficient way. The company also launched a sizeable marketing campaign and thereafter increased their revenue by about 40% per month. I am grateful to this day for the trust that's been put into my abilities and for being a part of the company's growth... (to be continued)