Navigating the business environment these days comes with constant change and increasing complexity, resulting in a demand for expert consulting guidance to survive and succeed. B2E Consulting, with their proprietary Community of 20,000 high-calibre, expert independent consultants (many from top tier consultancies) has risen to the challenge of meeting that demand. We sat down with B2E Client Partner, Paul Hutchison to discuss what differentiates B2E Consulting from other consultancies in the marketplace and to clear up a few myths about their Community model.
Can you tell me a little bit more about B2E Consulting? How do you differentiate yourselves from other firms out there?
In a nutshell, we provide high-quality, expert consulting services at a fraction of the cost of traditional, bricks-and-mortar organisations. Since our inception in 2004, we’ve been a ‘challenger’ consulting company; our Community is made up of 20,000 consultants, many of whom have previously worked at the top tier consulting firms, averaging 15 years of experience each. We don’t just rely on deploying consultants who are currently “on the bench”, instead our Community model grants access to between 4,000 – 8,000 available expert consultants at any given time. This means that we can deliver quality consulting services fast, and at a fraction of the cost of more traditional providers.
Can you just explain a bit more about the Community model? Why do you consider yourselves a ‘challenger’?
Our proprietary Community of 20,000 consultants means that we have quick access to the best consultants for our client’s projects – and as a business, we put a lot of effort into building and maintaining that Community to keep it fresh and active. Over half trained with the Global Top Tier Consultancies, and have now chosen to become an expert in their chosen field of specialisation. B2E’s Community model is expert-centric, meaning that these consultants have the necessary skills and experience within the relevant subject field to hit the ground running, requiring no further learning to complete the job.
In addition, our core B2E Partner team comprises former top tier consultants with over 200 years of experience between us, and we add value by truly understanding the business problem, helping our clients to frame their requirements and ensuring that they understand the types of consultants that the market will offer within their budget. This can help reshape our client’s thinking and give a completely different perspective when framing business challenges.
We consider ourselves a ‘challenger’ given how our model puts the client’s needs at the foundation of our philosophy. Much of the way we conduct business focuses on understanding their problem and providing them with the best solution at the right price – the Community model is testament to that. Simultaneously, we aim to tailor our normal client engagement models to fit the project requirements, which can include Fixed Price, Deliverable Based and T&M SoW options.
I like how you highlight the client’s needs and how it relates to the benefits of your Community model. Could we dive into the details, though, on how exactly do you build Consulting teams and ensure quality?
To begin with, the Community wasn’t built overnight; it is the culmination of more than two decades of deliberate investments. We mentioned previously that over half trained with the Big Four – that is no accident. Through referrals and industry connections, our core B2E Partner team (themselves alumni of these firms), identify and include distinguished experts within a diverse set of subject areas to contribute towards the high-quality Community of consultants that we have now.
A lot of things change in two decades of course, and that’s why our community is continuously evolving. Keeping on top of relevant trends is one of the highlights of our community; being experts on the subject field warrants that personal accountability to constantly reconfigure and hone their skills. The Community is more than the sum of its parts, however, and compounding that is our efforts to ensure relevance with new technologies and transformation areas.
In addition, it’s important to understand our philosophy of building diverse teams, whose members are united through their shared passion and expertise about the programme’s requirements – this is made possible through our Community model of independent, expert consultants. With most Consultancies, typically the team that will arrive to client site on day one will be the “next off the bench”. Our model allows us to have the choice (we estimate 4,000 – 8,000 Consultants are available at any one time) to deploy a truly expert team.
You’ve mentioned having choice, which I think is very important in opening opportunities to excel in projects. My question would be how much of that choice is really a choice? How do you choose between your numerous, independent consultants without really knowing all of them in detail?
Great question. Having a Community of 20,000 consultants naturally comes with the limitation of not knowing all your consultants, but we do have an established system in place (i.e. a very detailed and thorough screening process as well as dedicated Delivery Partners to nurture connections) to mitigate this. We understand who we are talking to and who will be a good match for our clients and their needs.
As a firm, we put a huge amount of effort into keeping in close contact with all the consultants that we have ever worked with, and our Delivery Partners maintain active communication with as many of our other consultants as possible – through email communications, one-on-one calls, or networking evenings and workshops on hot topics (our most recent was a series of three workshops on leveraging AI). After two decades of operation, I believe that we’ve are very adept at seeing consultants for who they are and how they can contribute to what clients really need; it’s one of the key drivers to our success.
Even so, independent consultant, though experts in their field, may struggle working with people they’ve never met before?
Whilst our consultants are independent, this doesn’t mean that there will be issues when collaborating in a team, quite the opposite in fact. Consultants in the B2E Community have chosen to become independent and are very used to moving around programmes and clients. These are all people who have many years of experience as consultants, often with a Top Tier Consulting background, and they are all used to hitting the ground running, navigating a new team, and becoming effective immediately. Arguably, this is not an isolated challenge – the same issue exists for large, global firms that provide similar services.
Fair enough, but how do you deal with project continuity? What happens if unforeseen circumstances cause a consultant to be unable to meet the project deliverables?
The question of continuity is common for every consulting firm. However, we have proven that our Community model can handle it better than most, because our agile, just-in-time business model grants us access to multiple consultants of equal or higher capability at any given time. Our consultants trust us to offer them interesting, quality roles, given that we dedicate substantial effort in matching their expertise. This, in turn, means that they are quick to respond when they are available, making it much easier for us to find a readily available and suitably skilled replacement (normally within a three-day window) to continue with a client project if the original consultant can no longer meet the client deliverables. This is the absolute key USP to our Community model!
In the very few times that this situation has happened, we have always been able to provide an excellent replacement consultant, in a timescale that our client is happy with.
Let’s talk about your price rate card. Tell me a little more about it – do you use a single price rate card like most firms?
Traditional firms do operate this way – with a single rate for every grade of consultant; but often you find that the rate for a junior consultant is artificially raised to accommodate the supervisory time required from a more senior consultant, who won’t necessarily be doing the work on the project.
Due to the scale of our Community, we regularly have many qualified consultants available with the skillset required, with different rates which reflect their different levels of experience. Providing a range of rates on our rate card gives a much wider view of the market, allowing the client to decide the level of experience they really need and selecting the experts who will be working on the project with them. In the end, we always try to provide our clients with the lowest cost within a grade range. The cost-effectiveness of our service offering simply reflects the flexibility that our model provides as well as the expert-centric underpinnings of our Community.
You’ve implied cost effectiveness a few times throughout this interview. What do you mean by this? How cost effective really is B2E?
We estimate that the cost of B2E services is about 60% lower than traditional consulting firms, give or take. From the get-go, we’ve always embraced Lean as one of the key drivers behind our business model: our core team works flexibly, and the fact that we don’t have a “bench” of employed consultants means our overheads are consistently low.
We balance this cost effectiveness with increased quality – for a lower daily rate, our clients get the benefit of a consultant who is far more experienced and often a better fit for their project than from a branded consulting firm.
We’ve talked a lot about your consultants, but let’s focus on the core team. You’ve a lot of certifications for Sustainability like the 2023 Platinum EcoVadis (congratulations on that, by the way), but how do you rank on Diversity and Inclusion?
Thank you. Yes, the core team are really the heroes working behind the scenes, but I might be biased in that regard! Both Diversity and Inclusion are important priorities for both us and our clients these days, but this is not a static process – Dale McNeill (our Delivery Partner responsible for this area) is clear on the fact that it’s an ongoing series of activities that continuously evolve. This year we have refocused our B2E ED&I work around 4 key areas: Leadership, Understanding, Empowerment and Programmes & Policy which shape what we are doing.
We’ve long been focused on Diversity and Inclusion, almost as a natural part of our business. B2E Consulting is an employee-owned trust, with 68.4% of our core team identifying as female. I am also very excited about our B2E ED&I Service Offering specifically in this space led by B2E Principal Liz Mayers, whereby she can help clients with their diversity programmes using her EDI Improvement Framework© which provides a clear framework of 150 measures against which an organisation is assessed, and improvements are planned.
These initiatives contributed to us earning the Platinum EcoVadis Medal in 2023 (putting B2E in the top 1% of all EcoVadis registrants) which measures our efforts in improving the environmental, labour, ethical, and sustainable aspects of our operations.
Final question, which I think is a common one that consulting firms are asked. What are you really good at? Do B2E consultants have a particular specialism or niche?
We pride ourselves on the wide range of consulting services we can provide. Whilst our Community comes primarily from Big Four firms, we also have consultants from a myriad of other consulting and non-consulting organisations. I guess you could say that for every major project or business transformation that has taken place in the UK over the past 15 years, we probably have at least one consultant in our Community that was part of it!
To put it into perspective, we’ve completed over 1,000 projects with 64 ‘blue chip’ clients across 20 industries in the last decade alone. We are preferred consultancy partners for several FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 organisations in both non-IT and IT categories, so there isn’t a particular specialisation we tend towards.
Thank you for coming in today, Paul. Is there anyone we can contact for further enquiries?
Our website is a good starting point; alternatively, you can visit us at our London office or send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org