Protiviti and Robert Half frequently host summits with our clients. These forums provide us an opportunity to listen to and learn from those we serve. We value our clients’ time and the opportunity to understand their views on various topics. This is the final post in a three-part series to share lessons we learned at a recent summit. Our first post discussed the value of resources who went into an engagement already understanding the clients’ challenges, and the second post covered clients’ desire for a deeper understanding of their operations. Here, we share another important insight from our clients: how resources are selected for engagements.
The CFOs who attended our panel were relating their real-world experiences when trying to staff up for a significant event at their company. One situation they described, time and again, was asking for assistance outside the company, only to find themselves on the receiving end of stacks of resumes. The last task these leaders needed was to weed through candidates, hoping to find someone to help them out of a crisis already underway.
Emergencies that CFOs encounter are shaded with unique circumstances that call for tailored and nuanced solutions. When the company they contact for assistance in these circumstances responds with a stack of resumes, it’s a disappointment. As one panelist put it, “I pay you to figure out the best solution to my problem, and basically you just threw 10 resumes at me.” Other CFOs on the panel nodded in recognition: Investing time to interview candidates can’t be a priority when the CFO isn’t even sure more professionals will solve the problem. “Don’t send me a bunch of resumes,” another CFO said. “I need a business partner, not another vendor.”
A client with a large manufacturing concern recently needed to solve supply chain issues after Hurricane Dorian hit his firm’s facilities in the Bahamas. In the resulting upheaval, he needed expertise to establish procurement operations quickly. Because of our familiarity with his business and trust built up through several years of engagement, this client leader was comfortable delegating the recruitment, hiring and onboarding of the emergency resources to our team. He never looked at a resume, and he had well-qualified, well-informed help on site in just a few days. “Whenever I have a need, I don’t go anywhere else,” he told us. “I know that you know my business, and you’ll give me what I need.”
Not everyone has to deal with hurricanes, but the business world is rife with other crises, such as meeting a critical milestone, addressing auditors’ concerns or integrating operations following an acquisition. Clients appreciate partners who can shoulder all tasks related to bringing on the necessary resources: identifying and onboarding the perfect resource for the situation and then supporting that individual’s success in a way that is transparent to the client. What we heard from our attendees was that that’s the level of engagement they look for in times of crisis or significant events at their company.
Firms that can provide this kind of help are those that have both consulting and operational expertise, a model known as Managed Business Services (MBS). The consulting expertise allows for in-depth understanding of the challenge so that the right mix of operational skills can be sent to address it. When supported by the consulting side, the operational resources not only have a better-informed onboarding process and a quicker start, but they also have ongoing access to experts for mentorship and oversight. By contrast, new resources who come in “cold,” no matter how qualified, will need to ask questions to be effective. With a blended team model, a new resource does not need to press a client already under pressure for extensive guidance or information.
That said, there are clients who prefer to handpick resources from an assortment of possibilities and then onboard them themselves. It comes down to individual preferences, and we support that model as well. However, we believe that the best value is achieved when, in times of crisis, a leader’s time and energy are spent on strategically steering the company back to stable ground, while an experienced and trusted partner handles the particulars of the situation.
”This model of blending consulting talent with operational talent is something we have found very valuable,” one of our clients said. “It added a lot of capabilities to our situation when we were underwater. It’s simply different from other options we’ve experienced.”