By Fion Cheung Ming Yan
My original knowledge about consulting has been limited within case competitions, in which relevant information of a business is provided for participants to formulate strategies. This course enables me to learn more about consulting through hands-on experience.
The nature of consulting – tailoring solutions for each business – has created a confusing situation for me due to a lack of report template. Different approaches adopted in the sample reports have suggested a wide range of information be acquired from our client. This has made our first meeting slightly unorganized as we simply asked questions based on previous samples, which might not be relevant to our analysis.
After the first business meeting, I discovered our client’s lack of record-keeping system. I then tried to formulate a cost item list for Glacé without any previous records. I found the process difficult as I did not have enough details about their cost structure, which required me to make a number of assumptions. Working on the analysis part of the report prompted me to think more about the actual operation of the business. The process helped me identify the information needed and therefore ask for more specific information during the next business meeting.
During the next meeting, Clementina has been more enthusiastic than the first time we met. She willingly shared about the cost and usage of each item and even reminded me to take the unasked items into account. Her trust in us has highly facilitated our analysis, allowing us to approximate the monthly expense of the store.
The employees were also friendly and helpful, trying to provide us with accurate information based on their observation. Furthermore, we have encountered difficulties in interviewing the customers as they were not used to communicating in English. To my surprise, rather than prohibiting us from disturbing the customers, the employees kindly assisted us by acting as the translators. This helped us to conduct our customer survey more smoothly and obtain more accurate data.
Having established a stronger bonding with people at the store, I was more motivated to think of feasible recommendations for the store’s future development. I truly understand their reluctance to change the business practice and they are satisfied with the current performance. Therefore, I reminded myself to formulate strategies that could be executed with the least effort from them.
In addition to the design work and other product and marketing strategies, I have devoted a reasonable effort in creating the simplified record-keeping system for our client. The person-in-charge would only have to mark down the number of sales and calculate the total revenue by the end of the day. With daily sales records, information about monthly and yearly sales can also be obtained by the end of each period. I hope that this simplified procedure serves as an incentive for Glacé to keep track of their sales and improve their business in the future.
Through the business work, I have learnt more about consulting regarding its client-based nature. Our work should always be based on our client’s preferences and capability. For example, we could not force our client to offer combo meals between its street food store and ice cream store as they believe that the street food store is unable to afford additional demand during peak hour. Taking their concern into account, we then modified our suggestions – to offer combo meals during non-peak hour. Further, in view of the limited accounting knowledge of our client, recommending a complicated accounting system would only demotivate them from implementing the system. Hence, it is necessary to simplify the procedure and encourage them to start keep records for the business.
This real-life experience has also enabled me to have a better mindset of how to acquire necessary information from the business, which is usually provided in the case material during case competitions. In a business, it is always essential to learn about the revenue and cost drivers. The revenue and cost structures are able to deepen my understanding on the product performance and provide insights for future product development and cost reduction. Another point worthy to be noted is that I finally understand why the mission of the business should always come first among all the questions. I used to neglect the mission and vision of the business as they were perceived to be vague and unrelated to financial figures that determine the business performance. However, during the formulation of strategies, I have realized that the formulation is always based on the mission. A strategy that is not in line with the mission will be meaningless to the sustainable business development.
Accounting and financials have long been a challenge to me as they are the most unfamiliar sections to me in a business project. I have pushed myself out of the comfort zone this time and generated a cost item list for our client. This project helped me to figure out a systematic way of approximating costs – by considering the total cost of procurement and monthly usage. I believe that, after this project, I will be more comfortable to deal with financial figures in the future.
I am really grateful to be given an opportunity to take part in this mutual learning consulting course, which deepens my knowledge about business operations and consulting work. It helps me to get more prepared for my future career in the consulting field.
This three-week stay is certainly insufficient for us to witness any obvious changes in the business. I hope that through establishing a long term relationship with my client, I would be able to learn more about the business and the implementation details for our recommendations.