Coping With the Transition from Management Consulting to a Startup

I wrote the following post (edited slightly here) in response to someone on Quora who indicated that they were having a hard time coping with the transition from management consulting to a startup in terms of the more experimental nature of the startup world and feeling like they were not using their past skills and knowledge.

When I first left a traditional management consulting firm, I went to a startup. The modes of working are quite different. Here are some things to consider for making the transition to the startup world from consulting:

  1. As opposed to focusing exclusively on the 80/20 principle and working on things that will work, use your experience to try to avoid the things that won’t work. Often this can be of significant help in a startup because startups cannot afford to make too many errors of large significance.
  2. In consulting, one has usually built up a lot of endurance to work hard. Use this trait to your advantage for working within a startup.
  3. Consulting teaches one to be systematic and to measure results. One often needs to do the same thing in startups in terms of measuring sales processes and figuring out what is working and not working (e.g., in operations or product management). If you haven’t read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, dovetail the concepts of cohort measurements and startup accounting in that book with the stuff you probably learned in consulting.
  4. Often in traditional consulting, one has been trained to put in lot of processes in place for mature companies. Don’t overapply these concepts to a startup. Rather, think about how the startup is discovering its business model and how the organization might mature over time to include more formal processes often implemented by consulting firms (the “startup learning curve”).


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