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Interview – Why use a Business Development Consultant?

I recently interviewed fellow Business Development Consultant Kathryn Bistacchi of KSB Consulting.  Kathryn is familiar face for those in the legal and professional services sector in Manchester, known and respected for her work with various Manchester based law firms and accountants.

When I was looking to set up KO Consulting I was introduced to Kathryn, she was generous with her time as I quizzed her about her route to success and what she brings to the firms she works with. It’s now 18 months since KO Consulting started and 3 years since Kathryn started KSB Consulting.  I was interested to hear more about her journey and how firms can benefit from using external expertise to grow.  Luckily all it took was a slice of cheesecake and a cup of tea to convince Kathryn to spend time with me while I quizzed her for a second time, this time drawing on my experiences of the last 18 months.

Can I start by asking why you decided to move away from the security of full time employment into a consultancy role? 

I had a light bulb moment after working as a sales & marketing manager for an SME that they didn’t need someone of my level in a full time capacity but did need some support and this made me realise that there must be so many other businesses out there in the same position. I think I always did want to work for myself just didn’t know what, made sense to stick with what I had been doing for the past 10 years and what I actually enjoyed doing but for lots of businesses instead of just one.

How did you decide to focus on the Professional Services Sector? Was this decided at the outset or did this just evolve naturally?

This was not a conscious effort and did just happen because of the contacts I had previously.  I did get my fingers burned early on from a company that went into administration before paying my invoice, they weren’t in the legal sector and it was a valuable lesson to trust my instincts about who I wanted to work.  Since then I made a conscious decision and has been ever since to work with business to business service based clients.

In your view what do businesses gain by having someone from outside the business coming in to assist with their business development?

I don’t get involved in the day to day politics and get to see the wider picture, plus I’m able to bring the knowledge of what works for others. I also find as I am not there all the time that clients make the most of the time I am there and ensure what I need from them is done for when I am next in, giving them that motivation and nowhere to hide.

Are their challenges to overcome not being there day in day out?

I have found that businesses want me to be the one who builds the relationships, but by not being there every day it forces them to step out from the shadows, I will orchestrate from behind closed door but my whole philosophy is the best person to sell the business are the owners/partners/managers of the business. It is all about relationships at the end of the day.

How do you get round those challenges?

Basically by giving them no choice!  I take a step back, but I’m also there to support and motivate when required.

If a firm is looking to improve their business development where or what activities would you suggest is the best place to start?

I’d definitely start with their existing clients base, this is so often over looked with businesses too busy chasing new business they forgot to look after and make the most of what they have. There is always opportunity for cross selling and referrals if you ask and it is a much easier sale.

Would you go back to the security of a full time role now you’ve experienced working for yourself?

No I couldn’t, this was pretty much decided after the first 3 months on my own. I think it would be like hiring a caged tiger now, but this is what motivates me to carry on.

Finally what advice would you give to someone looking to move into a consultancy role rather than a full time position within one company?

Understand your market, who would want your services and test the waters by asking those contacts you already know to see if they would be interested in you working with them as you never know you could get some business lined up before you even start. But don’t wait to get all your ducks in a row as this will never happen and you just have to take that leap of faith.

My motto is “Just hold your nerve and keep going!”

It was very interesting to note the differences and similarities in our approach.  The main similarity was our agreement that organisations don’t use their existing relationships enough and often prefer to ring fence business development as a separate activity, instead of integrating it into daily operations.  We are also in agreement that for us, the benefits of a full time role didn’t outweigh the freedom and satisfaction we get from working for ourselves and helping other organisations to develop and succeed.

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Kathleen O'Connor

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