Wow, eight years goes by in a flash! Earlier this month, I spent some time hiking in the Canadian Rockies with my wife, and reflected on my last eight years at HPA and how much the business has changed over that time.
When I started at HPA in early 2009, we were in the throes of a major market correction and business slowdown that many had not experienced in our lifetimes. Clients were focused on figuring out how long they could last if the business environment didn’t change, and the majority of the projects we heard about focused on cost savings, getting more with less, and how to generate cash flow from existing products and services.
Since then, the markets have more than recovered, reaching all-time highs. Corporate earnings, stock prices, and multiples paid by private equity firms are all up substantially. Clients are much more confident and discussions are focused on issues related to growth (e.g. new products and services, getting into new channels, market expansion, potential acquisitions and the like). Executives at our clients and prospects still have too much to do, but it is a good kind of extended to-do list — with many opportunities to create value for their companies.
Today the concerns we most often hear from clients are how to best position themselves in a rapidly changing world. Entire industries are changing at a rate never seen before — who would have suspected a year ago that Amazon would buy a grocery retailer? Firms are trying to determine what whole industries such as retail, transportation, content/music, and communications will look like in two, five, and ten years.
Further, politics seems more partisan and more likely to change on a dime than ever before. Regardless of your political stance, I don’t think anyone can be certain of what to expect in terms of tax policy, healthcare, the US response to Global Warming or other international challenges, and this creates an environment where business leaders need to be on their toes and have a Plan A, B, and C.
We have found that business executives are increasingly looking for partners who can help them navigate these choppy waters. Sometimes that means a senior trusted advisor to bounce ideas off; sometimes that means a team of experts who have “been there, done that;” and sometimes that means a single person with the needed skills to supplement internal resources. At HighPoint, we have been able to evolve our model and the way we interact with our clients to keep up with these changes by staying in close contact, being an active listener, and trying to put ourselves in their shoes so that we continue to be a sought-out partner.
Over the last few years we have developed a deeper bench of industry and functional experts – Partner and Senior Partner-level folks who have consulted to the C-Suite for multiple decades and have guided clients through numerous business cycles. We have focused on elevating our process for pulling together high impact teams on each of our projects while continuing to forge deep relationships with our consultants. These changes have been consistent with our firm values of building long-term relationships rather than just executing on a project.
As I look back on these last eight years I am thankful for the many clients who I now call friends, previous consultants who have become clients, the dozens of consultants who we have had the pleasure of working with across years and client companies, and even some former clients who are now valued members of our consulting network. I also recall how when I first started at HighPoint, the idea of a network-based consulting firm was a foreign and scary idea to many clients (like an app-based tax service or trusting all your key documents to something called the cloud), but with years of experience, the conversation has moved from explaining the model to a deeper and more hands-on discussion of our clients’ broader issues and how we can customize the right solutions for their needs.