Start-up land for consultants

22 juin 2017 , team HFA

Start-up land for consultants


We have quite a lot of consultants (in strategy, finance, etc) reaching out to find opportunities in start-ups. However, they usually do not know which position they could seek. Either they want to find a CFO position, OR a Head of Ops (ie. COO) opportunity.

Those 2 jobs are very different and unveil the candidates’ true aspirations.


First thing first. Why do want to quit consulting ?


The most common answers are « I want to do business » and « I am fed up with working on projects that I will never implement ». Good ! If you agree with that, you are in the right place.

Then, you wonder : « Where could I go » and « What could I do ? ». Joining the start-up land seems obvious, as it’s dynamic and full of opportunity. But you don’t precisely know which position you could apply for.

Some candidates wish to maintain their expertise, also called « comfort zone ». For example, candidates working in finance wish to land a CFO position, or anything in business and finance strategy.

Just so you know : For CFO positions, as it targets specific candidates, we wrote a dedicated article > How to find the perfect CFO for a start-up?

Other candidates don’t wish to maintain a so-called expertise. They want to be operational, they want to do business, whatever it means. So they read about start-ups organization, and they thought that Operations (ie. Ops) could be their thing, as it mixes strategy, process, data and real-life projects.

During interviews, the High Flyers Agency team likes to bring awareness about something important : why do you never think about sales/business development ?

Most people forget about the most important thing in start-ups : they have to sell. A few years ago, one of my mentor (thanks, Pierre-Yves !) told me : « if you want to really impact an organization and make money, either you manage the cash, or you produce it ». Let’s translate : « Either you are CEO/CFO or you are CSO (Chief Sales Officer) ». It made me think a lot. Why do very few high level candidates want to work in sales/business development ? Because it seems way too down to earth ; or simply said « it is not intellectual ». Wrong !


After 3 to 5 years in consulting, if you want to join a start-up, you have not ONE, but TWO options :

-          Work in Ops

-          Work in Sales/Business development


Just so that you realize how this is important for your career :

Linkedin job openings in Paris for COO positions : 9* and for Directeur des Opérations : 128*

Linkedin jobs openings in Paris for Head of Sales positions : 38* and for Directeur Commercial : 1670*

Needless to say that your perspectives are much wider in Sales/Business Developement rather than in Operations. 

* Source : Linkedin on 06-21-2017


Operations positions for ex-consultants


What are Ops ?

The COO is responsible for the operational efficiency of the company. He is in charge of creating the day-to-day processes, overseeing the ops and managing the team to reach the overall goals. He needs to implement key metrics and ensure that major milestones are being reached in a timely manner. Therefore, he makes sure the CEO’s vision is implemented.

No need to say that in early stage start-ups, the role of a COO is broader. He may start a customer support & success team, figure out recruiting, even find new office, and turn out the start-up into a professionally managed company.

Therefore, Ops implement the CEO’s vision in accordance with the COO’s processes. Ops work to reach the right KPIs efficiently and on time.

Recently, Operations positions appeared accross various functions. On linkedin, you can find Marketing Operations, Business Operations, Product Operations positions. This is linked to the accumulation of datas, and the need to process them for business purposes.

For example :

Business operations’ mission is to provide the sales team with optimal conditions to maximise operational efficiency through measurement, processes, tools and direction. They report to the CSO.

Marketing operations’ mission is to watch the data, make sure it is integrated accross the organization, score the leads and make sure they are transitioned to sales in the right way, track them through the sales process and does the win/loss post-mortem analysis. They report to the CMO.

Those positions are good for your if :

-          you like data and processes ;

-          you want to prepare your own future entrepreneurial adventure ;

-          you are « hands-on ».


Sales/Business development for ex-consultants

In start-ups, sales operations are the secret weapon to scaling start-ups.

« In fact, very few companies have a business model that enables frictionless revenue growth. And even those that do eventually hire a sales team to move up the ladder on deal size and improve upsell, cross-sell and renewal rates. »

At first, the founders take upon them to generate revenue.  And one of their first hire is a « head of sale » (ie. CSO) or a « sales manager » to share the load.

If you want to stand out, if you want to feel the thrill of doing business, that’s where things happen. Negotiating and closing deals is very rewarding.

To be smart in Business development, you need to :

- Have a smart analysis of your market ;
- Quickly identify the right people to target ;
- Build adequate speeches ;
- Identify their core pain points and forge adequate proposals ;
- Negociate contracts (and even identify new sales proposals) ;
- Build upsell and cross-sell solutions ;
- Maintain relationships in the long run.

To be on top of your game, you’ll need to learn a lot (A LOT) of things. It is not easy. You have to learn rethoric tactics, play with your clients’ timeline, manage multiple key decision makers, and eventually (depending on the company’s product) work with very smart solution consultant (Article) that will help you through POC and deployment issues.

Working in Sales/Business development is a great opportunity. And France lacks talents in this specific field. All the start-ups (and even bigger companies) look after amazing sales.

Those positions are good for your if :

-          You really want to do business ;

-          You like to win at games (true, if you are amazing at Monopoly, come play in real life) ;

-          You like to reach and overachieve specific goals ;

-          You quickly want to have numerous opportunities.

Let's talk together !

Complete the form, and we will get back to you (promise !).