Start-up land for consultants

Startup careers for ex-consultants in Paris

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 is adapted to their skills and desires. Typically, they say they are looking for 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’s 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”. If you agree with these statements, 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 know exactly 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.


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 continue with 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: what 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 mentors (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 so 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”. 




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

  1. Work in Ops/finance
  2. 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. 


Startup Operations positions for ex-consultants


What is 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 a 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 across various functions. On LinkedIn, you can find Marketing Operations, Business Operations, Product Operations positions. This is linked to the accumulation of data, and the need to process them for business purposes.


For example :

Business operations’ mission is to provide the sales team with optimal conditions to maximize 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 across 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 you if :

  • you like data and processes ;
  • you want to prepare your own future entrepreneurial adventure ;
  •  you are “hands-on “.


Startup Sales/Business development for ex-consultants


In start-ups, sales operations are the secret weapon for 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 hires 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 ;
  • Negotiate 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 rhetoric 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 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 French tech start-ups (and even bigger companies) are looking for amazing sales reps year round.


Those positions are good for you 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 want to have numerous opportunities quickly.


*Source: Linkedin on 06-21-2017


Consultant curious about switching to a startup ? Check out our opportunities here.

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