With the federal government’s long sales cycles, focusing on public-sector clients isn’t usually the way to grow a business quickly.
But that’s exactly what Leigh Harris Fowell has done with Halo Management Consulting.
“When you work in a government market,” she says, “it takes time and you have to understand how the government buys, what it values, how to respond.”
But while her three-year-old business might be seeing strong growth now, it didn’t happen overnight.
Ms. Harris Fowell says it took her a couple of years to develop her initial idea into a “clear vision and destination” for a business. A few more years passed before she was sure that there was an opportunity in the market.
“I think that people sometimes overlook that it’s hard work,” she says. “You have to have this excitement, this spark, this energy and this desire.”
That hard work, she says, has been key to growing her business.
Ms. Harris Fowell has a long history of working as a management consultant. She spent years working with large consulting firms, her specialty being helping global companies with post-merger integration. It was a great primer in working with complex organizations, she says.
However, it was a stint in the public sector, where she served as a director general for the Treasury Board and on a special committee of the Privy Council Office, that led her to launch her own consulting firm.
“I really stepped out of my consulting career and into the shoes of my clients,” she says. “That experience radically changed my view on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.”
Ms. Harris Fowell says her approach is based around “systems thinking.”
“It’s about understanding things in a systems context, so the idea that if you’re going to understand one thing, you have to understand that one thing in the context of the whole,” she says.
That’s particularly important when dealing with large, complex organizations.
Halo Management Consulting
Local head count
9 full-time, also some part-time and temporary staff
Key markets or customers
A wide range of federal government agencies and departments, as well as private companies, including Rogers
Product or service
Management consulting for executives who work in large, complex organizations
Three-year growth percentage
340.31 per cent
“You have to understand the whole environment and you have to take a holistic approach to how you apply solutions and build solutions,” she says. “This is not a rinse-and-repeat strategy.”
It’s a strategy that appears to be paying off. Much of Halo’s growth is due to her customers, Ms. Harris Fowell says.
“A great deal of our business come from referral and word of mouth,” she explains.
More than three-quarters of the organizations that have hired Halo become repeat clients, she says. More than 25 per cent of that additional work has been done at the most senior levels, with a CEO or a deputy minister.
“While we’re very focused on our product right now, we are cultivating four or five solid products that we know are going to be the next round,” Ms. Harris Fowell says. “Be focused, flawless, ruthless and dedicated to what you’re doing today to set a platform, but never abandon the need to innovate and dream and create and see what the next horizon is going to be.”