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Consultopia: The Ideal Consulting Firm

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Aaron Erickson muses, 'Is perfection possible? No. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't try.' In this article, adapted from his book The Nomadic Developer, he describes the world's most ideal consulting firm.
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It's natural to think about how a more idealized state of your life might look. Driving in traffic, you imagine adding a lane here and there to shorten your commute—and everyone else's, of course. That would make your life better! If only the highway were arranged in a manner that made it possible for you to get done what you needed—with a minimum of obstructions that, at least in theory, don't really need to exist.

This principle, applied to how consulting firms work, is something I like to call Consultopia—a term that describes an idealized technology consulting firm where consultants and clients always engage in a "win-win" exchange. Where consultants do meaningful work, and clients have consultants who are engaged, who treat the work like it's their own.

Imagine a place where the mission statement means something. Where there is total financial transparency. Where sales and delivery always get along. Where nobody asks you to estimate, two years out, on a GANTT chart when the bathroom breaks will be. Where the profits of the company go to a cause you believe in. The purpose of this article is to describe that place—Consultopia.

The Corporate Values of Consultopia

One principle practiced at Consultopia: People do their best when they're in a position to thrive. To get to that position, basic needs such as food, shelter, safety, and a sense of community need to be well in place. Achieving this goal can be difficult in an environment where the whims of business are hard to control. Nevertheless, it's one of the functions that differentiates a contracting firm from a consulting firm:

  • In a contracting firm, employment is based on whether a client is willing to pay this consultant right now.
  • In a consulting firm, concerns are separated, allowing demand-generation to do its job (generate and produce demand) to a degree that allows consultants to do their job (provide good advice) without constantly worrying about whether they will have work after the next engagement ends.

Consultopia's three main values embody the culture of the company:

  • Financial transparency
  • Community of professionals
  • Mission with purpose

These values depend on each other in order to create an environment of engaged people who are well informed and have mutual respect; who fanatically pursue their clients' goals and yet manage to live balanced, rewarding lives.

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