Disrupting Traditional Consulting
Originally published on New York Business Journal
The Gig Economy encapsulates a wide variety of workers. On one end, there’s Airbnb and Uber. If you’re someone trying to make extra money, startups of a certain ilk can be lucrative.
But there’s a higher end, too. They could be a seasoned manager or former consultant who ditched the large corporation and went into business for themselves.
Gregg Fisher, a former marketing executive, noticed this trend and founded The Stem, a staffing network consisting of hundreds of experts looking to lend the expertise to some of the largest, publicly traded companies.
“We call ourselves the Uber of consultancies,” Fisher told me. “It’s the same idea, but played out in a different way.”
The New York company was born out of the unbundling of the corporate structure. Similar to how on-demand startups like Handy and DoorDash rely on independent contractors to fulfill orders, big corporations are ordering experts in a particular industry to advise on a project, he explained.
And so far, business is good.
The Stem has been around roughly three years and growing at a steady clip. The company’s network is made up of about 200 consultants, most of them specializing in the health care and life sciences industries — two sectors Fisher knows a lot about.
Before founding The Stem, he was a global managing director of LBi Health, a 70-person multi-channel digital health agency he founded in 2009. There he worked with companies like Bristol Myers Squibb, WebMD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Genzyme and Johnson & Johnson.
For The Stem, Fisher essentially aggregated folks who were like him: Former executives and business pros who had a lot to offer big name clients.
By putting them into a single community, they can be deployed as independent contractors to clients like Allergan PLC, Merck & Co. or Shire Pharmaceuticals who are in need of talent.
Should one of those companies need someone at the helm of a product launch, or to oversee a digital strategy to educate people on a new medicine, they can access The Stem’s network.
Even though Fisher wouldn’t reveal the exact rates that consultants tend to charge, the idea is that the service is more affordable than the average, high-profile advisory firm.
Larger consultancy firms such as McKinsey could charge north of $600 for an hour for one individual’s work, Fisher said, adding that with The Stem “you can pay as little as half that.”
In fact, big consultancies like PricewaterhouseCoopers have noticed the trend and responded with their own service, dubbed “the talent exchange.” Recall the feature we published last year.
PwC veteran Bob Moritz, who had worked as the U.S. division’s chairman, noticed how a new breed of freelancers — participants in the so-called “gig economy” — were impacting the company.
“We know when you look around the world, that an increasing number of people will want to be more of an independent contractor than a full-time employee,” Moritz said at the time. “So the question is, how do I quickly scale up my own technology and recruitment processes to change, so I can bring third-party independent contractors to the table, as opposed to full-time hires?”
PwC received more than 4,000 registrations shortly after the exchange kicked off. Nevertheless, the accounting giant is playing catchup.
Eden McCallum, a European company, pioneered the model starting in 2000. The company — with offices in London, Amsterdam and Zurich — is similar to The Stem, Fisher said. Both firms analyze projects and pick either one expert or a team of experienced freelance consultants to tackle it, for half the cost.
The model allows those in the network the freedom to focus purely on client issues.
“Those large strategic consultancy firms like PwC and McKinsey — we’re stealing market share from them,” Fisher said. “But we’re a piece of the story… it’s a pretty powerful trend playing out.”