The main difference for me is the way in which Berkeley structures itself around collaboration rather than competition. The lack of any sales targets or bonus structures is really refreshing – it enables us to focus as consultants on doing the best job for our clients. At least as importantly, it enables us to do the right job, without feeling like we must sell a piece of work just because it’s there.
The flat partner and consultant structure is another aspect of this. Whilst there are obviously differences in the experience levels of different people, not arbitrarily labelling these with a hierarchy means that there isn’t conflict between consultants or partners – everyone helps where they can to get the best result for all of our clients and therefore ultimately for Berkeley as a whole.
Another big difference is the trust the company places in all staff to ‘do the right thing’, whatever the situation. This manifests in a lack of lengthy company policies, so common (and possibly needed) in larger organizations, replacing them with simple principles (if you are embarrassed about your expenses claim then it’s probably not in line with the policy!)
I’m going to cheat a little here and say that there are two equally important things that I’ve learned at Berkeley. Number one is always to look for the bigger picture. In the projects I’ve done at Berkeley to date, almost all of them have involved needing to step back from the problem that I’ve been asked to solve and understand how it fits into the client’s organization and operating model. Often this results in looking at what I’ve been asked to do in a different way, or in some cases realizing that I’m trying to solve the wrong problem. I can then have a conversation with the client and refocus the work in a way which is likely to have more success in achieving their aims, both in the short and long term.
Number two is the importance of good relationships; more than 85% of Berkeley’s business is either repeat business or referrals, and almost every new engagement starts with a description of how the person I’m working for has worked with Berkeley over many years and lots of different companies. Building this kind of trusted relationship with clients is something that can only be done through years of delivering great work and great outcomes for people and organizations.
I think I can be honest and say that I’m still working out what my eventual career goals are. At the moment I’m focused on doing interesting and meaningful work that both grows me as a consultant into new areas or deepens my experience in a given area and is useful and important for my clients.
Achieving that aim in a way which also allows me to see enough of my family, be able to put my son to bed more often than not, and live reasonably comfortably where I want to be is probably the closest I get to having a goal.