18 years ago, I was the VP of Marketing at McDonald's, juggling a million responsibilities while heavily pregnant with my fourth child. Picture this: dashing between board meetings, managing a large team, launching McD’s ambitious coffee & breakfast platform, introducing Monopoly and Coke Glasses to the UK, enhancing food quality (white nuggets, salads, and apple bags!), grinding out monthly campaigns, and developing strategies to counter the crushing publicity of the Morgan Spurlock “Super Size Me” juggernaut. I was lovin’ it, but also stressed, over-dependent on my lovely agencies, and at worst, overwhelmed.
In hindsight, it’s so clear. I should have called in a consultant to help. But back then? The thought felt like admitting defeat. Why pay someone else when it’s my job to steer the ship? Wouldn’t bringing in outside help reflect poorly on my capabilities?
Fast forward 18 years, and here I am, Head of Consulting at Oxford, passionately championing the value of consultancy expertise. What changed? Perspective, experience, and the realization that consultants are not a crutch but a jet pack.
Why I wished I used consultants; they're a secret weapon
Space to Breathe & Think: In the whirlwind of day-to-day activities, strategic thinking often takes a back seat. Consultants can create that vital breathing space, allowing you to step back and see the bigger picture. At McDonald’s, I was so entangled in the weeds that I was in danger of missing opportunities for strategic leaps.
Experience Multiplied: Imagine tapping into a ‘hive-mind’ of experiences from diverse industries and challenges. That’s what a good consultant brings to the table. Their perspective from top-tier clients across multiple industries is something I really needed at a crucial, high-risk time in my career.
The Courage to Challenge: Consultants can cut through internal politics, ask the hard questions, and challenge the status quo in ways that internal leaders sometimes can’t, for fear of rocking the boat. I needed that fearless voice to push boundaries and help me bring fresh, bold ideas.
Alignment & Acceleration: In a mammoth organization like McDonald’s, aligning everyone can be like herding cats. Consultants are adept at navigating the web of functional leads and getting everyone on the same page. This speeds up decision-making and implementation.
The Courage to Collaborate:A Lesson Learned. Looking back, my reluctance to engage consultants at McDonald’s was a mix of pride, fear, and misunderstanding. I equated it to admitting a lack of capability, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Consulting isn’t about replacing your expertise; it’s about amplifying it. If I could turn back time, I’d have brought in a team of experienced consultants to help me navigate the challenges I faced. They would’ve provided the strategic sounding board I desperately needed, offered innovative solutions, and perhaps, most importantly, given me the space to lead more effectively and with less personal toll.
A Message to My Past Self and Fellow Leaders
See consultants as your secret weapon. Whether you’re launching a major initiative, figuring out your strategic brand positioning, planning a turnaround, or simply trying to grow sustainably, consultants can be your catalyst for success. So, to my past self and to all the leaders out there wrestling with the “should I or shouldn’t I” of hiring consultants: take it from someone who’s been on both sides of the fence. Embrace the courage to collaborate. It’s not about outsourcing your job; it’s about upgrading your impact.
In an ever-evolving business landscape, no one has all the answers. But with the right partners, you can find them faster, implement them smarter, and achieve growth that’s not just good for the bottom line, but for people and the planet too.
So, now I’ve spent 17 years on the other side. Is the grass greener? Well, as a consultant, I get to work across brands and industries with clients brave enough to partner with me. Every day is a joy ride. And if you ever find me back on the wild client side, I will definitely take ‘jet pack’ consultants with me.
There is no better time than now, the start of the year, to lean in.
About the author
Laurie is on on a mission to deliver good growth: her passion is building businesses and brands. She works with great people on big ideas that are good for people, profit and the planet. To drive true transformation, she puts change theory at the heart of what we do.