Boredom? No way.

Many journeys, exciting projects and new circumstances - Consultant is not a profession of standstill. The project location, the task and the colleagues change regularly, often all three components at the same time. Consultants work in an environment in which hardly a day is like another. But although much differs from commitment to commitment, there is a fixed number of recurring tasks.


Typical situations in day-to-day consulting.

Christoph Scheffe hat Maschinenbau studiert und arbeitet seit Anfang 2018 bei Kerkhoff Cost Engineering als Senior Consultant.

Life out of a suitcase - what is it like to be on tour four days a week?
Monday morning five o'clock - the alarm clock rings in the next consulting week at our customer's premises in Northern Germany. After two coffees and about 550 km travel it can start: Dates for the discussion of the presentation draft for the decision-making committee, which is due in a few days, are agreed upon, calculations about the identified manufacturing cost potentials are finalized and final ideas from the interdisciplinary ideas workshop are evaluated. In the project spurt, which are the toughest days apart from the very intensive potential analyses, everything has to fit. After a long day, we eat with the Greek and then off to the hotel. Since the implementation project now lasts around seven months, you almost feel at home. Just quickly clear out your suitcase and take a quick look at the mails, then you go to bed.

Do colleagues become real friends?
Thursday afternoon is departure at the customer's. The next stop is Düsseldorf, as our Office Day is on Fridays. The only day of the week when you see all your colleagues. At times it feels a bit like a family reunion. You exchange ideas about the respective projects, get one or two tips from colleagues and make travel expense reports. Over the course of time, you develop a particularly good relationship with some colleagues. I am now very good friends with one of my colleagues, they meet privately and I will even be present at his wedding in summer.

How do you manage to score points with the customer on site, even if you are part of the (unwanted) team of consultants?
It's a cool feeling when I know that with my expert knowledge and the one or other think-out-of-the-box idea I was able to help the customer to get his manufacturing costs under control and thus improve his competitive position. Sure - you're not always welcome... Sometimes you're not welcomed with open arms or even rejected. Then you have to stick to it and convince the skeptical stakeholders of the customer of your own competence and the good intention in which you are ultimately there. It always helps to be simply authentic and to put yourself in the position of your counterpart: How would I feel if I had a consultant in front of me who (supposedly) knows everything better? This requires a sure instinct. Sooner or later the ice is broken and you really get going in the project together.

Tips for the consultant newcomer
Finally, a tip for all those who are thinking about becoming a consultant: Don't be put off by the many trips and the always-again-from-first-starting with every new project! You get used to the new weekly rhythm surprisingly quickly and it's a lot of fun to dive into so many different companies in such a short time.

Christian Lackmann completed his industrial engineering studies with a Master's degree and has been working as a consultant at Kerkhoff Consulting with a focus on "Lean Management" since the beginning of 2019.

Life out of a suitcase - what is it like to be on tour four days a week?
Monday very early in the morning, the alarm clock rings at a quarter past four, I go to the bathroom, staggering to sleep, freshen up and slip into the business clothes that have already been put out. And my mobile phone rings - my ordered "myTaxi" is already waiting for me and takes me to the airport, where my colleagues are waiting for me. Somewhat sleep-drunk but with anticipation we start the week together. We spend 12-15 hours a day together to master new tasks together with and for the customer. This is always an intensive and instructive period. As I did at the start, I am just as happy to land at Düsseldorf Airport on Thursday evenings and return to my own four walls.

Do colleagues become real friends?
II am really happy to be able to say that I have already found several friends at Kerkhoff after only a short time. In addition to the job, we also spend time together privately, whether playing sports, going out or partying. We invite each other to the respective home towns - from Düsseldorf to Augsburg, Munich to Vienna. Really great! And frankly, I didn't expect that either. I think that this is also promoted by the special "boutique" culture at Kerkhoff. 

How do you manage to score points with your customers on site, even if you belong to the (unwanted) team of consultants?
It is often the many small things that convince the customer of your person. Basics are well-prepared appointments (agenda, documents, preliminary talks and coordination with colleagues and the client) to guarantee a smooth process, as well as good conversation management to convince the client of our professionalism and quick comprehension - to have understood him correctly as a client. In addition, proactive thinking and acting is very beneficial in order to generate a good dynamic in the project. 

Which phases are particularly stressful, which less intensive?
The most stressful phase definitely includes the potential analyses, where we carry out a complete company analysis in a few weeks for a subarea - for example SCM, purchasing, production - with the aim of finding as many resilient potentials as possible. Final presentations and steering committee committees, in which results are presented at the highest level to the Board of Management, are also a tough task.

What's going on on an Office Day?
On Fridays you always have a little "reunion" experience, where you meet old and new project colleagues and review the eventful week together. You often walk into the offices, hug each other and just enjoy seeing each other again. As a rule, you also take part in one of the numerous training courses and meet in team meetings to synchronize with all areas (Lean, Purchasing, SCM...). Friday is therefore a pleasant day. Perfect to get in the mood for the weekend.

What is it like to work for a consulting specialist?
The immense know-how, innovative ideas and the cooperation with inspiring and smart people is a great environment in which one's own personal development is triggered almost automatically - a great experience!

Tips for the consultant novice
Dive in, stay at it, be open, stay focused, have fun growing and learning 😊 See you soon!

Johannes Kobbeloer studied economics and has been working for Kerkhoff Indirect Procurement as a manager since 2016.

Life out of a suitcase - what is it like to be on tour four days a week?
To be honest, it was terrible on the first trip. I had forgotten half of the things, packed the wrong shoes and all the shirts were crumpled. By the tenth trip I was already pretty good. Everything, even the sports stuff! Four days a week with a customer create focus. You don't just spend time with the customer, but also in the immediate vicinity - country, city, district. You are fully attuned to the customer situation and are hardly distracted by other things. And as stupid as it sounds: Little private life leads to very effective working days. Very ambitious colleagues walk together before work. I've learned that I value my own home even more.

Do colleagues become real friends?
Simply answer: Yes! But not only friendships, but even relationships and whole families can develop. Okay, the latter is rather rare, but there is already a Kerkhoff baby! ? You spend a lot of time with your colleagues: in the car, in the plane, at the client's, in the hotel... Some days are long and you sit together for many hours in a close project office at the client's. All in all, you spend most of the week with your colleagues. Good cooperation is essential here! And of course, what should not be lacking in addition to all the work is fun - and that only works together with other people. Leaving together at weekends or on days off is also often on the agenda. Especially in private meetings you get to know each other better and differently than in the business environment. This creates friendships that go beyond working life.

How do you manage to score points with customers on site, even if you belong to the (unwanted) team of consultants?
Convince professionally and communicate at eye level! Many of our customers are already dealing intensively with topics relating to purchasing, supply chain management and production. Now we consultants are coming along and are supposed to demonstrate optimization possibilities. The people involved often get the impression that they want to point out their supposed mistakes. This can lead to tensions. Sensitivity is required here! Communication at eye level means: not from top to bottom. Being a consultant at Kerkhoff does not mean that we dictate to the client how to do things new or different. We have respect for what has already been achieved. And: We know what we are doing. Because we are not strategy theorists, but have a lot of professional experience. This enables us to convince at every hierarchical level, even if our client is usually the management.

Which phases are particularly stressful?
Our projects are usually divided into two parts: the analysis phase and the implementation phase. The analysis phase means pure stress - two to four weeks non-stop at the customer's premises. Collecting, evaluating and analysing figures, data and facts, conducting interviews and getting to know the customer and his particularities and problems in the shortest possible time. Afterwards, all findings and recommendations for action are summarized in a high-quality final presentation and presented to the management. Naturally with the aim of being able to launch the implementation project together with the customer afterwards.

What's going on on an Office Day?
Throughout the week you work on different projects. So you see your project team, but not the rest of your colleagues. Mondays - Thursdays there is therefore usually a spooky emptiness in the corridors of Elisabethstraße in Düsseldorf. Most offices are dark and deserted. On Fridays, the situation is completely different: life is finally back in the house, all the teams are in Düsseldorf. Traffic jam at the coffee machine, short small talk. How was the week? How are things with the customer? It is noticeable to all colleagues how good the exchange beyond the project teams is. Who can help? Where can I pick up a tip? No email or Skype conference can replace a face-to-face meeting. In addition, internal events often take place on Fridays - training sessions, team rounds and cross-company information events.

What is it like to work for a consulting specialist?
Great! (Is that enough? ?) Consulting specialist means: a high-quality working environment, a lot of expertise within your own ranks, publicly known customers, long and sustainable projects. But consulting specialist also means: high expectations from all sides.

Tips for the consultant newcomer
Be open, don't say "no", so don't reject new things & themes, be brave and dare something, approach colleagues on your own, ask questions and then step on the gas!

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