Big firm consultants at independent consultant prices—that’s the idea behind PrōKo Consulting.
PrōKo Consulting is a modern talent agency for top tier independent consultants and corporations to work together while fully mitigating risk. Working mainly with Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, PrōKo Consulting helps firms find and hire interim HR consultants that can get the job done right. There’s a reason why PrōKo Consulting is ranked #4 on Ivy Exec’s list of Women Led Businesses to Watch.
“Whether you’re looking for help related to organizational design, compensation and benefits, corporate governance, or talent management, our PrōKo consultants can do it,” explains Liz Steblay, founder and managing officer at PrōKo. The consultants all have over 15 years of experience in their field and are highly vetted through personal screening. “This translates to better value for our clients with talent that’s the exact same as what they could expect from a big-name firm, but at a fraction of the cost.”
As a completely virtual company, PrōKo has been able to cut back on their overhead and employee needs, which means their agency fees are super low at just 10 percent, which is almost unheard of in an industry that typically marks up talent 30-50%. PrōKo’sgoal isto be a win/win solution that’s cost-effective the client and profitable for the consultant. This is what’s enabled them to grow steadily ver the last ten years.
Finding Top Independent Consulting Talent
PrōKo Consulting has a unique two-sided market. “We work with both independent consultants and corporations, which means it’s a lock-step process to grow both at the same time,” says Steblay. As the company gains more corporate clients, more consultants are needed that can do the work, but there’s also a risk of too much work for too few consultants.
This wouldn’t be such a problem except finding exceptional talent can be difficult. Though Steblay has been hiring top-tier consultants for ten years, it’s still a struggle to bring in new consultants thanks to their stringent vetting process.
First, every PrōKo consultant has to be personally referred by a trusted individual who will vouch for their character and integrity. Second, that individual has to have at least 15 years of experience in their industry. Third, the consultant has to pass a stringent interview process and personal screening where samples are scrutinized and references are interviewed.
“This means that we only represent roughly 50 percent of the people who are recommended to us,” Steblay says. “But those we do represent, we know personally. There’s no need for algorithms or keywords to match the right talent to the right project. We use intuition and experience to connect our consultants to projects with corporations.”
Still, finding more HR consultants to add to their working list of around 100 individuals is difficult, particularly since independent consulting isn’t for everyone.
While most of PrōKo’s consultants have left their big firms for lifestyle reasons, independent consulting isn’t always the best next step. Sure, there’s flexibility and you can work whenever and wherever you want, but it can be stressful and difficult. PrōKo not only has to cut through the noise of consultants who don’t measure up to their strict standards, but they also have to find consultants who will be successful as independent business owners.
And though the process isn’t as difficult for bringing in new corporations, everything happens through word-of-mouth referrals, which can be slow going.
“For example, if one of our consultants is currently doing work with Facebook, they might speak with management about another potential consulting project that isn’t quite the right fit for themselves,” explains Steblay. “At that point, the consultant would refer Facebook to PrōKo and then they receive a referral bonus for helping to find the right talent for the work.”
Growing their list of top talent and leading corporations is one of the reasons that Steblay launched PICA, the Professional Independent Consultants of America.
PrōKo Consulting Sparks PICA
After a decade of running PrōKo Consulting and advising hundreds of consultants, Steblay realized that self-employed consultants were highly underserved. Although there were freelancing communities to help consultants find fast and short gigs, there was no community to help professionals start their own business. So, she created PICA, a national association dedicated to helping self-employed professionals succeed.
Unlike PrōKo, which is highly focused on top-tier HR consultants, PICA’s goal is to help any consultant launch or expand their independent consulting business.
PICA fulfills Steblay’s greatest joy: helping consultants be more effective. “That’s what gives me the energy to keep going,” she says. “I’m always thinking about how I can reach and help more people.”
The main focus of PICA is to educate members about what it takes to start their own consulting business. That’s why you’ll find many incredible free and paid resources on the website. In particular, Steblay thinks the Being a Business Leads to Greater Success resources are invaluable. This section of PICA’s site provides insight into how to create a business model, figure out your pricing, outline a plan for success, and more.
PICA also regularly hosts webinars and workshops on a variety of topics from what it takes to launch a successful consulting business to understanding the different payment methods of 1099 versus W-2. Other unique opportunities offered by PICA include discounted partner services, community events, and more.
“PICA is here to help guide people who are running their own consulting practice. That’s why we created it — to help people be successful and profitable doing their own thing,” says Steblay. “PICA was founded by three self-employed consultants who have been in your shoes, so we know what it takes to launch a successful business. We’re here to be your coach and thought-partner as you launch and grow your business, helping you with everything from business development to pricing and contracting. Even though you’re self-employed, you don’t need to do it alone. PICA is here to help.”