Pariveda Solutions, Inc.: Combining Management Consulting and IT

Unless you follow consulting-industry media, you probably haven’t heard of Pariveda Solutions, Inc., a Dallas, Texas based management and IT consultancy. But if you have had similar needs as their current customers, you would likely be inclined to give them a call. The bulk of their business, about 85%, says cofounder and CEO Bruce Ballengee, is from referrals or repeat clients.

The company name reflects its philosophy, which in Sanskrit, means “gaining the benefits of complete knowledge.”

Growing organically, adding on new clients is not something that Pariveda Solutions worries about much. Since its founding in 2003, Pariveda has grown from an office in Texas to having over 500 employees spread over offices across North America.

What is Pariveda Solutions’ Secret to Sustainable Growth?

“In general, Pariveda is supportive and innovative. It operates with integrity. Mentorship is always provided and there is a clear career path laid out for you. I love working here and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.”

LA Employee on Glassdoor

One point of differentiation from other consultancies is that Pariveda Solutions, Inc., has an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) that owns 48% of the company, with the goal of having the ESOP owing 100% of its stock. The company believes the ESOP helps their vested staff become more client-focused. Employees have the option to join the ESOP from the get-go, on their date of hire.

Another factor that contributes to its success is being close to their markets. With offices located in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., and an office in Toronto, Canada, one might guess Pariveda has intentionally located its offices in large, competitive markets. Locating in large, metro areas is part of their strategy. As an additional bonus, having a geographic focus means Pariveda is not deeply tied to any particular industry, which could slow its growth in the event of either a business cycle or economic slowdown affecting its clients. “One of our company’s goals is to become sustainable in 40 of the largest metropolitan markets in the world,” said Ballengee.

Another unique aspect of Pariveda are its “Findamentals” or values and “behaviors that show who we are and how to act.” Having adopted the dolphin as its mascot, the company employees refer to themselves as ‘Fins,’ referring to both the mammal’s intelligence and how it lives in pods (representing its tendency for teamwork).  A strong culture is the foundation of the founders’ goal for the institution to thrive for at least a hundred years and beyond.

The biggest factor in Pariveda’s success is perhaps its focus on developing talent. The key thing, says Ballengee, is not to focus on developing clients, as all clients will have some needs, whether they are aware of their needs or not, but to develop its internal staff. And not any staff. In vetting candidates, Pariveda is looking for what Ballengee calls the one-in-100 candidate he terms the “effective executive,” or, in the case of a recent college grad, the “proto-executive.”

“In my experience, the most impactful development happens not through formal programs, but smaller moments that occur within the workplace: on-the-job learning opportunities that are wholeheartedly catered to the worker’s unique needs and challenges.

Margaret Rogers

Insights into Pariveda training approach were shared by Margaret Rogers, a vice president at Pariveda. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Rogers laid out five recommendations for better staff development:

  • Start by asking more questions to gain insights on employees
  • Create more on-the-job opportunities
  • Vary learning experiences
  • Provide regular feedback
  • Manage your time (by delegation, if feasible)

Although well over a $1 million is budgeted for training, time will tell, if Pariveda’s staffing development approach is enough to carry it forward in meeting its expansion goals. Talent development is essential today, especially in the fast-moving technology niche. For example, in researching Gibson Consulting, I found Gibson trains each consultant for at least 140 hours per year. There is much to be gained by not only advanced technical training, but in upskilling consultants in soft skills like active listening, questioning, presenting, speaking, and writing.

Summary of Pariveda Solutions’ Success Factors

Pariveda Solutions is poised for future growth. Their success is based on such factors as:

  • Referrals, based on customer satisfaction and delight
  • Employees having the option to become shareholders
  • A strong culture
  • The consultancy staying close to its customers
  • Making staff development a key priority

Pariveda Solutions’ challenge, like many other management and technology-focused consultancies, will be in trying to fill its talent pipeline to meet current and future needs. ■

What is consulting?

“You should know a word by the company it keeps.”

J. R. Firth

Consulting is a term sometimes used loosely, like many words in the English language. But unlike the French, with their Académie Française, there are no “immortals,” as members of the Académie are known, policing the proper use of the English language.

When it comes to consulting, the dean of consultants, Alan Weiss, in his 2010 article, Sorry, You’re Not A Consultant, took pains to clear the matter up and to help define who really is a consultant.

His main thesis is that one must do the things a consultant does to be considered a true-blue, bonafide consultant. Simply adding a tagline of consultant behind one’s name does not make anyone a consultant.

What does make one a consultant, says Weiss, are doing things that, “help improve the client’s condition,” making the consultant not only “distinctly attractive”, but in turn “draw people to them.”

A good consultant, by helping the client in an honest and forthright manner, by leaving the client better off then when they first met, will create a virtuous circle of prosperity around themselves, becoming a magnet for clients.

This is not an easy thing to do. The biblical phrase “Many are called, but few are chosen,” comes to mind.

For example, as the Enterprise Architect, Gerben Wierda, noted, many times we tend to simplify highly complex things to clients or management, and when the project falls short or fails completely, we look like complete idiots because we can’t even get a simple thing right. How could we then be trusted with more complex tasks? How could we have been trusted at all?

What should a consultant do?

Mr. Weiss listed (in bold) some of the tasks that makes for consulting, providing the client with:

  • ideas
  • advice
  • intellectual property
  • best practices
  • proprietary approaches
  • unique behavior, and
  • other interventions 

I would add to the above list:

  • dialogue
  • documentation
  • strategies and suggestions
  • information products
  • caring, reassurance, and helpfulness

Many of skills needed for consulting are learned along the way, but not really taught. Things like how to really listen? How to give advice or make suggestions without putting clients on the defensive or “on the spot?” How to build a high-level trust? How to effectively present information to the different strata of clients or their workforce, from line staff to upper management, and everyone in between?

Additional skills may be needed as the consulting practice matures. If only working with one or two clients, without sufficient time or resources or desire to take on additional clients, the consultant can find him or herself in a bit of a jam without a working new client development plan or program in place, as in the case of the consultant whose clients merged, with no further need of additional services.

You Should Know a Consultant by the Company They Keep

Then perhaps the real, ultimate goal for any “trusted advisor” or high-level consultant would be to have a number of clients on retainers, and prospects or new clients on a waiting list, so when one might fall off, another will take their place.

Ah, if it were only that simple . . . ■

Data Fluency for Consultants

The business of consulting consists of helping businesses find solutions to problems. Increasingly, this means not only being able to extract useful information from data, but being able to convey that information to decision makers in a coherent manner. In short, a consultant needs to be data literate, if not data fluent.

This is the one area in which we all should improve, according to Bruno Aziza, Google Cloud Analytics, is in the area of better data literacy.

What is data literacy? It is the ability to see, understand, and talk about data. Everyone should think about increasing their data literacy skills, says Aziza.

Learning more about data can result in data fluency: the ability to analyze, create arguments, and present data-based results. In a company dependent on technology and data (and whose organization isn’t these days?), about 35% of the workforce needs to be data fluent.

Finally, the end game is to use data in your organization to better innovate. About 10% of staff should be earning their keep by creating value from data, says Aziza. These are the data professionals, deploying advanced analytical skills. Aziza cited the example of DBS Bank, with twice as many engineers deployed as bankers.

If everyone in your organization is 100% data literate, and about 35% of the workforce is data fluent, and 10% are data pros, then this forms the basis of the 100-35-10 Rule. The acid test for the right combination of workforce data literacy skills would be in the amount of innovation and value being extracted from data.

Data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyze and communicate with data, building the skills to ask the right questions of data and machines to make decisions and communicate meaning to others.—

QLIK Glossary

Free Data Literacy Help

If someone says “quantitative methods,” even knowing it only really means “math,” doesn’t stop some folks from breaking out in a cold sweat. Count me in . . .

When it comes to data literacy, free help is available from The Data Literacy Project in the form of eight, short, foundational courses covering the basics of data literacy.

An additional 20 courses covering advanced data fluency skills are available from QLIK, a sponsor of the Project. These run about $250 for their complete Data Literacy 2.0 program. This is probably much less than a similar course at a local college.

While I have not yet enrolled in these courses, they certainly have appeal for anyone looking to increase their data skills. ■

Best Quotes for the New Year

Here are some quotes I came across and jotted down throughout 2021 in the margins of my day planner.

January 2021

“Do the best you know how to do, so you can know better. Once you know better, you can do better.” Eric Perkins, Perkins Bros. Const.

“What calls you to be your best is the thing that is pushing you forward to manifest yourself in the world most fully. It is what you need.” Dr. Jordan Peterson

March 2021

“Let everything happen to you,

Beauty and terror,

Just keep going,

No feeling is final.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis

June 2021

“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.” Soren Kierkegaard

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we might win by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare

“The best way out,

is always through.”

Robert Frost

September 2021

“The more you reason, the less you create.” Raymond Chandler

“You can’t know too much, but you can say too much.” Calvin Coolidge

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.” Dale Carnegie

October 2021

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Old certainties and values have been replaced by cynicism and ideology.” Anon

November 2021

“A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level of effort and ethics, no matter what is going—for good or ill—around him or inside him.” Steven Pressfield

“Profession: a self-governed and self-guided institution whose defining measure was in achieving excellence by continuous practice, critical self-evaluation, and perpetually, relentlessly seeking improvements.” Col. Charles S. Oliviero

“Gather wisdom as data, to preserve and remember, organized philosophically.” Peter Kreeft

“When you have something to say, silence is a lie. If you cannot talk, you cannot think.” Dr. Jordan Peterson

“If you speak your truth powerfully, honestly, and clearly, someone will hear you, even if you do not know at the time who they are.” Carmen Medina

“Live life with confidence, knowing every step you take gets you closer to understanding the purpose of your life.” Carmen Medina

December 2021

“Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become.” Jim Rohn

“Design adds value faster than it adds cost.” Joel Spolsky

“To win without risk is to triumph without glory.” Pierre Corneille ■

I hope you have enjoyed some of these quotes. Happy New Year to all!

Your Consulting Purpose

In our work training thousands of managers at organizations from GE to the Girl Scouts, and teaching an equal number of executives and students at Harvard Business School, we’ve found that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their own individual purpose

Nick Craig and Scott A. Snook, From Purpose to Impact, May 2014, HBR

Whether you are consulting or are thinking about getting into consulting, everyone needs to answer a fundamental question. While there is no “wrong” answer to this question, there can often be an unclear or muddled idea on how to answer this. The question is:

What is my purpose?

All of us have a purpose. Defining one’s purpose helps us to stay on track, to establish a “footprint,” and, most importantly, a brand.

Michal Gibbs helps people to become cloud architects. He believes having a brand is paramount in advancing your career in a high-paying direction. Differentiating your purpose is essential. Too often, he finds experience tech people upskill and attempt to rebrand, but reach an earning’s plateau because they continue to represent themselves as who they were, not who they are or want to be.

The late Jack Welch would preach all the time about aligning mission (purpose) with actions and behaviors. (When Welch uses the term “behaviors” he means values, but he found “values” can be too abstract at times.) The alternative, said Welch, is stagnation.

Your mission/purpose can be aspirational, inspirational, and practical. Above all, it can be transformational, not only for yourself but for your team, your clients, and anyone in your circle of influence.

Articulating your Purpose

It’s not enough to know your purpose. You need to be able to articulate your purpose, as well, in simple terms.

My purpose is help clients (blank).

I don’t know how anyone could make that statement of purpose any simpler. Yet arriving at this point can be difficult—so difficult that many, if not most, do not get this far.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is unique about me?
  • What activities bring me joy?
  • What gets me going in the morning?
  • What kinds of challenges do I enjoy doing?

Communicating your Purpose

Once you have nailed your purpose down, there is no need to keep it a secret. In fact, it is essential to intentionally communicate your purpose to clients, prospects, and suspects.

Your purpose can change, depending on whatever the context is and the role you are playing.

But there is no escaping the fact that you and your purpose are closely interconnected and intertwined.

A long time ago, there was once a doctor working on a great battlefield. He grew tired of the endless stream of casualties. He wanted to leave his position. Things seemed hopeless. No matter how hard he worked, there were more to treat. It was overwhelming. Finally, the thought struck him . . . I will continue at my post, because I am a doctor.

Our purpose is who we are. ■

Happy Holidays to all.

Consulting Challenges Ahead . . .

Whether we care to admit it or not, we live in a world of uncertainty, if not increasing uncertainty, the consulting industry being no exception. Perhaps one of the greatest unfolding mysteries is the direction the economy is taking.

Human beings tend to default to “doom and gloom.” From time to time, I catch myself looking over that edge. But, if you don’t keep your eyes focused on the road, doom and gloom will become inevitable. There are plenty of self-proclaimed economic gurus on social media currently taking this approach.

One indictor of future economic activity are the actions taken by the policy setting arm of the Federal Reserve (a.k.a “the Fed”), known as the The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). On  December 14-15, 2021, the FOMC met and laid out their roadmap for the next few years. For a complete analysis of the recent FOMC meeting by Diane Swonk, Chief Economist and Managing Director at Grant Thornton, click here.

As in the now distant past, it seems very likely, due to concerns about inflation (now over 6%), the Fed will take action to raise the cost of borrowing money. In a consumer driven economy, this means, like everything else, the cost of credit will be increasingly going up. While some of us won’t notice it at first, many consumers will, and feel they likely have no choice but to cut back on purchases.

Personally, I believe the same effect, that is—to tamper inflation, could be achieved to some extent, by throttling back on federal spending, specifically, the new, massive, trillion-dollar government spending programs, designed to “help the economy,” But, if you notice on this map, the Fed is located only 1.3 miles from the White House, so a cut in federal spending is unlikely to ever be suggested, even though it is likely federal spending and the Fed, itself, is directly responsible for many of our inflationary woes.

What’s the big deal about inflation? After all, only recently wasn’t the Fed trying to raise inflation?

As one analyst recently said, inflation can lead to stagflation (the economy increasingly goes down as inflation rises), or dragflation (a stagnant economy). One problem is that the average business profit is about three per cent per year. Adding inflation to the mix could mean running a business at a loss unless one raises revenues (generally hard to do) or cuts expenses (also difficult).

How can consultants prepare for the emerging challenges?

While the Fed decides what specifically it will do, there are always going to be clients and businesses in need of help, to become more efficient, to provide more value to clients and customers.

  • If your in marketing and sales consulting, how can you better show your clients the value you add?
  • If you are in tech consulting, how can you bridge the knowledge and communication gap between tech and management?
  • If you are in operations consulting, how can you better streamline operations against current and future constraints?
  • And if you are in general consulting, how can you better communicate with clients to understand their issues?

So, no matter the direction the economy will take, there will be plenty of new opportunities for good consultants to prosper in the years ahead. It’s not all doom and gloom, although it can sometimes seem like it is. Even Covid doesn’t spread as fast as bad news. Become a messenger of good news. Your clients are depending on it! ■

Building Your Consulting Client Base

How do you get clients? That is a question not only new, but often experienced consultants ask, as well. How you get prospective clients (sometimes called “suspects,” sometimes “prospects,” depending on close your services are aligned with their needs), to call you back?

In early December, Danielle Dimartino Booth interviewed Ivy Zelman on how she built Zelman Associates, the largest advisement firm in North America in the housing sector. This fall, Ms. Zelman published her memoir, Gimme Shelter: Hard Calls + Soft Skills From A Wall Street Trailblazer.

Tip One: Use your Soft Skills to Make Connections

To provide advice to clients, you need a client base. To build your client base is never easy.

The key? Use all of your communication skills: listening, asking questions, providing insights. Working in a then fragmented industry, Ms. Zelman would identify suspects and prospects from industry association conferences.

Tip Two: Get Your Prospects to Want to Call You Back

Ms. Zelman says she was motivated to learn as much as she could so, “that I would
provide them incremental valuable information.”

When she was fortunate enough to get a call-back, Ms. Zelman would, “ask them a ton of questions.” She would ask their opinions on reports, where they believed the industry was headed, how she could help them grow?

All of this data could then be shifted, curated, and form the basis of her next conversation when she called the prospect. Nothing is worse than contacting good prospects, then never hearing back from them. This is where your soft skills can save the day.

Tip Three: Stay at It

Over time, some prospects found the information Ms. Zelman provided of such great interest that their roles became reversed. Prospects were now pursuing her.

“And then they started telling their sales force or their salesperson, ‘Ivy is really good,’ and then the sales force was willing to take me out, so it’s kind of backwards. But I think it was being forced to get attention through providing nuggets that no one else had . . . that was the only way to get investors to really pick up that call and want to hear from me.

The next time I picked up the phone, it became self-fulfilling, because then, the sales force likes you. And then, the next thing, you know, other sales people are willing to take you out.”

Ivy Zelman

Ms. Zelman was able to continually build her expertise and her network of industry relationships, providing a not a tactical, but a strategic competitive advantage for her business.

“I barely would maybe say anything. I just asked a lot of questions about them.” says Ms. Zelman. ■

See my review of Danielle Dimartino Booth‘s book, Fed Up: Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America.

Consulting Career Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes in their careers. One can argue, if you are not making mistakes, then you are not taking enough risks, and if you are not taking risks, you will not reap any rewards.

It’s a fact . . . most consultants don’t really last that long, perhaps several years at best. Some are in it for the short game. Some are in consulting for want of something better to do and they eventually find it. But some consultants get caught in career tar pits and quicksand . . .

Here are some typical consulting career mistakes, in no particular order . . .

Too Technically Focused

Being too technically focused can be an easy trap to fall into, especially starting out. There is always a lot to learn in consulting . . . New terminology. Procedures and protocols. Adopting style sheets. Workflows, etc.

While specialization is the order of the day, being too technically focused can mean missing the “big picture.” Can the tasks you are doing be automated? How does your work fit in the overall scheme of things? Are you taking on new and appropriate challenges?

Focus is important in consulting. Too much of a technical focus can be limiting

Speaking in Jargon

Can you translate your work so a non-technical person can understand it? This is not always easy to do and can take some practice. Some consulting firms ban the use of acronyms or frown on the use of esoteric terminology in communications.

While the use of technical jargon can be a form of shorthand for like-minded individuals, once you have a non-technical person on your team, or need to address persons outside your technical team, the game changes. Learn to speak and write in plain English.

Over-Certified

Certifications are great and can lead to greater opportunities and an increased salary. But many certifications are also product or vendor-centric. Some certifications haven’t been updated in years and can even be obsolete.

Bottom line: choose your certifications carefully. They can take a lot of time, energy, and resources, but at best only represent a proxy for on-the-job competence. The same goes for advanced degrees . . . Look hard before your leap!

Lack of a Brand

Are you a partner or a hired-hand for your client? Are you a trusted advisor for your clients? Is there clarity about what portion of the workload you and your client are each responsible for? What does your brand speak to? What are the unspoken expectations and mandates of the consultant-client relationship? What value do you bring to the table? What is your brand?.

Giving Short Shrift to Soft Skills

Everyone likes to talk about good communication, thought leadership, and leadership skills. But like any skill, without frequent use and practice they can become rusty and you can become invisible at work or in your field, the proverbial fly on the wall.

Learn to become a more effective communicator and leader by communicating and demonstrating leadership skills. Help your team to become better at what they do. As Daniel Goleman says, “A primary task of leadership is to direct attention.”

Ah, Mistakes . . .

The above list is not all-inclusive. While mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of, avoiding them in the first place is much better. Sometimes that means taking actions or making a career move that seem counterintuitive. Sometimes that means taking calculated risks.

In the words of the late comic book artist, Stan Lee, “Excelsior!” Onward and upward! ■

Consulting in a Covid Environment

“Typhoid raged all summer, small pox all winter and malaria at all times a year. I had malaria, but I skipped typhoid and small pox, how I don’t know. I think I skipped small pox by a vaccination when I was about two years old and the scar would show enormous. It’s still big as a half dollar on my arm and no vaccination that I’ve ever had I’ve been told that that’s no proof of anything, but nevertheless.”

H.L. Mencken, Interview

Since the advent of Covid 19, disruptions are now part of daily life, be it cancelled flights, supply chain, and/or labor issues. All of the major consulting firms have put together Covid position papers on how to approach Covid in its many manifestations.

Deloitte has put together their “COVID-19 Consulting resources for leaders,” proclaiming organizations can “Respond, Recover, and Thrive.”

McKinsey has a list of resources under the heading, “The Next Normal Emerging stronger from the the coronavirus pandemic”

As H.L. Mencken noted, in the days before widespread vaccinations, deadly, debilitating diseases were part of daily life, a kind of rite of passage. The principle activity affected, until about the start of World War II, was the conduct of warfare. “Wartime epidemics of infectious diseases have decimated the fighting strength of armies, caused the suspension and cancellation of military operations, and brought havoc to the civil populations of belligerent and nonbelligerent states.” (Impact of infectious diseases on war, Matthew R Smallman-Raynor, Andrew D Cliff, Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2004 Jun;18(2):341-68.)

Covid 19 seems to have placed the world back into time. The origins of Covid 19 are still a mystery, a sensitive topic for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). We may never learn the truth.

The latest Covid permutation, a new variant called B.1.1.529, originating in Johannesburg, is said to have a “constellation of mutations.” Virologists urge calm, as it is not unusual for a new Covid variant to disappear as it is to appear. The U.S. government shows no concerns about the spread of Covid, daily allowing thousands of untested migrants to flow through the U.S. southern border, to locations all over North America, while some hospitals are overflowing with Covid patients. Why this open border policy is allowed is as big a mystery as the origins of Covid.

The Covid Bottom Line

The human specious has been embattled with its invisible enemies throughout its history. Covid, as menacing as the media plays it out to be, is but one in a long-line of diseases humans have had to overcome. Of course, blunders will occur on the way. But that does not mean all of the blunders will be negative. Much of scientific discovery isn’t about intentionality, as it is about hapchance, a series of events line up leading to an unforeseen. even positive, ending.

I end with a quote by St. Thomas Aquinas who said, Not all problems are to be solved. Some are to be survived. ■

How to Consistently Land $100k+ Consulting Clients in 2022

I attended Faheem Moosa’s course this week to help consultants prosper by consistently seeking and engaging with better clients.

The first question a consultant must ask is, Who do I serve? One board measure of viability is what Moosa calls the “Ten/Thousand Principle.” The sector you serve should have at least ten competitors and at least a thousand firms. It should also be growing. The answers to these basic questions can be found by doing some basic research.

Once a client pool has been identified, the next question is, What is your client’s struggling moment? Do you know their pain points? What are their current options? What are they fed up with? Will your solution be helpful? What outcomes are they seeking?

Is there a new solution you can bring to the marketplace? Do you have a new way of doing things, or a new method?

All of Moosa’s training is based on previous practical experience. For a number of years Moosa helped academics launch enterprises. His value proposition was to build momentum and get them up and running within 90 days using lean business methods.

Moosa is a big fan of LinkedIn, and recommends everyone try out LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. Moosa posts consistently on LinkedIn.

Thought leadership was one of Moosa’s themes this week. Moosa writes blogs and has a podcast. For a consultant selling their expertise, consistent thought leadership is essential says Moosa.

Some of his thought leadership tips include:

  • Teach what you know
  • Have a “tight” core message
  • Create content people care about
  • Create “nerve striking” content, based on your client’s struggling moments

The idea behind good content is that it can help build your network, adding anywhere from five to fifteen contacts to your roster, on a daily basis. Secondly, it can spur conversations with clients, suspects, and prospects.

I thoroughly Moosa’s presentation on client development and would recommend anyone working as a consultant or thinking about consulting to sign up for any future training. For more information, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn or visit his website. ■

In the interest of full disclosure, I was not able to attend day 3 of this workshop.

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