How Innovation Experts is building their consulting community vision with Profi
They’ve saved three years and $200 thousand dollars to be first-to-market in Scotland with their first product during a global pandemic. But what this UK-based consultancy got from a cloud-based “health and wellness industry tool” touched much closer to home than their time or money savings ever could.
“Since starting with Profi our company has changed dramatically. Profi is now at the center of how we operate.” - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts
Michael Kearns, his business partner, Jim Dearie, and his growing team of coaches and consulting associates have slashed the time it has taken to realize their five-year company vision by 80% of original expectations.
Within just 6 months of using Profi’s all-in-one operating platform for professional service providers, they are already building a community of coaches and consultants collaborating on projects, skill-sharing and building stronger, more diverse client solutions together.
Profi’s business impact
- Removed the drain of remotely managing 40+ coaches and consultants across the UK
- Banished bottlenecks in project onboarding as a result of their consultants using disparate client booking, tracking and communication tools
- Streamlined how they handled new business (and brought in their biggest client contract to-date)
- Increased their team’s quality of life
- Completely transformed their business model
“What we’ve achieved in the last 12 months has been nothing short of remarkable. And it’s all with the support and cooperation — the partnership — of Profi. Alina and her tech support team have been invaluable in keeping us moving forward.” - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts"
A bit of background to help you orient
Innovation Experts is the first pandemic-inspired product of UK-based Consultancy, UXL Ltd. Headquartered in Newcastle, UXL is quickly scaling a cohort of consultants and coaches in every corner of the UK and making them available immediately to their clients on their Innovation Experts community marketplace.
What was once a top-heavy, administratively bloated old-model consultancy has transformed itself into a regeneratively growing community of business and strategy consultants working interdependently to solve their clients’ toughest challenges together.
When evolving is too slow, transform instead
UXL Ltd. faced a handful of challenges delivering on a new product like their Innovation Experts community. But their core business challenge only revealed itself fully in the face of a global pandemic that turned their business model completely upside down.
“Profi inspired our new (business) model 100% — we hadn’t thought of it as an external tool!”
At that point in March 2020, business partners Michael and Jim had started using Profi as a tool to manage a handful of their associate consultants internally. They had people spread out across the country, suddenly fully remote, using just as many client booking, management and communication tools as there were unique consultants in the whole of their associate pool.
“Initially I was looking for an internal tool to manage our existing business model of 40 associates on short-lifecycle projects,” explains Micheal. “We would invite 5-6 consultants to bid for work from the entire pool of associates.”
But then they’d both end up being the middlemen.
"Managing 40 consulting associates became quite an administrative drain. And trying to build a community was more difficult with people disparate all across the country." - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts
Then they added three consultants to the operating platform for specific projects. And fast-forward to today, they’ve invited their first curated cohort of 20 coaches, consultants and mentors onto the platform who are skill-sharing, creating custom content (including blog posts, wiki, podcast and video) in their areas of expertise, collaborating across client projects (that span the U.K., Europe and the U.S.) and building a community marketplace of consulting expertise.
Uncrossing wires in their client onboarding process
Because their team of remote consultants was using a myriad of tools for booking new clients, scheduling time with them, and ongoing communication and tracking with them throughout the project, creating a cohesive client onboarding experience was a huge challenge.
This was the onboarding workflow when a new client project was set to begin:
- UXL Ltd would initiate the project with the client.
- Then Michael would contact the assigned project consultant face-to-face, usually resulting in an unwanted and time-draining email or text tennis match that slowed down the project’s kick-off.
- The next process bottleneck came when the consultant tried to make their first contact with client... and then came the risk of project cancellation if things were moving too slowly at this stage (which they often did with consultants using disparate technologies and methods).
Like most companies, they relied on phone and email for getting, keeping and tracking client appointments, communications and project milestones. But everyone was using different versions of these tools, making it even harder to collaborate virtually.
Just getting everyone on the same platform with integrated calendar booking, chat messaging, SMS and email notifications, video, audio and collaborative, shareable notes gave Innovation Experts “a tangible time and energy savings,” says Michael, effectively banishing bottlenecks in project onboarding as a result of their consultants using disparate client booking, tracking and communication tools.
He adds, “Creating bespoke services with Profi landing pages is a game-changer. The flexibility of Program design creates passive income opportunities for our business.”
Streamlining their response to new business needs
One of Innovation Experts’ big successes was bidding for a piece of tech sector work building their client’s Digital & Entrepreneurship business growth program. Although they were new to the Profi platform, they quickly realized the potential Profi’s program features had for their tech clients. “We had to take a risk and stand out,” they decided.
As a corporate customer, they were able to leverage Profi’s grey label program, giving them “confidence that the platform was valuable for their clients,” remembers Michael.
“We’ve put out our white label version of Profi as an offering to our clients and it has made a significant difference in their key challenges in booking, managing teams of consultants, bidding for work, and it’s also helped us to build a community — so the coaches can see each other, the consultants can work with each other. We’re creating content and sharing opportunities for new projects and successful bids for new work.” - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts
The pilot, which Innovation Experts designed alongside their client’s Digital and Entrepreneurship Team, finishes end of next month. But, they’re already discussing a second program.
Letting Profi’s client grey labeling program features handle the program users’ experience professionally while their expert consultants did what they do best — strategized and collaborated with their client — has reinforced the strength of their business relationship.
“It helped deepen our business relationship to the point of consulting on strategy with the company.” And has delivered “real, tangible commercial successes.” - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts
So, what were the keys that opened the door to Innovation Experts’ ability to respond in a competitive way to new market needs in the tech sector using Profi?
1. All-in-one solution
Literally “having everything in one place was crucial,” says Michael of Profi’s core platform functionality. Having each consultant’s profile connected to the calendar, their ability to publish their expertise to the blog and build teachable content across a range of formats for various learners.
2. Expert level user-generated insights
“Our ability to have consultant profiles connected to content insights has helped move people to pay for those insights.” Michael says their consultants termed the phenomenon as “knowledge leakage” meaning they were often overspending time with new clients, giving away gems of insight and not getting compensated for their expertise. Not anymore!
3. Easy collaboration
They found Profi’s platform made collaborating across consulting specialties easier. Michael shares an example of one consultant who specializes in the Food and Drink industry with experience as a Grocery buyer. Meanwhile, Michael has built 30 years of expertise in Business Model Design. With Profi and the change in the way they approach their client projects, the two consultants now collaborate to share skills and perspectives, resulting in an outcome that is so much more valuable than the two alone could have developed.
4. Trustworthy referrals
Consulting associates invest great time and energy in building trust with their clients. And Profi’s features powering Innovation Experts’ community marketplace immediately give clients a “safer” referral within the community ecosystem, saving everyone time, energy and cost in the long run.
Michael notes that the last two: easy collaboration and trustworthy referrals will be “foundational going forward” as they transform their mindsets, business practices and open to entirely new possibilities with a community-driven business model.
What can happen in a pandemic when you take a leap of faith instead of hunkering down
The pressure of a pandemic set in as soon as April 2020. “We did a lot of reflection, and both myself and Jim in those few months between April through June probably spoke more than we had over the last three years combined. That was quite an eye-opener,” Michael muses.
They had two choices for their consultancy:
- They could “just hunker down and see what happens,” describes Michael,
- or they could follow the flow of they what wanted to happen.
They did the latter.
And moving with instead of against that flow gave them a depth of insight to respond to new market needs, the pandemic’s remote reality, and their growing sense that a new approach to their business was possible, even if not yet tangible.
- They needed to be first-to-market in Scotland with their product.
- And they had to have an intuitive product that didn’t need a manual to scale adoption. Something Michael describes as having a “clean, professional look.”
That’s when they found Profi.
“We put a lot of trust in the feelings and values of the people we work with.” - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts
Their deciding factors for moving forward with Profi’s all-in-one operating platform for professional service providers included “Profi’s roadmap and its alignment with where we were,” says Michael. “I appreciated their mentality: ambitious, creative, innovative ideas. It gave me confidence that their direction aligned with ours.”
And their trustworthiness. “From a very early demo call, I chatted with Alina and within weeks her integrity and values came across quite clear,” Michael describes.
The other side of transformation
Michael and Jim were still holding a big question between them: Could we apply this health and wellness model (that Profi’s platform offered) to our business?
As Michael remembers it, the whole world had opened up online and so they went for the opportunity they saw. “For us, it was the classic fight or flight moving into the pandemic,” admits Michael. “We then thought, ‘no, there’s got to be a better way.’”
What happened next took them quite by surprise:
- Their health and wellbeing skyrocketed with their change in the business model.
From Michael spending more time with his dog, getting outside more and walking with his wife to more overall flexibility in his schedule.
To Jim getting 35% of his life back each year cutting out the train commute and three-day in-person consulting workshops that could all now be managed online on Profi.
The partners realized the change was giving them so much, they didn’t want to give it away.
- Their newfound flexible virtual schedules gave them more time to return to service projects they enjoyed outside of work.
The change in business model gave Michael more time to volunteer for one of his passion projects. He adds, “I’ve now joined the board as a trustee and that is one of the drivers for building this model.”
- The new virtual, community-based model also revealed their team of consultants’ passion projects, personal hobbies and hidden skills.
“We discovered our consultants have these projects and there’s all this latent expertise” we can utilize in the business.
Michael reflects, “It was a fairly significant year in both our personal and business lives. Where we started in March very quickly changed to how we viewed the world by July/August.” And once the partners presented their vision to the larger pool of consultants and it really resonated with them, they knew the risks and their leap had been worth it. The consultants’ collective response was: “Yep, we don’t want to go back to 2019.”
“Our new business model is a far better balance of work and personal life. We believe it is more sustainable.” - Micheal Kearns, Product Manager, Innovation Experts
The secret ingredient to building a collaborative community with Profi: our Peerboard integration
Integrating Peerboard into their instance of the Profi platform enabled Innovation Experts’ product in two specific ways:
1. It stimulated conversations around collaboration opportunities, client lead referrals, and ideas on how to use the platform to grow their clients’ business.
“When designing the Business Growth Programme our client was keen to build a community of tech businesses. Being able to offer a private, managed discussion space was a key selling point for us. Maintaining momentum between the group sessions was easier with Peerboard and when we had a group discussion with a guest speaker we were able to continue the conversation after the live session.”
2. It allowed both their team and clients a level of visibility and access to engage in the conversation in real-time.
“The community functionality of Peerboard built into the platform makes it much easier for our experts and clients to access content and participate or watch the conversations develop.”
Looking to the future, Innovation Experts are keen to build a client community to provide promotion opportunities for their consultants while stimulating continued discussion and insight sharing. Michael says that “while it takes time to manage the community discussions in Profi, we’re already seeing the benefits and potential to attract and retain clients and consultants.”
Adds Michael, “we knew we had weaknesses in our business model and it wasn’t scalable. With Profi “it was a dramatic change. And the new business model it opened us to is a far better balance of work and personal life. We believe it is more sustainable.”
Now it’s your turn
Michael shared a bit more about who he thinks would benefit the most from a complete professional services platform like Profi:
- “I would recommend Profi if you’re an individual coach, consultant or mentor because it gives you the opportunity to promote yourself and join a community.”
- And “from a product management perspective or role, if you’re a medium-sized company with a collection of coaches or consultants, then this would be a good way of delivering your services. It’s a real advantage for you.”
So, what are you waiting for? If you’re a solo service provider of any stripe, try Profi yourself (free for 30 days).
For teams and corporations, book a demo with us and tell us what kind of business you’re building and how we can help you solve the world’s problems better together.