Words of Wisdom from the Executive Service Corps

This week, the SOURCE team co-hosted a workshop with Los Angeles Community Impact (LACI), a student run non-profit consulting firm at USC. Like SOURCE, LACI also “fosters mutually beneficial relationships” between clients and students in which students gain experience solving real world business problems and clients benefit from the student’s work.  We hosted a panel of nonprofit consultants with former executive experience from the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Southern California.

The ESC panelists started off by defining the role of consultants in a client partnership. Roxie Esterle, Former Director of the AJ Heschel Day School, says that clients bring her the symptoms of their surface-level pain points and that as a consultant, the next step is to dig further and “discover the root of the disease.” She believes that one of the most useful tools a consultant can offer is an unbiased, third party look at an organization’s current day-to-day operations and an analysis of the inefficiencies observed. To make the best “diagnosis” for these inefficiencies, the panel recommended a consultant start each new project with widespread information gathering, in which he/she identifies key stakeholders for each operation in an organization in order to understand the entire “body” and its functions before making a shallow diagnosis. The panelists shared stories of some of the diagnoses they had made, such as mission creep, founder’s syndrome and board conflicts.

Although the panelists had much to say about their successes working with clients, each panelist made sure to emphasize that consultants do not always succeed at a particular assignment. The panelists discussed their project failures, how assignments can change over time, and how they dealt with poor client-consultant communication. One red flag they encouraged our consultants to be wary of is when a consultant team ends up investing more of their time in a project than the client does. This deviates from a more successful partnership model that many consulting groups, including SOURCE, aim to implement, in which the client and consultant is equally invested in the process of completing a deliverable to ensure its effectiveness and sustainability.

The SOURCE team was able to discuss their current client projects with the panel and receive input from more experienced nonprofit consultants. This workshop was a great opportunity to meet both fellow students and professionals with similar interests in non-profit consulting.

by lili muskal