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Focus on clients key to Deloitte growth despite recession

In a challenging economy, during a time when most consulting firms contracted, Deloitte actually grew its consulting business by double-digits in four of the past five years, according to Punit Renjen, Deloitte LLP chairman of the board. Renjen, who served as chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP before becoming Deloitte’s US chairman last June, said the increase was possible because of a unique value system “that starts with putting the client first.”

Renjen visited Gleacher Center on January 11, sitting down to a “fireside chat” with dean Sunil Kumar. He spoke to an audience of 100 MBA students, whose predominant career interest was consulting.

“Consulting is a wonderful thing to do, but if you want to be the hero, it might not be the right thing for you,” Renjen said. “Our consulting practice is successful because our clients are successful, [so] invariably, kudos go to our clients. We measure everything we do by what type of impact we have on our clients. We must have a tangible, measurable, and attributable impact every time we have an interaction with them.”

The challenge, to deliver value to clients, requires Deloitte consultants to not only develop great ideas, but also to make them practical, implementable, and doable, Renjen said. The challenge is met, he said, by adhering to certain core beliefs, which include:

As dean of Chicago Booth, Kumar noted the parallels between his position and Renjen’s job. “We both manage many talented individuals who see themselves as independent partners.” Kumar said before asking Renjen, “So how do you measure success?”

Deloitte utilizes five dimensions of measurement to evaluate its consultants, Renjen said, with each dimension posing a particular question to each colleague or partner:

Evening Program MBA student Dennis Wang attended the presentation to hear from the top about Deloitte’s approach to consulting. “It’s normally very hard to get to hear such macroscopic discussion straight from the horse’s mouth,” Wang said. “This was a great opportunity for all students. I’m pretty sure most of us came for that reason.”

Renjen shared a number of points that are especially useful in today’s business environment, Wang said. “Smart consultants often generate a solution that requires a lot of analysis, but the client may not appreciate the value,” he said. “The solution is done, the deliverables are done, and you get the results. But what can a consultant—or I, as a particular employee of my company—do that will give the client the impression that those results could not have been obtained without the help of Deloitte or data [it] provided? The firm has to add value, but also communicate that value when [it’s] delivering the solution.”

The key takeaway for Wang was Renjen’s emphasis on delivering his message consistently. “He had some very well-crafted words that you could tell came from experience, if not training,” Wang said. “I particularly liked the idea that you really have to put the firm ahead of yourself. That is something that is extremely hard to do for someone who is just starting out, but it’s extremely relevant, especially from the client’s perspective.”

— Phil Rockrohr
Photo by Beth Rooney