Preliminary consulting firm research (What can I learn without speaking to a human?)

Don’t get me wrong…

I enjoy a great one-on-one conversation as much as the next work-from-a-home-office introverted self-employed person.

And yet, if I find myself in a conversation I’m not at least marginally prepared for with someone I don’t already have some rapport with, my prefrontal cortex decides it needs a vacation, and the rest of my brain adopts more of a head-nodding, deer-in-the-headlights maintenance strategy.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me or anyone else that the natural first step I’m taking with this research project I outlined on Friday is to figure out how I can preliminarily collect as much insight as possible about the consulting firms I’ll be looking at prior to ever reaching out to attempt to extract some more in-depth information from an actual human.

That’s what I’m working on next.

Now that I have some good recommendations for places and firms to look into, I’m trying to figure out how to apply the set of criteria I’d like to roughly adhere to, which is:

Specialized consulting firms that have a headcount less than 50 people and are both growing and profitable.

I’m quickly realizing that as we move left to right in the above sentence, the task at hand shifts from “doable” to “how in the world am I going to do this!?”

And it also opens up a can of worms of unclarified questions that I’ll additionally have to answer:

  • How specialized do they need to be?
  • Pure consulting or can it be a mix of services?
  • What if they have 51 people?
  • What do you mean “growing”? Are we talking people? Revenues? Clients? Office square footage?
  • How profitable? 1% EBITDA? 50% EBITDA?

That aside for the moment, here’s what I’ve got so far.

Step 1: Find a “lead”

Whether through recommendation, some sort of aggregated list (like this one), or a better means that I have yet to discover (conference invitees list, market research databases, etc.), I’m adding the firm to a handy-dandy Google sheet.

preliminary firm research spreadsheet

Already, my current “sources” are delivering firms outside of my stated criteria… so I may have to adjust the criteria, adjust my sourcing, or likely both. But for right now to get the process down, I’m just following through with what I have to see what pops out the other end.

Step 2: Evaluate their specialization

I’m pulling up their website and asking myself two questions (head nod to Mr. Morgan and specializationexamples.com for methodology inspiration):

  • What do they do?
  • Who do they serve?

preliminary firm research website inspection

If I can’t answer either through, say 15 seconds of inspection, I’ll say they’re not specialized enough to be of interest to me at the moment.

Step 3: Pull some stuff from LinkedIn

I know I’m not going to get the most accurate sizing information from LinkedIn, but I’m hoping it will be a good enough proxy I can use for the time being.

I’m looking at two numbers here:

  • LinkedIn’s “Company size” data
  • The number of “employees on LinkedIn”

Both are imperfect, but because this is simply filtering criteria, I don’t need perfect here if they’re consistent.

preliminary firm research linkedin page

I also decided to take a peek at some of the Sales Navigator insights info about headcount growth.

preliminary firm research headcount growth 1

But I’m not sure how far I’ll get with this, given that smaller firms like this one…

preliminary firm research growth 2

…don’t have any data to show.

So I’ll probably discard this for now.


Alright, that’s where I’m at.

Thanks to everyone who has thrown out suggestions so far!

Please do send over any constructive criticism or recommendations you have to make this go better, and I’ll continue to incorporate your input.

I’ll have more updates as I progress.

Happy Monday 🙂

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