Entrepreneurial Spirit: Building a Consulting Company Based on Client and Employee Happiness

By Larry English, Andersen Alumnus, President and cofounder of Centric Consulting and author of Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture with Virtual Teams. To learn more about him, visit LarryEnglish.net

All our company’s founders met at Andersen when we were fresh out of college. We were assigned to a four-year project together that was large, complex and stressful, requiring many long hours to pull it off. When you have that kind of experience with others, you inevitably bond and form life-long relationships. However, little did we know that those relationships would eventually lead us to launch a company together.

After the project ended, we all went in different directions – getting experience as independent consultants, at consulting start-ups and at publicly traded consulting companies. Then, after several years, we reconnected. As we discussed our experiences with all of the different consulting models, we lamented that we hadn’t found an ideal experience. There were things we liked about each of those models and things we did not like.

We did not like the emphasis on profit and hitting your numbers every 13 weeks in a publicly traded company. The lack of work-life balance that came with the required high travel and long work hours made it difficult to start a family. And the bureaucracy and politics of big companies was draining.

But we did like the variety of projects that consulting offers and the ability to do leading-edge work. We also liked being great at our craft and truly making a difference for a client. And of course we loved working with so many smart and fun colleagues that really challenge you.

So, we asked ourselves: Why can’t we create a consulting company that kept all of the great things we liked about consulting and got rid of what we didn’t like? Why can’t we create a place that we love to work?

We began dreaming up a company where we could do great work but still have a life, a company with a fun culture that treats everyone like family and operates with honest and deep relation­ships. This was the start of the Centric Consulting’s business model and the underpinnings of the culture we have today.

Eventually more than 25 people from that initial project where we all met joined the company. Fast forward 20 years and we have grown to 1,000 people in 13 US cities and an office in India. Those initial ideas led to the creation of the award-winning culture that remains our secret sauce.

We translated those ideas into our core purpose and the core values that we live by each day. Our core purpose is to “create unmatched experiences”— we make it a point to thoughtfully go beyond what is ex­pected to create an incomparable experience for each other and our clients. We don’t do this because we want anything in return. We do it because we find it person­ally rewarding, a great way to live, and our chosen path to an amazing culture. Performing small, thoughtful gestures deepens relationships we have with each other. Our “why” is our North Star and a big part of what makes Centric unique.

One example of our core values is to Live a Balanced Life. We support every employee in the ability to find and live the balance that works for them. Part of achieving this core value was deciding to be a remote company from the very beginning. Not to save money on office space but to allow our employees more time to do the things they are passionate about outside of work. Another example is we have set the company up to intentionally remain private so that we didn’t have to always worry about short term financial targets and could instead focus on making our clients and employees happy.

All of us love the culture we have built and are proud we achieved the goal we envisioned 20 years ago: a consulting model that makes us happy.