By Pádraig Hoare
Marvel Studios’ latest Avengers movie, Infinity War, has reached $1bn (€835,774,000) in record time, evidence of the enduring appeal of a wide ensemble of superheroes with different types of troubleshooting gifts.
Cobh-based chief executive of Leading Edge Group, Joe Aherne, is no superhero. But the consultant with over 30 years’ experience has assembled a team of specialists with a range of experience to hire out for specific roles in startups, SMEs, and multinationals, that he thinks can shake up the business world.
The off-shoot company, ReganStein, allows companies to uniquely search for expertise as needed — be it short-term, longer-term, or even for one-off tasks.
It was founded to fill a gap for the immediate supply of middle to senior management specialists.
Mr Aherne, a past president of the Certified Public Accountants in Ireland, with over 25 years’ experience in the multinational sector in Ireland and abroad, said the benefits of ReganStein were two-fold.
It will benefit companies that need specialists in perhaps one or two areas, while keeping costs down for the firm. It will also benefit consultant specialists who may not want a full-time role, such as someone with a family, or who is retired or semi-retired. A win-win for all, Mr Aherne said.
“We are about process improvement and eliminating waste in business processes.
“I have been in the consulting business here, in Canada and in Australia, and one of the big bug- bears I’ve had is the large fees that are charged by the branded consulting companies, the way they use time and materials, and the models of pricing. What also annoys me is that they also use a lot of junior consultants.
“The final piece of the jigsaw is that a lot of these companies have lived off their brand, with a certain reputation. SMEs or startups pay exorbitant rates, but sometimes they get generalists instead of specialists. When you add all that up together, I thought there was an opportunity to break that mold and disrupt the market, to build a panel of experts that could compete against those tier-one and tier-two companies,” he said.
ReganStein’s panel of experienced professionals covers business functions such as sales and marketing, business analysis, market research, and digital media specialists, financial and operational roles, change management, and IT business and project managers.
Panel expertise includes general business backgrounds as well as diverse sectoral specialists such as retail, construction, environment, pharmaceutical, supply chain, education and IT. Most are experienced in the global marketplace.
Face-to-face meetings establish specific business and project requirements in order to identify the type of specialist expertise required.
A good example of who can benefit would be an SME that doesn’t have huge margins to hire a specialist in the likes of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU law on data protection that comes in this month, he said.
“A company we are doing business with at the moment got a quote to do a GDPR assessment for €1,500 a day, and it was going to take two weeks. We did it in four days at a rate of €950 a day. That is a prime example of what we do, because our person comes from a legal and IT background. Four days versus two weeks at a crazy rate.
“Fear is what a lot of people are selling, but for the smaller companies, GDPR should not be a major investment. It really is frustrating to see an SME paying a significant amount of money when all they need is help around a road map and a bit of coaching, as distinct from a long drawn-out project. These SMEs should be spending money on business development, growth and selling, as opposed to regulatory affairs,” he said.
The threat of Brexit is another area where the firm can help SMEs diversify into new markets, he said.
“We spent four months hand- picking specialists in key areas, one of which is business development and international growth. We have three people who have been there and done that, who have built companies from a startup to growing internationally to selling their businesses. These people equally want to give something back.
“While of course they get paid for it, it is more the interest for them. A lot of our people have done well out of their businesses, so it’s not about financials for them; it is a way to keep motivated and excited, and to provide experience,” he said.
One of the most satisfying elements of ReganStein, according to Mr Aherne, was reintroducing some of the most talented professional women in the country back into business.
“Professional women looking to return, we are very interested in. Some incredibly talented people have left the workplace for various reasons, and don’t want to go back into a five-day week. They may want flexibility and to choose the projects and work they want to get involved in. We feel this model suits them.”