Consulting Practice: Designing the Framework to Support our Associates on the Client Site and Beyond

By Destiny Giordano

In this month’s edition of Sit Down with Summus, we had the opportunity to sit down with a few key members of the Consulting Practice and gain a deeper understanding of the who, what, and why of this initiative. The excitement in the room during this conversation was palpable. Every member of this project speaks about it with passion and enthusiasm, so we were eager to learn the details of what this practice means from the architects who are building it out, firsthand.

According to their mission statement, the Summus Group Consulting Practice is “an internal business function responsible for associate standards and professional development. This centralized home base serves as an enabler for strategy and growth, for the purpose of delivering best in-class consulting services.”

So, what does that mean exactly? Megan Rineman, one of the Consulting Practice leaders and Human Resources liaison for the Practice says, “The Consulting Practice is how we are making sure we are doing right by our associates from day one all the way to retirement. This initiative is helping us identify what that looks like as we grow, making sure we don’t lose sight of our culture as a small, growing firm.”

On a high level, this enterprise is setting up a structure of consistent messaging and organization for Summus Group associates for the duration of their careers. Beginning from the day associates start, they will have a “home base”, as the Practice is fondly referred to, to come to for questions or guidance. This is a way for associates to have a better understanding of their career trajectory and the resources they have at their disposal. Summus Group wants to ensure their associates not only understand what it means to be a consultant, but also what it means to be a Summus Group consultant.

The vision of the Practice is condensed into the Summus Group Success Pyramid, which is comprised of four levels: Associate Expectations, Consulting Expectations, Career Ownership and Mastering Your Level. Included in these sections is information on learning consulting best practices, setting career goals, understanding client challenges, developing leadership strategies and honing a solution-oriented mindset, just to name a few.

Although the Consulting Practice has technically always been a part of the Summus Group brand, it wasn’t until this past summer, reflecting upon the firm’s rapid growth, that the team decided the Practice needed to become more defined and robust. Megan said, “Before the reorganization, there was one person who was collectively doing everything for the Practice. With the growth in our organization, we knew we needed, and wanted, to break it up so we could have multiple resources working on specific focus areas that would cover the span of an associate’s career at Summus Group.” Liz Sykes, Lead of the Consulting Standards and Professional Development area of the Practice added, “We are collaborating with everyone in the company. We are engaging Recruiting, HR, Account Management and Business Development to make sure we are in lockstep and that we are working together to drive all these initiatives forward and communicate as we go.”

Over the span of the last five months, several associates at different levels of their career within Summus Group have been selected to join the ranks working on this restructuring to ensure this effort is as comprehensive as possible. Liz gave her perspective on why being a part of this initiative is important to her: “It was interesting to me to be able to help put my stamp on something like this and help build out how we operate, how we present standards to the new folks that join, to help understand and ease that transition. I’ve seen different structures at different consulting firms throughout my career, so it’s nice to be able to cherry-pick from those and define what worked well and what I wish could have been different and bring that to Summus Group.”

During our sit down, as we learned more about the initiative’s structure and the people working behind the scenes, it was clear the effort is a massive undertaking. When asking the team to talk about the short- and long-term benefits of taking this initiative on, Liz mentioned employee engagement as one of the goals. “It’s easy to go out to a client site and feel disconnected from your team at your actual employer. So my goal, and what I hope people get out of the Consulting Practice, is that associates feel supported and know they have resources to connect with to be able to communicate areas of development they would like to focus on and make sure they feel seen and heard. This will in turn produce associates who feel more prepared and confident when it comes time to go to a client site.”

Brett Brenkus, the Consulting Practice Lead, added, “We are heavily focused on our associates because we want to maintain the culture that Summus Group takes so seriously and has worked hard to develop. In doing this, and supporting the growth and development of our associates, it will help us to attain another goal which is: attract and retain top talent with the mission to build a world-class consulting firm. If we all have the goal of making this a world- class organization, our business function is a driver of that outcome. Alone, the business work streams (Recruiting, HR, Account Management, Business Development) can get the firm to be ‘great’, but the aspiration of the Consulting Practice is to get us to be the ‘best’. We will do this by maximizing the talent we have in this firm and building a mindset that drives us towards a single mission. This mission is to be the go-to consulting firm in our markets that talented professionals want to join and clients want to build partnerships with.

Summus Group is a company which prides itself on having a growth mindset. They are always striving to be cognizant of ways they can improve and grow, not only for their clients, but for the heart of their operation: their associates. As Jake Frye, the Practice Area Lead for Management Consulting, said during our conversation, “This practice pulls everyone together. It’s a better way to drive client growth, as well as professional growth for the associates. You are a Summus Group associate first. We want to have our own development opportunities and ways to help grow their career that isn’t just plugging into the client site. We know our associates are more than that and the Consulting Practice is a way for them to not only grow themselves but progress the firm as well.”

It is very clear how seriously leadership takes their role in supporting every team member who walks through the door and the Consulting Practice is a prime example of this sentiment. As this initiative continues to take shape and become ingrained in the Summus Group DNA, we cannot wait to see the firm become, as Brett said, “a world-class consulting firm”.