Summus Group Practice Areas: Growing Our Teams and Careers From Within

By Kathryn Miller

As we learned in our last article of “Sit Down with Summus”, the Consulting Practice has grown from an individual initiative, quite literally a 1.0 version, to becoming the Consulting Practice 2.0 by being made up of a talented team of many huddling up, conceptualizing, reaching out to gather ideas and researching. Leaving no stone left unturned, the Consulting Practice is tasked with the creation of an oasis within Summus Group to build talent, develop careers and progress the business further than ever before.

The Consulting Practice has officially grown to include four functional areas. They are identified as Career Architecture led by Megan Rineman, Consulting Standards & Professional Development led by Liz Sykes, Collateral Development and Management led by Juan Patiño and Practice Areas led by Jake Frye.

The Consulting Practice has defined additional stakeholders to make sure it stays aligned with the needs of the business. These stakeholders provide guidance and collaborate with the Consulting Practice on its many initiatives and from all facets of the business, including internally-focused Human Resources, talent-seeking Recruiting, the client-facing Account Team and the forward-looking Strategy Team.

Jake Frye, the Practice Areas Lead, is no stranger to ideation. At his previous firm, he was heavily involved in the risk practice area, serving in a Chief of Staff role where he used his entrepreneurial spirit to help create and build out collateral and service offerings for their clients. These skills and passion are also evident when Jake speaks about the future of the Consulting Practice.

The ability to cultivate ideas, put them into action and see immediate results is highly rewarding for all who take the initiative to get involved. When Jake speaks about the future of the Consulting Practice, he makes it apparent how this will involve the entire organization, not just a select few. Last month, Jake said it best himself:

“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 provide development opportunities and ways to help the associate grow and manage 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 advance themselves but progress the firm as well.”

This sums up the exciting direction of one of the four newly formed functional areas. This month we sit down with Jake Frye to learn more about the Practice Areas function of the Consulting Practice.

Take us back to how you joined the Consulting Practice and how you became the lead for the Practice Areas function?

I joined the Consulting Practice after a couple conversations with Brett Brenkus, the Consulting Practice Lead, and his team. They were in the process of taking the foundation they had built over the past year and were ready to roll out opportunities to engage and benefit all our associates. I was excited to join the team and help construct the framework for the Practice Areas. It has been great to partner with Brett, Liz, Megan, Juan and the rest of the Consulting Practice team to bring the Practice Areas function to fruition.

What drew me to consulting and Summus Group in the first place, besides having variety in my client engagements and everyday tasks, was the opportunity to help grow and shape the firm as it expands. I saw the Practice Areas as a way for me to dive in, build something from the ground up and help strengthen the Summus Group brand. This is engaging and meaningful work to me. The Consulting Practice is a prime strategic opportunity to assess the entirety of the company, understand what our current state is, and then develop tangible activities to help get us where we aspire to be as we scale.

As the Practice Areas Lead, what would you say is this functional area’s central purpose?

The Practice Areas is the execution arm of the Consulting Practice and serves as a “home base” to where all associates are aligned.

It’s vital that our associates feel like they have a place to come back to outside of their client site. As a consultant, it is easy to get so involved in your client work that you sometimes feel like you’re on an island all by yourself. We want to provide our associates with a natural connection point back to the firm.

Management Consulting is the initial practice area and will focus on core consulting competencies to create a strong consulting mindset and foundation from which we can build. It will answer questions like, “What does it mean to be a consultant?”, “What are the expectations of a consultant and how do they differ from a contractor or someone from industry?”, “What skills do our clients expect us to have when we step foot on the client site?” and “How do we ensure we exceed our clients’ expectations in all that we do?”. We will address those questions and provide a forum to support our associates as they further develop their career.

What are the goals for the Management Consulting practice area?

The primary goals of the Management Consulting practice area are to provide associates with:

  • Access to professional development and at-level training opportunities,
  • Tools and templates to leverage for current and future engagements,
  • A central hub for industry, client and project knowledge, along with access to Summus Group case studies and best practices, and
  • Opportunities for the associate to grow their career in ways that are meaningful to them and impactful to the firm and Summus Group clients.

Don’t let the succinctness of the goals mislead you. There is a lot of work we need to do before we get to our target state and we will be engaging our associates to help build out these capabilities.

We will provide professional development and at-level training opportunities to enrich our associates beyond their client project work. Our already skillful associates have consistently expressed the desire for continued learning. We want to expand to our collective knowledge base, by providing quarterly trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, leadership engagement opportunities and bringing in guest speakers.

Having standardized, easily accessible tools and templates will empower our associates to take their work to the next professional level while staying connected to the Summus Group brand. It is essential that we deliver a consistent, first-rate work product even as our associates are scattered across multiple clients. By having “battle-tested” tools and templates at our fingertips, we will ensure the Summus Group brand is defined and clear for all associates and clients.

The central hub will serve as a one-stop shop for all project, client and industry knowledge. It will also house case studies which highlight the firm’s past successes and best practices. Associates can reference the lessons learned from our prior engagements as they work on delivering solutions for their current clients.

Finally, we want to provide opportunities for associates to grow their career in ways that are meaningful to the individual, the client and to Summus Group as a whole. Everyone’s career path is beautifully diverse. Let’s tap into that diversity to bring the best creative ideas to the table and facilitate knowledge sharing. Let’s go straight to the source and ask our associates “What do you know?” and “What do you want to know?”. We ask our account managers “What challenges are your clients facing?” and “What gaps or blind spots in their business can we help address for them?”. Internalizing both our associates’ wants and our clients’ needs will help set the course for Summus Group’s future success.

With Management Consulting identified as the firm’s first practice area, how do the goals you previously mentioned differentiate Summus Group in the Management Consulting industry?

Prior to coming to Summus Group, I worked with larger corporations and was able to learn from some of their best practices and also witness firsthand some of the challenges they faced. Summus Group doesn’t have the same rigidity in their structure as larger firms do. We want to provide the freedom and space for our associates to own and manage their career.

A key component in being able to scale as we continue to grow is laying this solid foundation now. Bringing every associate and leader along with us will help with adoption and consistency. It’s important for our associates to know that when you are hired here, you are not assigned to a client project and that’s the end. We want to see growth in our associates and want our clients to be the beneficiaries of that growth. We want our associates to challenge themselves to continuously improve to become better consultants and provide even more value to our clients.

What is next for the Practice Areas?

There are a lot of good things we plan to roll out over the course of 2020. We want to be intentional with our initiatives and have them layer on top of one another. We felt hosting a consulting standards review with all associates would be a good way to kick things off as we want to establish a solid foundation we can build upon as the year progresses.

I am also really excited about the Consulting 101 training we are creating. We are lucky enough to have a mix of associates with different levels of consulting and industry experience. For some of our associates, Summus Group is their first foray into consulting, while others have over 10 years of consulting experience. We will look to our more seasoned consultants to share their experiences and expertise as we build out the curriculum, but regardless of level, I think our Consulting 101 will be beneficial to everyone, whether it is new knowledge or just a refresher.

Today, all Summus Group associates are members of the Management Consulting practice area. As the Practice Areas function evolves, we will roll out a few sub-practice service offerings later this year which associates will be aligned to based on their interest and expertise. Structure and rollout dates are still being refined, but we are looking across industry verticals, such as Financial Services and FinTech, and we will then align our associates horizontally across competencies such as Program & Project Management, Risk & Regulatory, Transformation & Change Management and Data & Analytics.

I’m very excited about the Practice Areas and all the initiatives we have planned. I know it is going to add a lot of value to our firm, our clients and our associates.