I have a new client in a new industry (for me) and need to get up to speed in a real hurry. I don't really know anyone in the industry to talk to and don't have time to do more than read some of the industry journals. Anything else?
The journals are a great idea to familiarize yourself with the terminology, active companies, and some of the major issues of the day. This will give you a good lay of the land but it misses something important: an "inside the company" perspective. Think about it. Trade journals are written for people thinking about the industry at large but, as a management consultant advising a specific individual inside a company, you need a quick education in what matters to a company. Even better, you are best served by knowing those things that matter to a range of companies, each from an inside perspective.
Identify ten companies in your new industry (including your new client and its closest one or two competitors) and review their annual reports for the latest year. These are almost always available from company websites in pdf or HTML versions. Alternatively, you might be able to find a lot of them from www.annualreports.com
. In each report, focus on the CEO letter (sometimes called "Management Letter"), a statement of risks or cautionary statement, and in many reports the "company at a glance" statements. Glance through these reports quickly then go back and take notes on common themes in these areas. What risks do companies share? What legislation or regulatory issues do they face? New technologies or customer concerns? Difficulties in revenue generation, expenses, taxes, foreign competition, etc? Most importantly, what is unique about your new client (both strengths and weaknesses)?Tip:
Prepare a "cheat sheet" for your first meeting with your new client. Go ahead and tell them you wanted to get up to speed quickly and wanted to run some of your findings past them. This is a great learning opportunity for you and it might even be so for them. At the very least, they should be impressed by your initiative.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA