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Start-up Spotlight: MBA and Co

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Hire MBAs and PhDs by the hour? Indeed you can, through Daniel Callaghan’s new concept

This is the era of flexible working. Startups such as PeoplePerHour.com and Freshminds supply workers by the project. Clients avoid the inconvenience of having full-time workers on their books, simply hiring talent as and when it is needed.

The latest mover in the field is Daniel Callaghan’s MBA & Co. It offers the expertise of MBA graduates, PhDs and business school professors by the hour. Callaghan’s mission is to provide an alternative to the cost and formality of the traditional management consultancies. Founded in 2009, MBA & Co already counts firms such as Amec, RSA and Ogilvy & Mather as clients.

Callaghan says the field of management consultancy is ripe for a new challenger to shake things up: “With our service you can go direct to the consultant, avoiding agency fees. This means firms have access to talent which might previously have been unaffordable. If a start-up wants to build a financial model it can hire an ex-Goldman Sachs employee with an MBA from a top 25 business school to do the work for £50 an hour. That’s not a service the traditional consultancies can offer.”

In just a short time Callaghan has signed up around 6,000 MBA and PhDs to his books. What attracts them? “The motivation in becoming one of our freelancers varies,” he explains. “The typical candidate has five to 10 years professional experience with a top tier firm. They will already have a masters, and then go to one of the world’s leading business schools. Maybe they want to be more independent, or to change careers. They might have a start-up they are working on and want to supplement their income. It might be a lifestyle choice, and they want to be masters of their own destiny.”

An eBay style feedback system requires both the client and consultant report on the other party to keep quality high. For the consultant this offers the chance to accumulate positive references to show to any future employer.

Fees vary from £25 an hour “at the very lowest” to £300 on rare occasions. “Our average price is £50 an hour. The piece of work gets packaged up into a total deliverable so the client knows what they will pay.” MBA and Co’s revenue comes from a small, variable slice of the total amount billed.

MBA and Co has the ability to create teams to cope with bigger jobs. “We do it all the time. We had a client recently who wanted to analyse the performance of shopping centres in four countries. We built a team with the client, so one MBA ran the project, using MBAs in each of the countries doing the analysis. That’s the advantage of being flexible. We can handle jobs from small roles for start-ups to major research pieces for FTSE 100 firms.”

Callaghan has a good insight into the industry having gained his MBA in 2009. “I studied at IESE in Barcelona. I started the business the day I left.” He started with just £1,000 in cash. This has been supplemented by prize money from winning the Shell Livewire start-up contest, and a fund raising round last year. Revenue so far this year is £1.1m.

It may be that MBA & Co will complement existing consultancy majors by providing potential clients who are wary of the industry with a “sampler” taste of what is on offer. For MBA candidates if offers a path to gather experience and income without committing to a full-time role.

Callaghan is a convincing advocate for his concept, and in fact has just co-authored a book with his business partner Adam Riccoboni called “Buy Me! Ten Steps to Selling Yourself in Business”.

The five-year plan? “Is to keep on growing the firm, improving the user experience and helping firms access the talent they need. I think there is an opportunity to change the way firms use consultants. We want to develop accounts with larger firms, to show them that they can make use of a flexible account.”

Still only 29, Callaghan is already well on the way to achieving that.




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