The central challenge to growing an organization is in the first two years. During this period the organization, small in size, cannot afford to designate a single individual to the exclusive growth of the business. Rather, the leader must also be profitable in the field. Experience shows that a firm must reach five to seven full-time consultants in order to afford the 'luxury' of a full time president/sales manager.
Structure within the consulting firms tends to be extremely fluid. The best structure allows experienced people freedom but ensures quality control. The way to achieve both is through the concept of milestone dates. For example, in capital campaigns there are key board meetings that endorse strategy and set financial goals. As company policy, we will always have more than one CSDF individual present at these key dates. This ensures that the on-site consultant maintains objectivity, and that CSDF rather than a renegade volunteer remains in control of the project.
Throughout this proposal we have said that attracting and retaining qualified personnel is central to success. Therefore, it is important to reflect on the factors influencing this area. In priority order for many consultants:
Combining these five factors we envision attracting experienced consultants who have reached a mid-point in their career where money is important, but not the sole driving factor in their employment decision. With the top money comes the most stressful situations and pressures. While a certain amount of this is exciting, many consultants would enjoy a chance to work on a project every few months that was pure gratis. This is the person we seek.
At the same time, because we are a not-for-profit, the one-third of consulting fees that traditionally flow to owners are now available as cash reserves to improve salaries and provide for gratis projects. Again, to retain qualified consultants, the compensation plan must make it more attractive to stay than to set up one's own firm. Once a consultant has two years experience with the organization, the compensation plan should provide for an option to remain strictly salaried, or move to a commission structure.
Every firm owner we've worked for spoke of their business as a 'ministry.' At the same time the most bitter disputes erupted solely from the issue of money. The Catholic School Development Foundation offers an opportunity for competitive compensation AND a chance to periodically work for the poorest schools (with salaries covered by the Foundation). In doing so, we draw a sharp distinction between those who claim their work is a ministry, and those interested in walking the talk.
In our first engagement as a development consultant in 1991, we had the good fortune of sailing Milwaukee Bay on the private yacht of a multi-millionaire. He hosted a fundraising function for about a dozen classmates, and we were there to meet the guests. As we boarded the yacht, decorated entirely in white, all guests were asked to remove their shoes. In that instant it occurred to the young consultant that when one is done worrying about making money, a new stress is felt--keeping it and caring for one's possessions.
The radical idea we hope to sell is this: You will be well compensated for your work, with provision made for a comfortable retirement. But if you are looking for financial equity, CSDF cannot help you. We have none to offer. Rather, the equity you gain is a life well lived.