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“How to gain clients’ trust and make your own luck”

Employee Interview - Joseph Smith

“How to gain clients’ trust and make your own luck”

As a Senior Consultant, Joseph Smith has quickly emerged as a customer experience expert who drives actionable plans that help clients find new ways of delivering memorable moments to their customers. But his strategic mindset is many sided – Joe received his undergraduate degree in accounting while on a soccer scholarship in the U.S., and completed his MBA at the University of Toronto one short year ago. If that isn’t enough, he also finds the time to flex his creative muscle and write his own business blog.

I won my first big project with… a mix of luck and Level5’s trust in me.

Joseph Smith
I ended up having a conversation with a CEO of a manufacturing company. Their business boomed during COVID and they were on the precipice of launching a new tech tool. The CEO said that he liked my strategic mindset which led to more conversations with the company’s executives. While it doesn’t happen every day that you meet someone at the right time and the right place, there’s something to be said about creating your own luck by being open and prepared to meet new people.

Level5 had so much trust in me to solve this company’s problem. It gave me the confidence to develop a new approach for this company and, ultimately, close the deal. It didn’t feel as though I was out of my depth because Level5 had trained me and put faith in me through various engagements. I felt very empowered to lead this engagement – from talking about it as an idea to helping this company launch new technology.

My advice to students pursuing the management consulting industry is… to identify what makes them unique.

Think deeply to understand how your unique experience makes you the best candidate. Look at competitive strategies that differentiate you and how your unique offering translates into skills that others don’t have. Once you’ve identified your differentiated factor, figure out how to tell your story so it resonates and accentuates what you excel at. This will make your application much more compelling.

I went into consulting because… I wanted to be intellectually challenged and avoid repetitive work.

I didn’t want to be in a situation where challenges start to plateau and I’m working on auto pilot. My plan was to keep building my skills and work on projects that take me out of my comfort zone. I’m driven to do new things and solve problems in a different way and consulting stood out as a profession that would enable me to do that.

I played professional soccer, including as my team’s captain, and I learned a lot about team dynamics. These are transferable skills that I was able to leverage in consulting. Soccer was extremely enjoyable but, ultimately, I decided to switch to consulting because I’ve always been very academic. I’ve also been exposed to different fields during my MBA, including banking and insurance, which made me want to explore even more industries.

I love working at Level5 because… every day working at Level5 is a blast.

Consulting gets a bad reputation because it includes people with big egos who are used to being the smartest in the room. At Level5, it’s so refreshing because there are no big egos at all – everyone is down to earth. People are very easy to work with and talk to. I’m grateful that they push me and challenge me to think in different ways but we also crack jokes and laugh together. This is partly due to the culture that Level5’s Founder David Kincaid has built and the values he instilled many years ago. They continue to guide the way we recruit but also evolve the firm’s culture. I can’t speak highly enough of it because not a day goes by that I don’t look forward to speaking to my colleagues once I open my laptop.

The most important thing about leading a consulting project is… earning the client’s trust.

Clients need to be able to trust you so they can be open and candid when communicating with you. The way to achieve this is by earning trust on the small things from the beginning. Consultants must keep every promise they give to their client. For example, if you say that you’ll send the client a status update on Friday, you do that. If you say that you’ll touch base the following week to discuss something, you do that. The only way to build trust is to prove that you’re trustworthy. That’s accomplished by demonstrating integrity and accountability consistently over time.

When things are going well, it’s easy to do this. But when things are going off track, that’s when trust really matters because you want your clients to come to you and say things like, “Here’s what we think is going wrong and we’re not comfortable with this direction.” This way you can solve the problem early on in the process rather than in the last minute. But this can happen only if the client trusts you to do the right thing because you’ve gained their respect and confidence.

The most important quality of a good consultant is… taking initiative.

Consultants – especially younger consultants – shouldn’t be afraid to demonstrate initiative to solve problems. The more you can think ahead and pre-solve problems before they arise the easier it gets. Consultants should be able to identify things that need to be done, then go out and do them. This is what sets great consultants apart from average ones. Effective consultants make things happen and deliver work that has value. They don’t sit around waiting for work to come to them.

My proudest personal accomplishment was… closing my first project for a challenger insurance brand.

After delivering the final presentation about the company’s customer experience, Level5 received incredible praise from the CEO and VP of Transformation in front of the entire executive team. This spoke to the level of collaboration that we’ve embedded to help the client see their problems from a new angle. What was really special was that I received a couple of phone calls from the client’s team members who wanted to thank me personally for the work that I’ve done. They worked with multiple consultants in the past but said that the experience with me was much easier and more enjoyable, and that my down-to-earth attitude was much appreciated. When people take the time out of their schedule to thank you for the work you’ve done, it’s a very nice touch.

My boldest move to date… was bringing in work as a senior consultant.

I had the audacity to do this but there were learning moments for me during this engagement. I realized that I couldn’t do this by myself because the scope of the project was bigger than I thought initially. Everything worked well because I had the foresight to ask for guidance from more senior Level5 members who stepped in and helped me.

I stay motivated by… practicing gratitude.

I don’t have to do consulting; I get to do this work. I get to talk about business models, develop growth strategies, transformation approaches and turn conceptual thinking into actionable plans. The stakes are high, and it can be challenging at times, because consultants are hit with so many competing demands on their time over the course of their day. Then I take a step back to remind myself that, despite an occasional challenge, it’s a privilege to work in such an exciting field.

I’m known for… my know-how on customer experience and being outspoken.

I’ve become a go-to person for customer experience after working on several projects that focused on elevating the customer journey. People now come to me to get my perspective and advice on how to apply various tools and methodologies on other projects.

I speak my mind when I feel that something needs to be said. It’s better to break the silence when everyone sits idly by, having the same thoughts. The entire team benefits from an open conversation, which is why I write my own blog – to get my thoughts out and get the discussion going on things that matter.

In 5 years, I see myself… bringing in more business for Level5.

When I went to the firm’s open house, so many consultants told me that they were with Level5 for a long time. Some joined at 19, then worked their way through; others were Level5ers for six years or more. This isn’t a culture that’s synonymous with bigger companies where people join for two years and then they’re out looking for better opportunities. I want to stay here and build my career because Level5 is a great place to learn and grow. It’s also my plan to see how we can refine our offering so we can improve the client experience and continue to be relevant. I’m driven to develop new frameworks and methodologies that push us to help clients change the way they do business.

I’d love to still be in touch with soccer. It would be nice to get into coaching in my neighbourhood and pass on my learnings to the next generation of ambitious soccer players.


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