It was the summer of 2013, the temperature was 40 degrees and I was sweltering in my rented first floor flat in the Vera district of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Looking out across the dusty courtyard to the vibrant green of the mulberry tree I wished that I could be transported back to my weekend getaway where I’d escaped the suffocating heat, dust and fumes of Tbilisi by going hiking in the high Caucasus just 2 hours to the north of Tbilisi. Life was far from dull.
Now it was back to work. I was collecting data on commercial real estate opportunities in and around Tbilisi. I’d found a local contact who was interested in a Joint Venture, so it was now a matter of narrowing down a suitable brown field site to build a new European standard warehouse. The alternative on the cards was to renovate an existing soviet concrete shell. Early research on the demand side looked promising, in particular my talks with local representatives of European/ US companies for this type of product. However, as with any investment in emerging markets, the in-country politics were the storm clouds of the investment barometer. Indeed, my local partners’ enthusiasm for the project wavered in line with the daily political intrigues of the nation.
As I once again returned to my spreadsheet mapping the commercial rents in different areas of Tbilisi, I received an email from Deloitte Consulting in Zurich inviting me to another interview. Fortunately, this coincided with a week back home in Zurich to visit my girlfriend. Needless to say, two hours after attending this interview I was offered a job as a Senior Consultant in the Strategy and Operations team of the Zurich practice.
On my return to Tbilisi, I spoke to my local partners about the opportunity offered to me in Zurich. I needed to bring my negotiations to a swift conclusion: go or no-go. They were extremely impressed by the cachet of the Deloitte name (it does have a substantial presence in the Georgian market). I was somewhat surprised by just how impressed they were and this one was of the factors that led me to come and work for a big four consulting firm. I wanted part of that cachet.
Was it the right decision? I have no idea. However, I am pleased with my decision. I have now spent a year and half in consulting and I am still learning new skills every day. Importantly, for future projects whether in emerging markets or elsewhere, I can clearly see my progress in putting together winning proposals. Now, if I returned to Georgia tomorrow to re-ignite my warehousing project I would do things differently. I’d manage my project better, in particular my stakeholders.
A key takeaway from my life in consulting is that consultants are there to give structure to the great ideas of our clients. No, we don’t necessarily have all the answers, but what we can do is provide robust frameworks and clear structure to successfully realise ideas that would otherwise remain on paper.