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9/12/2019 - Posted in  Strand Associates

The value of consultants in the Life Sciences sector

Consultancy in the life sciences sector

This short paper is addressed to all the team leaders, managers, directors, ‘heads of’ and CxO of any company active in the Life Sciences sector who are not familiar with consultancy. Its aim is to guide you through the value that consultants can bring to your structure. 

Demystifying consultancy

Whenever I discuss with someone in the Life Sciences business about consultancy and what I’m doing, during a meeting or at a BioWin event for instance, I often get one of these comments: 

  • Ugh, my employees/colleagues won’t like that
  • Why would I need consultants if I already have plenty of good employees?
  • Why should I pay more?
  • We have always worked without it, why should we change now?
  • I don’t have time to look into that
  • What will it bring to the company?

Well, today I want to address these remarks and demystify consultancy within the Life Sciences sector. 

Not a replacement
First of all, consultants are not meant to replace permanent employees. They exist to complete your team, to bring support or structure. Nobody is losing either a job or an activity because a consultant is now on site. The employees should see a consultant as someone that will bring a fresh and unbiased point of view into a project. It’s an opportunity for them to learn from the expertise of the consultant and to improve their training skill, as a consultant always needs some guidance from the actors directly on the field. 

The good part about consultants is that they represent workforce but aren’t on your payroll, which administration-wise can be interesting. It also (probably) means that they don’t compete with the “hiring budget” that the HR department have in hands (depends on the way your company is structured) for the future permanent employees but rather depends on the budget of your department.

On top of this, consultants (especially the less junior ones) can show better and quicker adaptability to a new environment and/or project, as they are used to adapt when changing missions. If you have consultants working for you, don’t hesitate to discuss with them what else they could and would like to bring to the company, considering their skills. You could realize that they can handle an extra problem or bring support elsewhere that you didn’t think of before. 

Money talk
Now for the spicy part: “how much does it cost?”. Hiring a consultant has a cost but there is a misconception that it is much more expensive than hiring a permanent employee. It comes from the fact that many people will compare the rate for a consultant’s services (which is “everything included”) and the gross salary that they pay their employee with similar activities.

But know that the consultancy firm also needs to pay:

  • the taxes for each of their employees ( -> consultants)
  • the extra legal benefits (meal vouchers, company cars, hospital insurances, etc …)
  • cover the undirect costs (sickness, holidays, maternity/paternity leave, etc …).

You are already paying all of these for your employees, but you simply can’t see it easily. The only extra cost that you are paying is the consultancy firm’s margin, which is the smallest part of that rate, so they can pay their office and salary, for their services.

Need a solution but don’t want to spend budget for it? The golden saying is “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Most of the time, thinking cheap about a solution will only get you an untailored one with potentially negative impact on long-term.

Not a change

“We have always done like that, why should we change now?”. I agree, you don’t NEED to change now. But consultancy doesn’t require you to change, it’s simply an extra option for you. The day that something that wasn’t foreseen happens, you need to act quickly. It is especially the case for the fast-growing structures of the pharmaceutical sector.

Some issues may arise that can flip your whole plan for the year! Consultants are there to fix these issues for you. And when either time or expertise are the center of the issue, you should consider consultancy as a solution. 

Not time consuming

“I don’t have time to look into that”. Well my last point explains that issues can pop-up quite quickly and without being foreseen. It happens too often that someone tells me they don’t have the time to discuss consultancy now but then way later call me with a need for yesterday. Nobody is waiting for their house to burn to ask for a fire insurance.

Don’t fall for this trap and take 30 minutes now to connect with consultancy firms, to explain your activity, your vision, your strategy and your current projects. That way, when you will be in extreme need of someone fast (and that you won’t have time anyway), nobody will lose time by considering profiles that do not match these criterias and the company culture. 

What will it bring to the company?

  • Problem solving about a specific expertise
  • External advice on projects, structure, work in need of confirmation
  • An extra brain and pair of hands to help your team overcome an overload of work
  • Replacement of a key-employee for a defined period

So overall, consultants are solving issues and are bringing value. 

At Strand Associates, we understood the utility of consultants to support the industry in a timely manner. So in order to prevent the long-term sickness of your QC Manager; the maternity leave of your favourite QA Officer; an overload of work in your RA department or an urgent qualification on your new production machine, give me a call so we can discuss the situation in your team, which of our 40 consultants can help you and how we will create value together.

Antoine Desprez
Associate Consultant – Expert Life Sciences


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