In this episode of Beyond Consulting, Ken Kanara, CEO and President of ECA speaks with Anjali Nakhooda, a former BCG consultant, and current VP of Marketing & Product Management at Vestcom, to discuss her thoughts on leading marketing strategy and product management for a data driven media company, pros and cons of consulting, a rage of consulting projects she has led and much more spanning her career across BCG, Beachbody, IRI and Vestcom.
The Beyond Consulting Podcast is hosted by Ken Kanara.
Ken Kanara: Hello, and welcome to Beyond Consulting, brought to you by ECA Partners, the only podcast dedicated to helping you navigate your life after a career in consulting. I’m Ken Kanara, host of Beyond Consulting and CEO of ECA Partners, a specialized project staffing and executive search firm focused on former management consultants and private equity. Each week, I host guests that have spent time in consulting and made some pivot or career change after consulting. The goal is to help our audience understand all the options that they have and to, ideally, learn from our guests, both in terms of what they did right and things they wish they would have done differently. Today, we welcome Anjali to the studio. Hi Anjali, welcome.
Anjali Nakhooda: Thank you, Ken. How are you?
Ken Kanara: I’m well, thanks so much for joining us.
Anjali Nakhooda: Thanks. I will start off by telling your listeners a little about myself, if that works.
Ken Kanara: Yes, you beat me to it. I was just about to say that I think we’ve known each other for longer than we’d to admit. Why don’t you start out and give us a little bit of background.
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, absolutely. I’m Anjali Nakhooda. I’m currently in Chicago and I am the VP of Marketing and Product Management at a company called Vestcom, which provides tech-enabled services to the retail and CPG industries. That is what I to call “chapter three” of my career, “chapter 2” being my post-MBA career, which was consulting and a number of strategy roles, and “chapter one” being my first stint in the workforce after undergrad, which was in finance. I think, Ken, you and I talked–gosh…we were just talking about this, right? I think we first connected ten or twelve years ago or so.
Ken Kanara: It’s been awhile–more than I’m willing to admit. For our listeners, they’ll know that the thing that I want to talk about is when you worked at Beachbody, but I won’t start there, I promise. First, I want to dive into Vestcom. First of all, what is Vestcom and what do you do for them?
Anjali Nakhooda: As head of marketing, I always think about the brand positioning of Vestcom, but honestly, the easiest way to describe what we do is to deviate from that. We make, essentially, the price tags and all the price communication that you see in major grocery stores, drug stores, and other specialty retailers, but what not everyone knows is that process of getting to a final price is really complicated. Take someone Kroger that has 2700 stores. Each one of their 2700 stores might have a different price for certain items or dozens or hundreds or thousands of items. Guess what? They change those prices every week, so there’s a lot of data integration that is involved and that’s essentially what Vestcom does. It integrates all of that data, prints the price communication for stores, and then delivers it just in time every single week.
On top of that we also sell media on those tags. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Diet Pepsi on the price tag or some messaging around it being gluten free, that likely comes from media that we are selling and working with CPGs and then rev back with retailers.
Ken Kanara: That’s incredible. So, across all different retailers across all different locations and then across hundreds of thousands of SKUs?
Anjali Nakhooda: Exactly.
Ken Kanara: We’re talking about millions, billions and probably not trillions, but billions of different discrete prices.
Anjali Nakhooda: Exactly.
Ken Kanara: That’s incredible. If I’m walking through the aisle at a Kroger and I look down and I see the little price tag, that’s more than likely from you guys?
Anjali Nakhooda: It’s more than likely from us and that incorporates things if there’s a sale, the promotional information and what different types of products might be included in that promotion. For example, “Buy 5, Save $5,” that type of thing. The coolest thing that we’re doing recently is QR codes. You can actually scan the QR code and it links you back to Kroger’s site where you can actually download or clip the digital coupon. We also work with folks at Pinterest. If you walk through an Albertsons or a Jewel-Osco or a Safeway store, you can actually see Pinterest tags where you might get recipe inspiration for example.
Ken Kanara: So it’s not just pricing, but some other QR tag that then you open a link and there’s content related to that particular SKU?
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes.
Ken Kanara: Oh, wow.
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, exactly.
Ken Kanara: The thing that continues to surprise me about, let’s call it “jobs after consulting,” is the sheer number of random industries that are out there that you would have never guessed. This is totally one of them. How did you get involved with Vestcom?
Anjali Nakhooda: There’s a long history that I have with Vestcom, but honestly it was through a recruiting firm. I was looking for my next opportunity and a firm had introduced me to Vestcom. For me, I was looking for a company of Vestcom’s size, which is under $500 million. I was looking, quite honestly, under 2 billion and so Vestcom, around $500 million, fit the mark. I was also looking for companies that had some relationship to retail or CPGs because I had spent so much of my consulting career and then post-consulting adjacent to those industries, so I felt a lot of my knowledge base was there. Then, just by chance, and that networking, I came across this opportunity with marketing. As I’m sure many of your listeners know that when you’re in the strategy roles, you are dangerous in a lot of different areas, right? B2B marketing, product management, go-to-market strategy…that can be parlayed in a lot of ways. While on paper it sometimes looks a leap, it really felt an extension of some of the things I’d already been spending time on in my time at IRI, which was right before that.
Ken Kanara: You lead product management as well as marketing, correct?
Anjali Nakhooda: That’s right.
Ken Kanara: Can you break that down? Especially the product management piece, because I think that’s a word that’s thrown out a lot and it has many different meanings. In your context, what is product management mean?
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, absolutely. I’ll give a little context of how this came about. When I first joined Vestcom, and this is another reason I love these smaller companies because they tend to hire folks at a certain stage that are just hungry and interested and curious, and if you have a great idea and you can make a case for it, you’re given some investment and some time to try things out. When I joined, my remit really was on the marketing side. The company had grown and it was time to really professionalize marketing and be a little more proactive on the marketing side to support that next wave of Vestcom growth.
With product management I had one person that I inherited that was writing some release notes for one of our software portals and that was about the extent of product management of Vestcom. As I sat down and I looked at the big, hairy, scary three-year growth plan, it became increasingly clear that we weren’t going to be able to hit that without actually having more formal product management. Really, what this team does, because it is in its infancy, so it really comes back to classic consulting: you lay out the strategy, you talk about the costs, you figure out the test and learn strategy and you gain alignments, right? You find a bunch of supporters and then, all of a sudden, you’re given that green light to go give it a try.
Ken Kanara: Then–“oh, shit, it’s real!”
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, exactly! Yes, and then you can’t sleep at night. What this team is really focused on is a set of our products–so we’re not biting off all of the products today, but really they are focused on thinking about the product road maps. What are the features and capabilities that we need to add to our existing product lines so that they remain relevant in the market, right? It ensures that we’re not just responding because the client asks for it, but that we actually have a proactive view of how the industry and client needs are changing. Therefore, what do we have to build, develop or buy to make sure that our products remain relevant and sticky. That’s the primary role of this team but, of course, there are all sorts of other things having to do with training of the sales force and the organization, making sure that we have guardrails and boundaries with our product portfolios, that the different products don’t bleed into one another. They also play a big role on the innovation side. Whenever there is a brand new product, it sits with our innovation team, but product helps with the scoring, with understanding some of that feature functionality that’s needed and then commercializing the product.
Ken Kanara: Very cool. In a technology context, so if you think about a software developer, the product manager has a similar role but is very much involved with call it the building and the development. Is the same true for your industry as well, or not so much? You mentioned an innovation team, that’s why I ask.
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, but it’s not so much on the product development side, but it is more laying out the requirements that we need, whether it’s existing products or future products or new products, and laying those out in a way that can be interpreted by our IT and our solutions team that actually developed the products and create the prototypes. And we do have, by the way, both technology products as well as physical products.
Ken Kanara: Okay. That makes sense. Then, in your industry, what would you say the benefits are…it sounds you drove a lot of professionalization, standardization, process and strategy around the product management function. What are some of the benefits that you would see in the long term for that?
Anjali Nakhooda: Fundamentally, it is having a strategy related to the products. I think that a lot of times if you think about some of the history of Vestcom, and I think this is typical of companies that are Vestcom’s size, where a client might ask for an additional feature or capability. You build it, you think, “Maybe I’ll try to scale it.” You invest a lot, and maybe it scales, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it was architected too specifically for one client so that you could actually never scale it. If you don’t have a team that’s on the ground, dedicated and really deeply embedded with the clients, thinking about scale from the get-go, I think it’s a bit of a game of chance if that product is actually going to achieve revenue targets.
The other piece of it too is the piece that’s really connected to client needs. I think it’s very easy for a client to say, “I need this functionality in a software portal or the physical product,” and it’s very easy to literally go create it and scale it, and it’s this small idea. But did you actually get to the underlying needs? What is the client actually asking for? Are they asking for tag that is already perforated, versus what they want is actually something that’s faster. There’s a big difference between what problem you’re solving for. If you have a product team that digs deeper into the client needs, then you’re actually solving for their underlying need because you have a team that’s dedicated, that has the bandwidth to uncover it, versus, “Alright, let’s just create what they want and move on because I don’t have that bandwidth to go and dig in for hours with the client to understand the need. I think that is the other benefit that the team brings.
Ken Kanara: That makes a ton of sense and actually has some parallels to building software, too. It’s , “Okay, what’s the job to be done?” So often it’s our tendency to go, “It should have this and this…” because at the end of the day, we’re all consumers and we can’t help but go there. That’s really cool. The other thing to talk about is that you also lead marketing and it’s my understanding that you led a brand refresh as well. Talk to me about what that means in a very day-to-day context.
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, absolutely. If I think about, “What is our mandate with marketing?” and “How do we organize our work?,” there are a couple of big buckets. We don’t often use the word “brand-building.” We are a very commercially-led company and I think that sometimes marketing-speak doesn’t really land in the same way it might at a true consumer goods company. We don’t often talk about things like brand-building, though of course, that’s a lot of what we do. Really, the way we talk about it is, one, sales enablement. What are the things that marketing can do to really accelerate and enable the success of the sales team? That could be in-year or multi-year. That would be everything from developing collateral, thinking about how do we articulate the value proposition in a way that resonates, how do we think about client personas and their underlying needs so that we are again, crafting that narrative in a way that clients can understand the value very, very quickly. That evolved the sales-enablement piece.
Then, the other side, which is maybe more of that traditional brand-building, is the thought leadership end. This is all about the perceptions of Vestcom in the marketplace. We started off as…and we’ve aways had data integration at our core, but we were very much known for many years as a tag company. Part of my remit is to change those perceptions so that people understand the terabytes upon terabytes of data that we manage, the complexity that we manage. We print things, for example, in planogram order, so we’re taking the planogram of all 65,070 thousand retail stores and integrating it in. If I think about all of that and the perceptions we want to land, we are a thought leader. We consider ourselves shelf-edge experts, and how do we make sure that the marketplace recognizes that? That is everything from content marketing to our industry and conference strategy, to owned and paid media, and probably a million other things that I could go on for another hour and describe it.
The third tranche, which is actually really important, though maybe not as glamorous, is the internal communication side and really making sure that our all of our team members are engaged, informed and really rooted in what our value propositions are, and that we’re all marching in the same direction.
Ken Kanara: I get that that is very intelligent in terms of how you’re approaching it and how you’re picking it up, but, in a business like yours, how do you quantify the results of becoming the shelf edge experts? How do you think about that?
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, so I would say that the hardest thing for us at this stage of where we are is the attribution piece. It will change as we get more sophisticated, onboard a new CRM, and so there is a bit of a data gap, which, me as a former consultant…it has me vibrating, of course. But we also just see it in our everyday conversations. It is incredible when you think about reframing a discussion, when it’s not just, “Here’s our menu board of products, what do you want?” When we come into conversations demonstrating a deep understanding of the industry, a deep understanding of the complexity of retail, a deep understanding of the client across from us, and we get that, not just from briefings that we read and digest, but because we get to see retailers across the spectrum. We work with almost all the major grocery and drug retailers in the USA. That perspective is valuable to folks, but also specialty retail. We can bring in ideas and thoughts from all sorts of places when we come to our clients. That has been incredibly valuable, but then you see that payback, not only in pure revenue coming out of those conversations, but also in what our clients reach out to us for. They treat us, sometimes, almost as consultants. They come and ask us about their strategies having to do with the shelf edge, once they realize that shelf edge can be an enabler for their overall company priorities.
Ken Kanara: Is it fair to say that there’s a tremendous amount of solution-selling that goes on in your space now than say, two decades ago?
Anjali Nakhooda: Absolutely, and solution is the exact way to put it. It isn’t a singular product, but it is solution.
Ken Kanara: If I’m a drug store pharmacy, I have different challenges than a grocery store or something like that. I don’t know what the hell they are, but I would imagine that I would, and I have very different problems to solve as it relates to managing and pricing my SKUs.
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, and it’s not even the managing pricing, but if you think about the world of retail and how competitive it’s gotten. You have so many more channels as a shopper, so many different options from online to in-store…you can buy everything on Amazon now, or you can go to Whole Foods and still get your health and beauty products, or you can choose the typical Kroger or any of the drug stores, and one off brands like Billie that are direct to consumer. If you think about the world of options, what all retailers are thinking about is, “How do I maintain this position as a retailer of choice or my shop when they have a world of options to choose from?”
A lot of what we do now, well, historically we’re a tag company, but a lot of what we’re doing now has shifted to thinking about how do we create a seamless shopper experience, as they think about the digital channel. When you go to Walgreens online, that experience with you in-store still feels seamless. It still feels like the same Walgreens because guess what? A Walgreens shopper uses both channels. A Kroger shopper uses both of those channels, and there’s always Amazon. That option that you’ve got to think about. “Oh I’ve got to be as easy and seamless as these other options out there.”
Ken Kanara: That’s such a fun, challenging and interesting problem to solve, and to think about it from that perspective. The amount of data that you need to get it right, I think, speaks to a lot of the value that you guys are driving. Kudos to you in terms of driving the results that you did over the past couple of years.
I want to rewind the clock a little bit. Before Vestcom, you were at IRI and Beachbody and you did a lot of work across M&A valuation, you did pricing strategy and product launch. Can you start with IRI and what you did there? I’m really curious to hear how consulting framed your career at IRI and Beachbody.
Anjali Nakhooda: I’ll start with the consulting piece because it’s a bit foundational, then I’ll dig into IRI a bit. When I think about consulting, I think that the toolkit was invaluable. This idea of being comfortable with ambiguity, being able to take things that are complex and make them simple–break it down so that you can analyze it or use logic to attack these problems. That’s been with me my entire career. I’m really grateful for that experience that I had. All of the skills and looking at big data sets and finding the patterns and themes and drawing out insights.
When I think about my IRI time, there were two different roles that were quite different at IRI. The first one is really corporate strategy at the center, working closely with the CEO and the leadership team. A lot of what I worked on there were things around IRI’s valuation, around IRI’s five-year strategic plan, evaluating the different business cases that they had or creating business cases for the various initiatives, as well as tracking and developing metrics. I did a lot of work for the Board of Directors as well, thinking about, “How do we tell the overall IRI story, our progress and where are there gaps that the board can with?”
It was such a great seat to be in because when you’re partnering the CEO on creating his letter to the board, you have to know a little bit about everything happening within the company. It was such a great perch to be sitting on because while you may not be deep in anything in particular, you get that holistic view of the entirety of the company. Then, after a while, after a few years of that, I parachuted into one of our businesses, which was our media business. It was a start-up business within larger IRI that had a legacy product and we were purchasing loyalty data from retailers like Kroger and launching media products from there. So things around audience measurements and understanding the impact of buying, for example, if you sent out the digital ad to you, Ken, whether you actually go purchase in-store, or not. You can actually take that loyalty data and marry it with digital data.
Ken Kanara: I will definitely purchase in-store. I need things now. I’m the worst consumer ever when it comes to this.
Anjali Nakhooda: But if you get served that impression, and that digital ad, IRI can measure whether you make that purchase online or whether you make that purchase in-store, which is pretty wild. Obviously, not down to the individual level, it’s all sanitized data, but you can imagine that it is an increasingly important measurement kinds of measurement when you think about the CPG world and how they invest their brand dollars. My role there was, I played this mix of Head of Strategy, Chief of Staff and COO to the President of the media business. This is everything from partnerships, to thinking about a go-to-market strategy in Europe, to analyzing impacted privacy laws on what we were doing, managing the budget, working with the teams to make sure that we had the right staffing models and everything is strategic and tactical and everything in between, which is vastly different than where I’ve been before at IRI.
Ken Kanara: That first role you mentioned at IRI…I’ve heard about a lot of former consultants going into that. Was that a chief of staff role almost? The word is thrown around a lot, was it essentially that?
Anjali Nakhooda: It was. It was a kind of Chief of Staff, plus S.W.A.T Team. I was diving in to projects or initiatives across the company to give them strategic support.
Ken Kanara: Correct me if I’m wrong, but both IRI and Vestcom were private equity backed, is that correct? What did that mean in terms of the pace of work for you, because most people leave consulting to get to slow down?
Anjali Nakhooda: I will say that the pace is different than consulting, for sure. I will say that being part of strategy teams, and it may also be my wiring as well, because I feel it even today, I think that sometimes the pace is dictated to you. I think some of it is inherent to who you are and the things that you are trying to accomplish. Of course, the wrinkle being that there are certain times in a private equity-owned company that are going to increase the number of times you see midnight while you’re on your laptop. If you think about the valuation time is when there’s a due diligence period, and of course, those are all hands on deck and those are whatever hours. Working directly for a CEO can be that way as well, because you want to be responsive and it is typically related to the things that are critical to the organization. I would still say the pace is quite different.
Ken Kanara: What Anjali is saying is that she’s a glutton for punishment. That was a long-winded way of saying she likes pain. Before IRI, which is really where I want to talk about…Beachbody because, what a cool company. Was Beachbody a private equity backed as well?
Anjali Nakhooda: No. Beachbody took on a private equity investment while I was there, which was really fun thing to see. If you can believe it…at the time I joined it was about 700 million in revenue, mainly off the back of P90X and almost entirely founder owned. It was owned by Carl Daikeler and John Condon, who was CEO and President, with maybe a little bit of the company owned by various other investors and leadership team members, but a miniscule amount, which is incredible.
Ken Kanara: You mentioned P90X… Beachbody was essentially, if I’m not mistaken, a portfolio of different exercise-related brands and tutorials, am I summing it up right?
Anjali Nakhooda: It was at home fitness…it sounds antiquated now, and obviously the model has evolved, but it was DVDs–infomercial, direct-to-consumer, late night DVD’s that they send you in the mail. On the other side of the business, which not everyone…some people know about, not everyone knows about is network marketing. It is a program where you are a Beachbody Coach, you get a discount on the products, you make sales to folks and then you earn commission on it. Independent coaches–which, by the way, sometimes people say, “Oh it’s a pyramid scheme…” This one is not at all. It was actually pretty genius. If we think about why Carl Daikeler Beachbody, it wasn’t that he was an exercise junkie, it was just that people are always going to want to get into better shape. When you look at the standard American diet, you look at folks, everyone is always going to be interested in it. Whether the economy is good, the economy is bad, this is going to be a business in demand.
The second piece of it is that if you have someone who has lost fifty pounds using Beachbody products, everyone is going to see that–at least in the pre-pandemic world, right? You go into the office and everyone says, “What did you do? How did you lose all this weight?” Then you can very authentically talk about Beachbody, so shouldn’t you also then be selling Beachbody? That was really the idea behind the network marketing arm.
Ken Kanara: It’s quite an incredible thing to think about, and I’ve actually never thought about it in that paradigm. You’re absolutely right. No matter what level of fitness you are, you’re not done yet, right? I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve asked, “Well, how did you get…?” “Oh, P90X.” That’s really cool.
One of the things that our listeners are particularly interested in is that they’re at the stage where they’re still in consulting and they’re about to make a leap. Talk to us about how you made the decision to leave and what drew you to Beachbody.
Anjali Nakhooda: I actually thought about leaving consulting before I ended up doing it and really, I think I was a little burnt out on the number of hours, which is not necessarily the right reason, at least for me, to leave. I was convinced to stay, and I’m really glad I did and I got more reps in as a project leader, which I loved. For me, fundamentally, there’s this bit of a disconnect because you go and you recommend strategies when you’re in that project leader phase, but you don’t have a client relationship–at least I didn’t feel like I could follow up with client and understand what worked or didn’t work. I felt like the relationship was owned by others, and I just moved on to the next project. Honestly, the pace doesn’t allow you to stop and say, “Hey, whatever happened with this client?” I felt I was recommending things without that understanding or knowledge of, “Well, if I take a step back, did any of this work? What didn’t they implement and why didn’t they implement it?” It felt like there was just this big gap in my learning of, now how do you get to things that are practical and real? How do you have to pivot and readjust halfway through if the strategy isn’t working? I didn’t feel like I was getting that at that time at the BCG. I felt like, “Hey, I’ve enjoyed my time. I’ve learned a ton.” I’m not sure that more years of, again, project leader to principal feels more or less the same role, maybe slightly bigger teams. It felt like a good time to actually go test the waters and see that other side of what happens when you implement and strategy actually meets reality.
Ken Kanara: You’ve obviously worked with a tremendous amount of middle market companies now successfully, private equity back. When you were working at BCG was your client base…did that look the same or was it, I’m guessing, bigger corporate types? Fortune 500’s?
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, Fortune 100 CPG’s was the vast majority of my time at BCG.
Ken Kanara: Was that part of the equation or you honestly hadn’t thought about client size or anything like that?
Anjali Nakhooda: I loved working for the big clients when I was at BCG, especially since, if we were going to be retained, its generally a very high strategy, critical to the organization project. You get to work with quite senior folks on the client side. What I didn’t want to do though was leave consulting and feel very buried in an organization. I was used to being able to have influence on the overall company. I felt like coming out at that point in my career, if I went to a Fortune 100-sized company I would be so far removed from where the decisions were being made, little let alone having any influence on those decisions and having a voice. I really felt like going to a smaller company…I love those companies that are at tipping points of alright, they’ve grown like gangbusters, but really, they’re going to have to make changes to get to that next wave of growth. A lot of times that was professionalizing the operations–all respect to all the history and all the folks that came before, but at some point you reach that period of growth where formal strategy makes sense, or folks with more depth of experience in certain areas.
Ken Kanara: You were at BCG, where do you feel like that really prepared you for what was next and where do you feel like, “Oh my God. I had no clue.” Where were you green that you just didn’t know what you didn’t know.
Anjali Nakhooda: I feel like I’ve touched on a couple of those things, and how I was prepared. It’s that idea of being able to leverage frameworks, of being able to take something ambiguous, not be scared of it, and take ambiguous plus complex and break it down in a strategic way, to ask the right questions that help us frame strategies and pass forward. I felt like I had that piece of it.
The piece that I think was underdeveloped was some of the people-side of things. What I mean by that is when you’re out of BCG and you’re working with a client, the client spends seven figures to engage you. Guess what? Everyone on the client side is pushing aside their day job. They are invested in this project because their bosses, bosses, boss has said so. This creates an automatic buy-in and speed, that you don’t have when you, yourself, are bringing forward strategies and you’re trying to get alignments and buy-in. You really have to flex that influence muscle more than you have to in consulting and find those ways to get people passionate, excited and backing an idea so you have that momentum. I think that’s one huge part of it.
I think the other piece, and I will say, I still work on developing this, when I was a consultant, I feel like I had to have the answer to everything a client might ask. I felt like it had to be perfect because they’re spending this much money on us. I’d go, and I’d present and with fingers crossed “Please don’t find fault in this because I might not know the answer,” and try to push it through. I’ve realized that my stance on the other side of things has to be a lot different. I have actually gotten to the point where I invite conflict–don’t tell me what’s great about this, tell me where there are holes because I need to know now. What I’m searching for is not that you pass through my work, I’m happy and you’re happy and then I just move on to the next case. Instead, I’m looking for the solutions that are actually going to work. I’m going to be there, by the way, for the fallout if it doesn’t work, so I need to know the roadblocks–why you’re not bought in. I need folks to speak up. I need that conflict now, versus after I implemented and then you tell me why it was going to fall apart as it’s falling apart. It’s a much different posture.
Ken Kanara: Yes, and it’s funny, on that second piece…sometimes I worry that I couldn’t go back to consulting because sometimes you need to make a slide with list of five priorities and you know that one and two are really the only ones that matter, the other three are like “eh.” I don’t know that I could go back that slide anymore having been on the other side, so that’s a really good point.
Anjali Nakhooda: I also feel that in some ways, the clients might love it–that open, frank and “I’ve seen this,” right? You’re coming from a place of experience.
Ken Kanara: That’s very true. On the first point around, on buy-in, we even see that with CEOs of private equity companies, they need buy-in. They need buy-in from their investors, they need buy-in from their team. When you’re in consulting, you assume this is what’s getting done. Like you said, you have zero appreciation for actually getting this across the finish line but it’s inherent to the work that you’re doing. There’s very little resistance having been on the other side now that I see. That’s really cool, thanks for sharing that.
Two more things I’m curious about. What advice would you, and I ask everybody this, what advice would you give to someone that’s currently in consulting and thinking about making a move from your experience.
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, I think there are a couple of things. One is doing a little bit of soul searching around what are the things you really enjoy about work and taking that amount of time to understand are you a details person, is it process, is it high level strategy, do you want you want to implement anything? I think understanding that earlier on can help guide you so that you’re leaning into work that marries your strength and your passion areas, the things that you actually like.
That’s one piece. I’d say, also, go down the rabbit holes. Talk to anyone and everyone. “Oh wow, this person took a completely left turn and they’re doing this…” Go talk to them. Like you and I, Ken, have talked about executive search, which I’ve always found interesting. Go down those rabbit holes, have those conversations, understand what you can from that great consulting network that you have of people going off and doing these great things. It’s the best way to understand and then match up against your own interests and see how you react to those things.
Those are the two big things. Then I would say that the other piece is that I felt like it was so risky to leave consulting. I had to find the exact right home. I think we all recognize that people don’t go to firms and stay for the next 30 years, right? If you go somewhere but you don’t love it, you’ll gain something valuable and it’s all about adding to your toolkit, to your experiences. If you make a left turn that doesn’t make sense, you can tell the story of your comprehensive value that you bring and go back to consulting, if you want, or some other role that that suits your interests more. I would say don’t be risk-averse like I was.
Ken Kanara: I think that, especially on point two, talk to as many people as you possible can. Part of the reason we’re doing this podcast is so that you see data and you understand, “Okay, here are my options after consulting…” but I don’t think you truly, really understand what a career path is until you hear the story of the person. I absolutely know what you mean by number two, so thanks for sharing that.
Last thing…we’re building up a Beyond Consulting library. What book would you recommend that our listeners read?
Anjali Nakhooda: Yes, I do. I have two. The first is a book called Pivot by Jenny Blake. She’s a former Googler, but it just outlines different exercises you can do to understand yourself better, like your sources of energy, what you’re passionate about, and I think it asks it in a way that might uncover things that would be different than if you just sat down with a piece of paper by yourself. That one’s a favorite. The other one is Work Smarter, Live Better by a man named Cyril Peupion. He works a lot with BCG Partners and I think other consulting firms. He did a talk for the BCG Alumni Group and I loved it so much I actually had him come and speak to the larger Strategy Innovation Marketing Product Team, and we’ll probably roll it out further within Vestcom. It’s a little Stephen Covey-like, around effectiveness. How do you make sure that you’re prioritizing the things that really matter and how do you push aside the rest to make room for those things that are actually going to move the needle on the goals and objectives and what you want to accomplish in your role.
Ken Kanara: Oh, that’s interesting. I’m guessing it gets into how work is a big part of your life and how those two things are intermingled…? I’m probably oversimplifying it.
Anjali Nakhooda: It does, but it’s really like a method for doing things like triaging your emails. This is true, he actually talks about creating room in your personal life for the things that matter. It’s not just work, and personal life, but it’s tips, tricks, tactical strategies for managing that influx of e-mail, communications, texts, pings and calendar invites, and all of that good stuff. It’s all about effectiveness and focusing on what really matters.
Ken Kanara: Alright, I will definitely check that one out. Well Anjali, thank you so much for joining us. This has been fun, not only just to do the podcast, but also to catch up. If listeners are interested in learning more about Vestcom, is there a place you would direct them? I don’t imagine that there are a lot of B2B retailers that are on the edge of their seats right now, but where would you direct them?
Anjali Nakhooda: I will say that we are always hiring, too, so I will put in a plug for Vestcom, at least on that side, but you can visit our website at vestcom.com.
Ken Kanara: If you ever want to work for Anjali, just send me an e-mail and I can connect you.
Anjali Nakhooda: I’m hiring for a senior manager right now, so put that plug in right now on the marketing side.
Ken Kanara: There you go! See? You want to work for Anjali? Email her. Well thank you so much.
For our listeners, if you want to be updated on future podcasts, make sure to subscribe on either on Spotify, Apple, Amazon or Google, and please rate the podcast, that really helps us out. If you want to find past episodes or learn more about the podcast it’s beyondconsulting.info. If you want to get in touch with us at ECA, it’s eca-partners.com, but I’m looking forward to speaking with everyone next week. Thanks so much Anjali.
Anjali Nakhooda: Thank you.