Posts tagged with consulting

Expenses

June 17th, 2010

I was in discussions with a good friend and worker in the public sector regarding the issue of justified expenses (I don’t mean MP type expenses, just general work expenses.  Before anyone leaps onto a high horse).
“You have it easy,” she said, “You just claim it all on expenses.”

Oh really?  I asked for some justification on what “it all” was.
“Well…your travel, your food and drink…top hotels, entertainment, gym membership, telephone calls, drinks with clients, clothes, dry-cleaning…”
I mulled it over.  Entertainment written onto expenses?  Taking clients wining and dining?  Where was she getting this from?  Then I realised that she was getting consultants confused with investment bankers.  The subtle difference between investment bankers and consultants is that the two industries are dissimilar in every way.  I don’t know where in the annals of tertiary sector work this mix up originated but it seems to once again perpetuated by the media who presents overfed coke head party boys (and girls) who spend their spare time in strip clubs as the only type of professional services worker out there and indeed given the rest of us a damning reputation…either way you can read more about it here.

It’s time to set the record straight on expenses.
Firstly, on a rather whimsical note, most consultants are honest and conscientious people which is why they ended up in consulting and not investment banking.  Sorry, bankers.  On one level, we know that expenses money ultimately comes from the client and most of us feel pretty bad about stuffing it down the knickers of a third rate bleached blonde tangoed lap dancer.   On another level, it’s nay impossible to claim anything over and above the approved rates for things as our computer system simply won’t let you enter it in.  That’s jumping ahead though.  Let me backtrack and I’ll start by clarifying what is and what isn’t classed as an expense.

“Travel – planes, trains, taxis, busses and boats” – Which is fair enough.  We work away from home, someone has to pay the airline to take us there.  What ISN’T true is that we’re living it up in business class with 7am classes of champagne and toasted cashew canapés.  Anyone above manager grade can choose to travel business class, but only trans-Atlantic and within reason.  Lower grades can occasionally travel business class with manager approval but you can bet how often that happens.

“Top Hotels” – Ok, I’ll be honest.  We get to stay in some really nice hotels.  I don’t mean top of the range gold plated and brocade hotels but we do get nice four star business getups in central areas and a good helping of mod cons.  But then again, if you’re being made to work away from home you want to be able to live as normally as possible.  Nice hotels get boring when you can’t leave them because you don’t know anyone or are working so late you literally fall into bed at half one then roll out again at half six.  You’d better be sure I’ll be after a clean bathroom and nicely folded towels waiting at her majesty’s pleasure under those circumstances.

“Food and Drinks” –We can charge for one meal a day and one alcoholic drink with the meal.  To put this into universal purchasing power parity, this is the equivalent of a large pizza, a side and a drink in a chain takeaway.  No sign of the world famous eateries and Michelin stars here – unless the manager takes you out on a “team dinner” which happens usually once during a project during which you’re stuck with your work colleagues talking about work.  We cannot charge for coffee, tea, lunch, snacks or breakfast.  We can attend some industry events which are usually well covered by expenses but who wants to go to work after work and talk about work (see the theme here…) for a free glass of Pinot Grigio?

“Gym Membership” – you can get half subsidised gym membership for one gym which the company chooses but that’s useless as we tend to work away from home a lot.

“Telephone calls” – We can claim calls from the work mobile within a reasonable limit which I bet isn’t as much as your monthly contract.

“Drinks with clients” – If you are of senior enough grade – as in if you’ve spent years slaving over a hot laptop and working 60 hour weeks you can – sometimes -  take clients out for a drink.  The average length of time it takes to get to a grade which allows you to charge for expenses with clients is twelve years.  However, I have heard about client entertainment events such as taking client to box theatre seats at top productions, but it’s only done by the partners and it’s usually with a business agenda.

“Clothes and drycleaning” – Are you serious?  Even if I had the time to go shopping no one is going to pay for my clothes.  There was one circumstance where I had been away from home for four days and my manager asked me to work Friday in a different office then work the weekend doing something else.  His entire suggested reimbursement was that I could buy some clean shirts to wear.  No mention of overtime (which we don’t get paid) or relocation reimbursement.  No, I’m female so obviously the offer of new clothes is going to rope me in.  I said no.

When it comes to entering claims, there is a defined list which much be checked and entered into our systems, along with the provisions of receipts and covering letters where necessary.  Any value which comes as unusual is pulled through an audit process and scrutinised.  Which is fine in my books– there’s no such thing as a free lunch and if such procedures catch out anyone trying to overclaim when the honest ones are doing the best to enter everything in to the penny then it gets my support.
I’ve realised that what I’ve written can almost be construed as negative.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s simply trying to explain the truth behind our work expenses.  I wouldn’t feel right writing of large sums of client money into filling my belly and even if I had the freedom do so I doubt I would.

Consultant CV

June 6th, 2010

This was sent through by a fellow consultant, I can’t claim for any of the humour contained therein. I have removed the incriminating lines and edited it slightly. Enjoy!

Consulting CV


Abridgment
Senior Master of Deception with over 6 years experience at GENERIC CONSULTANCY, one of the global ‘big 4’ scam organisations.   An expert in all subjects with the ability to turn simple tasks into Sisyphean endeavours for maximum revenue generation. Savvy and sycophantic with the capacity to swindle senior personnel in major public and private sector organizations.

Fundamental scope of expertism

  • Ability to invent massively unnecessary projects.
  • Effective time and cost multiplication to achieve maximum revenue.
    Verbosity and circumlocution expertise; skilled in document-to-tome transmogrification.
  • Sourcing and procurement of high-complexity word replacements for ‘finding’ and ‘buying’.
  • Successful implementation of solutions for major global organizations; particularly familiar with BRINE and SUGAR-SYRUP.
  • Completely guilt averse.
  • QTEMHBNAUBIJAMS level 3 practitioner (Qualification That Everybody Must Have But Nobody Actually Uses Because It’s Just Another Moneymaking Scam.)
  • Antecedent encounters of appositeness

    Project PARP – HM Department of Internal Organs

    • Led a £3 million anus procurement project. Senior government official had become constipated after ingesting his own anus.
    • Anus had been fully digested but defecation phase could not be completed since there was no anus throughwhich to pass a motion because it had been eaten, a phenomenon known as Personal Anal Recursion Paradox (PARP).
    • Initial Gap Analysis phase to establish the gap left by the anus followed by delivery of well documented intestinal requirements; successfully sourced and procured a new ‘best fit’ anus and oversaw the rectal integration phase.


    Data Whorehousing Project

    • 2 year, £4.2 million project to create a data whorehouse for a large manufacturer of blue chips for the casino industry.
    • Requirement for employees to have the option of having intercourse with data whilst working in remote locations.
    • Used sex-cell spreadsheets, COGNOS (Cognos Ognos Gnos Nos Os S) and statistical masochism to develop a database unusualised to the 4th unusual form.
    • Led the development of a ‘safe data sex’ initiative to allow the interfacing of male front-end and female back-end systems.

    Project Peristalsis

    • Project to review all documented central government processes and procedures to replace semi-colons with colons.
    • Objective was to allow the effective metaphorical transition of faeces throughout all documentation; budget: £4 trillion.
    • Led a team of 12 procurement analysts to successfully acquire over 23 million full stops during the colon construction phase; oversaw the subsequent decommissioning of over 23 million obsolete commas.
    • Produced recommendations report for the setup of a comma recycling initiative to turn disused commas into apostrophes.
    • Project completed on time and within budget under very tight deadlines.

    Extra-curricular preoccupations
    Not Applicable.

    Consultants: NOT investment bankers.

    May 3rd, 2010

    The more I think about what to write in these updates the more I realise that much of what I have to rant about is borne from the fact that most people think consultants and investment bankers are the same thing.
    This can make me (even more) mildly irate in my day to day dealings with people as I continually have to reaffirm the truth – yes, we do both fall into that ambiguous guise of “professional services” and yes, most of us work in really big offices. That’s where the similarities start and finish. It’s like saying that because you and funeral directors both wear suits to work that you both bury dead people on a day to day basis. Never fear, though. I’m here to educate you all.

    Contrary to what it often sounds like, I don’t hate investment bankers. It’s just that most people hate consultants and consultants need someone to vent against and investment bankers are fair game. They knew that before they got into the profession. So without further ado – the truth: Consultants are not investment bankers.

    “WOW, you must earn MILLIONS”
    Wrong. I think most of you would be shocked by how little I earn. Ok, I appreciate that it’s much more than other grad entry level salaries but it’s not like the upper echelons of the five figure sums that trainee bankers get. We also don’t get bonuses. Well, we do, but at junior levels they are all under a four figure sum and you have to get consistently high grades (yes, we are marked like we are in school) and unless you get the equivalent of nine straight A’s and a respected manager fighting your corner, you ain’t getting’ none.

    “Do you go to strip clubs at the weekend and take coke?”
    I have been asked this (or something similar) at least three times. I blame Confessions of a City Girl– which is an epic read by the way, I devoured in during a depressing day in new joiners training all the while carving “keep thinking of the money” into the table -who IS and investment baker and who DOES hang out in strip clubs. I don’t, and I don’t know any consultants who do. There’s two reasons:
    One – we are obliged to remain clean and pristine because of the caliber of the clients we work for. Investment bankers don’t actually work for clients in the same way we do hence when they get in trouble it’s only their own name they bring into disrepute.
    Two – most consultants are only too happy to get home at the weekend and would rather see their friends and families than go and see strippers. We’re all really a rather sedate bunch at heart and although we can give the average Joe a run for their drinking money, we would prefer to put our feet up and watch Come Dine with Me whilst looking for new leather gloves on ebay.

    “What are the trading floors really like?”
    I don’t know. Ask a banker. We tend to advise investment banks and financial institutions (ha, take that bankers!) as oppose to do any trading. We could, for example, advise a financial institution on their IT strategy, or maybe a restructure or on mergers and acquisitions. We don’t advise on what to buy, sell or stockpile. Our work is mush less volatile and hence less risky. As I keep saying, consultants tend to be meeker and milder than bankers and don’t want big scary on the spot decisions to be made without backup deliverables. How would we possibly make a trade without involving all stakeholders and ensuring that the client is fully engaged? How can you POSSIBLY do all your work off spreadsheets. Do you want a data warehouse for that?
    People can move on to be investment bankers though. What tends to happens is that we spend a long term spell consulting to an investment bank and the cocky alpha male and female types realise that consulting is rather boring in many ways and it’s much more fun shouting SELL SELL SELL down a wired telephone. So we skim these guys off to the banks leaving behind – you guessed it – the meek and mild types aforementioned.

    “You have to be well connected to get in”
    This was a strange one. I know that in the past, investment banking had a bit of the old boys network about it. Not just anyone got to be a banker and wear the braces and smoke expensive cigars. It was very much an Oxbridge/Ivy League pursuit. Best keep the money in the family and all that. I don’t think consulting was ever like that. As a relatively new profession (evolving about the same time as the expansion of the public sector) it tended to just want friendly, mentally stable, smart people who could communicate with other people. Your family ties are irrelevent. Now that graduate recruitment has been standardised and all those poor working class people can come in and steal a good education I think employers are pretty ambivalent about a recruit’s Alma Mater. Besides which, I’ve harped on before about consulting selling itself on the back of “understanding” the client and very often, that includes the common touch.

    There we go. I hope this had made things clearer. Bankers – risky, highly paid, big bonuses and promotions on the backs of dodgy deals. They spend their days buying and selling stuff. Less honest (remember the great big economic death of 2008?) and more prone to sex in hotels with strippers.
    Consultants – less risky, less well paid, appraisal based on performance. We spend our day suggesting the best approach to a difficult situation. More honest and more prone to a weekend in the park with the kids.

    So don’t ever compare me to an investment banker again.