Who better to champion the modern entrepreneurial consultant than one who fits the description himself? Daniel Callaghan is changing the skilled workforce one business at a time.
“Our vision is a bold one, sure,” says Daniel Callaghan, CEO of Talmix, “but we know that the market is ready for it – the overall concept of employment is changing, and our challenge is to drive the business world forward while steering that change.”
Callaghan is referring to the rise of the independent workforce, less a disruptive business idea and more a tectonic shift in thinking that the 34-year-old says had already started to surface as far back as 2009.
“At that point, I was running the entrepreneurial side of a business school, which included selling consultancy projects to businesses,” he says.
“A lot of firms were more than happy to outsource to our professionals, to the point where we ran out of candidates to put forward for those projects.
“There was already an idea forming there – a willing, capable workforce and businesses that needed them for specific projects and skills; it was clear enough that the future would see that model extending into the world of on-demand specialists and consultants.”
Callaghan had already accrued significant experience within the advertising and creative media industries, working for Publicis on accounts with Proctor & Gamble and the British government.
“It was great fun and a learning experience – not least because as a 22-year-old guy my brands were Pampers, Charmin and Tampax – but ultimately I decided that the media agency world was a bit too vertical for me.
“There wasn’t enough opportunity to really expand or contribute to the broader business world, so in 2007 I went back to school.”
More specifically IESE, the Barcelona business school ranked by the FT as one of the top business schools in the world and, crucially, one heavily-focussed on entrepreneurship.
“It’s where the ideas firmed up – the need for access to accredited specialists and those specialists’ equal need for projects to work on were clear.
“Flexibility was vital to overcoming budget constraints – a vital consideration after the financial crisis – we just needed to create a potential talent pool hungry for work.
“The rise of the online marketplace was the final piece of the puzzle to push the idea forward and unlock the perfect network for distribution.”
A Warm Reception
Keen to test the water, Callaghan swiftly went about building a roster of 2000 or so consultants with top-flight qualifications and verifiable experience, then cold-called companies to find out what they needed.
“It was small businesses that understandably got on board quickly: a charity that needed a business plan; a media company that needed market research in Germany and France,” he says, noting that the latter, Unruly Media, was recently sold to News Corp for £114m
“Everyone needed something but didn’t have the resource or the contacts to find it, and that’s remained true as we’ve rapidly grown – we took on our first FTSE 100 company within three months.
“It was when Talmix closed its first round of investment at £300,000 in early 2011 that we took the next steps and began to expand: part of that investment involved a co-founder joining the business, and together we took office space in Archway and hired two more employees.”
Proof of concept
The sense of urgency underpinning Talmix’s creation was to become the foundation of the business – one core tenant of its mission statement is ‘always forward’.
Accordingly, five years on, 35 staff are helping businesses in 142 countries find the skills and specialists they lack from a talent pool of over 26,000 consultants. Callaghan notes that while the scale of operation has undeniably grown – Talmix can list Linklaters, Ogilvy and TPG as clients – the core premise remains the same:
“Quality. Quality is paramount with everything that we do, in our own delivery but also the quality of both consultant and client – it’s important that we treat both with equal respect,” he says.
“We still use the schools and firms that each consultant attended as a solid benchmark, and simply present those as possible solution for a client’s need.
“There’s no sense of imposing a particular choice on our part, but they’re assured that every one of those choices represents a talented, capable and proven specialist.”
It’s a service that Callaghan believes is needed more than ever by businesses of all sizes, regardless of how traditional they might be, less a revolutionary concept and more a progressive fix that the business world has been waiting for.
“We’re not saying that we’re trying to usher in the death of full-time employment,” he says.
“It simply isn’t the case, but that’s not to say that there can’t be a far greater flexibility in the hire of certain skills, and that a smart business can’t leverage that to avoid unnecessary costs or costly mistakes.
“As I say, we’re aware that what we’re proposing is bold, but ultimately it benefits everyone.”
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