Hiring MBA’s by the Hour | Inventing Work 2.0 with Skillbridge

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A few scenarios for us to consider:

You’re looking to grow the business and want to scale into new territory. You need to research the possibilities in a new landscape but your personal research has been well, a bit fruitless. Perhaps it’s time to raise a round of Venture Capital funding and want a pitch presentation a bit more composed than the dusty Keynote you put together last year for your friends and family round. All the while, you have product to maintain and a team to manage, but the very thought of hiring a VP or consulting firm makes you cringe.

We all need help sometimes – and building a business is, by no means, immune to that. Though growth/expansion/hustle can be accomplished through an immeasurable number of ways, the best way to fulfill these goals lies in an even more basic need: to find good people. Well, not just good people, but intelligent, talented professionals who know what they’re doing.

Traditionally, these between a rock and hard place problems have been solved with a limited pool of expensive options – usually associated with long contracts and high billables for “MBA quality” work. For example, difficult solutions that speed and flexibility are also a priority.

Bridging the Gap and Redefining “Work”

Recently, we discovered an interesting NYC-based company who had a simple hypothesis: What if you could bring elite business consultant talent to the table without the traditional price and hurdles? What if you could combine the flexibility of outsourcing with the quality level of highly skilled strategists?

This idea, to “rent people with MBAs and other elite business consultants by the hour,” is what brings us here.


Introducing SkillBridge

Today, we have Stephen Robert Morse, Head of Marketing and Communications at SkillBridge.co.

We discuss everything from outsourcing, MBA’s, and business, to the lessons learned in building their marketplace for connecting business professionals with the companies who need them.

Currently, their “marketplace for MBA’s and other skilled professionals” has more than 3,000 professionals with an impressive list of big name credentials. Professional brands like Bain, Barclays, Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton; MBA/academia like Columbia, Harvard, Wharton, etc. are reflected in their stable of on-demand, hourly paid consultants and freelancers for a number of business roles:

  • Market Research
  • Marketing & Branding
  • Investor Decks
  • Due Diligence
  • Training Materials
  • Financial Models

Company Founder, 31-year old Raj Jeyakumar, developed the concept after a nearly 7-year-long career in strategy and management consulting, topped with a volunteer trip, organized by the Gates Foundation to Kenya, where he created a marketplace for local farmers. Eventually, he went through the rigors of pursuing an MBA at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania – all the while, picking up freelance consulting work and employing his management/strategy skillset.


SkillBridge was Built Out of Necessity

Jeyakumar, and his peers, found the process of finding freelance business consulting work to be incredibly inefficient. Thus, the idea behind creating a consulting marketplace was built out quickly, and a few months after launch, Stephen Robert Morse joined as SkillBridge’s first employee.

“I came on about six months after the website launched. Raj was the business guy, but my background was in tech and startups. Lightbox, Seamless, and Quirky to name a few.”

Stephen paints us a picture of why he got involved, and the importance of SkillBridge’s service.

Before SkillBridge, there wasn’t really a platform to provide work for white collar professionals on demand. Regardless of project difficulty, the process should be simple and easy. We wanted to create an easy way for businesses to access high quality, high talent, and elite professionals.

The other key here, Stephen explains, is confidentiality.

“Other platforms and freelancing sites lose the transparency aspect. You, as a user, will post a project, out there for the world to see, then ask for freelancers to bid their services. When you have big business decisions (management consulting, entering new markets, pricing sheets, etc.), confidentiality is a huge priority for SkillBridge.”

How It Works

An example:

“You put out a $50k project request. Then through the platform, we get in contact with the 20 best consultants who match your particular needs. We have algorithims in place to refine the matches. We send them the one page project scope, ask for the availability and timeline, then we offer the best candidate to client matches and you can set up interviews as needed.”


Consulting: a Stagnant Industry in a Modern Age

We step back and take a glance at the consulting industry as a whole. It is a large, hulking, industry with modern needs and standards, but age-old underpinnings.

“The consulting business is something that’s remaind unchanged for nearly 100 years. Names like Accenture and Bain can charge billables of up to $20,000 a day to employ consultants that would just as easily work for $100 per hour, as long as it’s on their own terms.

We’ve found our marketplace appeals to consultants who love their work, but hate their jobs: Whether it’s the traveling, or working for clients they don’t like. To us, it’s about producing quality matches and allowing professionals to opt into jobs they’re interested in.”

Traditional hiring methods can equate to a month or longer of searching, qualifying, and hiring. Consulting projects, on SkillBridge, Stephen notes, can be submitted, answered, and candidates interviewed, qualified, and hired within 48 hours’ time.

Beyond Temporary Matchmaking

Past a simple marketplace, SkillBridge has yielded worthwhile results for career changers and those seeking flexible work lifestyles. Perhaps, professionals who are looking to get into specific industries, or most interesting: Stay-at-home parents who used to be management consultants, and MBA students looking to pick up work to fund expensive tuitions.

The profile fits accordingly for professionals who can spare 20-30 hours a week (not the traditional 50-60) to produce high level work. And in some cases, as Stephen reports, consultants have gone on to secure full time jobs for their contract employers – like the story of Anna Johnson, a Harvard Business School grad who was hired bySkillbridge as an HR contractor who helped her client create manuals for a fledgling startup’s HR team.


A Changing Work Landscape

To date, SkillBridge has grown quickly with over 300 projects under its belt, and more coming in at a steady pace – all in 9-10 months of a baseline MVP launch, and a major site redesign in February.

“We want to validate the need for intermediate-priced consulting services, mainly in helping small businesses grow to the next level. It’s geared towards companies who don’t necessarily have budgets to hire McKinsey or Bain.”

We discuss the landscape at large, and some of the shifts they’ve been seeing in the space.

The try before you buy model has been a huge value on both sides. For the consultant (and they’ve all been there), when they walk into the first day on the job at a company and think to themselves {oh no}. For clients, they want to make sure they’re hiring for a position that is necessary to improve their bottom line.”

Company-side, control of the scope and timing of their projects is essential. In answering my question of what kind of companies are using their service, Stephen and his team have found the list to include private equity and venture capital firms, and large startups who are past the bootstrap level – like, say, Warby Parker in its earlier days.

Companies at this size often prefer to hire consultants for things that are not core to their businesses, with an emphasis on growth and scale.


Lessons Learned

As a relatively young company, SkillBridge has seen its fair share of familiar startup bumps along the way. From one client who sent checks late to unreasonable project scopes – the team has gone the route of prioritizing customer service for its consultants and customers.

“To maintain quality, we’ve used review and scoring systems that take into account every part of the hiring process, from answering postings and interviewing, to verifying LinkedIn profiles and work portfolios. It’s an arduous process, but until we’re a huge company with a sterling reputation, we need to focus on customer service.

The lesson that we’ve learned is that there are talented people out there who are motivated not solely by money, but by engagement and meaning in their work. People are willing to work for less money when they know their work has a high impact.”

And with that, we close our interview with Stephen Robert Morse of SkillBridge. For more information on their services, be sure to visit their website to learn more!

Tim Wut

Tim Wut was once in pursuit of a paper-laden career in bankruptcy law. He now writes for TechZulu, covering startups and founder stories. He explores the inspiration that drives entrepreneurs and shares lessons learned in the startup trenches. Writer by trade, storyteller at heart.

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