Konsultori has turned ten years old. Many emotions and memories must come to mind for the founder at this milestone. How does the tenth year begin?
It remains as dynamic as ever. There are great new opportunities to develop ourselves and our services, and our client projects remain more than very exciting. We also have new cooperation partners and have started a project in a new region. We have little time to pause and appreciate what we have achieved with a retrospective. How good it is that we are turning ten: we are forcing ourselves, so to speak, to pause, stop for a moment, take a breath and smile about the things we have achieved with our clients, staff and partners.
The company founded by Petra Wolkenstein has grown over the years. What are your tasks at Konsultori today and what is your favourite activity?
I am the founder and managing director of Konsultori BD GmbH, but that is only one part of Konsultori now. We now have several Konsultori partners and also cooperation partners across organisational boundaries. Our offer for start-ups and fast-growing companies has expanded to include financial management and financing. We are now also active on the investor side and have established our own VC fund. Furthermore, our regional reach has expanded: In addition to DACH, Italy and Eastern Europe, the African continent is now also part of our portfolio.
Besides specialising in mergers & acquisitions, investor preparation and strategy changes, I take care of the further development of Konsultori as a brand, the product portfolio and the partner management. A great pleasure remains to deliver pieces of training for start-ups on investor, strategy and negotiation tactics at universities and accelerators or organising panels and being a speaker for our Africa fund.
What is my favourite way to work? I am a very analytical person and like to make decisions after thorough research and discussion. On the other hand, I enjoy working with our clients and cooperation partners because I love to work together on results, such as an investor entry for a start-up. So an analytical driver, perhaps that’s what you could call it.
Ten years is a long time especially when you deal with so many new clients and thus always with new challenges. Do you still remember the very first company that approached you?
So much time has passed since then! The business environment is often very dynamic. Cooperation partners split up again and continue successfully elsewhere. That is also the case with Konsultori’s first clients, the architects’ Beluga & Daughters. Unfortunately, they no longer exist in this form because they have continued separately and got success there. Business development and set-up at Beluga & Daughters was a wonderful project back then: we defined the first projects together, negotiated with clients, and developed and implemented the strategy. It was a very good start with them.
Which moments and highlights are the most beautiful for you in the history of Konsultori?
I experience beautiful and difficult moments in the company, both within my team and with my clients. So there are always two sides. It is crucial not to give up when things get tricky but to digest quickly and look forward. What we certainly still need to practise: Celebrating successes.
When the first client achieves success after we have worked together, that is beautiful. And when it becomes several, every single success is just great. It’s nice that we can work across national borders in German-speaking countries, in Eastern Europe and now also in Africa, and generate something that helps companies move forward. The nomination for the Central European Start-up Awards 2022 is positive feedback that makes me very happy. But much more important are the individual successes of the customers.
I was also pleased that Christian, the first Konsultori partner, came on board. He identifies with the brand and is now sailing along. In addition to our Konsultori partners, we work closely with more than ten cooperation partners: It’s nice when we can pass on clients we can’t cover in terms of content externally with a clear conscience so that everyone is satisfied.
My first employee was Sonja Hager. I will never forget that she had a lot of confidence in a small, young company. We are still good friends today. In the meantime, we are over ten people and growing strongly. At the same time, one always forgets to count the subcontractors who work here actively.
The best projects are the long-standing clients who come with new projects and whom we can accompany in the long term when a new challenge arises. Whether they are accelerators or companies, working with old acquaintances is enjoyable, and you get to the result even faster because you already know how the other person works.
Is there anything you wish you had known before you founded Konsultori?
I would turn it around. It’s good that in the beginning, I didn’t know how many difficult moments there are along the way until you have stability. And even then, there are two or three moments a year that are difficult. I would have liked to know how important a personal support network is. Also, I wouldn’t start as a lone wolf anymore, but in a partnership, because it’s much quicker. And another thing: sometimes we are risk-averse compared to others, and in retrospect, I know that I could have taken more risks earlier. But that always comes afterwards. However, it’s a learning curve that we live with uncertainties every day and that you have to take risks, expecting that sometimes it will work out and sometimes not. The main thing is that the overall result is good. Perfect and safe was yesterday. Tackling is now.
What did Konsultori mean then and what does it mean today?
Ten years ago, we started as a business development consultancy. There was not yet a strong focus on an industry or an ideal client. I started with projects in the creative industry, and soon the tech and start-up sector came along. Today, our clients are fast-growing SMEs, start-ups (with a tech focus) and investors: I often heard that our clients were not that profitable. But we have since proven that we are good in this challenging area. It is not an easy client segment, but it is an exciting one. And finally, we want to have fun at work.
Ten years ago, there were no training and workshops. I started with one-to-one consultations and only with offline appointments in the office or at the clients’ premises. Now several people carry the Konsultori brand together, not just one person. But what hasn’t changed is that although we work with a method, we still work very individually with our clients and go into implementation with them. I think our clients also appreciate that.
Konsultori is expanding. How do you select your team what skills are you looking for?
With employees, it’s not so much about what they can already do but rather what potential they have and whether they enjoy it. It is also important that we fit together as people. I’ve been around too long to do this to myself, to work with people I can’t connect with. Life is a bit too short for that (laughs). What is a priority for us with Konsultori partners: that we can trust them, excellent quality and competence and, above all, a sensitive and good way of dealing with our clients.
Did you find out which entrepreneurs will be successful? What do you think is key?
The best entrepreneurs know what they want and how they want it. So they are goal-oriented and can also pass that on to their team. That’s crucial because we all need to be fast and flexible. How do you manage that? A small company can only adapt quickly if its employees are flexible and motivated. Well-trained employees who are inflexible don’t help at all. The third skill is – and I already know this is my business partner Christian Nehammer’s favourite skill: thinking one step ahead. Make sure everyone is ready to take the next step and ease growing pains.
What do you expect for Konsultori in the next ten years?
We will bring our expertise to our clients with even more employees internationally. We will stay in our niche, constantly improving and adapting to our clients’ needs.
One of your customers describes you as strong, always full of energy, forward-looking, success-oriented, and with a fine sense of humour. How do you recharge your batteries, and where do you get your inspiration?
I think it’s part of my job to motivate my clients and drive the business forward with them. But that also takes a lot of energy. We have had a tough few months with many of our clients and certainly have a few more ahead of us. That’s why it’s not up for discussion not to be like that.
Two things are always important to me:
- Maintaining fairness: if someone doesn’t act properly or if appreciation is lost, then it becomes difficult to work together very quickly. That’s where you have to be strict.
- What can we achieve? Projects must achieve a result. If we do not see progress for various reasons, we have to end a project prematurely.
Where does my energy come from? I have to come down to earth. Our flat looks like a jungle because we have so many plants and I keep them growing. But I’m also outside a lot. Maybe I’m a mini farmer at heart or a fish in water. The tranquillity comes mainly from immersing myself in films and music. With my piano, I often end up deep in other worlds (laughs). Ultimately, though, my reality check is always my family. Without them, I would lose the ground under my feet.