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Environmental Consulting Firms: Is bigger really better?

by Annalise M.
Annalise M.

We recently warmly welcomed Jennifer Flannery and Renee Cheng as our newest ALL4 members. Both women chose to leave a larger environmental consulting firm for ALL4, a “smaller” (hmm, for now) consulting company; a decision that many consultants may consider throughout the course of their career.  It’s easy for people to talk the talk about company culture, and what it’s like to work at an organization, but how many walk the walk?  I sat down with Jennifer and Renee to get their candid feedback on working at ALL4… and what it’s really like.

Were you specifically looking to move to a smaller firm? What attracted you to ALL4?

Jennifer:  I knew I was ready for a change and a new challenge in life, but was not specifically looking to join a smaller firm. I was thoroughly impressed by the ALL4 business plan including financial, marketing and sales, and growth projections.  I was further impressed by the transparent managerial style in sharing all economic elements of the company with the staff.  ALL4 is an award-winning, nationally-recognized company, with a great outlook for the future.  I ultimately decided to join ALL4 because I was impressed with their culture, entrepreneurial spirit, and variety of opportunities available to me.

Renee: I wasn’t specifically looking for a smaller firm.  I was looking for a work environment that would allow me more flexibility and support to take care of my clients, to grow business, and to do challenging work.  I have found that at ALL4.  I was also attracted to ALL4 because of the scope of consulting services ALL4 provides, its diverse client base, the commitment to quality work, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the company.  I did have some concerns initially when considering the possible difference in financial stability between ALL4 and the larger firm where I was working.  But, after multiple discussions with ALL4 principals, I believe that ALL4 is already a successful company, and that ALL4 has a strong business plan in place to continue this success and grow the company. 

You came to ALL4 from a much larger consulting firm. How is working for ALL4 different?

Jennifer: There are advantages and disadvantages to working at any size firm.  Smaller firms, such as ALL4, are more requiring of people to be flexible, take on a number of different responsibilities, and be able to pull their own weight in order for the firm to be successful.  The staff here at ALL4 is closer to the decision making process than at a larger firm, and although the company’s leadership may not always agree with what is said, they will provide the time to listen to ideas and give reasonable requests a try.  However, the major difference I have seen at ALL4 is the culture.  From my short time here, I have seen that the staff (from those fresh out of college to seasoned vets) are very knowledgeable, have a very strong work ethic, are very team oriented, and are willing to share.  I have worked elsewhere with individuals with those qualities, but have never worked in an office where that culture is so vehemently apparent and rewarded! 

Renee: At my previous company, I was part of a great group of people, but we were one small air consulting group within a larger local office that provided many different services, which was part of a larger regional office that provided even more different services, and so on.   At ALL4, I feel like an integral part of the company as a whole. 

Were there any surprises after you joined the ALL4 team?

Jennifer:   I was pleasantly surprised by the teamwork approach.  Although I heard about this approach during the interviewing process, it was not until I actually witnessed not only staff asking other staff if there is anything they can do before they leave, but actually following through and staying to help until the job was done, which galvanized this approach for me.  I even witnessed this approach on a senior level when several senior staff members offered to drive an hour and half out of their way to help a junior staff member out with a client deliverable.  Quite impressive!

Renee:   I was surprised at how quickly I felt like part of the company and how quickly I became actively engaged in managing projects and providing support on internal company initiatives.  The onboarding process at my former company took a lot more time.  I have also been pleasantly surprised by how much ALL4 invests in providing internal and external training opportunities for all employees. 

What’s the culture like and how is it different from your previous consulting firm?

Jennifer: ALL4’s culture is said to be built on accomplishment, respect, accountability, and teamwork. As mentioned above, I truly believe all aspects of this statement to be true.  ALL4’s culture prides itself on taking great measures to reinforce these attributes.  I found it unique that during our routine Monday morning staff meeting that “high fives” are given to staff members who have really excelled the previous week – this highlights both a sense of accomplishment and teamwork.  The Quality Assurance process also promotes accomplishment and teamwork.  Client deliverables are not only reviewed by the Project Manager, but are also peer reviewed and reviewed by a RegTech staff member.  This multi-faceted approach allows for a better final product for our clients.  Accountability and respect are shown through ALL4’s feedback procedure.  It is in the culture at ALL4 that everyone wants to grow and learn and what better way than through real-time colleague feedback.  This is something I find specific to ALL4’s culture; previous firms I have worked for typically allowed only for yearly feedback. 

Renee:  At ALL4, I feel like an integral part of the company as a whole.  There is a foundation of strong leadership and the principals appreciate and consider input from all members of the organization.  ALL4 also provides the flexibility to become engaged in other areas of business operations that may be of personal interest, such as marketing, sales, or mentoring.      

What are some misconceptions about who we are, who our clients are, and what we do? 

Jennifer: The biggest misconception I had about ALL4 was that their resources to compete with larger firms were limited, with the implication being that a firm like ALL4 was limited to smaller opportunities.  I have found this, in fact, to be untrue.  ALL4’s proactive, contemporaneous, research-based approach keeps its staff abreast of new regulations, trends, and upcoming impacts to the air industry.  As seen on the website, in blog posts, or 4 The Record articles, ALL4 is committed to being ahead of the curve and in the know.  This, in addition to the knowledgeable staff, enables ALL4 to be competitive for any size opportunity and, as mentioned above, ALL4 has worked, and continues to work, with companies of all sizes.

Renee:  I think a typical misconception about ALL4 is that it can only do simple and routine consulting work for small sized companies.  In reality, ALL4 has a diverse client base covering many different manufacturing sectors and provides a wide range of consulting services.

What advice would you give other consultants who are considering moving firms?

Jennifer: My advice would be to make sure you do your own research, thoroughly review ALL4’s website, and do not always believe what you hear.  If you are looking for a new challenge and believe you would fit into the culture at ALL4, set up that initial call or meeting and you might be pleasantly surprised. 

Renee: I’d recommend that you seriously consider how much ownership you want to take in driving your own career.  At larger companies, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd or even end up simply “treading water” and stay in one place for quite awhile.  I think a company like ALL4, which is growing and has a strong entrepreneurial culture, can provide a consultant with great opportunities to take their career to wherever they want to go!   

We are currently looking for Project Managers at our Corporate Headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and also in our Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas offices.  Please contact Annalise Matulewicz at amatulewicz@all4inc.com for more information. 

Want to learn more about Jennifer and Renee’s experience and even their hidden talents?   Visit their profiles:  Jennifer and Renee.

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