April 24, 2024

Isar Bhattacharjee: From Big 3 Consulting to Solo-Consulting

Pollen Team
Isar Bhattacharjee: From Big 3 Consulting to Solo-Consulting

Table of contents

Isar Bhattacharjee started his independent consulting business by accident. 

A trained psychologist, Isar spent 5 years at Boston Consulting Group before he found an opportunity to consult independently with a startup, addressing people issues.

He’s grateful to have landed that first customer before he formally launched his solo consulting shop, noting that simply starting the business is one of the hardest parts of entrepreneurship. 

“You’re always asking yourself, Does this idea have legs? Am I doing this right?” he says. “Finding my first customer before I decided to start a business cut out massive pain.” 

Today his company Uncover helps several startups apply research psychology methods to their organizational challenges. A year into independent life, Isar is clear-eyed about the benefits and tradeoffs. 

“You have to want the flexibility that comes with independent consulting,” he suggests. 

Here is Isar’s advice on making the most of your freedom as an independent consultant — and how to address some common considerations that come with going solo. 

How Isar uses autonomy as a strategic advantage

Uncover works primarily with Series A and B startups. “They’re at the stage where everything is breaking and they’re not sure why,” Isar says. He brings the latest techniques and evidence from the world of psychology to startups so they can build better workplaces. 

A business of one, Uncover often competes with bigger companies. But Isar doesn’t feel that he’s at a disadvantage against small or large consulting firms. Here’s how he leverages autonomy to his benefit: 

Making promises confidently

Isar notes that at a large consulting firm, the team that sells the work isn’t the team who executes it. “As an independent, I have much more control over the promises I make and how comfortable I feel with them,” he explains. 

Achieving the right outcomes 

That control extends to the project phase, where Isar appreciates having the freedom to adjust outcomes as he gets deeper into a project. 

“I own relationships with my client counterparts,” he explains. If it becomes clear that extending a timeline or defining a new goal would make the engagement more valuable, he has the direct line to a client to explain what happened and get them on board with the new approach. 

Testing, measuring, and adjusting

“I have a strong view about what I think is the best way to approach my work,” Isar says. As an independent consultant, he has the latitude to choose the best methodology to achieve a given outcome — and to test, measure, and shift his approach as he goes to ensure the best results for his customers. 

For example, Uncover worked with a startup that was struggling with siloed communication. “We tried lots of things,” Isar says, but it took several experiments to land on the most impactful intervention: randomizing seating positions so members of different teams sat together. Isar and the client measured information exchange between teams to understand how well the tactic was working. 

He notes that his focus on measurement puts him at an advantage relative to larger companies, which are often disincentivized from measuring along the way. “If I’m a larger company, I don’t want to measure my solution because there is a decent chance it won’t work,” he explains. “We’ve committed time and effort, so finding that answer is bad for me.” 

The considerations of being a business of one

Isar notes that running an independent business isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to take on administrative and business development work. “You shoulder the full end-to-end responsibility for everything,” he says. 

Here are some challenges — beyond the nuts and bolts of business ownership — that Isar has faced: 

Investing in your own professional development

“Big companies are great at providing formal and informal training. That’s much harder to do solo,” Isar says. He points to Pollen as a great resource for learning how others approach problems.

Creating opportunities to collaborate

Isar also notes that as an independent, you have to deliberately seek opportunities to collaborate with others. He’s been making an effort to partner with people who work in adjacent domains — for example, he’s currently working with a professor who specializes in a topic his work touches to understand how the professor might approach a solution differently. 

Competing with bigger firms

Isar knows that larger companies have resources that he lacks, but having less polish and flash hasn’t affected his ability to land business. “Most companies don’t mind if my slides aren’t as highly produced,” he says. 

Instead, he focuses on listening deeply to his clients and tailoring his approach in a way that consulting firms can’t necessarily offer. “You can be nimble, flexible, and agile, and that means you can serve customer needs better,” he explains. 

Taking all the pros and cons into account, Isar is proud he made the leap into an independent career. “I am a lot more thoughtful about how I feel at different times and how my time is best spent,” he says. 

Pollen members can connect with Isar on the Pollen Community and everyone can tap into his newsletter, Uncover - Rethinking how work works. To join our community of top independent consultants, apply today.

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