A team effort Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

When Jonathan Carson and Eric Kurtzman founded Kurtzman Carson Consultants LLC in 2001, the former restructuring attorneys welcomed the opportunity to leave what Carson calls the “suits-and-ties world” of corporate law.

“Let’s just say we’re not business casual,” Carson says of the Los Angeles-based restructuring consultancy firm.

Though the office attire at KCC reflects a laid-back mindset, the company’s performance does not. Employing a “work hard, play hard” philosophy, the firm posted 2005 revenue of $17.4 million, a three-year growth rate of more than 1,300 percent.

Smart Business spoke with Carson, president of KCC, about the importance of collaboration and the benefits of planning ahead.

Q: How would you describe your culture?

We have created a collaborative environment that allows people to create opportunities, and it’s been a very telling piece of our growth and our success in the last few years. We created a young culture that was focused on togetherness and collaboration, and we really didn’t allow for any hints of competition to enter the realm.

We work very much in team environments, and also we have a very flat management structure. We obviously have a few people who lead the efforts in various high-level departments, but in terms of how the machine works on a daily basis, it’s flat, and people respect that, and it’s done a good job of minimizing competition and corporate politics.

If you foster a system of competition or true straight-up-and-down hierarchy, you tend to lose the team concept. We believe those groups are teams that work together carrying forward the mission of KCC, not their individual agendas.

Q: How do you plan for growth?

You have to expect the growth. You have to believe in what you’re doing and know that if you really do believe in it, you’re going to grow as a business, and you have to stay ahead of that from every perspective.

We hired a COO before we needed a COO. It was a great talent fit for what we did and we brought him in at a very senior level and he grew into that position. We’re moving into 42,000 square feet but we’re really only going to be able to utilize maybe 30,000 of that, but we know as six or nine months go on, that will quickly eclipse.

If you expect it, you can execute it more effectively.

Q: How can you benefit from past experiences?

You learn from every experience as you go through every process of life, whether you’re going through school or you’re running the company or you’re on the board of directors of a nonprofit.

Every experience you live through, you learn something, take it with you to the next level and repeat.

As you get further down the road you look back and say, ‘Wow, I’ve picked up a lot of cool things along the way.’ You have this larger arsenal of ammunition that you can pull from to attack whatever issues that you’re facing in your business or your personal world.

It’s crucial that when you learn something that’s part of your business, when you learn something in one of your core competencies, everyone learns that same thing.

You want them to live it with you rather than just hear about it after the fact. As a management team, as you make mistakes and gain new insight, you have to make sure everyone understands the implications of that.

Q: How do you motivate your employees to work toward your vision?

You have to make them really invest in the vision. We did a rebranding campaign earlier this year where we were a 4-year-old company with a Web site that looked 4 years old. We brought a whole resource in, people as well as tools, and we now have a phenomenal-looking corporate identity.

When we did that, we brought everybody into the process. People got to look at logos and help choose them and see what they thought looked best. They got mugs with logos on them and bags and notepads, and you make them invest into it and they understand the reasons behind what you’re doing, and they really become cheerleaders, and that’s one of the best things you can have.

I can count on one hand the number of full-timers we’ve lost in the last five years. It’s a very small number because you treat people well, you provide for them and you let them know you respect them, and that comes back 10 times over.

HOW TO REACH: Kurtzman Carson Consultants LLC, www.kccllc.com