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Choosing the right HR consulting firm is crucial, as it can significantly impact your company's culture, compliance, and overall growth trajectory. This guide is crafted to help you select an HR consulting firm that aligns perfectly with your startup's unique needs and aspirations. Let's embark on this journey with clarity and confidence.

Assess Your HR Needs

Start by assessing your startup's specific HR needs. Are you seeking assistance with recruitment, compliance, employee training, or a comprehensive HR strategy? Understanding the areas where you need the most support will help you pinpoint the type of HR consulting firms for small businesses most relevant to your startup.

Research Potential Firms

Dive into research to compile a list of potential HR consulting firms. Look for firms with experience in working with startups or in your specific industry. Online reviews, recommendations, and case studies can be invaluable in gauging their expertise and success in addressing HR challenges similar to yours.

Evaluate Their Expertise and Experience

Once you have a shortlist, evaluate each firm's expertise and experience. How long have they been in the business? What qualifications do their consultants hold? Experience in the startup ecosystem is a huge plus, as it indicates understanding your unique challenges and dynamics.

Consider Their Approach and Methodology

Each HR consulting firm has its own approach and methodology. Some may offer standardized solutions, while others provide more customized services. Consider what approach aligns best with your startup's culture and goals. A firm that listens to your needs and tailors their services accordingly is often a good choice.

Check References and Reviews

Ask for references and check online reviews. Hearing directly from other startups or businesses that have used their services offers valuable insights into their reliability, effectiveness, and the quality of their client relationships.

Discuss Communication and Availability

Effective communication is vital in any partnership. Discuss with potential firms how they plan to communicate with you. How often will they provide updates? Are they available for consultations as needed? Choose a firm that values open communication and is readily available to address your concerns.

Review Their Pricing Structure

Pricing is a critical factor, especially for startups with limited budgets. Understand each firm's pricing structure and what services are included. Be wary of hidden costs. The goal is to find a firm that delivers high value for your investment.

Analyze Their Success Stories and Case Studies

Before making your final decision, analyze the HR consulting firms' success stories and case studies. This step gives you a clearer picture of their capabilities and the types of challenges they've successfully navigated in the past. Look for stories or examples that resonate with your startup's situation. A firm with a proven record of solving problems similar to yours can be a more reliable choice.

Assess Their Flexibility and Scalability

Consider the flexibility and scalability of the HR consulting firm's services. As your startup grows, your HR needs will evolve. It's essential to select a firm that can adapt and scale their services accordingly. Discuss with them how they have managed growing startups in the past and how they plan to accommodate your changing needs. A firm that can grow with you is an invaluable asset for your long-term success.

Trust Your Instincts

Finally, trusting your instincts plays a crucial role in the selection process. After meticulously evaluating all factors, pause and reflect on which firm is the right fit for your startup. This decision goes beyond just the tangible metrics and data. It's about gauging the cultural alignment and the level of trust you can place in the firm.

Cultural fit is paramount. The HR consulting firm you choose will be deeply involved in aspects of your business that shape your workplace environment. Their values, communication style, and approach to handling challenges should resonate with your startup's ethos. A firm that understands and aligns with your culture will implement HR strategies that reflect and enhance your core values and mission more effectively.

Remember, a successful partnership with an HR consulting firm is built on more than just expertise and experience. It's also about finding a partner who understands the unique pulse of your startup and is committed to nurturing and growing it alongside you. Trusting your instincts after a thorough evaluation can lead you to a partnership that addresses your current HR needs and contributes positively to your startup's future trajectory.

Partner for Success with the Right HR Firm

Choosing the right HR consulting firm is a significant step towards ensuring your startup's success. It's about finding a partner who understands your vision, aligns with your culture, and brings expertise to transform your HR challenges into opportunities for growth. With this step-by-step guide, you're well-equipped to make an informed decision, set the stage for a fruitful partnership, and support your startup's journey every step.


The growing necessity to adapt rapidly to disruptive technologies and react to shifts in the market at an accelerated pace, is driving ‘agility’ in the financial services sector. Below Adam Gates, Principal at Odgers Connect, explains why the financial services sector is increasingly turning to independent consultants over traditional management consultancies.

Firms are increasingly looking at how they can evolve their organisations to operate more flexible business models and become more responsive to customer expectations. It’s a growing trend that is reflected in the way financial services firms are using consulting support.

The UK’s consulting market is estimated to be worth anywhere between £9 and £10 billion. Almost one-fifth of this is being delivered by a growing number of independent professionals. Often called the ‘professional gig-economy’, this cohort of freelance consultants is, for the most part, made up of ex-Big Four partners or senior managers. It’s a pool of highly-experienced individuals that the financial services sector is increasingly calling upon.

Offering a blend of strategic direction and hands-on implementation, independent consultants are a highly flexible resource that can be used for a range of business issues. Our latest research has found that it’s because of this level of flexibility that 43% of financial services firms are choosing to work with independent consultants over traditional management consultancies.

Of course, when it comes to meeting mass capacity demands, the big consultancies have teams of people available. It’s why 57% of businesses in the financial services sector cite this as the primary reason for working with a traditional consulting firm. This is however, becoming an unwieldy approach to delivering strategy, especially when staying ahead of the competition means operating at pace and being able to adapt to the whims of regulators and shifting market currents.

This competition is coming in the form challenger banks and ‘digital native’ fintechs who have a level of inherent flexibility that is enabling them to bring products to market faster and more readily adapt to the needs of customers. As a result, a trend towards agility is emerging in the financial services sector which coincides with the use of more flexible consulting support.

What’s more, owing to the level of experience they have built during the course of their careers, independent consultants tend to deliver a better quality of work, which is why most financial services firms will seek out specific skills from independent consultants, rather than from a big consultancy. This ‘area expertise’ means organisations will often expect an independent consultant to ‘get things moving’ within the first couple of weeks of coming on board; something that links an independent so closely to this aspect of flexibility.

That said, quality assurance remains an area of contention. Whilst an independent professional offers that much needed level of flexibility for financial services firms, a mainstream consultancy can often be seen as the safer bet; if things aren’t going well, you can always escalate the problem ‘up the chain’.

It is clear however, that with organisations in the financial services sector now focusing on meeting the changing expectations of their customers at the same time as staying ahead of continuous disruption, flexible consulting support is going to become that much more critical.

Mia Drennan is the Founder and CEO of GLAS - a global provider of third-party agency and trustee services in the institutional debt and equity markets. The firm’s offering focuses on restructuring and special situations, direct lending, capital markets and leveraged finance. Here, Mia speaks to Finance Monthly about setting up her company and restructuring trends in the UK.



What was the idea about GLAS born out of?


I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and prior to starting GLAS, I leveraged my entrepreneurial skill set for my previous clients and employers. I spent a large proportion of my career in the trustee and agency space working for a large American bank. My success was based on the standard of service my team and I provided to our clients, picking up the phone and returning emails in a timely fashion and being able to be solution driven. Following the crash in 2008, this mentality changed, and these institutions became hard to deal with. After leaving the bank, I had always wanted to establish my own agency and trustee business. The lightbulb moment came at the time of the credit crunch and the need for institutional debt to be restructured. Banks were selling loan portfolios to credit funds and looking to exit from the ancillary roles and that was the angle. It took three months and 400 meetings in the City of London to get our first deal but it was worth the effort and I have never looked back. Today, we are a global business across all continents with over sixty-five employees.



What are the typical clients that you provide loan agency and trustee services to?


Since our inception, we have always tried to differentiate ourselves from our competition, we want to provide a ‘front office approach to a back-office service’. Our focus is on developing expertise in different sectors, which covers the sticky end of the scale, restructuring, work-out and special situations, direct lending – the alternatives and funds we work with, love the fact that we are totally independent and we see the delivery of our services as an extension of the lenders. Within the Capital Markets, we can provide a more commercial and pragmatic approach on Institutional Transactions and Loan Services working on large syndications which we can do more efficiently and partner with the arranging Banks. Our client base is wide. We work with lawyers, advisers, corporates, institutions, accountants, banks, debt funds and institutional investors. The great thing about our business is that is has many touch points and we have many stakeholders and clients.



Which sectors would you say are faced with restructurings more than others in the UK? 


The sectors which are under stress now are those which are (I) real estate heavy; (ii) over leveraged and (iii) have not invested in technology. Retailers have suffered specifically and companies which over expanded and have not kept pace with the consumer trends towards online retail for example. The challenge for creditors is the lack of covenants in the credit agreement which provide creditors with a trigger, making it difficult to carry out a debt restructure. There is still a lot of money searching for good businesses and management teams and these tend to go down an ‘amend and extend’ route and have new money or equity invested. Additionally, we are also seeing Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) as flavour of the month right now.



As CEO, how do you ensure you are directing the company in the correct direction?

The journey for any true entrepreneur is all about growing something. It gets hard when you go beyond the football team size!  I am lucky to have an amazing business partner and that I have assembled a great executive team around me. We are constantly reviewing and aligning our plans, so we can keep growing and maintain a position as a trailblazer in this space.



How do you advise your team to make the correct decisions for the company alongside clients?

We have invested in our central function which comprises, risk, compliance and product development. We have various governance processes and procedures which allows us to remain nimble and solution driven but doesn’t put the business at risk.


What challenges would you say you and the firm encounter on a regular basis?


The main challenges are around keeping the competitive edge, delivering innovation and preserving the family feel culture. I spend my time working on our culture to ensure that our original values and the mission we created live on in throughout the organisation. I strive to do this through communication channels and ensuring new joiners are made aware how we got here and where we came from. Coming into this business today is very different to what is was like in the first year! 



Contact details

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Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb and Uber are regularly cited as examples of major disruptors. However, there are many more examples on the horizon. Electric and driverless cars will soon disrupt many industries including automobile manufacturing, rental, leasing and motor insurance markets, while the growing popularity of robo-advisors already threatens the existence of traditional financial advisors. For most large companies today, it is a question of when, rather than if, digital will upend their business. Jonathan Wyatt, Managing Director and Global Head of Protiviti Digital, talks to Finance Monthly about the future and direction of management consultancy worldwide.

Management consultancies tend to thrive during periods of rapid and significant change. Many consultancies flourished in the years following the financial crisis as financial institutions struggled to comply with new regulations and needed advice on dealing with more intense regulatory scrutiny. A decade on, the global landscape is facing a more pressing strategic challenge: to innovate and develop solutions that meet consumer and business demands for efficiency, convenience and ease-of-use. The top strategic risk identified by Protiviti’s Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018,[1] is the rapid speed of disruptive innovations and/or new technologies that may outpace an organisation’s ability to compete and/or manage the risk appropriately unless it makes significant changes to its business model.

Tellingly, the second risk highlighted by survey respondents relates to the overall resistance to change within the organisation. Respondents were concerned that their organisation might not be able to adjust core operations in time to make the necessary changes to the business model to keep the company competitive. Even when executives are aware of the disruptive potential of emerging technologies, it is often difficult for them to envision the nature and extent of change, and have the decisiveness to act on that vision. Management consultants are, therefore, positioning their businesses in terms of expertise and skillset to meet the demand from companies looking to conquer those internal and external digital challenges.

To date, the digital experience of many companies has been focused on the digital “veneer” as organisations look to launch and grow digital channels. This is often restricted to customer-facing products, such as websites, apps and payments channels. Often, they have not made the same progress with the digital transformation of their internal processes, even when this has a direct impact on these digital channels. For example, in the mortgage market customers can apply online for a mortgage in minutes. At many of the established banks, the digital mortgage application remains analogue, with traditional credit review and approval processes that take many weeks to complete. Surprisingly, these traditional processes often include regular communication by post rather than embracing digital signatures.

Organisations are gradually realising that core digitalisation, as well as a cultural change to embrace the digital mind-set, is necessary to compete on the new digital stage. To achieve this, some organisations must advance beyond the use of legacy technologies and systems, and they can sometimes be averse to implementing new policies and ways of working. Consultancy firms advise these organisations on modernising their security policies and demonstrating the advantages of using the advanced technology tools that are now available. This will help with the execution of certain cyber-security and digital projects and the development of proof-of-concepts, thereby improving an organisation’s overall security profile.”

Misunderstanding regulations is often given as an excuse for not innovating. Organisations think the new regulations are more complex than they really are and that by innovating/changing their systems, there is a greater chance of falling out of compliance. But digital leaders are more flexible; they look for solutions rather than excuses and are embracing advanced technology to their advantage.

The advancing tide of demand for digital services will fuel current and future business for consultancy firms. Consultancies are ramping up their expertise and skillsets to provide advice on digital strategies and change management programmes as well as implementing core digitalisation projects. Although there will be no shortage of consulting work, the move to a more digital focus will impact the traditional consulting business and pricing models. As a result, the management consultancy industry is not immune to the wave of disruptive change.

To succeed in the digital race, legacy firms need to put digital at the heart of their business, which encompasses a cultural change to think digitally first. Consultancies should challenge their teams and clients to change their mind-set, put digitalisation at the forefront of all projects and think like a technology company – using technologies such as robotic process automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive efficiencies for the company and consumers. Consultancies also need to be at the forefront in digital thinking to ensure they offer the brightest talent, expertise and experience to help their clients embrace the digital challenge and face the future with confidence.

[1] Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018, Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative, December 2017, available at

Finance Monthly speaks to James Butler – experienced practitioner, business adviser to SMEs and Consulting Partner at GBW – an Irish company that wants to make sure that a choice exists for those smaller businesses that require a more hands-on approach than that offered by the larger firms.


What are the key services that GBW offers to clients?

We are a mid-tier firm of accountants and business advisers with varying specialties and backgrounds. Our services range from assisting with Audit, Assurance, Taxation and Accounting, through to Business Advisory and Corporate Recovery. Our cross-border service offering, business approach and sector expertise is primarily designed to support Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, or organisations of equivalent scale, with existing or planned international operations.

GBW is an independent member of TGS – a global accountancy and legal network of independent firms specialising in the provision of accounting, audit, tax, business advisory and commercial legal services.


Tell us more about TGS?

Not all networks that are part of the group are the same. TGS member firms are all independently owned and share an entrepreneurial approach to their own and clients’ businesses. We have a shared commitment to the highest levels of technical expertise and professional standards. Our clients enjoy a rapid access to quality assured in country experts across the world, via a single point of contact.

We recognise that every client is unique and our cost-effective solutions are tailored to our clients’ unique requirements. Whether they require a full suite of accounting and business solutions or a one-off specialist service, TGS Global can provide precisely what our clients require, no more and no less.


You have extensive experience in Insolvency & Corporate Restructuring, and have acted as liquidator in both creditor and member voluntary liquidations. What does your role within GBW entail?

In my role within GBW, I deal with banks and financial institutions in all areas concerning distressed property and non-performing loans. I’ve also been involved in debt management and refinancing for both companies and individuals.

Additionally, I am also an experienced practitioner in taxation and business advice for businesses in the area of the licensed trade, professional services and medical practitioners.



GBW’s Services:

Audit and Accounting

We aim to help our clients see the audit process as a benefit to their business, not just a cost.


Our taxation department has expertise in all categories of taxation, both our corporate to personal clients.

Business Advisory Services

All businesses require planning – form start-ups to mature businesses. Our business advisory experts can assist with the planning and execution.


Our Accounts department provides all types of assistance, whether be in-house or out sourced, we have the expertise.

Corporate Finance

If you are selling, buying or merging a business. If you are making an investment or raising finance – we can help with the decision making process.

Forensic and Litigation Support

In today’s changeable economic environment, business disputes are becoming more frequent and litigation is on the increase. At GBW, we draw on the firm’s wide expertise of our accounting professionals to advise our clients in claims assessment and provide independent expert accounting witness services.

Recovery and Restructuring

We are leaders in the provision of insolvency and restructuring services. Our team comprises of insolvency experts, forensic specialists and support staff who work together to provide a comprehensive and complete solution to any restructuring or insolvency project.



This month Finance Monthly had the pleasure of speaking to Jeremy Mills – a Notary who provides legal and tax consultancy services to individuals and business owners across the UK. Jeremy works with clients to help them structure their personal and business affairs, secure the financial future of their families and mitigate tax. Below he discusses why he became a Notary, his decision to set up his own company and the work that he’s been doing over the past four years.


How did the idea of Mills Keep come about and what was the process of setting up the company like?

The idea for my company was born out of my desire to consolidate today’s wealth and protect it for future generations for clients.

It was not enough for me, when working as a solicitor, simply to offer a quick fix solution for an individual issue. I wanted to look at clients’ circumstances as a whole and as a result, at Mills Keep we take pride in providing clients with overall strategic advice and assistance straddling all aspects of their personal and business affairs, built on strong, long term relationships with client as opposed to the transactional relationships experienced with most solicitors. By taking a comprehensive overview Mills Keep provides a holistic approach to individual issues, thus generating a plan for managing wealth overtime and establishing security for future generations.

Often a client may present with a requirement which on the face of it is satisfied with a single piece of advice but experience has shown this rarely provides the whole solution.

My main objective in establishing Mills Keep was to create a company that listens to the client, takes a broad view of their problem and agrees a strategy to move forward with, aligning priorities and end goals.

Invariably, an understanding of your clients’ affairs as a whole is the best way to provide advice which protects their assets, provides peace of mind and ultimately saves them time.


Why did you decide to become a Notary?

In many ways working as a Notary shares many similarities to practising as a solicitor, which I did for over twenty years – the key difference is that in addition to the legal advice that solicitors can offer, excepting certain aspects of litigation, Notaries can certify documents for use abroad. Notaries are a product of Roman law and their services are fundamentally entrenched in European jurisdictions, especially those closely based on Roman law.

I became a Notary whilst practising as a solicitor in a law firm due to an interest in the cross jurisdictional nature of Notarial work. Upon setting up Mills Keep I realised I could operate the company as a Notary, rather than as a solicitor, and still offer a full legal service to my clients.


And what have you been up to since setting up your business in 2013?

The last five years has been an exciting period of growth for Mills Keep during which time we have solidified our service offering to our clients, often driven by the desire to mitigate tax whilst restructuring and protecting assets and wealth. Mills Keep has developed a sophisticated client base with multiple and complex needs, to meet the demands of the prevailing socioeconomic climate. What would you say are some of the challenges of being a Notary?

I’d say that the biggest challenge, which in many ways is also a benefit, is that there are relatively few Notaries in the UK and consequently many people have a limited understand of what a Notary can do for them. So, when approached by clients, I usually need to explain that Mills Keep is much more sophisticated than a conventional law firm and highlight the fact that as a legal practitioner I can not only assist with all their legal needs but that I also provide overall strategic management of their affairs.

Management Consultancy firms are cropping up left, right and centre these days. It’s easy to find one willing to help, but how do you go about finding the right fit for your business? Below Mark Peters, Managing Director at Protiviti, talks Finance Monthly through the process of sourcing management help.

As the market environment continually shifts, businesses face an increasing need to make fundamental changes to their strategies if they want to continue to grow profitably, manage risks effectively and optimise the opportunities brought about by change. Both emerging and mature businesses need to navigate digital technological advancements; disruptive innovations threatening core business models; soaring equity markets; uncertainty brought by political disruption (e.g. Brexit); cyber breaches on a massive scale; increasing regulatory scrutiny; adjustments to corporate culture; and changing economic conditions.

These critical concerns are in abundance for boards and executives, and the expectations amongst key stakeholders for greater transparency about the nature and magnitude of risks undertaken in executing a businesses’ corporate strategy are high. Simply put, hiring more people is no longer sufficient to maintain growth; instead, today’s challenges are driving increased demand for management consulting expertise.

Management consulting can include a broad range of business advisory or implementation services. It consists of providing third-party independent expertise in areas such as business strategy; management organisation; financial management; risk and regulatory requirements; HR; and technology to solve business problems. There are many types of consulting firms in the market. Strategy firms focus on one or two of the areas outlined above, while large accounting firms offer a broad range of services, to name two examples. However, market demand for greater insight and choice has seen both the emergence of more specialist knowledge, and an increasing requirement for consulting firms to provide a ‘full service platform’ offering. At one end of the spectrum, potential clients are looking for high-value consulting services (e.g. realising opportunities of strategic change) for critical areas, while at the other end, they are also looking for more traditional commodity and lower cost consulting services (e.g. staff augmentation). Overall, the market is seeing increased demand for a cross-spectrum offering as well as a rise in independent consultants offering more niche services.

With this backdrop, to find the best consultants to support them, organisations need to develop their own criteria for selection. Factors might include the extent to which the consultant can show:

Experience tells us that no one competency or consulting firm is ever enough to solve today’s complex business problems. Most clients want to work with a consulting firm that can demonstrate the qualities described above, solve business-critical problems and offer an alternative, fresh perspective. Consulting firms that develop the expertise of their people in the areas of digital transformation, data analytics, robotics, risk, regulatory change and front-to-back office improvements, and tailor solutions to fit the unique business problems of every client, are seeing unprecedented demand from companies wanting help to face the future with confidence.

By , Founding Partner, Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC

The evidence is clear … Some slight reordering of time and priorities – and a different attitude –have astonishingly high personal and organization ROI. The payoff is great, gratifying and energizing. What is the simple secret? It is the word that has been on my mind for the past year – and I keep coming back to it in almost every aspect of the work we do at Masters Alliance. It is substantiated from my experience working with over 2200 CEOs, Presidents, BU Heads (and their direct reports, etc.).


Business Edgy-ness. Edgy as in teetering, pushing to the limits, on the brink of something. As in there’s energy buzzing, excitement brewing and something cookin’ in the business. Disruption, Leading, Edgy – all these modern words have been used to describe one of the fundamental principles of business – Discovery.

Businesses around the globe have been built on the single seed of an idea which was then developed, tested, adjusted, tested again and implemented with the mission of positively changing the way we work, play, or live – whether it is ground breaking technology, breakthrough medical advances, or simply a revolutionary way of thinking. It’s a thrilling process – one that motivates leaders to stretch, seek more, and invest resources in the unknown.


Have We Lost It?

Why has EDGY been on my mind for this long? Because we seem to have lost it. We seem to have backed off the edge in so many ways. Discovering creative ways to serve the customer, being adventurous in business strategy and driven to experiment in the unknown have become too uncomfortable. Instead, we talk about “winning” as being on the edge. Here’s the thing – winning is not edgy – there’s always a winner in every game – no matter the competition.

Can you remember the last time others were left speechless upon hearing what great new things your organization was planning to implement? Can you still feel the thrill of bringing a product or service to market that was top-secret, and your shareholders and customers were taken aback by how revolutionary it was? What happened to being part of the Age of Discovery? In talking with leaders from a diverse set of industries, I’m noting a disturbing trend – we’ve grown irrationally afraid of failure. We’ve lost our desire to teeter on the brink of greatness. Safety and security have won out over invention and exploration.


What is Edgy-ness, Really?

The edgy I’m talking about is planning for the new, the unknown, the risky. It’s surprising, unique applications, flashes of the obvious. The edgy I’m talking about also makes your employees’ hearts beat faster, gets them to the office early and stay late – without even realizing that time is passing. I’m talking about something that startles your customers with delight, that makes them look forward to whatever is coming next. When you are edgy, your suppliers and vendor partners work together with curiosity and wonder. But wait, if you are thinking that EDGY only means big things, please reconsider. Edgy is thinking and doing differently – internally and externally – making a difference in the way we and our customers do business.

Edgy means that we are on the edge of our seats, waiting for what happens next. Not in fear but anticipation, with a true experimental, learn, change, adjust, recover and do attitude – and most importantly, a plan for when it goes even better than our wildest dreams.

Does that sound exciting, exhilarating or like an impossible dream state? Is that kind of energy and enthusiasm the complete opposite of how you feel right now? It’s that time of year when you’ve given it all you had to make the last quarter’s results as good as possible, and frankly you’re tired. Maybe even feeling tapped-out and overworked. Edgy sounds like the right business thing to do, but frankly, it looks like a lot of effort and your energy reserves are drained. The New Year is already underway and calling out it’s familiar theme: “What have you done for me lately?” Keep reading – let’s work this out…


Encouraging Examples

Edgy-ness has many dimensions – Jeff Bezos purchasing the Washington Post for a presence in the “seat of government,” achieving an implied influence for Amazon that Microsoft lacked at the time their aggressiveness was considered “anti-competitive” [Forbes Magazine, January, 2018].

Edgy-ness is a client embracing all the fullness of our “double half-life” implementation principle – extending the 2X speed, ½ time, 2X more effective, to the equipment manufacturing discipline. One of three teams engaged in a 45-day effort, was challenged to keep manufacturing of large carbon fiber production equipment in the US, vs. Asia. Our guidance was to achieve a goal of ½ size, ½ weight, 2X throughput, 2X efficiency at ½ the cost of equipment. This Edgy goal engaged many other participants – including engineering “thinkers” who love being edgy, living for challenges. The result – within 45 days, an effective new design was achieved and the equipment manufacturer was retained in the US! And with somewhat unexpected competitive advantages.

Interestingly, we also take for granted important discoveries from firms which noticed how we play, work, live, etc. A few historically surprising “unknown-need” examples: disposable diapers, panty hose, microwave ovens, program recording, GPS, thumb drives, avatars, etc.


Status Quo is Transformation’s Enemy

You’ve already started a list of why it won’t work. It may include things like “Been there done that, we’d never get permission, our competitors have already tried and failed.” Also on the list: the statistic of “97% of all products don’t make any money (75% of consumer packaged-goods and retail products fail to earn even $7.5 million during their first year)” – according to a leading market research firm. These numbers alone would explain how we got to a status quo preference. The list might be very long. But if you really look at the list – you can see these items are a mere reflection of your fears. Fear of failure, fear of accountability, fear of change, it goes on and on. But here’s the real kicker – is it possible that you are actually afraid to really succeed? What does that mean? The predictable rhythms of success and growth to which you’ve grown accustomed keep you in a steady state. If you take that risk, and actually succeed, then the world changes quickly. With success comes new expectations, new demands and new activities. How do I know? Because we’ve experienced and seen these fears at work!


What’s In It for You?

Once you’ve lived on the razor’s edge, you know the excitement, exhilaration and the gratification of competing vigorously in the marketplace. You also know the stats and have experienced some disappointments. But if you haven’t experienced this competitive energy in your organization – or can’t remember the real joy of making a difference with customers – then let’s take a hard look at who you are, and who you want to be. So, what if others failed? Did they miss the mark on the idea, fail to execute, quit too soon? It is our experience that the real disappointment is directly related to 1) failure to really live in customers lives and notice their difficulties or complexities and 2) failure in effective, timely implementation.

Assuming you would rather be engaged than tired, you have everything to gain by getting closer to the edge – don’t you? First, from an employee experience viewpoint, you should imagine a dramatically improved, connected and engaged workforce. They are having fun, making a difference for customers and getting better business results. Customer loyalty scores are rising as they wait to see what’s next. You are setting the tone in the marketplace – you have the time and the talent to make sound decisions about whether you want to lead or be a fast follower. The closer to the edge your organization lives, the more resilient it becomes! Fear of failure morphs into energy of solving tougher problems, creating opportunities. The mindset of the entire organization begins to shift [but much, much faster than “conventional wisdom” would indicate]. It’s a “new way” of doing business and it’s attractive to the top talent you’ve been trying to recruit for years – the difference-makers. Isn’t that the kind of momentum you want to describe to your board of directors in your next meeting?


Still See Barriers?

Feeling immobilized from action? Is intense competition and slow growth dulling your creativity? I’d like to suggest a way out of the situation. Perhaps a good session with your customers and your customers’ customers can help you see the reality of your situation – opening up the hidden opportunities! In today’s expanding, but highly competitive economy, this means taking stock of what needs to be adjusted, digging deep, thinking, exploring, getting ahead of customer needs – helping your customers prepare to get more competitive, helping them have dynamite product/services to offer their customers. Venture out onto the field and see what your customers are really needing, or may need in the future – and stretch and anticipate to exploit those opportunities.


A Double-Check…BUSINESS EDGY-NESS, Always in Style, Always Needed

For companies that have spent considerable resources, time, talent and capital, to reach the top of their industry – it’s sometimes easy to get comfortable after celebrating great wins. The hunger to win is sated and the team wants time to rest and a reason to refocus after a hard-fought battle to the lead position. And yet, this is no time to rest on your laurels. It is time to get even closer to the edge. It is always time for successful companies to become even more successful.


Get a Head Start This New Year – Start Your Day Differently

Edgy-ness is looking at things differently, doing things differently, working differently…and seeing markets and customers differently. It’s even about beginning our day differently. Start by thinking about EDGY-NESS…what it means to you, your organization, and your team. Wrestle with the idea, experiment. Consider these thought starters / specific action steps.


Answer a few questions at the beginning of each day [6 minutes max!]:


Expand the influence:


We Can Help

In our 30 years of helping over 120 clients, we’ve helped companies break through fears / barriers and truly interrupt markets. Most recently, we helped a Health Information Network company unlock the market in the process of implementing highest quality e-prescriptions – increasing customer/partner engagement and satisfaction…and streamlining processes to work best in a digital world.

Edgy doesn’t come solely from the Innovation Group or Innovation Process. It also comes from deeper within – from those employees who are closest to the customer who can’t wait to solve their problems with some simply outlandish solutions. There are hidden opportunities, buried in your organization, that only need a sponsor who believes in them to see the light of day. Imagine all of the unsupported, undiscovered and untapped potential, safely and securely stashed in your organization – and all you have to do is create a barrier-free path to help bring them into the light.

We help you uncover the hidden opportunities and barriers faster and more pointedly – because participants will candidly and confidentially talk to us. We help you poke and prod your organization into feeling disrupted enough to make a breakthrough, a required change. We help you redevelop that skill – change the culture from within, while working together to help you get things done faster and more creatively in your organization.


Visit for more.

Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC

7701 France Avenue South, Suite 325

Minneapolis, MN 55435

Phone: 1.952.831.7300



About J. Allen, Founding Partner

Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC

Creating new ways to gain unusual, breakthrough business results, competitive advantage

30 years of management consulting experience with over 120 client organizations in 20 industries, in 13 countries – ranging from Health Care, Financial Services and Retailing to Software, High Tech Manufacturing and Chemicals. A Marketing/Finance Graduate of the University of Illinois, a former US Naval Officer, and veteran of 12 years of intense corporate responsibility. Has guest lectured at the University of Michigan Graduate School Of Business, at New York University and served as Board Member, Board Chair and / or President of numerous corporate, volunteer and club organizations.

The ability to meet the challenges of difficult situations is demonstrated by these client comments: “…Courageous and effective in talking with executives about stretch opportunities as well as problems they were causing that impeded results and growth…Has a unique ability to promote positive change in organizations...Linked immediately with people at all levels, effectively documented their needs, helped them become a significant part of the business”

A few representative clients include: Microsoft Central Europe, Kellogg’s, Federated Insurance Companies, Allied-Signal Aerospace, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, US Indian Health Service, ADC Telecom, Thomson Reuters, Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, Patterson Companies...

Helping management teams and others achieve what they did not believe was possible, is a primary driver. Helping organizations achieve strategic success, raise the operational bar, improve market penetration and strengthen the bottom line are tangible deliverables. Fast results and knowledge transfer are a must.


About Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC

 Making Already Successful Companies More Successful
…creating opportunities and generating results

Engaged, Winning Organizations that go after markets delivering…Revenue Growth

Passionate, Driven Organizations for customer connection delivering…Competitive Advantage

Tenacious, Achievement Organizations for getting things done delivering…High Performance

At the Front of the Curve, Helping others Make a Difference, Excel in their Markets

Information Security in the Cyber World >> Inner-City Hospital Renewal >> Nuclear Weapons Complex Best Practices >> Solar Manufacturing Innovation Leadership >> Software Development / Distribution in European Expansion >> Aircraft Landing Systems Breakthrough Invention >> Drug Prescriptions in the Digital World >> Processing Center Transformation >> Record Setting New Channel Entry


Your experience encompasses assisting companies with growing their businesses – what attracted you to this area of specialism? How rewarding is this?  

With China’s economic development and growth over the last 20 years, more and more foreign companies have been expanding their businesses into China, either through direct investment or through increasing numbers of cross-border transactions. However, doing business in China has distinctive challenges that must be considered, not only because of the potential language barriers, but also because of various business-related regulations and tax requirements that are unique to the country.

Our consultants at Nexia TS (Shanghai) Ltd provide business and tax advisory services to global clients investing in and/or doing business in China. Our service offerings range from planning, structuring and the setting up of foreign-invested businesses, as well as a focus on tax consulting and advisory for all aspects of Chinese taxation. Chinese company and employment law advisory services are also offered. We are able to provide compliance work that caters to assurance and other statutory needs.

Since we established our practice in China in 2001, we have assisted many international companies with their inbound investments into China, setting up direct presence and fulfilling the domestic regulations. Overall, we find that our experience and expertise with the Chinese regulations and business environment have also benefitted our clients.


How should foreign companies structure their business operations to be as tax efficient as possible when considering expansion into China?

In our experience, we have found that the simplest structures are often the best. It is potentially useful for foreign parent companies to own their Chinese subsidiaries through offshore holding companies in low tax jurisdictions that also had favorable tax treaties in place with China. In many cases, multinational groups use layers of holding companies in their structures. Related party transactions between sister companies and the ultimate parent company were essentially designed to extract profits out of Chinese operations without being taxed. Things have changed since 2008 though, and China has implemented many new regulations intended to ensure that the country receives its fair share of taxes. Where a foreign company sets up and registers a subsidiary in China, it is now usually most tax efficient when the subsidiary autonomously performs its business functions. The more control the China subsidiary has over its operations, the better - especially with respect to participation in the VAT system. Furthermore, more autonomy from the parent company generally results in fewer issues with respect to expense deductibility for corporate income taxes. It is true that profits dividends paid to the subsidiary shareholders are taxed at 10%, or less in some cases, but there is tax savings over attempting to extract profits through royalties or cross-border services that are subject to both withholding tax and VAT. Foreign companies operating in China nowadays must take these issues under consideration.

For foreign companies operating in China without setting up a registered entity, there are also tax-related considerations. It is important to properly structure these transactions. For those that simply sell goods into China, the buyer of the goods handles all of the China-related issues. However, for those that sell services, or a combination of goods and services, into China, it is crucial to minimize the risks associated with being recognized as permanent establishment for corporate income tax purposes, and also to ensure that tax treaty benefits are applied to and recognized by the respective tax authorities. Likewise, VAT now applies to all cross-border service transactions, so proper structuring of the service agreements is essential.


What potential pitfalls face foreign companies who wish to set up a Chinese operation - in terms of staying compliant with regulation whilst wishing to operate under a tax efficient structure? What are the potential consequences of non-compliance?

Many foreign investors assume that setting up an entity in China that relies heavily on related party transactions may be very simple when using special purpose entities. For example, a US company might set up a holding company in Hong Kong, to take advantage of lower withholding tax rates on royalties obtained by selling IP usage rights to its China subsidiary. However, China has closed many loopholes with tax officials scrutinising royalty and other similar agreements. If certain criterias are not met, the royalty payments may not be deductible for the China subsidiary.

Another area often overlooked is how China’s tax rules have changed with respect to the indirect equity transfer of Chinese entities by offshore parties. Considerable paperwork must now be filed in China during such transactions, even if no tax will be assessed on the transfer. Penalties can be quite severe if the offshore transferer and transferee do not comply with the documentation filing requirements.

Since the introduction of the Corporate Income Tax Law in 2008, China’s State Administration of Taxation has implemented many new General Tax Anti-Avoidance Rules that allow the country to pursue foreign companies doing business in China and purposefully setting up the businesses or transactions to avoid Chinese taxation. With the advent of BEPS and increasing global cooperation between countries, it has become much easier for China to pursue such cases.


What tax incentives are in place for foreign companies who may want to establish business operations in China?

Companies within certain specific industries can enjoy corporate income tax breaks, and these industries are normally associated with high-tech manufacturing and R&D. In addition, Chinese local municipal governments attempt to attract foreign investments by offering tax exemption or tax rebates on the portions of VAT or corporate income taxes to which they are entitled. There are also incentives for companies investung in energy-saving and environmental protection facilities, which they can deduct a certain amount of their investments for corporate income tax purposes.


How can multinational companies move finances in an efficient way between their international offices?

Foreign companies with regional headquarters in China’s free trade zones have a few options for moving funds between China and other countries. However, China generally has strict foreign exchange rules in place that limit the movement of funds via profit dividends, loans, or other genuine transactions between the parties. Capital usually cannot be moved out of the country without closing and liquidating the business in China. Companies should plan exit strategies at the time of business setup. However, regulations are always subject to change, so such strategies should be analyzed continuously and updated as needed.


What are your thoughts on China’s One Belt One Road initiative? What’s been the impact of the concept on commodity demand thus far?

Unveiled in October 2013, the One Belt One Road initiative is a development framework aimed at enhancing trade and investment connections between Central and Eastern European countries and Asian countries. It not only plays a role as an important economic link between countries, that also helps to relieve some of the issues that were caused by China’s economic development during recent years, such as overcapacity, falling demand for commodities like steel, investment bubbles, lower rates of return on investment and so forth. The key to success of this initiative also depends on joint participation from other countries to bring in high technology to increase the rate of return on investments, instead of just building roads and bridges and ports, which are the key strengths of China in leading this initiative. The collaborative stance that China places on this initiative is very helpful. For example, it acts like entrepreneurs who would like to set up business with existing infrastructures and available financing.

According to the futures prices on steel and copper traded on the Shanghai Futures Exchange, the dominant Futures prices on steel and copper have been rising since 2016, which means that demand for domestic commodities has been gradually recovering. With more deals and projects announced in the future, we foresee that the demand for domestic commodities will continue to rise further.


What do you think the future impact of the initiative will be?

This initiative in the long run will benefit the global economy as a whole, and help rebuild economic interactions between countries that were in existence before the 2008 economic crisis. It not only increases the routes by which transported goods can reach destination countries around Asia and Europe, but also revitalizes the economies and unlocks potential demand from the One Belt One Road countries.





Katia Delfin Diaz is the Managing Director of Brussels-based OmniVAT Consulting. She has been passionate about Tax Law for years and her current role is to assist Belgian and foreign companies to be in line with this complex matter or to optimise the impact of VAT in their business. After working for a few of the Big Four companies, Katia started her own consultancy firm, specialising in VAT, in January 2011. Today, OmniVAT Consulting assists clients from a wide range of sectors in Belgium and across Europe. Finance Monthly speaks with Katia about VAT trends and her tips for effective VAT management.


As an expert with 24 years of experience in VAT matters, what are your recommendations for successful management of VAT?

The best piece of advice that I could give is to be up-to-date with this complex and ever-changing matter. VAT regulations evolve quickly and some updates are absolutely necessary. A good VAT manager must follow the evolution of VAT, both on national and European level. It is crucial for companies to be aware of future changes of regulations and laws, in order to amend their internal processes accordingly.

Considering that VAT is a European tax, I recommend following the European Jurisprudence that offers a respectable interpretation of the law through the ECJ cases.

In addition to OmniVAT Consulting, we also organise regular seminars through our VAT Academy. The aim is to update practitioners on direct and indirect tax laws, customs matters and Incoterms. The main sessions are French, but we also organise intra-company seminars in English, Dutch and Spanish upon request.


Can you update us on any recent or upcoming updates or changes to VAT rules in Belgium?

This year has been eventful in terms of VAT updates in Belgium. In addition to some slight amendments to the VAT legislation, a few administrative decisions and VAT notes were published in order to help individuals and companies interpret and apply VAT legislation.

One interesting Belgian decision, published this autumn, concerns the application of the VAT exemption on “claims settlement services” rendered by a third party in the name and on behalf of an insurance company. This decision was taken by the Belgian Tax Authorities after the ECJ Court made their decision on the Aspiro case (see C-40/15 arrest dated 17 March 2017).

As of 1st January 2018, the Belgian point of view will follow the conclusion of the ECJ Court - “claims settlement services” made by a subscribing agent in the name and on behalf of a counterparty (insurance company, other subscribing agent, etc.) will have to be subjected to the standard rate of VAT, provided that these are not part of the integrated services. Indeed, Belgian Authorities accepted that the VAT exemption was applied for this kind of services. Furthermore, a transitional period is planned to allow the sector to adapt to the VAT treatment of these services.

The Belgian Tax Authorities underlined that when an individual claim occurs, for example, after 31st December 2017, its assignment to a claims manager will not be exempt from VAT anymore.


What are OmniVAT’s mission and key priorities towards its clients?

Typically, clients come to us when they face a VAT problem within the company or during a VAT inspection. Clients also reach out to us when they need a VAT audit of their transactions or when they would like to receive a confirmation of the VAT treatment on a new sales scheme. The optimisation of VAT transactions is an important concern of our clients. They may also have questions on customs regulation or on Incoterms.

Our key priority is the satisfaction of our clients and we do our best to serve them the best way possible. We keep them informed on important VAT changes and we do our best to keep on top of their needs or questions. I’d say that good communication is essential for a successful relationship with customers.




Alumnus of Wharton School (General Management) and The Doon School (India’s top School), Business Advisor by profession, and mountaineer at heart, Suraj Nangia strongly believes in living life off the edge, he has climbed 4 out of the seven summits - Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt. Elbrus (Europe), Mt. Aconcagua (South America), Mt. Kosciuszko (Australia) and Mt. Cook (New Zeeland).

A true sports enthusiast, he is national swimmer and participated in India’s Longest race (19 km) in 2001 and ranked 24/150, played state cricket and represented U-19 for Delhi, represented State U-15 & U-17 in Squash.

Salsa is the flavour of his life and lets him connect to his soul. He was a salsa dance instructor at Salsa India between 2007 and 2015, still manages to attend salsa nights to keep his feet moving.

He has all the prerequisite to be a successful entrepreneur - a risk taker, somebody who can persevere through all odds, one who has an in depth knowledge of the domain, somebody privy to the burning needs of an industry, one who constantly strives to achieve more.

Second in command of a 220 + professionals firm, Nangia & Co. LLP, a consultancy firm that offers 360 degree services to clients across verticals, helping its clients with India Entry Strategy, Handling complex international M&A Matters, corporate taxation, professional taxation, international taxation, indirect taxation, transfer pricing, litigation support, corporate governance, risk advisory, IFRS services, corporate financial advisory and audit& assurance. Apart from leading the Tax, Compliance and M&A practice, Suraj also handles all financial matters of the firm. Foreseeing the growth opportunity owing to ‘Start-up India’, he recently established a dedicated practice catering the start-ups in India.

His zeal to never stay static and to keep moving has hugely fuelled Nangia & Co.’s growth trajectory - be it in terms of expanding to new verticals or to keeping the cycle of learning running.


What is India’s M&A growth trajectory?

M&A is the path businesses take to achieve exponential and not just linear growth and therefore continues to generate interest. The Indian M&A landscape is no different. Mergers and acquisitions have become an integral part of the Indian economy and daily headlines. Based on macroeconomic indicators, India is on a growth trajectory, with the M&A trend likely to continue.

There has been a spate of high-profile transactions in India in the last few years, whether domestic or international, and both inbound and outbound. With the government continually working towards reforms on all fronts, be it in its regulatory policies to attract foreign investors, providing an impetus to the manufacturing sector with Make in India, improving India’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, or providing solace to the much-beleaguered infrastructure sector by paving the path for real estate investment trusts (REITs)/infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs), there is no looking back.

M&A deals are likely to be the favoured route for foreign direct investment flows into India in 2017, as market consolidation is expected in sectors facing a cash crunch such as e-commerce and telecommunications. The renewable energy sector is likely to see M&A deals, but it could also attract Greenfield investments. The new insolvency and bankruptcy regime will also facilitate the sale of distressed assets, and thereby a hike in M&A activity.


What about the tax concerns that new entrants will have?

Ever since the Vodafone tax litigation took the Indian M&A landscape by storm in 2007, tax aspects surrounding any M&As in India came to the forefront—so much so that corporates have now started taking tax insurance to insulate themselves from the uncertainties and vagaries of interpretation of Indian tax laws. Of course, while the government is making strides in trying to deliver the comfort of certainty to the investor community (by issuing clarifications on various aspects of indirect transfers), it is also tightening the screws on various fronts—the renegotiation of India’s tax treaties, the looming advent of General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) in 2017 and the signing of Multilateral Instrument under Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project.


What differentiates Nangia & Co. from its competitors?

While other firms lay emphasis on the number of resources, Nangia & Co LLP from the very beginning had decided to remain a boutique firm so as to provide personalized and competent services to clients. Having been in the industry for over 35 years, the team still consists of about 220 people who work in close quarters with the rest of their teammates. This lends a sense of openness and ownership among all the resources. Another major factor is the competency of our people who keep themselves updated with the going ons of the industry and moving ahead with the times. There is a healthy mix of domain experts who bring to the table their own expertise which helps the firm impart 360 degree services across a section of verticals.


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