After almost 20 years as a purchasing and project manager at a European market leader in textile floor coverings, Christophe Popelier made the switch to consultancy. “I found myself at a career crossroads: I could either stay in Business or I could do something completely different. Friends and colleagues told me I’d make a great consultant – and here I am”. Neither delaware nor SAP were new to Christophe.
“I do know a thing or two about SAP, but I’m not a technical consultant,” Christophe adds. “I do have an analytical mind, which allows me to take a helicopter view of how a business is managed.” During his first project assignment at a customer site in Louvain-la-Neuve, Christophe managed the purchasing processes in SAP. He was supposed to temporarily replace a co-worker for six weeks. “But you know what? Those six weeks have turned into three years now,” he laughs.
Initially, it took some time getting used to his new role as a consultant. “Being on the other side of the fence, I didn’t have the decision-making powers I used to have,” Christophe explains. “They sometimes underestimate consultants.” There are no quick-wins in consultancy; it’s only when a project is completed, that the consultant gets a pat on the back. “I have to convince the customer that I understand the ins and outs of their business.” After all, Christophe can rely on his many years’ experience in the industry.
When asked what he loves the most about being a consultant, without hesitation, Christophe says: ”The freedom, the flexibility and being able to work from home. If I want to go for a bike ride at noon, I can. It’s all a matter of planning.” When it comes to problem-solving, Christophe believes in a process-oriented approach: “I see the flow and the ‘why’, not the ‘how’. The ‘how’ is the technical side of the story.” Is this mindset part of how Christophe makes the difference for delaware?
“I cannot change my mindset – and delaware doesn’t expect me to,” Christophe explains. “I’ve walked several miles in the customer’s shoes and I know that my background is of value to the company.”
For those who are thinking of switching to consultancy, Christophe wants you to consider this:
1. Don’t change who you are: the company hires you for who you are.
2. Speak up: don’t be afraid to put forward your solution to the problem.
3. …but also know when to shut up: a good consultant will listen carefully to determine what the customer’s problem is.