The pot of gold at the end of the earth

What happened to the days when the streets were paved with gold? Having interviewed hundreds of senior consultants around the world for Source’s 2015 Consulting Market Programme, one thing that frequently comes up is rates – specifically, the pressure to reduce them.

If you’re in a mature market, rates are under pressure because everyone is fighting it out for the same work, and, because clients – following the shock of the global financial crisis and a very slow recovery – know how to squeeze consulting firms. If you’re in emerging markets, you’re probably struggling to blend rates to a level that’s palatable to the client, yet still profitable. Many emerging consulting markets started with so much promise, only to stumble over corruption, volatility, or poor economic policy; the goose stopped laying golden eggs pretty quickly (see Brazil and Turkey for examples).

As emerging markets lose their shine, the received wisdom is that consultants will no longer find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just waiting for sharply-suited consultants to get there and take their fill. They’ve already been found, and plundered. There’s no more easy money to make.

But is this true?

Our latest research into emerging markets shows a surge of consulting demand coming from clients in possibly the last, great, untouched market of the southern hemisphere: Antarctica.

Clients here are crying out for consulting services. “For years we’ve been desperately trying to avoid being caught by those cunning orcas and hungry seals, but it’s hard to get away when your feet are only 20 centimetres apart,” bemoaned one client. “What we need is someone to come up with a strategy to minimise my risk of being eaten.”

And it’s not just strategy that clients are interested in. Consultants with technology and aviation experience are well placed to clean up here: “I look up at the sky and see those albatross with their 6 foot wingspan, and think, if only I could get off these blasted South Sandwich Islands I could nest somewhere much more sensible. Think of all the free time I’d have if I didn’t have to stand still with this egg on my feet.” Indeed, whoever can provide operational egg-cellence and process improvement to tired and weather-beaten parents will find themselves on penguin clients’ speed dial. After you’ve installed a telephone network, of course.

The harsh climate and chilly temperatures may put off some consultants, but those willing to don their long johns and brave the high seas will find work in abundance. It may not be a pot of gold at the end of the earth, but if you don’t mind being paid in regurgitated krill, then Antarctica could just be the next big thing for the consulting market.