The old joke about management consultants is that they’ll look at your watch, tell you what time it is, and hand you a bill for $50,000.
But if you’re a healthcare company and you hire Scientia Advisors, here’s what’s more likely to happen: they’ll look at your watch, notice that it’s running slow, take it apart, fix it, put it back together, and tell you how—if you tweaked the design—you could make millions selling a different kind of watch.
Not literally, of course. The Cambridge, MA-based consulting firm works only on life-sciences strategy questions, not timepieces. But after a recent visit to Scientia, I came away feeling like it was one of the most unconventional consulting firms I’d ever seen.
Do you expect your consultants to spend months learning about your business? Forget it—Scientia will send people who already understand your industry, and they’ll spend only 5 percent of their time on site, according to Harry Glorikian, the firm’s co-founder and managing partner. Are you used to consultants who finish an engagement by doing a big PowerPoint show, handing over a few thick three-ring binders, and leaving you to ponder how to use the information? Forget that too. Glorikian says Scientia’s goal is to give clients the data and context they need to make a strategic decision about their problem, then and there.
“We want to be able to walk in and not have to learn a lot from the client to be able to add value,” Glorikian told me. “We bring a lot of knowledge that our clients are not used to consultants having.”
In that respect, the 30-person firm takes its cue from Glorikian himself. Prior to founding Scientia in 2006, the Boston University MBA graduate spent 20 years in the healthcare and life sciences business, including senior management stints at X-Cell Laboratories, Signet Laboratories, and Applied Biosystems (NYSE: ABI). Co-founding partner Arshad Ahmed worked on healthcare, life sciences, financial services, and other areas for Boston Consulting Group, Integral Inc., and McKinsey spinoff Potomac Partners. The third co-founder, Amit Agarwal—who runs Scientia’s West Coast operations from Palo Alto, CA—also has a deep background in the consulting and financial services worlds. And among its crew of consultants, the firm counts both youngsters with fresh science and business degrees and industry veterans from places like Millennium Pharmaceuticals and the dialysis division at healthcare giant Baxter.
Scientia’s signature style, according to Glorikian, is to bring a deep understanding of the markets and technologies relevant to its clients; to build its own data from the ground up, rather than relying on market research purchased from other companies; and to analyze markets using proprietary software tools, mostly developed by Ahmed.
It’s a style that seems to be working so far. In the two and a half years since Agarwal, Ahmed, and Glorikian started the company, it has only had one consulting proposal turned down by a potential client. “One customer said, ‘You’re the most cost-effective firm I’ve ever used,'” says Glorikian. “I said, ‘You’re calling us cheap!’ And he said, ‘No, you don’t understand. When I ask you guys a question, I usually get an answer. If I ask another firm the same question, I get back a project.'”
The clients coming to Scientia usually need answers fast. The typical customer, Glorikian says, is a company looking to expand into a new market, or get rid of products that aren’t selling well, or take a cyclical business and transform it into something less beholden to economic shifts. Scientia can help clients understand which markets hold the biggest opportunities, and how those opportunities match up with their existing capabilities.
I asked Glorikian to walk me through a real example. (He left out identifying detals to protect the client’s confidentiality.) “We had a Fortune 50 company come to us and ask us to look across a number of industries to determine what areas they should be playing in,” he recounted. “So we took them through a number of screens. One of them was for simple things like the size of the market, its growth rate, and profitability; you obviously don’t want to be in low-growth, low-profitability markets. Then we did a quick spin of their R&D groups to understand their competencies. And then we went back and … Next Page »