We talked to Christoph Hardt, Co-Founder & CEO of COMATCH, a curated marketplace for independent management consultants and industry experts and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Christoph Hardt: We are doing well, overall. Of course, we are looking forward to more normal times with opened restaurants, travelling and meeting a couple of friends at once, but it could be much worse.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded COMATCH.
Christoph Hardt: I’ve dreamed of starting a business since I was in high school. Then, after almost eight years of working as a consultant for McKinsey, I decided that the time had come to venture into something new. I thought: now or never. But the problem was, I had no idea what business I could start. Before I came up with the perfect new business idea, I wanted to pursue work as an independent consultant. However, when I looked for a marketplace to support me with project acquisition, I realized that nothing like this existed. Further research with my co-founder Jan Schächtele revealed that many independent consultants were facing the same problem. Additionally, companies had issues with the intransparency in the market of independent consultants. They could not identify the really good independent consultants and a fair price for their service.
With COMATCH, we solve the problems of both market sides.
How does COMATCH innovate?
Christoph Hardt: We are the experts for experts. Within 48 hours, we match top consultants and experts with companies of all sizes and industries worldwide. We give our clients the flexibility to choose exactly who they want to work with because project work can only be productive and successful with the right people at your side. All independent consultants go through a 5-step selection process to ensure quality, and only the very best are accepted into our network.
Our projects are successful because we consider both the hard skills and the individual working style of the consultants. This ensures that they have the skillset and required softer factors to thrive in a project role.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Christoph Hardt: Our organizational structure stayed stable. After a tough Q2 and Q3 2020, we feel that the demand for projects in 2021 is increasing. In the midterm, we think we can even profit from the push Corona gave the “new work movement” around remote and more flexible working.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Christoph Hardt: Fortunately, we did not have to lay anyone off because of Corona. One of the biggest learnings is that working remotely operates better than I thought and that a flexible, hybrid working model seems to be the best solution for our employees. I also underestimated the role of a companywide communication tool. Internal communication has always played a major role for us, but with the integration of a new tool (Slack), our communication and feeling of transparency significantly improved, despite not being at the office.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Christoph Hardt: Even though we were physically apart from our customers, we deepened our relationships with them. I was really surprised that remote conversations can be easy and efficient. We also adapted our offers by conducting online webinars and training for our consultants — because a personal connection with our consultant network is vital to our success.
We’ve also used Hubspot as a CRM tool for about one year now and are big fans of it. Features like simple activity automation, a flexible user interface and integration options are extremely valuable for our daily work.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Christoph Hardt: Yes, and we are very grateful for this support. We decided quite early in the crisis to reduce our hours as the demand for projects went down in Q2/Q3. It was a high priority for us not to lay anyone off and to harm the overall structure of the company. It was clear Corona was only a period and would be under control somewhere in the future. So, the whole team jointly reduced their working hours, and it was a tough time for everybody. But, it has made us even closer. I’m really proud of how well we stood together and that we emerged from that crisis even stronger.
Your final thoughts?
Christoph Hardt: Running a business during a pandemic is filled with new challenges but also opportunities. Work environments are changing, and the future of work is becoming clearer. In times of uncertainty, companies will act more flexibly and project-based. The demand for independent workers and marketplaces where you can find them will grow. Our objective at COMATCH is to create a win-win relationship for clients and consultants. Understanding both needs and expectations helps us find the best possible match. Ultimately, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
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