Startup Diaries: Consulting Taught Me the No.1 Entrepreneurial Skill: Hustling!

Alex Depledge explains how the skills she and her team learned as consultants have benefited them as entrepreneurs.

I've been working on my new business, a tech startup called Teddle, for a little over a year. The biggest surprise that I wasn't expecting - people's reaction to my corporate consulting background. 

It's like a dirty word to some. I've heard whispers of 'she is a wantrapreneur' or 'they will never last'. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact I have 2 X chromosomes. When we took part in Springboard a 12 week tech accelerator, one reaction from a mentor was comical. He became angry with the team when we wouldn't accept his view that all consultants were useless puppets.

So I get a bit peed off when I read lines like this: "[Big corporations] indoctrinate you into the company culture and into a lifestyle for which they are primarily responsible, making it hard to leave." 

It implies that people cannot think for themselves and fails to recognise the benefits of working for a large company. The team and I all met at Accenture; I believe it is the background and training we received that is one of the key reasons we have been successful to date. It has meant that: 

  • Creating and presenting a composed and inspiring pitch to 200 people never phased us;
  • The team knew having a business model we could forecast from day one was imperative;
  • Instead of stopping us, obstacles became challenges we had to work around;
  • Having no developers in the team meant my partners Tom and Jules taught themselves to code;
  • We have developed the grit and determination to get up to speed in any given situation quickly having being sold to clients as 'experts' on so many occasions when we actually knew very little

Running a start up is a lot like being a consultant; you have to think on your feet continuously, be able to manage and ride out change without getting freaked out. You have to be able to sell; a product, an idea or even a person.

And it is that last point that is key. Consulting made me a hustler and that is the biggest prerequisite for any start up founder.

You have to get others to work with you offering their time for free, or even better their money. You have to get people to buy into your underdeveloped idea with a team that often lacks skills in a few key areas. It is a tool has served me very, very well in the last 18 months.

So perhaps I can't tell the romantic story of developing my business in my mum's spare room or father's garage, but good entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes and sexes with skills developed in all kinds of environments. We should be embracing multiple and varied paths into technology if we want to see more women there.

My name is Alex. I was a consultant and I'm proud of it.

Alex Depledge hails from the North of England, but started her career in US politics while living in Chicago. She returned to UK in 2006 where she joined management consulting firm Accenture working predominantly with Energy clients. She made the leap into entrepreneurship in 2012 after years of harassment from her best friend Jules. Together, they have co-founded Teddle, a platform for finding cleaners online.

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