Original Post: Casual is a good fit for young consulting firm via Crain’s Cleveland Business

Clearsulting Embraces Millennial Roots, Has Lofty Goals.

Clearsulting team

By JEREMY NOBILE

Clearsulting doesn’t look quite like your typical Big 4 consulting team.

But that’s not keeping it from finding its place in the market. Indeed, it could be helping it.

The firm, just about 1 year old, already is on track to log $1.5 million in annual revenue. Its staff has grown to seven full-timers. And it’s taking on projects across the globe, competing for work against some of the country’s biggest finance and advisory firms.

And they’re all in their 20s.

“We take an informal approach,” said partner John Tilow, 28, who’s wearing blue jeans and a backward Cleveland Indians ballcap. “It’s a much different feel for the buyer than having three guys in suits and all these years of experience between them.”

It’s certainly not uncommon for millennials to fill out consulting project teams. But in a traditionally formal industry where reputation and appearance can make all the difference in landing work, the group at Clearsulting wants to blaze its own trail.

From left, Clearsulting Manager Paige Howard, Founder Marc Ursick and Partner John Tilow.

The business was founded by Marc Ursick, a 29-year-old Willoughby native who left a consulting management job at a Cleveland Big 4 firm to pursue his own enterprise — a jump any reasonable person might be hesitant to take.

“I was working at (Ernst & Young) for seven years, and one day it hit me: I needed to make a change,” Ursick said. “I wanted more freedom.”

The freedom comes not only in more personal time — Tilow, who also formerly worked at EY, said it wasn’t uncommon to constantly travel and work more than 80 hours a week — but in their approach to the business.

The team embraces its millennial heritage, promoting a rather informal culture and more casual style the demographic tends to be associated with.

While going business casual at client projects, they’re wearing street clothes at their modest Ohio City office that they moved into only a few months ago. Their business cards list personal interests. Ursick’s points out he’s an amateur BBQ competitor and a craft beer enthusiast. Twenty-five-year-old manager Paige Howard’s mentions her love of traveling and country music.

The group talked about sharing drinks and swimming with clients at a client project in India this past summer.

“We do operate a lot more freely. We couldn’t do that at EY,” Ursick said with a laugh. “Drinking a beer in the pool with a client and not working? HR would be calling us on Monday.”

But if the work gets done, enjoying free time shouldn’t be a concern. And it’s obviously not when unshackled from the oversight of a large corporation.

While they haven’t secured every project they’ve pursued, Ursick’s straightforward and laid-back style has been winning over clients.

“They brought an energy and comfortableness that was conducive for the space they’re trying to get in to,” said Ed Auker, an accounting manager at Ashland Inc., a Fortune 500 chemical manufacturer and distributor.

The company hired Clearsulting over another large firm to implement BlackLine into their systems, a cloud-based accounting platform.

“He was just very comfortable with the environment and the system. It seemed like a no-brainer to give them a shot,” Auker said. “(The project) was conducive to a small, focused work team and implementation effort. And the attitude they brought to it was very refreshing and very good.”

Experience was certainly key. The personal feel resonated with him. But in terms of a seemingly laid-back style, Auker said, “Corporate America is probably ready for some of these changes.”

Ursick made a goal to secure a project in the first year or so in business. Yet, he’s already landed several, forcing him to onboard the additional staff to meet demand, several of whom are migrating from other Big 4 firms, drawn by a true work-life balance and the opportunity to build a business from the ground up.

Revenue-wise, the firm is shooting for $5 million in revenues in its second year. Additional staff will flow in accordingly.

Embracing the culture Clearsulting has established is key to any new staffer, Ursick said, adding that he effectively requires everyone to maintain some kind of hobby outside of work.

“Even if you’re a top performer, but you don’t fit our informal culture, we’re not interested at all,” he said. “That’s what’s most important to us. That’s what we’re doing this for.”

“People often think if you’re successful, you’ll be happy,” he added. “But I think if you’re happy, you’ll be successful.”

  • The team at Clearsulting has created a unique culture focused on creativity, enthusiasm, and collaboration since we opened our doors in 2015. Please contact us to learn more about our team and the services we offer. We look forward to speaking with you!