In need of a “consultant gene”

Supply chain, procurement and production are key competencies of the Kerkhoff Group in Düsseldorf, Germany. Consultants Johannes Kobbeloer and Yasin Tepe discuss their work and what makes a good consultant.

Success in business is just as much down to procurement as it is to sales.

Kobbeloer: That may actually well be the decisive factor because it can produce results quickly. And which is not given enough prominence in Business Administration courses.

Tepe: My course at the Hochschule Niederrhein, University of Applied Sciences was all about procurement management. Unfortunately, there are only a few courses with this focus.

Does that mean you have to train new staff in your consultancy firm yourself?

Kobbeloer: Yes, and we give them in-depth training.

Which kind of courses may also be useful?

Tepe: Logistics, supply chain management or production because all of these are closely linked to procurement. Knowledge of management accounting also comes in handy.

Supply chains are often highly complex processes in which everything has to go hand in hand.

Tepe: That’s why process optimisation is such a big issue. Anyone who gained some experience of that while studying or as an intern comes with invaluable knowledge.

Are legal and compliance issues also important?

Kobbeloer: Oh yes, for instance in relation to working conditions at Asian suppliers and the question of whether they respect human rights. These are the kind of issues in which one of our subsidiaries is highly specialised.

Politics can also play a role in procurement and supply chains.

Tepe: Absolutely; just look at the impact of Brexit. It will have huge consequences for many supply chains if and when it arrives.

Kobbeloer: Trade wars also have an impact when high tariffs make production in a certain country unprofitable. Or when salary levels in hitherto low-wage countries of manufacture rise, such as we currently see in parts of China.

Has Industry 4.0 made production in industrial countries more attractive again?

Tepe: Yes it has; 3D printing processes could revolutionise procurement and supply chains. We offer consultancy services in this area and develop strategy roadmaps that will help implement digital production or set up production networks.

It never seems to get boring in your consultancy segment.

Kobbeloer: Definitely not; and not only because everything can change completely at any time, but also because we have clients in a wide range of industries. Their requirements vary greatly and may involve consultancy services all over the world. Add to that the support we offer our clients with the implementation of our recommendations.

How does one become a good consultant, given the sheer number of different issues?

Tepe: Nobody starts their career as a perfect consultant. It involves learning processes that need to be approached with an open mind.

But you do need to have certain basic skills?

Tepe: Analytical thinking is very important, which university should have taught you. Then there is the ability to develop structured working methods, which you will learn in internships. Last, but not least, you need emotional intelligence, because consultancy is a people business.

Kobbeloer: And there is such a thing as a “consultant gene”: you need to simply love advising and figuring out the best solution for your client.

Johannes Kobbeloer and Yasin Tepe

wisu-magazine 4/19

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