Both Sides of the Coin

Posted by on Oct 2, 2018 in Blog, Featured | 3 comments

Both Sides of the Coin

I’ve been thinking back over my consulting career quite a bit lately. It’s because Tony Petrella died recently in a boating accident. He was the President of our consulting firm, Block Petrella Weisbord (BPW), where I spent almost 20 years, starting in 1980. Tony, more than anyone else, was the one who was instrumental in shaping our unique and successful consulting firm.

I got a call recently from someone writing a book on consulting firms and he asked me what made our firm, BPW, so unique. I remember my response to him:

  1. We did not go into a sales call with a prescribed way of doing anything. We designed something different and unique every single time instead. And the client knew it.
  2. We remained small despite our success, with no more than eight consultants and used subcontractors when we landed big projects.
  3. We had a policy of teaming up and going on sales calls together; two heads were always better than one.
  4. We often found that the “presenting” problem that the client sought help for was different from the actual problem.
  5. We transferred our skills to internal people instead of building dependency on us.
  6. We would hire another consultant to help us when we were doing our own strategic planning. In other words, we’d practice what we preached.

These six principles became ingrained in me. They were simple and yet differentiated us from other consulting firms. I was surprised that they flowed out of me so easily on the phone to this author after all these years.

The other thing that differentiated us was our focus on personal change as well as organizational change. I remember one of my clients on our last day together saying to me, “Thanks so much, John. You’ve helped us strengthen our manufacturing process while lowering our costs simultaneously. It’s a huge improvement. And you’ve helped me slow down and pay attention to things I used to ignore. I feel more courageous with my eyes fully open.”

I liked both parts of his statement—the first being organizational and the second being personal. I wouldn’t want to be in a consulting firm that focused strictly on one part or the other. Unfortunately, most consulting firms do. So Tony, I owe you a huge thanks.


  1. It’s always good to learn a little more about my cousin John. What you had to share about BPW was interesting to me.

  2. Hi John,
    I always enjoy reading your newsletters. Your blend of wisdom and humility is so refreshing, and I always take something away from them. Thank you and please keep them coming!

  3. This was a helpful article, and those 6 tips are exceptionally useful! thanks John!

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