IC Week: Leah Goldstein Moses on Small is Beautiful–Growing a Small Practice

Hello, I am Leah Goldstein Moses, founder and CEO of the Improve Group and 2012 President of the Minnesota Evaluation Association. When I founded the Improve Group in 2000, I was learning to be a consultant at the same time I was refining my evaluation skills. My practice has grown from myself and a loose network of other independent consultants to a consulting firm of 18 staff.  Running a company is different than independent consulting. It took nearly 4 years before I had my first employee. From that first day, I had new responsibilities – making payroll, setting HR policies, and developing a new network of advisers and resources. I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way on how to be successful as a ‘not so small’ independent evaluation firm.

Lessons Learned:

  • Take strategic risks – but prepare for the consequences. As our company grew, the risks also grew. I now take a strategic approach to big decisions, such as a new hire or pursuing a large project. I ask myself: what if this doesn’t work out? What are the potential risks? What choices will we need to make in reaction to those risks?
  • Find a focus and identity. We love evaluation. We also do strategic planning and research, but always with an underlying evaluation focus. We are known as evaluators but we decided to work across sectors.  So we do evaluation in arts, human services, formal education and informal learning, health, transportation, development, and corrections. We are experts in evaluation and have found ways to supplement our expertise in these sectors. You might find a different identity and focus – either in one sector, a set of methods, or something else. If you can describe who you are to your clients, collaborators, and community, you will be fine.

Rad Resources:

  • Interested in learning more about growing and sustaining an evaluation business? Attend Improving Evaluation Practice Management During Chaotic Economic Times: Three CEOs Reflect on Strategic and Innovative Diversification, Budgeting, and Employee Support and Development at the AEA conference on Thursday, Oct 25, 4:30-6:00 PM, where I’ll be presenting with Gary Ciurczak, Richard Hezel and Samantha Hagel.
  • I use the AEA365 blog, the mande listserv and the evaltalk listserv to stay fresh on current evaluation topics.
  • I enjoyed the Momentum Effect by J.C. Larreche; a book that examines the factors that helped companies grow year after year.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the Independent Consulting TIG (IC) Week. The contributions all week come from IC members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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