Nancy Kehmeier is a Program Manager with Hollstadt and Associates in Eagan.
Nancy Kehmeier was recruited by what was then Arthur Andersen Consulting when she was just four years out of college. â€œI really loved the style there, but I hit the glass ceiling. I went on to Ernst and Young. My first true independent consulting was at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and then I became a full-time employee.â€ After a few years, Kehmeier decided, â€œI didnâ€™t want to have any more bosses. Thatâ€™s what really leapfrogged me into consulting.â€
In more than 20 years of consulting, Kehmeier has worked almost exclusively with Eagan-based Hollstadt and Associates to find new projects. â€œThey could place me very quickly and knew how to target me. Very few of my placements took more than one interview â€” they found good choices, and I matched. I would be the first to say that Iâ€™ve enjoyed positive experiences.â€
With one three-month exception during the 2008-09 recession, Kehmeier said, she has never gone more than three weeks between consulting contracts.
For almost 10 years, Kehmeier worked with a single account executive at Hollstadt. â€œHe used to joke that he put his son through college on my commissions,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ve always been happy for them to do the invoicing, the marketing and admin work, following up if things arenâ€™t paid.â€
Kehmeier and company founder Rachel Hollstadt were initially networked by a common friend. â€œShe was looking for someone to do a project. It worked out well. Then I took a full time job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield and became her client for four years. That was a very good experience â€” I saw her ethics excelling, advising me who to hire and who not to hire. I saw the company from both sides. I respect their very high ethics and the way they develop the long-term relationship.â€
How has consulting changed since you began?
The picture of the industry has changed. I feel that a lot of consultants are really employees â€” some of them understand how to be consultants and some just know how to do the job their employer places them in.
Whatâ€™s the difference between being a consultant and being an employee?
Typically clients look more to having you tell them what to do vs. â€œdevelopingâ€ you. At my level, I have had much less oversight. Because Iâ€™m hired as a consultant, Iâ€™m focused on one thing â€” even if you manage two or three projects, you have a very clear focus. Youâ€™re not working on developing people. You do politics, but itâ€™s not long-term politics. Consultants are expected to get results. Thatâ€™s different from process, just surviving or going through the steps of getting to success. The other thing that is very different about a consultant is the need to get in and establish yourself as an expert very fast. Part of that is the drug of having to learn so fast. I hate school, but learning everything about a culture and business and the tasks at hand â€” I love that.
What makes you successful as a consultant?
Iâ€™m a very strong second in command. That is not a place that many people aspire to. When I have the right client, weâ€™ll get on the same page, and whether or not it would be my natural style, I can translate and execute what that client wants. If I make a judgment call, itâ€™s the same one they would make.