Gerson Lehman Group Expert Network Review

One of the oldest expert network groups, The Gerson Lehman Group is a leading player in the global expert consulting space. Founded by several hedge fund alumni, they have grown to offer comprehensive research and expert recruiting services. In our GLG expert network review, we’ll take a look at the various expert network services they offer, and assure you that no, GLG is not a scam.

Many senior professionals may have been invited to participate in one of their industry expert calls. Their capabilities run much deeper, however, and include:

  • Surveys
  • Face To Face Events (geographically limited, unfortunately)
  • Research Projects
  • Recruitment and Placement of key C-Suite talent

Two unique programs that GLG offers which may be of interest to senior professionals in career transition:

The latter program is skewed towards former executives (33% of participants) and management consultants (39%). It is a global program (31% of consultants are American, 48 % live in EMEA markets).

Incidentally – if you are a corporate strategy professional in career transition and want a great source to keep current on management trends, I recommend their insights page. They post research articles covering a wide variety of topics, many of which are great “interview fodder” for an executive candidates and aspiring investment professionals.

Were You Invited to A GLG Phone Consultation?

Opportunity knocks. The way this game works is expert networks reach out to you, rather than the reverse. This generally indicates they’ve taken notice of your credentials as a prospective subject matter expert in an industry their clients are interested in.

The process is typical of an expert network call. You’re going to be connected with a senior professional – a management consultant, corporate strategy executive, Institutional Investor, or Private Equity firm – who wants to learn more about your business.

Additional restrictions may apply if you’re talking with a Hedge Fund or Mutual Fund investor. There are often compliance policies to prevent insider trading. In most cases, common sense should suffice: don’t reveal inside information and don’t accept any engagements related to your current employer. Dealing with publicly traded companies can be dicey, so do not reveal any confidential information and you should be able to stay in compliance with the various regulations around it.

How do you get noticed? Keep your LinkedIn profile updated, ideally with relatively unique information about your expertise. When it comes to landing expert network engagements, it is better to be in the top 1% of a weird sub-field than a “well rounded” executive who hasn’t showcased deep knowledge of a particular industry.

The good news is call performance matters. Most firms keep internal databases of highly qualified consultants who delight their clients, which is a great source of repeat business.

Expert Calls – Typical Questions

Most clients are looking for deep insight on a particular industry, the kind of stuff you can only learn from working in the business for a few years.

I’d characterize about half the calls I’ve done as “rapid outsourced on boarding” for an investor (hedge fund or private equity) or corporate strategy professional. Management consulting firms are often in the market for similar support. As I discussed in our article about the “why” behind expert network consulting calls, you’ve got a highly paid senior resource that needs to quickly figure out how the industry works. They have the choice of spending the next several weeks reading about it – and they still probably won’t get the good stuff. Or they can talk to you for an hour.

Yes. You’re the equivalent of highly processed carbs for an eager strategy adviser. When you think about it, the $300 – $500 per hour they’re paying you for a dense orientation to the industry is far cheaper than the $10,000 of billable time it would take for them to learn this the old fashioned way.

In an expert consultation, you should be prepared to discuss the common business models within an industry and revenue models that support them. Most clients will also be interested in an assessment of the key competitors within an industry and top customer segments. Consultants should be ready to identify the largest consumer of a particular service. Along the same lines, if there are significant human resource or operational issues involved in managing within a particular industry this will also be of keen interest.

Growth and competitive factors are another area of interest. Be ready to break down your assessment of an industry’s growth potential to explore the key drivers of growth. Remember that a client will probably have similar expert consultations with multiple consultants: they are generally less interested in the outcome of your analysis (“sales will grow 5%”) that the facts which led you to that conclusion (“because Fortune 500 companies are finally adopting the technology”). If you give them the facts, they can mix and match between consultants later to develop their final assessement.

The same applies to business risk and opportunities for operational improvement. Be ready to discuss various aspects of the business and common ways to improve the company’s results. Many private equity clients are particularly interested in this topic.

Other Programs

GLG has built out a portfolio of other programs. Many of these compete with similar offerings from alphasights, Third Bridge, GuidePoint, ProSapient, and Dialectica.

This includes:

  • Research panel participation (meh, never really been my favorite service)
  • Council opportunities (deeper insights from independent consultants)
  • Projects – new offering targeted at senior executives and ex-consultants
  • Placement of C-level executives with clients

The latter is particularly interesting, since I’ve wanted to pitch many of my investor expert network clients on post-deal operational improvement work. It sounds like there’s some opportunity for that with GLG. (Don’t pitch in the call, stay focused)

GLG Consulting Rates

Unlike many of the other expert network firms I’ve dealt with, GLG tends to exert a constant pressure on your rates, constantly guiding you to lower them. I’ve generally ignored their advice – since it didn’t really produce much of a bump in engagements when I tested it. Expert Networks are not a commodity business: clients generally want to speak with the best experts in a particular space, not the occupants of the local bargain bin. I recommend you hold firm on rates and focus on explaining your value within your profile and resume.

Typical rates range between $150 and $1000. Most expert firms will start you at $150, which can be quickly negotiated up to around $300 for a good mid-career executive. You can certainly charge more (case study) as you build a reputation on the platform and have identified “your thing”. I’ve been advised that particularly notable candidates (former CEO’s, noted conference speakers, etc) can charge rates over $1000 per hour for an expert interview.

My recommendation is to test. Set a rate, see if you get some business. If there is a solid demand for your expertise, raise the rate! If demand slows down for a couple of months, consider reducing it…

Incidentally, one of their competitors, ProSapient, included a wonderful article about paying your experts what they are worth on their blog… Read it and feel a little more confidence about the rates you’re asking for!

Raise Your Profile – Other Expert Networks (Signup Links)

If you’re interested in raising your profile as an expert, run through the list of expert network reviews below and sign up for the networks which are relevant to your skills and geography.

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