Former paralegal Nicholas Adamo had the start-up success that most founders dream of.
After 10 years of hard work and numerous buyout offers, Adamo sold his legal IT business, Forensic Data Solutions, to Deloitte in 2008.
Then he put on a suit and joined the corporate consulting world. He now consults with a range of public and private sector clients as a partner in EY’s Asia Pacific Enterprise Intelligence team.
Adamo’s career – from paralegal to business founder to big-four consultant – wasn’t something he’d planned.
Nor is it the norm for entrepreneurs, who tend to move from the more structured corporate world to the hectic start-up scene, not the other way around.
“I never had a desire to end up in a professional services firm, but [the Deloitte acquisition] provided the opportunity to move my team, who were incredibly loyal and part of the family, into a larger organisation,” he said.
“Moving into professional services from a small boutique was an enormous jump … obviously there are pros and cons [but] I’d make the trade off any day.”
Here are Adamo’s top four reasons for preferring the corporate world over a start-up:
1. There are always experts around to answer your questions.
Adamo consults with a wide range of firms in various industries, from government to oil and gas, utilities, finance, media and entertainment.
He says the sheer size of EY means that he can typically reach a subject matter expert within 24 hours.
That’s particularly helpful in his field of data analytics, where it’s not the raw data that’s useful but the questions you ask and information you draw from it.
“I’m always astonished at how easy it is to find subject matter experts,” he said. “I don’t think I could do that in a smaller organisation.”
2. Having a work-life balance.
As an entrepreneur, Adamo said he was on call on a 24/7 basis. That lasted 10 years, leaving him with precious little time with his wife and four young children, who he says are most important in his life.
“Sadly, I didn’t have the manpower or financial wherewithal to [take a day off],” he said. “I certainly don’t regret having that experience but really, I sure as hell don’t miss it.
“A small start-up has to go through unbelievable difficulties.
“[On joining the corporate world,] for the first time in over a decade I could have a day off and I knew that there would be partners who could pick up my workload while I was on leave.”
3. You’re forced to focus on what’s important.
After more than two years at EY, Adamo says he’s still “astonished at what we can achieve”.
He acknowledged that large organisations tended to innovate more slowly and carefully than start-ups, but said the restrictions were a boon because they forced him to focus his efforts.
“Obviously there are pros and cons to all organisations,” he said. “Large organisations are less swift and agile compared to smaller firms and have strict governance frameworks.
“[But this way] I focus on creating something that (a) has value, (b) is lean in every way, and (c) our clients can rely on because they’ve passed our governance checks.”
4. Learning more about overseas businesses and cultures.
Adamo travels widely with EY and relishes the opportunity to learn about new customs, cultures and businesses.
He says his decisions are informed by “the aggregation of all the work I’ve done in the past 20 years”, so the more input he gets, the better informed he is.
One of his favourite lessons was that solutions didn’t have to be perfect – they had to be timely.
“Business problems have to be solved today,” he said. “Getting an organisation to 4 out of 10 can mean they’re best of breed, if everyone else in the industry is at 1 out of 10.”
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