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Veteran-owned Ballston consultancy aims to invert typical sales model

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

When Marine veteran Brendan McElroy started working on the sales side of the consulting industry, he quickly realized that although he enjoyed the more interactive part of his job, he did not like the “typical consulting-sales model.”

McElroy described the model as consultants “[complicating] people’s problems.”

As a result in 2019, he founded and became the CEO of the management consulting company called Franklin Consulting, LLC. A year later in April, it merged with the Seattle-based consulting firm T.S. Marshall & Associates, Inc., which specialized in professional training and coaching.

Out of the venture, Ballston-based Franklin IQ was formed, according to a news release. Franklin IQ provides services in several areas of management consultancy, including strategic planning, employee engagement and workforce planning, according to its website.

“Our real passion is working with leaders on things like organizational development, leader development, learning and developing, or managing massive complex changes like return to work or employee engagement,” McElroy said.

What distinguishes Franklin IQ from other consulting firms is its mindset, he believes. “We don’t start with a product and say, ‘Hey, can you buy my product?'” Instead, his company first seeks to “understand the issue” in order to “offer unique and tailored approaches” to solve his clients’ issues.

Similarly, the consulting firm uses a nontraditional way of hiring people, relying less on putting up job notices and waiting for people to answer. There are 18 people working full-time, as well as a network of experts in different subject matters for different projects, McElroy said.

“Everyone around here kind of does it the same way, it’s tough to do this in a labor market where you’re recruiting through fairly traditional means,” he said about hiring practices.

Encouraged by the methods used in many Silicon Valley startups, McElroy said he believes in the importance of everyone in his company to network, especially in connecting with experts in different fields.

The firm’s approach appears to be working.

During the pandemic, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs requested the company’s consultancy on PTSD treatment, sexual assault response and prevention, as well as suicide prevention for about 600 veteran health clinics in the United States. Franklin IQ helped transition the clinics from primarily conducting face-to-face interactions to a virtual environment.

“We’ve really gone from the point where we’re really focused on communications outreach to now we’re training on really complex and modern therapeutic techniques for how to diagnose and treat mental health issues,” McElroy said.

Currently, around 40% of the company’s clients are from the defense industry, another 40% from federal healthcare and the rest are miscellaneous private businesses, McElroy estimates. Franklin IQ has provided consulting services to the first two sectors for the longest, McElroy said. The company has worked with over 45 government agencies, according to its website.

Even though it is now based in Arlington, McElroy’s company started off in nearby Alexandria. As a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, the consulting firm got its start by joining the national Bunker Labs program which supports veteran-owned businesses.

However, McElroy decided to move to Arlington two years ago because of its diverse pool of potential employees, since this county includes a range of living environments, from the urban to the suburban.

“We found this to be the best representation of our culture,” he said. “Not going to a place that’s fairly remote, where you kind of have a homogenous group of candidates and employees.”

Moreover, local resources such as shared workspaces and local organizations that support small businesses proved to be helpful for the company in its early days.

“Even the little basic things like having a mailing address — when you’re first starting out a company – those are all difficult things to navigate, so Arlington has a number of resources for support,” McElroy said.

Looking forward, McElroy hopes his company will be able to “bridge into different areas.” Specifically, his company is expanding into areas such as e-learning, learning management systems and gamification and making them into Franklin IQ’s core capabilities.

Apart from those areas, his plan for next year includes expanding into more areas so his company could become “a full spectrum premier consulting service.”

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