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Breaking Barriers: How to Build a Successful Career in GMP Consulting [Harsh Thakkar]

Yan Kugel May 15, 2024

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In this episode, Yan Kugel is joined by a special guest, Harsh Thakkar, the CEO at Qualtivate, as he talks about his successful journey into consulting within the pharmaceutical industry. Harsh is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in advising on GXP practices and regulatory compliance. His career in consulting in the life science field is filled with insights, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped his career and made him a respected figure in the industry.

Harsh’s Journey into Consulting

Harsh shares his decision to become a consultant, the obstacles he faced along the way, his strategies for securing clients, advice for aspiring consultants, and much more. He discusses his initial entry into consulting in 2010, his transition to a full-time role in 2018, and ultimately his decision to start his own consultancy, Cultivate, in 2022.

Pros and Cons of Consulting vs. Full-Time Employment

Harsh highlights the key considerations between being an independent consultant and a full-time employee. Factors such as personal life priorities, financial stability, and the nature of work dynamics play pivotal roles in deciding the suitable career path. While consulting offers flexibility and diverse project opportunities, it also entails uncertainties in income stability compared to the steady paycheck of a full-time position.

Navigating Challenges in Consulting

The transition to independent consulting posed initial challenges for Harsh, particularly in securing clients. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on specific strengths rather than offering a wide range of services at the onset. Building trust with clients through testimonials and leveraging opportunities like webinars and podcasts are essential strategies for establishing credibility and expanding one’s network.

Tips for Starting a Consultancy

  • Focus on Your Strengths: Harsh advises individuals to start by focusing on 1 to 3 strengths rather than trying to offer a wide range of services. By playing to your strengths, you can cut through the noise and effectively reach your target clients.
  • Building Relationships: He also emphasizes the importance of letting people know about your consultancy and engaging in specific conversations with potential clients to demonstrate how you can help them with their specific needs.

Embracing Change and Adaptation

Harsh encourages quality professionals to embrace change and experimentation in their careers. In a rapidly evolving industry landscape with emerging technologies and methodologies, adaptability and openness to new approaches are key for long-term success. By exploring different roles, technologies, and approaches, professionals can enhance their skill set and stay ahead in their careers.

Leveraging Opportunities and Building Online Presence

Harsh and the host discuss the significance of leveraging opportunities such as webinars and podcasts to expand one’s reach and build a strong online presence. They highlight the benefits of seizing such opportunities, even if they may not offer immediate financial gain, and emphasize the impact of building social proof and professional reputation online.

Final Thoughts and Contact

In conclusion, Harsh’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of taking risks and pursuing one’s passion in consulting. His insights on building leverage through content creation, networking, and embracing change offer valuable guidance for quality professionals considering a shift in their career paths. For those interested in connecting with Harsh or exploring further discussions, his contact details are provided for reaching out via email or LinkedIn.

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to evolve, the stories of professionals like Harsh Thakkar inspire others to embark on their own journeys of independence and innovation within the realm of pharmaceutical consulting.

Episode Chapters:

  1. Introduction and Guest Introduction (0:00 – 0:25)
  2. Harsh’s Journey into Consulting (0:26 – 2:07)
  3. Harsh’s Transition to Full-Time Role (2:08 – 3:01)
  4. Decision to Start Cultivate as an Independent Consultant (3:02 – 6:58)
  5. Benefits and Challenges of Being an Independent Consultant (6:59 – 9:51)
  6. Push to Become an Independent Consultant (9:52 – 11:29)
  7. Reflection on Feedback and Decision to Be Independent (11:30 – 24:32)
  8. Challenges in Founding a Consultancy (24:33 – 29:59)
  9. Starting a Consulting Business (30:00 – 31:18)
  10. Client Messaging and Trust Building (31:19 – 34:01)
  11. Changing Dynamics of Consulting (34:02 – 38:26)
  12. Seizing Opportunities in Webinars and Podcasts (34:02 – 38:26)
  13. Leveraging Content Creation (38:27 – 44:07)
  14. Embracing Change and Experimentation (44:08 – 48:42)

Podcast transcript:

Please be advised that this is an AI generated transcript and may contain errors.

00:00 – 00:38
Yan Kugel: Welcome, I’m Yan Kugel, your host. Our special guest today is Harsh Thakkar, who has carved a successful path in consulting within the pharmaceutical industry. Harsh is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in advising on GXP practices and regulatory compliance. Harsh’s journey into consulting in the life science field is filled with insights, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped his career and made him a respected figure in the industry. So join us as we explore Harsh’s decision to become a consultant, the obstacles he faced along the way, his strategies for securing clients, advice for aspiring consultants,

00:38 – 00:53
Yan Kugel: and much more. Now let’s dive into the pharmaceutical consulting with Harsh Thakkar and learn from his expertise and experience in this dynamic field. So Harsh, welcome to the Qualitalks podcast. Very excited to have you here.

00:54 – 00:59
Harsh Thakkar: Thank you, Yan. Really excited for this and I’m happy to share whatever I learned along the way.

01:00 – 01:40
Yan Kugel: That’s perfect, Harsh. So I was very happy to also be on your podcast when you started it about a year ago. It was very exciting to be part of this journey with you. And I think this is 1 of the things that we will also touch on, how to strengthen your branding and marketing as a consultant as well. But before we get that far, tell me, Harsh, how long have you been in the pharmaceutical industry before you decided to make this life life change and becoming an independent consultant?

01:41 – 02:19
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah so you know for those of you following me they know if you don’t know I started I came to US in 2007 for a master’s program was a student at the time and then my first consulting role was probably around 2010 ish and that was mainly because at that time I couldn’t get a full-time opportunity with a biotech or pharma company for visa sponsorship reasons. So I had no choice but to become a consultant and get some experience. So that’s how I started into consulting in 2010, worked with the different clients at the time in

02:19 – 02:53
Harsh Thakkar: consulting and then in 2018 I switched to you know getting some full-time opportunities just because I wanted to try that as well. You know I had been a consultant for 6 or 8 years that time so I was like okay let me go try getting a full time role with a company in a quality department, see how that works. And because it’s a different mindset, it’s a different way of operating. But then in 2022, after I had done both, That’s when I kind of figured out that a full-time role wasn’t the right fit for me. I

02:53 – 03:07
Harsh Thakkar: always liked working on a bunch of different projects at the same time and being really fast-paced. So you obviously cannot do that as an employee of a company. So that’s how I ended up starting Cultivate in 2022 as an independent consultant.

03:09 – 03:39
Yan Kugel: Okay, so that’s a very interesting path. So first a consultant, then a full-time employee, then become a consultant. So usually you become a consultant once you have a lot of experience already and you jumped right into it. So how was it? Did you go to some consultant company as a junior consultant or you just had the chance to find the clients where you had the expertise already to help them with?

03:41 – 04:17
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah so I was lucky to get that consulting experience in the first 6 to 8 years of my career. And in addition to doing projects as a consultant, I also knew the leadership team of the consulting company. And they sort of took me under their wing and sort of explained to me how the consulting industry works. So I already knew that, right? And then I went into full time. So then when I went back into consulting, as you rightly said, I won’t name any people. But when I started consulting with under my company cultivate in 2022.

04:18 – 04:51
Harsh Thakkar: I actually had people tell me that, hey, don’t you think that you’re too young to be starting a consulting company? I mean, typically people get 15, 20 years of experience. You’re not going to get clients like clients want people with experience. And I was like OK yeah that’s that’s I get what you’re saying but I I don’t think that’s true because if I’m truly offering a you know service or an expertise that a client needs then I’m sure there are some clients who will be willing to look at my resume and say, you know what, yeah,

04:51 – 05:12
Harsh Thakkar: I want to work with this guy. So yes, I get your point. I think I was told that by a bunch of people, but, you know, taking that what we did in the last 18 months or 20 months working with a bunch of different clients I don’t think that was a factor ever that you know I didn’t have 20 years of experience to be a consultant.

05:14 – 05:20
Yan Kugel: But you still had quite a lot of experience I think like 10 or more right in the industry anyways.

05:20 – 05:56
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah yeah so I started yeah so in 20 around 2012 is when I first started doing projects in computer system validation, quality assurance, So right around that time I was obviously wasn’t under my company I was working with other consultant firms and getting you know projects from them. But yes I was I was doing all those types of projects I even did some you know project management and business analysis work just because I wasn’t finding the CSV projects when you’re a consultant you really can’t be fixated on oh I only want to do audits or I

05:56 – 06:27
Harsh Thakkar: only because then it becomes very hard to get the projects so I was more like hey I’ll do CSV quality, data integrity audits, just give me anything, I’ll do all of these. And in hindsight, I think that was a good decision, because then I got to work on all these different types of projects. And now that’s all I do with my company is I offer those similar type of services because I learned all of that from 2012 to like 2018.

06:29 – 07:05
Yan Kugel: Right, so you were, like we said in consulting, went to a full-time job in the pharma, then went back because you understood it was not a great fit for you. So when you give the constant pros for each type of life, So what are the benefits of being independent consultants? What are the challenges and vice versa? Life is a full-time employee and why it fits some people but some people not?

07:05 – 07:44
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, I think the biggest, as you said, you know, pros and cons. Again, I’m not saying that everybody should become a consultant, right? The biggest thing that you need to consider is your life, like where you are in your life, right? If you’re working as a full-time employee, you get a lot of benefits, you get health insurance and company benefits and other like life insurance for you and your family. So like if you if all of those matter a lot to you or if you have kids and you want paternity leave and maternity leave I get

07:44 – 08:15
Harsh Thakkar: it right because then you probably shouldn’t be a consultant because there are a lot of benefits to being an employee. So your personal life, where you live, your cost of living, there’s a lot of things that go into play. So you have to first figure out that you can manage all of that as a consultant. And then the other 1 is like the mental block, right? So when you are an employee, you know that every 2 weeks you open your bank account, you’re going to see a number whether I’m and don’t get me wrong when I

08:15 – 08:48
Harsh Thakkar: say this, right? Whether you put 100% or not, that number will still stay the same. I’m not disrespecting anyone. I’m just being honest. Right. That’s that is your paycheck. That’s there and it’s there for a reason because you’re an employee until you get fired or leave the job, you’re still gonna get paid. But as a consultant, there’s a big gray area or a big uncertainty where you don’t know how much you’re gonna make. You could make $5,000 in a week, and then for the next 3 weeks, you make nothing. So if you’re not able to live

08:48 – 09:21
Harsh Thakkar: with that mental block then it’s going to be very difficult for you to be a consultant unless you have a steady stream of projects and you know you can you have enough runway to be without a project for 6 months so I think those 2 are the biggest ones now obviously if you sit and compare consulting and gives you more flexibility you can work on different projects you know, you can work with different clients when you’re a full time, you’re you sort of can only work for that company because of you know confidentiality or employee agreements

09:21 – 09:25
Harsh Thakkar: or whatnot so I would say those are some of the big pros and cons.

09:27 – 09:47
Yan Kugel: Right and if you can share What was for you personally the push to go back to consultancy that is it choosing your own project is it you know not being involved in the politics is it the money so what are what was it for you that pushed you?

09:47 – 10:24
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, I can tell you that money was the lowest on that list, right? And I’ve been fortunate to have really good opportunities and make decent money in consulting and in full time. The biggest 1 was just being told that I didn’t have enough experience, right? For me, that was the big pinch where I constantly keep hearing that, right? And I constantly keep getting compared with people who have maybe 20 years of experience and like oh yeah you have to spend that much time before you can get promoted to a VP level or promoted to this level

10:24 – 10:58
Harsh Thakkar: right and and again I’m you know I can sit here and I’m not going to judge anyone for having those opinions or thoughts. It’s what they think. But for me, I had to get out of that because I really felt like I was ready for a bigger challenge, right? And I didn’t wanna sit in a company for 10 years to earn the spot to be promoted, to get additional responsibility. And naturally, there was the other way was to step out and start consulting and get those responsibilities directly come to me. So so I ended up doing

10:58 – 11:07
Harsh Thakkar: that. And that’s how I think that was 1 of the biggest sort of push to be like, hey, you know what, you need to go out and do it on your own because this is not the way you want to grow.

11:08 – 11:51
Yan Kugel: Right. Yeah. So I can identify with it a lot. So 1, so I see myself a lot in what you’re telling and speaking and this story. And for me, it was very similar. So when I was working in the quality, I always felt that I wanted more. And being in Germany, which is quite a very conservative country in itself, but the pharma industry in most of the companies is extremely conservative. It means that if you have a PhD, you usually can become a team leader without any experience and have no idea what you’re doing, but they

11:51 – 12:33
Yan Kugel: will train you throughout the years, but if you don’t have this, you get stuck. And for me, it was very similar because I decided not to do a PhD because I knew I don’t want to be a researcher. I wanted to be in the industry. So I got into the same block where the directors also told me, you know, if you wanted higher positions, you should have considered a PhD. That’s how it worked. And that’s what also pushed me to understand and to do a change in my life and prove to myself because some of the

12:33 – 13:07
Yan Kugel: great leaders will come and tell you, you know what, this is your wish. You want to do more, you want to grow, we will help you. Let’s see, that’s your vision. Let’s see how we make it happen. Some bad bosses will tell you, you know what, just sit and do what you’re doing for another 10 years and then we’ll speak, right? And then you need to do the decision. Do you want to do that? You want to change your spot or you just want to challenge yourself and take risks. And I think that’s what at this

13:08 – 13:26
Yan Kugel: point, what both of us did and decided to become independent and found the companies and do it. So I really identify with it. And I do think that anybody who is in the same position who should consider you know don’t let others dictate your life.

13:27 – 13:58
Harsh Thakkar: Right right yeah and I know a lot of people who are probably listening to this or who follow my content on LinkedIn because I talk about this a lot you know I don’t want any of my past employers or the friends and colleagues that I worked with to take this in a negative way right it’s just that every person you know it’s it’s in US they have this term employment at will. So it basically means like, you can take a job, you can work as long as you want. If you’re unhappy, you quit and you go

13:58 – 14:30
Harsh Thakkar: somewhere else, right? So this is not in any shape, a reflection of any of my colleagues or employees. I just want to put that out there because I want to be very professional because I work with those clients and colleagues from my past roles. But at the same time, like you said, you know, it wasn’t the right fit for me. I had interviewed for a bunch of roles. I had interviewed for a promotion opportunity. And 1 of the leaders actually told me this. And I was shocked when that person said this. They’re like, hey, you’ve been

14:30 – 15:03
Harsh Thakkar: in this company for about a year, you want to get this promotion, but look at these 3 people in this department. They’ve been here for 10 years and they haven’t been promoted. And I just felt like I was shocked when the person said that because I was like, what do you mean? Do you mean that I need to be here 10 years to wait for a promotion or you can’t just compare me to some other person by number of years. I mean they have a different educational background. They probably came to pharma from some other industry.

15:06 – 15:22
Harsh Thakkar: You can’t really just make that comparison, but that’s literally what I was told. That, hey, look at Joe, look at Yane. They’ve been here for 7 years and you’ve only been here for 1 year and you want to get promoted. I was like, I don’t know how to take this message.

15:22 – 16:02
Yan Kugel: Right. Right. Yeah. But I think as you mentioned, when you were, when you’re an employee, you get your check and it usually doesn’t matter how much effort you input into your job. And this is the difference in the problems. So the 1 guy might be there 10 years, but his input is 30% of your input. But this is the, again, this is the politics of the big companies. But as you said, you know, this is how it works. And for me, as you said, not to disrespect anyone who, you know, the boss with whom or the

16:02 – 16:40
Yan Kugel: people with whom you work with, because many of them were great. And, but we need to listen sometimes to this subcontext or to the feedback they give and do the self reflection. So for example, like you, I applied to 1 job with somebody who I actually consider a great leader. I learned a lot from her. And there was a position which I was sure I’m going to get. But at this point, she told me, it was already many years ago, and she told me, you know what, I feel that you’re a bit too junior, not by

16:40 – 17:19
Yan Kugel: age, but with your communication or how you hold yourself, you’re a bit too junior in comparison, because you need to close maybe deals, you need to go on the audits, you need to speak with very high level people and I feel you’re not there. And then It was like a reflection for me to know, okay, if this is the point, there is something I need to do about it. And this is 1 of the things, it’s some of the reflection, how can you work on it and whether where you are right now and the work you’re

17:19 – 17:49
Yan Kugel: doing will help you get to their position. Because if the job you’re doing now, because you’re just, I don’t know, writing SOPs won’t help you negotiating with suppliers or doing audits, and it won’t help you grow and be more senior than you should, for example, change a position, right? So this is 1 of the things you should listen to the good leaders that you have to their feedback and then understand how you go around it right

17:50 – 18:31
Harsh Thakkar: yeah yeah that’s very important you know to to basically what you’re trying to say is to filter out the signal and the noise right because when you are working with any leader a lot of times they will tell you feedback that benefits them, right? So I got, and sometimes you have to understand that when somebody gives you a feedback, they probably perceive that as a negative feedback on you. But if you were in a different situation in a different role, you could flip that and make it positive, right? So like, let’s say you have somebody that

18:31 – 19:09
Harsh Thakkar: is very, you know, gets angry all the time. You could say, okay, you have, you get angry all the time, you get hyped up. How could you channel this into something positive? If that person was playing a sport, for example, that anger could turn into competitiveness, i.e. Means a strength, right? And then that person can be ultra competitive and beat their competitor. So now you basically take anger as a negative emotion, turn it into competitiveness with channeling that energy to that direction. And I can relate to what you’re saying because I had 1 of the leaders

19:09 – 19:45
Harsh Thakkar: that I work with, they said, hey, you know what, you are good at what you do in quality and validation, whatever you’re doing. But the biggest critique that I have to give you is you’re too direct. You tell what’s on your mind without sugarcoating stuff. And I was like, okay, is that a good or a bad feedback? Because I thought when you say transparency, that’s what you mean. Like you need to say what you feel. And I actually got a bad performance review for saying something that the management didn’t like. I think I lost 8 or

19:45 – 20:18
Harsh Thakkar: 10% of my bonus. I don’t know what number but it was because I had said something about a project that the higher ups figured out that I had said it and they’re like okay you’re not going to get your bonus you’re going to instead of 100% you’re going to get 90. So when I thought about that and I reflected like, okay, did I do something wrong? And I figured out that, okay, if I’m going to be an employee and if I’m always gonna say something direct and the higher ups are gonna get offended because I said

20:18 – 20:53
Harsh Thakkar: something that they don’t like hearing or because I have 10 years of experience and they have 30 and and they’re getting you know feeling some different type of way for what I said but in consulting I have actually had clients tell me that, hey, I love that you’re so direct because I don’t want consultants and consulting companies who, you know, beat around the bush and tell me something that, you know, just benefits them so they can sell more services I love that you’re being so direct like I tell clients hey you don’t need to audit this

20:53 – 21:20
Harsh Thakkar: you don’t need to do validation here that’s not worth your time and your money and they’re like wow you’re crazy you’re telling me this you could have told me that you need to do it and make more money for your company but you’re being direct and telling me that I don’t need to do this so long story short that was an example of you know you pretty much get the same advice negative on 1 side positive if you just put yourself in a different environment.

21:21 – 22:05
Yan Kugel: Right. So that’s very correct. So it’s basically play on your strength. And regarding what you said also to listen between the lines or what they’re saying, flip it. So I think it’s also read between the lines. I also think it’s think about who says it. So there are some managers who, as you said, they would tell you what is the most beneficial for them. And there are some other people who are direct and they will actually tell you the truth and you should also try to understand. But also the managers who might not be, they just

22:05 – 22:49
Yan Kugel: want what’s good for their department, for example, always read between the lines and also choose what words you listen from each person because some leaders, they actually care and their feedback is very very true and they want to help you out so you actually always try to find out those people who are giving you the right feedback where you don’t need also to read much between the lines because it’s genuine and you should run with it. And as you mentioned, right, there are things that might be seen as a weakness in 1 position and the other.

22:49 – 23:40
Yan Kugel: So there are things that I’ve been doing before a lot is they were saying, when you know you have weaknesses in ABCD, and you’re trying to compensate or learn how to be better in those weaknesses. So there are some skills where you just learn and you must learn them, But there are some skills where you say they’re weak and it’s okay, they can remain weak because your other strengths, then on them you should work and make them even stronger because they will compensate on it. And like you said, your directness, because your directness as a consultant

23:40 – 24:31
Yan Kugel: is very appreciated and it’s truthful. And if you are truthful, clients will come back and work with you throughout the years. And it’s very important as a business owner to be truthful. And because as a consultant, as you said, it’s project based and every customer counts. We are both of us know it as business owners and this is how the game is played. And so, Harsh, so If we go back and circle back to deciding to be a consultant and an independent person, what challenges have you encountered when you decided to found the company and what

24:31 – 24:46
Yan Kugel: people should consider? So you’re in the USA, what hurdles are there and especially in the doing, you know, founding a consultancy, what did you encounter? What tips do you have for people who wanna start their own consultancy?

24:48 – 25:23
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, I get that question a lot. And if I haven’t shared this before, I’ll share it now. When I started consulting for the first, I think 4 to 6 months, I could not get a client, right? If I go back and look at some of the emails and messages I sent to people in those 4 to 6 months, I literally feel like throwing my laptop away because I would not write that message today. But I wrote those messages 20 months or 2 years ago. So I think the biggest challenge is how are you going to get

25:23 – 25:56
Harsh Thakkar: your first, your second, and your third client and how once you get those 3 clients how are you going to keep getting 1 every month or 2 every month whatever your target is right whether you’re whether you want to be a single consultant or you want to build the agency that will determine how many clients you need to get but I think the biggest challenge is how are you going to get your first 3? Because until you get your first 3, and you have those 3 giving you a testimonial, you are basically almost on the way

25:56 – 26:30
Harsh Thakkar: back to going to a full-time job, which many of them have done, and I’ve seen it happen in the last 20 months with people who came into consulting and went back but again that’s that’s the hardest part right because we people like to make business very complicated but business is actually really simple You have a product or a service. You know a person that needs it and you have a way to offer it to them and collect money from them. That’s all it is. Right. Everything else is just you know not necessary but people do it.

26:30 – 27:05
Harsh Thakkar: But in simple terms that’s what business actually is. So I had to literally I read some books and I figured out like okay I am thinking too hard about marketing sales this that like none of this matters I need to just find the person who needs me and ask them like how can I help them and once I figured that out it was like the cheat code right like I started finding the right person at the right time sending them the message you know and there’s some probability out of 5, maybe 1 or 2 were interested,

27:05 – 27:37
Harsh Thakkar: the other 3 weren’t? But I would say that was the biggest challenge is, you know, not complicating it in the start and finding your first and letting people know that you’re going into consulting because tomorrow if I leave my job and become a consultant, not a lot of people know, right? Even if I have a website, it’s not getting traffic from day 1 that people are gonna know. So if I’m on LinkedIn, I can maybe share and say, hey, you know what, I quit my job, I’m a consultant now. Or I can start messaging people and

27:37 – 28:11
Harsh Thakkar: talking to them, doing events or podcasts or whatever, just to tell people that I’m a consultant because they need to know that. And then once they know that I’m now an independent consultant, then making those conversations more specific around, hey, can I help you with your QMS? Hey, I think I see that you’re in a supplier quality role. How many audits do you do in a month? Oh, you do 20. Do you have an in-house team of auditors or do you hire consulting auditors because I could help you do maybe 5 or 6 a month, right?

28:11 – 28:52
Harsh Thakkar: So those are the types of conversations I should have had but I slowly learned that early on it was more out of desperation like oh I need a client and not laser specific on how I can help that client versus just looking for you know projects for my company. So I think that that’s my that would be my advice to anybody who’s starting out is and again another thing I’ll add here is this this is controversial advice that many people would disagree with me and that’s fine Usually we see consultants saying oh I can do ABCDI

28:52 – 29:29
Harsh Thakkar: can do everything. That’s if you’re starting out you don’t want to be in that spot because then you’re just putting yourself in a competition with bunch of other people and companies that are way ahead of you, that have been in business for a long time, I would start by only focusing on 1 to 3 strengths, like Yan said, you mentioned earlier, Yan, playing to your strengths, figure out what are the 3 things that you can do. For me, that was building QMS, computer system validation, and data integrity and audits. I knew that these 4 I could

29:29 – 30:01
Harsh Thakkar: do anytime, anywhere in the world, as long as I had a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection. So I was like, okay, these are the 4 I can do. Once I started doing those 4, then I started exploring into, oh, okay, I could also help you implement AI tools or, oh, I could also help you do this other thing, you know, that you’re doing, because I have some experience there. Don’t try to be too wide first, be very specific, because that’s where you can cut through the noise and get to your client. Once you do the 3

30:01 – 30:11
Harsh Thakkar: or 5 specific projects that you are good at, you’re obviously going to get some testimonials and then you can branch out to other areas where you want to experiment.

30:13 – 31:04
Yan Kugel: Great. So, I would like to drill more on your cheat sheet of getting clients, right? So you mentioned first that when you just started, you went into studying about marketing business. And I think it’s a sure thing to do when you go to business. You come from quality and then you become your own boss. You should understand business and marketing, especially if you at first a one-man team. And then you do trial and error, see what works and not. So you mentioned you were sending emails, messages, and you felt it was the wrong language. So tell

31:04 – 31:06
Yan Kugel: us what shouldn’t we do?

31:07 – 31:45
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, I think the biggest hack that anybody will give you, any salesperson, any marketing or person will give you is don’t make the message about yourself, make it about your client, right? So if you understand what problem the client has and if you understand what position let’s say I scroll on LinkedIn and I find out that somebody has posted a role for a supplier quality manager or a quality auditor. You want to do some research on that role. You want to do some research on that person, the hiring manager and on that company and make your

31:45 – 32:00
Harsh Thakkar: introductory message about them. My mistake that I did was it was all about me. Right. My messages were like, hey, I have 15 years of experience. I do ABC and D. Do you need any help? It was never about them.

32:00 – 32:04
Yan Kugel: Right. So it’s III. Yes. Yes. I have this I have that. Right.

32:04 – 32:42
Harsh Thakkar: Yep. So so that was the biggest hack is you know making the message about them and and then that’s the first part and then the second part in there is the biggest thing in marketing world or in business world people know this that if somebody wants the way somebody decides that they want to work with you is called the KLT framework which is know, like and trust. So if somebody knows you, likes you and trusts you, you are in the high zone of maybe selling something to that person because those are the 3 factors right and

32:42 – 33:16
Harsh Thakkar: that’s so I learned that obviously by reading and following a bunch of people. And I was like, okay, so I have to first make sure that I know the person by connecting with them. And if they’re following my content, there is some component of them liking what I’m saying. And then how can I, so I’ve crossed off the no, the like checkbox? How can I get the trust built with this person and the easiest way for me to build trust was to tell them what I did with other similar clients in the past to say hey

33:16 – 33:52
Harsh Thakkar: are you having a problem with doing your audits like 20 audits a month guess what I have another cell therapy client that has you know 30 systems and we’ve been auditing with them as a contractor for a year do you want to talk to them and see how we help them immediately you know now I’m bringing another client testimonial or reference into picture that signals high trust right so so once you identify the messaging part about your client the second step is you know how are you going to make sure that they know you they like

33:52 – 34:00
Harsh Thakkar: you they trust you because until you cross that 3 boxes, it’s gonna be very hard to sell to that client or sell your services?

34:02 – 34:52
Yan Kugel: Right, completely agree with you. And that’s why, as you said, you should be out there. And what I see from, you know, the world is changing, changing in a way that there are a lot of very experienced consultants. They have been around for 20, 30 years and they are used to getting projects from mouth to mouth. People know them, but then they started realizing that the people with whom they work in the company, they are retiring and suddenly, you know, you lose your connections there. And this is how the game was played before. But now we

34:52 – 35:38
Yan Kugel: have new game rules, which of course, you cannot exchange it with a personal relationship, But you can upgrade it with being well known on the social media, right? As you said, on LinkedIn, you produce content and people know you by your expertise. They learn also to trust you because they see that others react to your content and to your experience and they start already to trust you at this point because they see, okay, this is the person with whom we are willing to start talking and he seems interesting to just get to know him. Let’s see

35:38 – 36:01
Yan Kugel: what he can offer us. And as you mentioned there are some jobs in consulting that you can do with a laptop and a Wi-Fi, which means your current connections in the 50 kilometer radius are meaningless because now you have the whole world in the palm of your hand, right?

36:02 – 36:44
Harsh Thakkar: Absolutely, yes. And I’m glad you brought those up because I was talking about this with another colleague in the industry and I told him that it’s becoming more and more easy for anyone to become a consultant. Because like you said, most of the consultants that are well known that have 30 years of experience, they started consulting by word of mouth and they have bunch of people in their network, but they’re all retiring or they’re moving on so now these consultants they never thought about social media they never thought about marketing or podcast or webinar but now

36:44 – 37:22
Harsh Thakkar: they’re reaching out to me and be like hey What how are you doing all this like where did you learn to? Do all the social media and marketing stuff because I’ve never done this and You know, I need to invest in that because I’m not getting that much business right because all my word-of-mouth is not enough but you you’re absolutely right that the game is changing and there’s it’s becoming more and more easier for people to become consultants and maybe create content on LinkedIn, you know, build a website or whatever and start offering services. And then

37:22 – 37:59
Harsh Thakkar: also working remotely, right? So since I started consulting, I’ve worked for clients in North America, Europe, India, Australia, all of it through LinkedIn or you know meeting people at conferences or whatnot right so my clients in Australia they don’t care where I’m working from as long as you know their stuff is getting done and thanks to the internet we have the luxury that 30 years ago other consultants didn’t have and we should actually take advantage of that and you know use it in a way like we’re all doing working remotely.

38:00 – 38:45
Yan Kugel: Yep exactly And I think it’s also about taking advantage of opportunities and different partnerships, because we first met when you were a speaker at 1 of our webinars, which we did with our client Qualio, and you were 1 of their partners. And I think by chance, or a little by chance, you did this webinar and it created also a link between us and it expanded your reach. So what can you tell about how it came to be this kind of relationship and the opportunities you got from it?

38:45 – 39:21
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, yeah and thanks. That was actually I had not known you or about Qualistry until that webinar. I think that point I was just starting out. I maybe had 1 client at the time. So that webinar was really helpful in I think the topic was how to choose a QMS or something like that. I can’t remember but that was a really important topic. It was exactly something related to the consulting service that I was offering and you know I think I told you yes I want to do it because this is perfect. Right. So. So that’s

39:21 – 39:58
Harsh Thakkar: that’s the opportunity I was presented. But maybe somebody who’s listening to this, maybe they’ll have a different podcast or webinar or different opportunity. So just when you’re starting out, just pay attention to those signals and see what you’re getting, because if you’re starting out, you can’t really be selective and say no. Now, today I get a lot of messages from people and companies who want to write about my story in some article or in some blog or a magazine or talk at some event but I have to say no to them because I don’t really want

39:58 – 40:33
Harsh Thakkar: to put my time there because I have other projects and client work but when you’re starting out I couldn’t say no to those kind of things, because I was still trying to, you know, build that presence online so that people know, okay, he’s talked at this event, he’s, you know, been on this podcast or whatever. So I think and you’re starting out, try to be observant of what kind of opportunities you’re getting to put your name out there. And once you once you find those, go for it, because you can leverage other people’s network, right. So

40:33 – 41:04
Harsh Thakkar: when I started, when I was on that webinar, I didn’t have a big following on LinkedIn but I knew that if I came and shared something on that webinar you would maybe talk about it with your network and Qualio would talk about it with their network and maybe I would get 2 or 3 good connections from that meeting, right, or that webinar. So that was my intention to do that and I think it would, you know, when I look back at it, I think it was the right thing to do. So thanks again for that opportunity.

41:06 – 41:08
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, it was it was really good for me that time.

41:08 – 41:23
Yan Kugel: Yeah, a pleasure. And it was a great webinar. You gave a great talk. So in summary, when harsh or myself come to and say, come to talk to us on our podcast or on a webinar, don’t say no.

41:23 – 41:25
Harsh Thakkar: No, no, no, I won’t. I won’t.

41:25 – 42:06
Yan Kugel: Yeah. So I’m talking to the audience. If we come to you, say Yes. Right. Yes. Right now you also have a great podcast and you have a great guest. And as you said, there are a lot of times I reach out to people as well and I tell them, I have a great Opportunity for you. I have an amazing sponsor for this amazing webinar and people not always Want to take part in it because they think it’s not worth their while because it’s Not they’re not getting the pay they think they deserve for such a thing,

42:08 – 42:56
Yan Kugel: because usually such speaking opportunities are voluntary, but they don’t realize sometimes the amazing benefit of having a stage in front of hundreds of people in your industry. And if you’re a consultant, it can bring you work connections. If you are an employee in a company, it can showcase your employers, your, you know, your strengths that you’re speaking at such events, and it can be a career boost for you. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a consultant or such. So always take chances of such opportunities, even reach out yourself to people who host webinars to do podcasts

42:56 – 43:31
Yan Kugel: and just offer what you, you know, offer, what you have your strengths, tell them, you know what, I can help you. I can write an article for your blog on this topic. I can come to your podcast and speak about this. And I had a lot of people who just reached out to me and said, you know what, I love what you wrote about it on LinkedIn. And I just, I’ve been always thinking about it and I have a lot to speak about this and that. Can I come on 1 of the webinars and speak when

43:31 – 44:07
Yan Kugel: you have an opportunity on this topic? And this is amazing, this initiative of people, you know, they see an opportunity, they try to take it, to share their expertise and contribute to the community. So I think for me, it was always an ease. You know, our pharma community is a small, small world. Most of the people at the end, they know each other at some point, at least second connection, and it’s a small world and don’t waste opportunities when you have.

44:08 – 44:48
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, yeah, it’s actually, you brought up a really good great point about having the opportunity having people in the network And if anybody in the audience hasn’t read this book or people who are listening to this podcast, there’s an amazing book by Naval Ravikant. Naval is a tech, he’s in Silicon Valley, He’s a tech entrepreneur, investor, 1 of the most influential people in Silicon Valley in San Francisco. And he wrote a book. Actually he didn’t write the book. The book is called Almanac of Naval Ravikant. And it’s not a book. It’s a collection of all his

44:48 – 45:23
Harsh Thakkar: tweets that somebody took and they asked Naval to explain all his tweets and he explained them and then they turned that into a book but anyways I read that book around COVID time and you know that’s when I was like thinking really hard what I want to do app like do I want to continue working or start consulting do I want to create content whatnot And he talks about this concept of permissionless leverage. So he mentions that if you’re selling a product or service you’re not going to be able to do that today with internet you’re

45:23 – 46:00
Harsh Thakkar: not going to be able to do that if you don’t understand the concept of leverage right and creating content or putting yourself on a podcast or a webinar is 1 of the easiest way to build leverage because you are working with other people. Like I mentioned, you had a great following at the time. Qualio was a well-known QMS provider. I had the least leverage in that interaction, right? But I had something valuable to add to that webinar and now that webinar is there, it’s going to be there and people can go and look at it or

46:00 – 46:36
Harsh Thakkar: I can talk about it because that small leverage was built and it was just very easy to build that. So when you keep doing that you keep creating content and you keep doing podcast slowly that compounds over a period of time and that’s when people start knowing you because now when people talk about somebody talks about in Germany about training or webinars there is a chance Yan your name will come up because you’ve been putting all of this for the last couple of years, right? You’ve been building that small chunk of leverage every time you put

46:36 – 46:50
Harsh Thakkar: that out. So that’s ultimately what it is, right? Especially if you’re being online and like reaching your customers on LinkedIn, they need to see some social proof or some online presence.

46:51 – 47:38
Yan Kugel: Exactly. So, online presence is so important right now. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an employee or self-employed. If you’re doing business with somebody, they will Google you and the more good things will pop about you, it will be better and the more professional it would look like, it will look better. So I think it’s especially important for the younger generation that if you Google them, you probably will see a lot of foolish Instagram posts. So You should also think about this when you’re building your reputation as a young person. What people can see online about

47:38 – 48:33
Yan Kugel: you and how you want others to perceive you, because that’s how it is. And I 100% recommend reading the book you mentioned by Naval Revikant and also the podcast. So I consider him as a modern philosopher. His insights are incredible for personal growth, business growth. So that’s a really, really good recommendation, Harsh. So before we wrap up this amazing talk, Is there something else you would like to add to inspiring quality professionals that are considering to take a different path in their life? Something that we didn’t discuss, but you think it’s very important to mention?

48:34 – 49:16
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, I would say that the big theme here is that the world is changing, right? There is tons of opportunities, there’s tons of new technologies like AI, machine learning, no code, you know automation, all of this and the way we work is changing. Okay, so maybe people in quality and regulatory and life sciences have not experienced that, Maybe other industries have experienced it more, but for anybody that’s starting out or is in the early stages of their career, I would say, you’re gonna be told by your employers or by people you work with, like, hey, you

49:16 – 49:54
Harsh Thakkar: know, this is how we’ve always done quality. And, you know, this is how we’re gonna continue doing it. But if I were in your shoes, I would maybe experiment, test out, be creative, learn new tools, new frameworks, and try to do things a little bit differently because ultimately that what that skill is going to teach you is being able to you know adapt to different kinds of situations because I come across a lot of consultants and you know people that I work with and they’re only comfortable doing their work in a certain style. And I think

49:54 – 50:17
Harsh Thakkar: that is not a good long-term strategy to have. So be more open to experimentation, whether that’s taking a new role or working in a different department to do cross training or trying new technologies or experimenting with your role. Just do that because you’re going to build a lot of learnings along the way and that will help you later down the road in your career.

50:19 – 50:33
Yan Kugel: Great advice, Harsh. So thank you very much for this talk. I’m looking forward to more talks about different topics in the future as well. It was a great pleasure having you.

50:33 – 50:47
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, thank you, Yan. I really appreciate it. And if anybody in the audience wants to reach out to me after this talk, I’m very active on LinkedIn. So feel free to message me or send me an email and we can talk about whatever is on your mind.

50:47 – 50:51
Yan Kugel: Great Harsh, so what is the best email to reach you at?

50:52 – 51:00
Harsh Thakkar: Yeah, so you can reach me at htacker at That’s my work email, or you can find me on LinkedIn at HarshVTacker.

51:02 – 51:19
Yan Kugel: Great, And of course, when you visit this podcast page, you will also find the Harsh’s details in the text and the description. So thank you for listening for this podcast and stay complYant and see you at the next 1.

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