By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
Steve Finkelstein likes to use magic to engage an audience, but Experience on Demand, the consulting firm he formed in 2006 with two other veterans of St. Louis business, offers real expertise, not magic.
Finkelstein and two other senior partners, Frank Danzo and Michael Bentz, have decades of experience with some of the area’s leading companies as well as smaller firms. They formed Experience on Demand to offer that experience to small or middle-sized companies and nonprofits, who often can’t afford to hire experts from major consulting firms.
Finkelstein, formerly an accountant for Monsanto and a consulting partner with Deloitte and Grant Thornton, came up with the original idea. Danzo, who formed his own career coaching company after 20 years with Anheuser-Busch Cos., signed on because he shared Finkelstein’s goals and he wanted to collaborate with other people.
Bentz, a serial entrepreneur, said he provided the missing link the other two didn’t have a taste for – the legal and back office functions required to make EOD a viable business.
Experience on Demand’s areas of expertise include strategic planning, career and executive coaching, business process improvement, supply-chain optimization and energy consulting. The partners would like to add more expertise in human resources, nonprofits and sales.
“Probably the best skill we bring is listening skills,” Finkelstein said. “We listen to understand, ask the right questions and then collaboratively develop solutions. We don’t have a predetermined or one-size-fits-all approach.”
EOD consultants ask clients to answer a short three-question survey at the end of each workshop or project. The questions probe the client’s understanding of the service or solution provided, whether it fits their organization and whether the service or workshop was valuable.
“The best feedback comes from talking to clients at the time of service,” augmented by clients’ satisfaction with results months or years later, Finkelstein said.
EOD is big on planning, too. “We view every project as a need for a plan,” Finkelstein said. “Otherwise, there’s a low chance of meeting the goals and the budget.”
EOD consultants do projects on their own, but they also collaborate. The services offered are flexible, depending on the clients’ budgets and needs.
The company offers its 10 consultants the chance to work as much or as little as they want, depending on their personal and professional goals. Some work part-time or on a project-by-project basis. They’re all paid on 1099s, but they use the same logo, business cards and billing systems.
“We make it easy for people to start their own consulting practice,” using EOD’s brand, Danzo said.
Bentz added that although EOD consultants want to make money, they also value “work-life balance, belonging to a team, continued learning and giving back to the community.”
The firm has racked up an impressive record in its eight years in business, providing services to more than 250 clients, including 40 nonprofits. Clients include startups such as a bison farm, a restaurant and a massage therapy business. They include middle market clients in professional services, manufacturing and nonprofit organizations plus some Fortune 500 companies.
EOD won best consulting firm last year at the annual “Best in Business” luncheon sponsored by St. Louis Small Business Monthly. Bentz was recognized in April as one of the “Top 100 St. Louisans You Should Know To Succeed in Business,” sponsored by the same publication.
Clients are effusive about EOD’s work, too.
Brad Lambert, co-founder and chief operations officer for Connections to Success, said EOD worked with the nonprofit on a three-year strategic plan in 2011. The effort has helped the agency grow 40 percent and helped it demonstrate the monetary value of its work to donors and other stakeholders.
Officials with University of Missouri-St. Louis’ alumni relations office said EOD helped refocus efforts on alumni as people who wanted to be engaged with the university rather than simply as annual donors.
EOD consultants do a lot of community service in addition to their paid consulting. Most serve on nonprofit boards or as volunteers. Danzo, who wrote People Hire People, Not Resumes, is in demand as a speaker on employment transitions, and he publishes a newsletter for the Catholic Employment Network that reaches 5,000 people. Most partners also teach classes at colleges and universities.
And then there’s Finkelstein’s magic. He often donates private magic lessons to charity auctions and is in demand for magic shows and business presentations.
Profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses and BBB Accredited Charities are created as part of BBB’s TORCH Award process and are not intended as an endorsement. Winners will be selected later this summer. This year’s TORCH Awards luncheon will be Oct. 14 at the Chase Park-Plaza.