Natascha Schijven: Offering Authentic Consulting with Heart

Businesses, to thrive, need innovation, a satisfied customer base, and very importantly these days they need to keep their costs in check. Organizations often rely on consultants to help them understand their cost structure and come up with ways to reduce costs to improve their bottom line. Large, Global 500 organizations hire highly talented, big-name consultants to find numerous innovative approaches to help quickly, but this comes with a major price tag. This price tag is often too high for small and mid-sized businesses to even consider. The recent pandemic underlined the issue when many small and mid-sized companies needed to take cost out of their businesses, quickly yet sustainably but had no big-name consultants to guide them. That’s where Natascha Schijven-led Pinwheel Advisory & Training comes in.

Your Consultant, Your Budget

Natascha started Pinwheel with the intent of making her learnings within ‘Big 4’ consulting available to anyone who needed it. She started her venture to democratize her expertise. Pinwheel was founded on a ‘help fist’ principle meaning the firm does not shoot to make top dollar on every engagement. Its core values center around giving back and making high-quality Procurement and Cost Transformation expertise available to anyone who needs it. “We will help anyone who needs it even pro bono if warranted.  We are not going to let your business go belly-up if we can help you save it. We’ll figure out the cost at a later point in time,” says Natascha.

Tracing the Founder’s Journey

Natascha started her career in Operations Project Management for a large European Packaging conglomerate back in the Netherlands, where she was born and raised. She loved the entrepreneurial aspect of the role and enjoyed that every couple of months there was a new challenge to tackle. After about 5 years in Operations and Procurement Natascha was approached by high-end consulting firm, Kearney. She spent the next 10 years on the cutting edge of Procurement and Analytics, working her way up from Manager to Vice President. In her role, she helped many Global 500 executives across the globe exceed Procurement savings expectations they never thought possible through the application of innovative, analytics-based sourcing approaches. In 2017 she joined Deloitte, one of the Big 4 professional service firms. As a Partner at Deloitte, she was able to work with exceptional talent in the area of exponential technologies like Big Data, AI, IoT, machine learning, and blockchain and started fine-tuning approaches that allowed clients to unleash the power of ‘digital’ in the procurement arena. In June 2019, Natascha ventured out on her own and founded Pinwheel, offering high-end cost transformation consulting with a personal touch, empathy, and premised on authentically wanting to help.

Offering Services with a Human Touch

Natascha describes the current industry status as a ‘gig economy’ where more and more folks are becoming consultants successfully going from gig to gig. Through independent consultant community platforms such as Catalant, BTG and others, clients are finding premium-quality, fit-for-purpose consulting solutions without being constrained to engaging the big, established consulting giants.

The relationships Natascha fostered over the years along with the changing landscape have allowed Pinwheel to thrive, helping companies across industries take millions of dollars of cost out of their external spend base and training dozens on the ins and outs of project and complexity management. Its most important achievement, however, has been, per Natascha: “Leaving my clients feeling more comfortable with their day-to-day challenges and workload and more confident in knowing how to exceed their targets. Essentially, leaving people in a better place than they were before meeting us.”

Tackling the Competition

As it relates to ‘tackling competition’, Pinwheel adopts an interesting strategy, one of letting go and trusting that what the firm is meant to help with it will end up helping with. The focus is on putting energy towards the positive i.e., simply focusing on what the company knows it excels at and has proven it does better than others. Natascha adds, “We aim to always over-deliver and leave folks in a better place than they were before. Through our engagements and training, we ensure that people feel comfortable and capable, and ready to handle the day-to-day challenges without our support. We listen to and authentically care about the people we’re working with and go above and beyond to ensure their success. When you give positivity, it comes back to you. Our clients often become friends and recommend us ahead of our competition. In our experience, this happens organically and the way we work with our clients generates “pull”. Human nature is to give back and pay it forward.”

Tell It Like It Is

Being a female entrepreneur has not been easy for Natascha. Getting traction as a woman in a male-dominated world was a big challenge. In her opinion, today still, women have to work harder than men to gain access to similar opportunities. Natascha mentions she never fit into the typical corporate business consultant mold and often felt like she had to give up part of her ‘authentic self’ to make it work. Growing up in a direct culture where people ‘tell it like it is’, she developed a communication style that did not always resonate within the big, corporate consulting firms she worked for. While her C-level clients, with limited time to spare, consistently appreciated this ‘efficient candor’, the corporate consulting world was anchored in the premise of the client always being right even when the client was paying the consultant to challenge their opinion, knowing they were wrong.

Starting Pinwheel helped Natascha achieve the peace and equilibrium she had been looking for. She feels she is finally where she is supposed to be. She elaborates: “I’m right where I want to be in life, to be honest. I’m helping companies optimize cost and get to support them with empathy and authenticity. I’m valued for who I am; for, respectfully, telling it like it is.  I’ve never been great at paying lip-service and telling you what you already know; where’s the value in that?”.

For the Budding Entrepreneurs

Natascha believes that all successful entrepreneurs have a couple of things in common. She elaborates: “I believe successful entrepreneurs thrive in an ambiguous environment; it excites them as opposed to paralyzing them. Secondly, successful entrepreneurs are also great listeners, they spend hours listening to customers and clients before offering solutions. They realize that spending enough time understanding exactly what the problem is first, saves a lot of time at the back-end and makes solutions more efficient and effective. Successful entrepreneurs also take risks, continuously pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones. That’s where innovation lurks, only in the discomfort can you truly find new ways of problem-solving. Entrepreneurs actively fight myopia and seek to always open the aperture. Lastly, they seek out diversity of thought by bringing in people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, upbringings, and cultures. Leveraging diversity uncovers new ideas and often sparks “light bulb” moments as every person brings their own unique way of contributing knowledge, and the resulting whole is far greater than any one individual could provide.”

Her advice for the budding entrepreneurs is, “Be open, be bold and be brave. Never let ‘naysayers’ stop you from going after your dreams. Negativity is often rooted in insecurity, and unfounded by facts.”

Taking Pinwheel Ahead

Pinwheel offers broad-based solutions to optimize cost for companies of any size. This translates into operational efficiency and effectiveness support, strategic sourcing support, procurement organization design, strategy work, and complexity reduction work, to name a few options.

Pinwheel absolutely stands out when it comes to strategic sourcing. It has an unparalleled bench of deep subject matter expertise in advanced, analytics-empowered strategic sourcing of direct materials such as commodities, ingredients, and packaging and broad-based experience in sourcing indirect materials such as contract labor, facilities, all types of business services, and MRO/CAPEX. Most importantly, Pinwheel gives back and consults with heart.

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