Growing Talent Management Firms: An Introduction

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I am thrilled to be debuting a blog series on managing and growing talent management firms for ASTD’s Human Capital Community of Practice. I hope to provide readers with insights and perspectives that I’ve gathered from more than 40 years of working in the talent management industry. The nature of the content in this blog will be intentionally focused on a very specific interest group—primarily those individual consultants interested in the issues and challenges faced while growing their talent management businesses. Having said this, I expect any corporate decision maker involved in selecting and hiring talent management suppliers might also find the discourse interesting, and help him better understand his talent partner to their mutual benefit. Some of the business-related challenges for these suppliers might even transfer to managing and growing an internal talent management organization.

I’ve spent my entire career in the consulting industry, leading and directing eight different talent management entities. These experiences have ranged from a one-person private practice to a several hundred million-dollar division of a multi-billion dollar company. Some I have owned, for others I was a partner, and yet for others I was an employee. In retrospect, while each experience was indeed unique, there are several consistent issues and challenges that wove through them all. Additionally, I have had the good fortune to be on 15 different advisory boards for education and training organizations, including those of ASTD, the Instructional Systems Association, and a liberal arts college.

Let me begin this blog series with a disclaimer: I make no excuses for leading with my opinions based on my experience, although I will try more often than not to support such ideas with informed background and fact. However, I recognize that my experiences are not exhaustive. The purpose of this blog is to encourage an exchange of ideas on the topics presented by readers. I see my job as stimulating thinking—sometimes through provocative statements, and other times through mere questioning. I am hopeful that there will be enough interest and even controversy around the content that we will be able to create a strong dialogue for the benefit of all.


While I have a lot of experience in the talent management consulting industry, I also don’t think that I have all of the answers, let alone know all of the best questions to ask. However, I am pretty clear on most of the issues and challenges—and in some cases best practices—of operating and growing these businesses.

Each blog will focus on a specific topic germane to managing and growing a talent management business, including, but not limited to

  • industry growth
  • competitive advantage
  • differentiation
  • training delivery
  • scalability
  • mergers and acquisitions
  • business models
  • growth strategies
  • industry knowledge
  • success formulas
  • recipes for failure.

With these content areas in mind, what are the issues, challenges, and practices you would like to hear about? Please share in the comment section below so I can incorporate these topics within this monthly series. I very much look forward to connecting with you.

About the Author
Dr. Stephen L. Cohen is a 40+ year veteran of the talent management industry, having founded and/or led eight different business entities in the field. He also has served on 19 different advisory boards for firms in the training and education sector, helping them effectively navigate their growth strategies.

He currently is in private practice, focused on strategic and business planning and senior leadership development. His latest book is The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm. Contact him at 952.942.7291, steve@strategicleadershipcollaborative, or
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