Slalom Consultancy is eager to expand in N.J. — and now it has the office to do it

Global firm, which hopes to increase N.J. head count from 250 to 500, celebrates COVID-delayed opening of office in New Brunswick

With 250 consultants already working in New Jersey — and an aggressive growth plan that aims to double that number in three years — there really was only one logical question to ask officials at Slalom Consulting when they cut the ribbon Wednesday night on their first office in New Jersey.

What took you so long to get here?

Jeff Van Wie, general manager of the New Jersey market for the global company, has an answer. The move, he said, was more than three years in the making.

The company made the decision to set up shop here in 2019, as part of a move to divide the New York City office into three parts. But by the time it was ready to move — on Jan. 1, 2020 — the world was on the verge of a pandemic.

Everything was put on hold.

Except for the company’s growth.

Slalom, which had just 92 consultants in New Jersey in 2020, began adding people on a consistent basis. Adding clients, too.

“It exceeded all of my expectations,” Van Wie said.

That’s one of the reasons why Van Wie and Slalom were so excited about opening the office on Albany Street in New Brunswick.

The other? The firm prides itself as being one with the communities that it serves. This is not a live-out-of-a-suitcase type consultancy.

“We think our advantage is that we show up, Monday to Friday,” Van Wie said. “If you’re signing up for a project with us in the state of New Jersey, 90% of the people on the project are going to be folks that live in the great state of New Jersey.

“They’re citizens, they’re taxpayers — they want to do the project and they want it to be successful because it helps them, since they are neighbors.”

The firm, Van Wie said, is filled with doers and implementers. That’s a differentiator for Slalom compared with some of the larger firms, he said.

“Traditionally, I don’t think any of our clients would look at us and say, ‘Let’s go see if Slalom can compete against McKinsey or Boston Consulting Group,’” he said. “The level of strategy consulting that they do is very specific about helping an organization figure out what their next strategy is going to be.

“We’re going to help you execute that vision. We have people that understand what they’re recommending very well, and we will help you implement it. That’s really where our sweet spot is. We have a group called strategy and operations. We’re going to take your strategy and help you operate it until it’s embedded inside your organization.”

Van Wie spoke with ROI-NJ on the verge of the big ribbon-cutting. Here’s more of the conversation, edited for space and clarity.

ROI-NJ: Talk more about the (delayed) opening of the office — and how important it is to reach this day?

Jeff Van Wie.

Jeff Van Wie: This is a big deal for Slalom. We pride ourselves in having offices, because we do have a local consulting model, so we want to have a local presence. It’s unusual that we had this long, three-year wind up, but we’re ready finally to launch and we have a beautiful space in New Brunswick that we’re very excited about.

ROI: Where is it? And how big is it — both in size and potential employee count?

JVW: It is literally across the street from Johnson & Johnson’s world headquarters (which means it’s down the block from the HELIX project that’s going up). It’s about 7,800 square feet, but it can grow if it needs to.

We’re consultants, so we love to not be in our physical space. What I’ll tell you is that we can accommodate 80 people in the office, but we’re never going to see that many people. On any day, I would say that we’ll have 20 to 30 people that are working in our office — and many times, that’s with actual clients.

ROI: Let’s talk about clients. What is your sweet spot in New Jersey?

JVW: That’s an interesting question. I’ll tell you what the plan was — and then, ultimately, what happened. There were two things that actually exceeded my expectations.

We have always been in New Jersey. We do work for two of the largest pharmaceutical companies, for CPG companies and insurance companies, and we knew we would grow that. But it’s been growth in areas that I didn’t feel were going to be big growth areas that is going crazy. One of them is doing work for the state of New Jersey. That was not something that we thought we would go after. We always thought we would just be part of what happens in the private sector. That has become a really nice area for us.

ROI: Talk more on that: How are you helping the state?

JVW: The one that’s most significant, which Slalom has done for two other states, really stemmed out of the pandemic. It was family medical leave. How people apply for that … what benefit do they get to leave their job for a period of time … how do they make sure the employer gets taken care of if they’re reimbursing them … how do they get reimbursed for that period of time that they’re out?

The state had trouble with that system, and at handling the volume that came about as a result of the pandemic. We did this for the state of Connecticut and Colorado, so we bid on implementing a similar solution. We have just begun the process of really transforming and replacing that system that handles how we manage things like family and medical leaves.

ROI: So, this begs the question: Do you view the work you do in sectors (such as health care) or by specialty (such as cultural change)?

JVW: It’s really kind of both. The way we’ve organized ourselves is that we have people who specialize in an industry, like life science, manufacturing, consumer product goods, insurance and financial services — and we have people that have expertise across technology, cloud computing, implementing Salesforce, understanding how business processes work and how to optimize now.

ROI: It sounds as if you can play with the biggest players. And, since you now have more than 13,000 employees in 45 markets (including Philadelphia and New York City) with approximately $3 billion in revenue, it feels like you can. Who do you see as your competition?

JVW: Our sweet spot is competing against firms such as Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Capgemini, Accenture and others. When we’re talking about hardcore technology and business consulting, that’s where we’re going to compete and we’re going to compete really well.

ROI: Of course, if you’re going to truly be a part of the business community in the state, you need to become a fixture at its numerous networking events. Will we see you out more?

JVW: We really want to get engaged and involved. We are members of the state Chamber of Commerce and Choose New Jersey, where we have one of the seats on the board. We’re big advocates of helping them with their messaging and we’ve talked a lot about how we can help them build out their capabilities better on a pro bono basis. We want more people to be attracted to the state of New Jersey, because it means more corporations will come here.

So, yes, you’ll start to see us more and more.