A Meeting with a Master of Business Consulting

The power of “It’s who you know” played out powerfully when, through connections at VT KnowledgeWorks, I landed a business consulting column for Handshake 2.0 from Allan Tsang, founder of 88owls.

Through his expertise in business and in business consulting, Allan created 88owls, an online service matching businesses with business consultants.  His encyclopedic knowledge of business information and business processes - required for him to create such a system - is mind-boggling to me.

To help out a local start-up – moi – Allan made space for me this week and I got an appointment to meet with The Master Consultant himself.

I will tell you I have had a lot of meetings in my life where I felt like I didn’t have to be there – anybody would do. 

“I want to hear what you do,” is the opener, but the person recites or pitches a much-rehearsed script, indulges in a self-narrative, or tries to forcefully convince me what to think or feel about some subject or other.  Those are lonely, tedious meetings. 

Some meetings evolve into dialogue and the mutual discoveries from the synergy of interaction can be insight-producing and deeply satisfying.

My meeting with Allan wasn’t like either of those.

I can’t even remember his opener.  I can’t identify his process.

Something about who he is, what he knows, the questions he asks, how he listens, what he hears beyond the words, resulted in me thinking about my business model, my company, even myself in ways I didn’t even know you could think. 

At the end of our two-hour meeting, I had no idea what his pitch was, knew little about him personally, and knew what I thought and felt, not what he did. 

And get this.  I didn’t just have one of those nicey-nice, workshop-y experiences that feel so great, but, upon a return to the desk, makes them one more puff of hot air from the laptop’s fan.

I not only had an experience, I knew what to do with it.  I’ve already started.

Come on, I’ve been on the planet half a century, I’ve been around the block.  A peak experience at Panera’s in Blacksburg, Virginia?


My two cents?  Get one for yourself.


88owls is a Rising Star nominee for the NewVa Corridor Technology Council, NCTC TechNite Awards and a member company of VT KnowledgeWorks.


  1. Sometimes, we find that what we need is right in our own backyard. Or that, perhaps, you have to be the one to reach out and discover who or what is out there ready to help you. You could have picked up a book on the trials and tribulations of being a start-up, but instead, you got to talk with someone real-time who could introduce a new perspective. The beauty of organizations like VTKW and NCTC is that we have tremendous opportunity to connect and learn from one another.
    – Z. Kelly Queijo

  2. Mentors are one of the Four Fundamental Factors underlying most start-up successes. (The other three are, as some of you already know, Market, Magic, and Moxie. http://www.startwithmoxie.com/four-factors-selfcheck.html )

    Mentors come in many flavors. And mentorship relationships can pop up at the most unlikely times. A sure-fire way to increase your chances for mentor serendipity such as Anne described is to network, network, network.

    – Jim Flowers

  3. Thank you, Kelly and Jim.

    I agree – I serendipitously found an amazing mentor in my own backyard. And I found him through “network, network, network.” It’s who you know.

    Glad I know both of you, online and off.

    – Anne Clelland

  4. I agree – Allan is a VERY bright guy, and a real asset to the area's entrepreneurs.

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