Have you been contacted by an associate from Atheneum Partners with an opportunity to participate in a hour-long consulting call? Are you wondering if the opportunity — or Atheneum Partners— is legitimate or a scam? Here’s what you need to know about working with this global expert network.
Atheneum Partners Overview
Atheneum Partners GMBH is a mid-sized expert network headquartered in Berlin, Germany with offices in other 10 countries. It operates a Research as a Service (RaaS) product model to conduct primary research for management consulting firms, investment houses, and corporate clients. They offer a small variety of consulting products, including 1-hour consulting calls, primary research deliverables, and long-form consulting opportunities. Atheneum produces research for projects across 8 industries: Consumer Goods, Energy & Utilities, Financial Institutions, Healthcare, Industrials & Transportation, Materials & Natural Resources, and Public Policy. Atheneum Partners is an expert network that wants to leverage your industry knowledge for their clients.
Is Atheneum legitimate — or a scam?
Atheneum Partners is a legitimate company with a 10 year history that operates all over the world— it is not a scam. In August, 2021, Atheneum announced that it had raised $150 million in equity investment, led by Guidepost Growth Equity. The company disclosed that is currently generating over $50 million in annual revenue, with growth rates of 50% or more in 2020 and 2021!
However, it’s noteworthy that in the process of researching this review, I found more than a few complaints from consultants about the company’s payment terms, timing, and occasional habit of not sending payment at all. It appears the company has addressed these complaints directly on forums and with the consultants themselves, but it’s concerning as it appears that these complaints are consistent over a long period of time, and continue through 2021.
While these complaints do not mean the opportunity is a scam, it does indicate that the firm may have some chronic operational issues that could delay your payment longer than the industry standard. Atheneum’s payment terms are within 45 days, while most other expert networks issue payment within a few days or a couple of weeks of completing a project).
(And of course, you should always exercise caution when dealing with people whom you don’t know on the Internet. Beware of impersonators utilizing fake Atheneum Partners email addresses, and know that an expert network will never ask you to send them money.)
Onboarding with Atheneum Partners
If an associate from Atheneum Partners has reached out to you via email, phone call or LinkedIn, you have been selected for screening based on project criteria, including:
- You are a former employee of a company the client wants to know more about, usually for due diligence purposes, before purchasing or investing in the target company. You must be at least 6 months removed from your employment with the company to be eligible for participation.
- You are a current or former employee of a competitor of the company they are researching, and the client wants to know how the target company is positioned and viewed by competitors.
- You are an expert on a related topic, industry, or geography that can offer insight on the industry, even if you’re not overly familiar with the target company or product.
The associate will take a few minutes to explain the project parameters and have you fill out a survey to vet your relevant experience and knowledge. The survey is intended to solicit a high-level understanding of your ability and confidence is speaking to various subjects, and is not intended to substitute the client call. It’s also important to understand that filling out a survey doesn’t guarantee that your profile will be selected by the client. Even if you are not selected for this particular project, participating in this process will register you in their database, enabling you to be quickly selected for future projects.
At the end of the call, the associate will gather your availability for a 1-hour call, discuss your hourly consulting rate, and discuss their compliance policy, which you will need to review and accept to move forward in the process.
Atheneum Partners Consulting Rates
Atheneum’s hourly consulting rates vary widely based on your relevant job title, and how many years you are removed from the industry or relevant job title. The closer you are to the relevant job title, the more likely you can command a higher rate for your expertise. You may have to listen closely to the type of questions they ask to ascertain what part of your employment history is most relevant, but often the associate will ask you directly about a specific title.
The associate will usually offer an initial rate: $100 – $200 for a title below director, $200 – $350 for a title between director and C-suite, and $350 – $500 or more for someone with a C-suite role. It’s important to know that while this rate might be presented as a final offer, the actual hourly rate is up for negotiation. Some experts get paid $1,000+ for the 1 hour calls via Atheneum, but only if their knowledge is niche, related to a very large company, or the expert has a track record of successful client calls.
The best way to maximize your consulting rate is to let the associate know that you have worked with expert networks in the past and that you already have a set rate. Announcing your rate early in the call, or early in the negotiations, allows you to set the benchmark based on a range that makes the engagement worth your time, rather than allowing the associate’s metrics to dictate your pay. You should note that you can renegotiate your rate each time you are contacted for a project, so you can increase your rate over time as you become more comfortable participating in client calls.
It’s in your best interest to keep the call going as long as you can, as your hourly consulting rate is pro-rated based on the amount of time you’re in the call. According to their compliance document, Atheneum compensates for the initial 30 minutes, and then for every 15 minute increment beyond that, as well as an unpaid 5-minute leeway period provided to each client to wrap up a consultation.
Acing your Atheneum Partners Call
Most client calls are centered on a particular company, industry, or product. The client will ask you to discuss the vetting questions in much more detail than in the vetting process with the associate from Atheneum: core competitive metrics, competitive landscape for each industry vertical, product strategies, brand positioning, and customer loyalty are some examples of the topics you’ll be asked to elaborate on.
The client is not expecting you to prepare a presentation or deliverable for the call; they are looking to rapidly download industry knowledge via your many years of experience. You can expect that clients have done their own basic research, reviewed publicly available information, and perhaps heard a management presentation. They have come prepared with specific questions to confirm or clarify aspects of the business.
If the client is an investment manager, the call will likely be centered on a particular company. The client will want to know how the target company compares to its’ competitors, product and feature differentiation, pricing strategy, quality of management, etc. These types of calls will often resolve around your former employer or a major vendor that you worked with frequently, with emphasis on the key factors influencing your decisions.
Alternatively, if the client is a management consulting firm, the call will be centered on a particular issue or problem they have been tasked to solve. The client may be looking to develop a marketing strategy, solve chronic operational issues, or restructure an organization. These types of calls will often center your approach to an issue, your impressions of various products, factors that influence budget and purchase decisions, or to provide feedback on potential new products or solutions.
You should have an easy time answering the questions during the call- after all, the client wants to learn about an area via your experience. Even so, you may not have all the answers, or know figures off the top of your heads. You can always be honest and say you don’t know, and you should never make up answers. Clients often have multiple calls on the same subject and if it becomes apparent that you lied, you may be blacklisted.
It’s important to note that you will never be asked to share non-public or proprietary information during a client call, and Atheneum will have provided you with clear compliance guidelines prior to the call. In the rare event that you are asked to disclose non-public or proprietary information, you should decline to answer. Atheneum records their calls and offers transcription as a service to their clients, so you should know that exchanging this type of information is considered insider trading and could be met with considerable legal issues. One of the key responsibilities of expert networks is to ensure that improper information isn’t exchanged on a client call, with both parties bound by strict compliance standards.
Atheneum offers payment via PayPal or ACH direct deposit, and you can expect payment within 45 days of the completion of the call.
Now that you’re a part of the network, you will periodically be contacted for participation in new projects, especially as you build a history of completing successful client calls.
Expert networks are a great way to capitalize on your experience. If you haven’t been contacted by an associate from Atheneum Partners, you can still register to be added to their network by visiting their website.