Who is the “Sarkany Group”? A CUSA Mystery

Early this morning, the President of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) e-mailed to Council the “Final Report” of a consulting firm that had been hired to review CUSA’s organizational practices and suggest structural changes.

But exactly who is this “Sarkany Group” that the CUSA executive trusted to undertake this important work?

[Update: We now know that CUSA paid the Sarkany Group $20,000 for the report.]

What is the Sarkany Group?

Unfortunately their website lacks any actual information, apart from listing its location as Ottawa and providing a generic e-mail address:

The LinkedIn page for Sarkany Group provides slightly more information, noting that the company was founded in 2016, that it has between 2–10 employees, and that the group “improves consumer understanding and builds new revenue streams in client businesses and brands.” This is the full listing for the company:

Who works at the Sarkany Group?

In the report, the authors are listed as “Alejandro Barreto and Michael Cacho of the Sarkany Group,” although all correspondence about the report is directed to Cacho.

According to his LinkedIn page, Michael Cacho is the “Principal and Consultant” of Sarkany Group, which he lists as based in Toronto, and where he says he started working in April 2016.

Cacho also has a Business degree from Carleton, and is a former director of Hatch (CUSA’s entrepreneurship incubator, or whatever). He has a blog that suggests he has experience working on issues related to branding.

Perhaps most notably, he is also a former campaign manager for CUSA’s current President, Fahd Alhattab:

The second author of the report is Alejandro Barreto. He is another Carleton grad whose LinkedIn says he served as “Co-Founder and Chief Strategist” for Sarkany Group from May 2016 to September 2016.

Think about this for a minute. If Barreto is the “Co-Founder” of Sarkany Group, then according to his own account the firm could only have been founded in May 2016.

But in May 2016, the Sarkany Group was already performing work for CUSA, conducting something called “Value Canvas Mapping sessions” (page 4).

What does it all mean?

In order to undertake an important process of organizational review, it appears that the CUSA executive hired a firm that: 1) was entirely run by former students and a former CUSA employee with close personal and political ties to the CUSA President; and 2) did not exist as a company until exactly the same month that it started performing its work for CUSA; and 3) does not seem to exist as a company except for this one job on behalf of CUSA.

Is that about right?

The RSU Connection?

Only a few days ago, the Eyeopener reported on a *suspiciously familiar* situation regarding a suspicious auditing firm called the “Appian Way Group” that was hired by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU):

Current and former Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) employees and board members have called into question the legitimacy of Appian Way Group, the auditing firm that was hired to conduct the RSU efficiency audit in 2015 that led to the layoff of Gilary Massa.
An Eyeopener investigation found a connection between Appian Way Group and a provincial student lobbying organization. There is also no solid documentation regarding the firm, no active website and no contact information is available. The quality of the audit itself is also being questioned.

Perhaps these are completely different circumstances, and we shouldn’t read into any superficial similarities between the Sarkany Group and the Appian Way Group?

Questions for CUSA

Did the Sarkany Group exist as a real company before the CUSA Executive hired it to undertaken the organizational review?

Does the Sarkany Group exist as a real company now?

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