Doers vs Talkers

When Balcroft was founded, we knew we were entering a very competitive marketplace, focusing on providing operational consulting to blue-chip companies. How do you differentiate from so many other firms who claim to be able to transform organisations with their ‘unique methodologies’, with the hope of achieving mouth-watering R.O.Is to tempt business leaders?

The reality is, there are no unique methodologies or silver bullets; depending on a client’s requirements, a blend of various approaches and techniques may be required, garnered from what has been developed and implemented by other companies in the past. If organisations have issues, it is always down to one of, or a blend of, 4 things: people (management), tools, processes and technology. Consultancies may have the right products and services to help businesses, but it is normally their own people who fail to deliver what they promise at the outset.

What is evident in many other consultancies, both large and small, is the vast majority of their people have never actually run a major business themselves, in other words, they are simply ‘Talkers’. Many are junior team members or graduates, cutting their teeth on or running huge projects, learning on the job at the client’s expense. The change they try and embed is based on theory, rather than any real-world experience, which is why they are met with so much scepticism by the client’s own employees and projects often fail.

With this in mind, we decided we would bring together a group of highly-regarded, former C-level executives from FTSE/Fortune 500 corporations who had all the battle scars from years of running major businesses. Individuals who knew exactly what worked and what didn’t in bringing about change, because they had owned and continuously driven it, with their reputations constantly on the line if something failed. They are the ‘Doers’. Who better then, to project direct initiatives and ensure our consultants, each of whom has a minimum ten years’ consulting experience, have everything they need to deliver what we sign up to at the outset, from a financial, customer-centric and cultural standpoint.

We also decided we would break with tradition and purposely not operate out of offices, outsourcing our back-office function in the process. Why? So, we could keep our carbon footprint low and unnecessary overheads down, creating much better value for clients, as we wouldn’t have to recover these outlays from them. Plus, it would create a better work-life balance for our people, because they wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from home. Furthermore, we chose to offer a guarantee on what we said we would deliver at the outset, because if we proclaimed to be ‘experts’, why wouldn’t we do this.

In addition, we didn’t want to grow yet another consultancy firm which was revenue and profit driven, we wanted to put our entire focus on what we could achieve for clients, so the only target we set ourselves as a company, was to achieve £85m in measurable benefits for clients within the next five years. So, was this the best strategy to take and were we right to utilise Doers rather than Talkers?

Well, fast forward 4 ½ years and as we welcome our latest Advisory Board Member into the fold, Phil Carpenter (the revered former Managing Director of Bose, who over the course of 30 years built the company from almost the ground up to become a leading brand in the world of consumer electronics), our somewhat different operating model seems to have paid off. Phil joins a group of fellow pioneers, ready to transfer skills and impart his valuable wisdom to truly transform businesses. We have currently achieved £82m in real, tangible benefits for clients which their own finance teams have measured. We have been fortunate to work with some incredible people at all levels, in well-known businesses, from a multitude of different sectors, including Ryder, Allianz, First Utility, OCS, Skanska, Bournemouth Council, Oasis and many more.

We have fended off approaches to partner with, and even be acquired by, PwC and KPMG, as we continue forging our own path to do our best by clients, in the right way. We have been asked to support the Sunday Times in helping them recognise the most-improved 100 Best Companies to Work for. In addition, we have supported Women in the City, a highly respected, award-winning organisation that promotes, recognises and rewards female talent.

Would we do anything differently? Yeah, of course! There’s always room for improvement and a change management consultancy firm which isn’t willing to change and adapt, is incredibly hypocritical, and clients will be the ones that suffer.

So, what do the next five years have in store for us? Well, having established ourselves as a disruptor we must adjust, or we will implode. We want to achieve £170m in benefits. Clients, quite rightly, are expecting more value, tired of consultants charging ridiculous sums of money for elongated projects which don’t deliver. They expect flexibility regarding the size of projects, skin in the game and above all, to have their exacting needs met, rather than simply ‘lift and shift’ solutions. We’ve started the revolution in this respect, but now we need to build on this platform and encourage and help other consultancy firms to do the same if we are going to change the perception of ‘management consulting’, so those words are no longer met with a look of disdain when uttered.