The creed at Strategic Management Partners
is "Values sustain value, success breeds success;" and founder Clive Bonny says that in client relationships, this translates to understanding client culture and values at the outset.
"How people work is as important as what they achieve," he says. "Balancing the yin and the yang may sound old-fashioned, but it creates synergy - and that translates into people achieving more than the sum of their parts."
Companies become more financially sustainable when their values are driving performance, he adds.
Clive recently spent a few minutes answering questions for us about his business and offering advice on effective consulting. Here's what he had to say:
Can you tell us about your professional background?
I've had diverse roles in product design, marketing and sales management with U.K., German and USA firms (PLC's and startups) in charity, finance, construction, manufacturing, telco and IT mainly developing new products and new markets. That wide portfolio enabled me to gain the experience required as a management consultant.
Since 1990, I have run a "boutique" management consultancy, Strategic Management Partners, supporting high growth small and medium-sized enterprises and startups with government grants and sub-contracting specialist support for projects. I am keen on continual professional development, and I have gained professional qualifications as a Certified Management Consultant, Mediator, Intellectual Property advisor, and assessor for Business Excellence and Responsible Business standards.
Tell us about Strategic Management Partners. What services do you offer? Who should be using them?
My business model is to work with "virtual" teams, which keeps my costs low and enables me to offer a very wide range of services with high quality support at very competitive fee rates.
Whilst I have delivered business process improvement services to 10 FTSE PLC's, government departments and local authorities, most of my work is with small, high-growth enterprises. The latter sector requires hands-on experience in general management operations and involves coaching to transfer skills and knowledge to cope with change. These clients have used me to manage projects, register and protect intellectual property, direct sales and marketing, mitigate risk, perform business continuity planning and gain personal introductions to my own large networks of trade associations and professional bodies.
Over the years, what are the most important lessons you've learned about working effectively with businesses and organisations effectively?
Avoid assumptions and pre-cast route maps! Solutions must be tailored, as each organisation is as different as each human being. Innovation requires escape from what has worked before. That can create a "step" change to success, and it works when risk assessment occurs at the outset. It's akin to a game of chess, and can be great fun too.
What are best practices for ensuring positive relationships with your clients? What have you found causes relationships to sour?
Different personal styles are good for teams. The big challenge is keeping open, good lines of communication. Relations can sour when we fail to adapt our styles to others and fail to keep others informed about proposed change.
What seem to be the most common pain points within businesses and organisations today that they're calling on someone with your expertise to help?
The drive to get more with fewer resources creates pain. However, creating plans for change without understanding the risks is worse. Calling in an independent qualified risk manager can help identify and prioritise issues. I often have to speak assertively to senior management when insiders are unable to be forthright about "The Emperor's New Clothes."
What do you think aspiring consultants should be doing today to better prepare for the needs of their future clients?
I learned for many years on the job closely alongside people who were much better than myself. I'd like to see more mentoring by "Top" consultants and more aspiring consultants asking for that high level support.
What skillsets are most important to you when hiring consultants at Strategic Management Partners?
Attitude creates Altitude! Assessing the ability and willingness to learn and change are keys to success.
What types of experiences would you like to see more of your staff or job seekers have under their belt?
People who regularly seek environments outside of their comfort zone end up coping with almost any situation. Math at school was dismal for me, and that persuaded me to take an early job in financial accounts to slay that dragon. After school, I took a year on VSO in a Catholic Mission School in the African bush; and that experience later became much more valuable than I realised at the time.
What resources can you recommend to those who are either looking to start consulting or who'd like to change consulting jobs? What should they be reading? Who should they be following? Where can they network?
Online profile platforms like LinkedIn and Top Consultant are vital, and job hunter content must be kept accurate and up to date. I'm trained in background personnel security vetting and I find too many false statements online. That's actually a criminal offence! Networks like these are also a mine of useful up-to-date market data and CPD support, and more people should focus on the many golden nuggets to be found.
I also endorse the face-to-face networks run by professional bodies such as CMI, BCS, CIPD and the RSA. They have thousands of successful people who enjoy sharing skills and knowledge and run monthly regional events often free to attend.
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