A Day in the Life of Claire Kennedy, PPL

Company: PPL
Years in Consulting: 15
Job title: Managing Director
University: MA (Oxon), MA (King’s London)
Degree: Modern Languages and Modern History (French)
Location: London

Tell us a bit about your career journey.

I began my career working in communications, first as a lobbyist and later working in Corporate Social Responsibility. I reached a point where I wanted to have some hands-on experience of managing teams and delivering change, so I trained through the National Graduate Development Programme to become a Public Sector Manager in Local Government. The scheme was a great way of building up a range of experience and getting a broad perspective on how organisations functioned, as we undertook both management training and a Postgraduate Diploma in Local Government Management at University of Warwick.

I really enjoyed my training, and think it has stood me in great stead for the twin challenges of working as a management consultant, and growing and running a business!

After my training I worked at Croydon Council and then ran the Transformation Programme at London Borough of Lambeth, where I met my business partner, Simon Morioka, and after 3 years we left to set up PPL. And the rest, as they say, is history!

What industry sector experience have you had and if applicable, which do you specialise in?

My consulting experience has been a mix of first private and then public sector, including 3 years “in-house” within local government. We currently focus on transforming health and social care services, which draws on experience of both, but also of working across sectors.  A good example is our current work with NHS England and the Local Government Association on integrating care around people, rather than services; which involves not just NHS and local authorities, but also a range of private and voluntary and community providers as well.

What do you enjoy most about working in a small consultancy?

I love working with a team where we all know each other and we share a clear vision and values around what we are trying to deliver for our clients – I feel very lucky to know and like all my colleagues! I also love that I can still keep close contact with the projects and outcomes we are delivering and the teams that are working on them. I really enjoy working to make a difference, and running a specialist consultancy means that I still get a chance to be closely involved with the changes on the ground that our teams deliver.

Tell us a bit about the firm you work for.

We founded PPL in 2007, having worked together running an internal consultancy team within Lambeth Council that had been responsible for supporting the Council move from a “poor” to “good” rating. We were really keen to take the experience of delivering successful transformation into other organisations and sectors, and PPL was founded with that ambition, and also to be an organisation that was committed to investing in and developing a really strong team.

Seven years later, PPL has a team of 30 staff, and a track record of delivering outcomes in transforming health and social care services all across London and within the UK. We are proud of the work our team does, and of the way they do it – working closely in partnership with their clients, engaging with key stakeholders and always keeping a focus on delivering real outcomes and change on the ground.

If you could change one thing in consultancy what would it be?

I feel we still have more work to do in communicating the long-term role consultancy plays in both the private and public sector economies.  Consultancy is a profession, which like other professional services, is needed to ensure that organisations can achieve their aims.  We need to continue to build relationships of trust and respect between professionals who sit within service organisations, and who have specific skills and expertise that allow them to excel in their roles; and the skills and expertise that consultants at every level of seniority and experience bring, to help transform organisations and sectors for the better.

Tell us something about the firm you work for, that people would be surprised to hear about.

After 7 years, we still have a 95% repeat business rate – that is to say, pretty much every client we have worked with, and there have now been several hundred, has re-engaged us to do more work with them.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received applies to life, more than just to consultancy, and it is that everything works best when it is in balance. I try to encourage the rest of my team to do the same – we have written on the walls of our offices ‘this is a marathon, not a sprint’!

What advice do you have for young consultants?

Consultancy is a career that can give you the opportunity to make things better for people within organisations, and for the customers and communities they serve, whether in the public or private sector. Being proud of the results and outcomes you are part of delivering is the best way to find real fulfilment in your career as a consultant. But, most of all, consultancy is a team sport – you can always deliver more by working effectively with the rest of your team, and the best way to work effectively in a team is to start with an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses and to have the confidence to develop and grow alongside others

This interview was published as part of the Young MCA Update.https://www.mca.org.uk/networks/young-mca