John Lockton, Managing Director of LCP Consulting, says that 2014 was very busy indeed. “Business was keen to get on and do things,” he observes. “Those things were largely growth orientated, though obviously with an eye on cost. Our major markets are retail and manufacturing, with an emphasis on end-to-end supply chain strategy, business operating models and logistics. Health manufacturing is growing. And in international markets, which account for about 50% of our business, people are often asking for examples of what works in the UK.”
This is because the UK is at the sharp end of innovation, especially in retail. “The picture may be very varied in terms of who is making money in retail. The discounting sector and Amazon have created
new and challenging models and the implications for margins and profitability are only gradually working through. There may be further rounds of consolidation. But compared with other sectors, like oil and gas, say, retail is having to innovate rapidly. This is largely driven by constantly evolving customer expectations. Time- horizons for businesses are shortening. This is reducing the time they have to mobilise innovations.”
The result is that many clients are asking for growth propositions to be supported and tested by consultants quickly, so that they can make investments rapidly.
“But they also need advice from us to see how those investments fit into longer-term, 3–5 year time horizons.”
While these dynamics are less intense in the Eurozone, John notes that activity continues to grow there too. “We have experienced growing demand in Europe, especially in Iberia.” However John also indicates that the high Pound has had a slightly adverse effect on exports, despite the fact that they have grown.
In looking at the wider political context, John recognises a slight disconnection between the perspectives of politicians, business and consultants. “FTSE 350 business leaders use consultants in volume to add value to their businesses. Yet it’s fair to say that politicians do less to promote the value of consulting as a driver of growth and value, and a great British export, than they do for other professions, who are perhaps better networked and more easily understood.
“I hope that our work on Consulting Excellence and the development of a chartered standard for management consulting starts to reverse this, by helping to define consulting as a high value profession with much to offer the UK’s growth prospects.”
John Lockton was interviewed for the MCA's report 'UK Consulting Industry Statistics 2015', and as part of the MCA Year of Growth.