View from the Top: Chris Cooper, Challenge Consulting

Chris Cooper is co-founder and Managing Director of Challenge Consulting. He was recently elected President of the MCA. We speak to Chris about his ambitions in his new role and the story behind Challenge Consulting.


Congratulations on your appointment as President. Why did you decide to accept the role?

I was very honoured to accept the opportunity. Aimie Chapple has done a fantastic job in the last couple of years and I am pleased to follow her and maintain the same leadership which I think is vital to the MCA’s success.


You have been heavily involved in MCA activity in recent years as Vice President. How have you seen the organisation progress?

I have noticed a very healthy introduction of new faces in the last couple of years. From both the large and small member firms we are seeing a lot of additional people getting involved and contributing to the voice of the MCA. I think that is a good sign of progress.

The capacity and capability of the MCA itself continues to grow and we can see the benefits of this in the strength and clarity of the voice of the industry


What ambitions do you have for the MCA going forward?

We’ve had a healthy increase in new member numbers; I think we can aspire to reach further and attract additional, new consulting firms and those already established across all segments of our broadening industry.

As a board we have an ambition to increase the nature and level of engagement with members that the MCA provides. The practical and energetic way we engaged with members at our recent Council meeting is a great example of this; we need to find a way of doing this outside those meetings as well.

I would also like to reinforce our efforts in speaking on behalf of the industry. I think there is always more we can do. Helping to resolve challenges in the public sector and cementing economic growth across commercial sectors are at the heart of our contribution to society.  That is something we should be proud of and our voice should be heard.


You co-founded Challenge Consulting 16 years ago. What led you to do this?

The opportunity to set up our own business emerged by chance, really, and a couple of my colleagues in the OASiS business suggested it might be fun. So it was really case of ‘why not?’.  It's fair to say there were times in the following years when we all thought ‘What on earth have we done?’, but now I'm really pleased with it and I wouldn't change a thing.


Challenge is an established consulting firm in the Financial Services sector. What do you attribute to its success?

I think a large part of our success is down to being able to work with an exceptional group of like-minded people. We all have a similar way of thinking about and managing change. 

It is also down to a lot of hard work. You can't do this without a lot of passion and energy and giving a damn about the answer. We have been fortunate over a long period of time to have people with those qualities in generous levels.

Finally I would attribute part of our success to the support and encouragement of our clients who understood who we were and what we were trying to do. Helping them think about change has provided us with the greatest encouragement and inspiration to carry on and do more.


Challenge won the Best Change Management firm award in the 2013 MCA Industry Awards. What made this project so award-worthy?

From the judge’s view, they said we were prepared to be brave with our clients in terms of what they needed to hear. We knew what was needed to make their businesses even better and we stuck to that even when it would have been easy to take a course of less resistance. I think that intellectual consulting bravery to help them understand what to do and how to change made the project stand out.


Where do you see Challenge in 5 years’ time?

Well on the basis that British commerce has proved itself to be not very good at forecasting I will restrict myself to saying at that the very least I would like Challenge to be a happy place to work, a firm that clients continue to speak about proudly and warmly.  In what we do, we will continue to set the standard as demonstrated by our MCA award last year.


Challenge has a unique working environment.  Can you tell us a bit about your offices?

We work in converted cow sheds. Our offices are on a farm up a very long muddy single track road. There is a lot of light and space which is beautiful in the summer, but at times cut off during the winter! But we love it, and if we can entice our clients away from the motorway or the city they seem to like coming to somewhere peaceful.


If you could change on thing about the consulting industry what would it be?

A deeper and broader understanding of exactly how much value and improvement we bring to the economy and society as a whole in the UK.