Lee Cotsford is Managing Director of Capita Consulting. Before his appointment in June 2013 he was Capita Consulting’s Head of Procurement and has had previous consulting experience within KPMG and Axon Global. Lee talks through how he plans to grow the business, how he has adapted to the role and the lessons he has learned.
You were appointed as Managing Director of Capita Consulting in July 2013. How have you adapted to this new role?
I was used to the day-to-day operations and requirements of the job as I had previously headed our procurement business which covered a third of the overall consultancy practice. The big difference was going from 90 to 300 consultants and moving from one practice to nine.
To direct and guide the business I have to truly understand what work we are doing, the clients we are working for and what knowledge we were providing. Working with new clients and consultants was a good learning curve for this. It was particularly interesting to learn about some of the marketplaces I have never personally worked in such as Justice and Higher Education.
Capita takes a lot of pride in the career development of its young consultants. What do you offer them?
We tailor a development plan for every young consultant who comes into the organisation via our Consulting Pathways Practice. This covers the training and experience requirements needed to get a rounded view of consulting so they can pick their own pathway. As part of this they are assigned a Performance Manager that helps create and develop opportunities for them. They have this support for a number of years and it helps them to progress quickly with their consulting career. On average we promote 15% of our junior consultants on an annual basis.
Capita have had four projects shortlisted for the 2014 MCA Awards. What do you feel makes Capita’s work award-worthy?
Our work with Staffordshire County Council is a great example of how we deliver long standing, cost efficient, sustainable benefits to clients. There is less money going around to fund consulting so we have put into place commercial models that are affordable, where we are paid on results and rewarded out of the savings we achieve.
The other projects really demonstrate how we are working in partnership with clients over long periods. If you look at States of Jersey we have been there for more than four years delivering long standing sustainable savings.
What is clear with all our projects is that we not only work with our clients but actually do the knowledge transfer making sure they take away the core skills, so that they can continue to do this once we have left.
Have you seen a change of buying consulting by the public sector over the last few years?
I think it has become much more intelligent. People are growing up with consulting and are therefore more clued-up on the purchasing of it. There is less money to purchase consultancy so rather than buying pure consulting they are actually creating mixed teams. Individual stages of the process are being bought instead of large scale consultancy programs.
Equally, where there have been service reductions within public sector there is often excess staff that need to be retrained. What they are trying to do now is provide baseline support for programs from internal staff by making sure consultants follow a work-alongside method. They are looking for consultants to work with them, train up their staff, guide them on how to run a program and leave a legacy of skilled individuals so that in the future their requirement for consultants would actually be reduced.
In less than three years you rose from a Management Consultant to Managing Director of the consulting business. What do you attribute to your success?
Sometimes this industry will try to drive you insane so it’s important to have a sense of humour. If you’re working in a team an enjoyable culture can really lift morale and productivity.
Confidence in your team is also important. As a consultant you can’t deliver programs or sustained change on your own so don’t try to. Getting the right people doing the right job, giving them confidence and autonomy and letting them develop is essential.
Making sure that you are being communicated to will make your role much easier. It is vital to know you are getting all the information about the business and from the client so you can make informed decisions. In return you must make sure you’re communicating it all out to your audiences so they understand what’s happening.
Equally, there is no substitute for hard work and putting in the hours.
What ambitions do you have for Capita Consulting going forward?
We are currently in a good place having had 200% revenue growth over the last five years. We are a profitable part of the business and add to the overall success of the Capita Group. Large scale external transformation programs have really added to the expertise and knowledge that we have across the team.
Looking forward I would like to go out in to more markets. The Capita Group model has moved from being public sector centric to being more private sector revenue based. Our consulting business is following this and we have also started to see a lot more private sector clients coming on board.
We are developing our marketplace on an on-going basis and I would like to see us expand further afield. We are starting to get more from work outside the UK.
Before joining Capita you worked as a consultant at Axon and KPMG. What lessons have you learnt from working in big firms?
The key lesson I learnt was how to grow into a large organisation.
If you are in a fast growing organisation then make sure everyone in your organisation is growing with you. I don’t believe in constantly going out to the market and hiring people in to roles that come available, but giving opportunities to your existing consultants so they can further their career with you.
In large organisations it is also important to remember that a consultancy firm is about its people. Make sure your employees feel part of the organisation and part of a team. Keep that personal appeal, keep them informed and do not make them feel like a number. There needs to be multiple channels for communication and lots of meetings and gatherings. Encourage consultants to create informal groups to make sure everyone feels part of something and that they play a role in the journey you are trying to create.
Tell us something about Capita Consulting we don’t know…
Something I didn’t realise until recently was the amount of ex-operational employees we have. As part of the team we have former social workers, prison officers, police officers and-military personnel. Having a blend of people who have had senior roles within the environments our clients work in allows us to truly understand their problems.
If you could change one thing about the consultancy industry what would it be?
It would be the stereotype that consultants borrow your watch to tell you the time. Actually every consultant I have ever worked with has always been completely bought into the outcomes they try and deliver. Consultants work very hard for very long hours; it isn’t all about charging high day rates.