View from the Top: Mark Palmer, OEE Consulting

(OEE Consulting has now merged with gobeyond to become Gobeyond Partners)

Mark Palmer, Managing Director at OEE Consulting, speaks to the MCA about his ambitions for the firm, the opportunities and challenges of Brexit, what makes a great consultant and issues facing clients.

OEE Consulting joined the MCA in October last year. As a new member, can you tell us about your firm and its history?

OEE Consulting was formed in 1997, originally operating in the energy sector, and then quickly moving to financial services. In 2008, the leadership team was restructured in order to drive growth of our core operations excellence offering across a range of sectors – from financial services, to utilities and business process outsourcing.

We also launched our Learning & Development service line, to support the successful delivery of change programmes. Training and coaching now forms around 15% of our business, and we firmly believe this strengthens our consulting offer.

The business has continued to evolve.  In 2015 we repositioned the business; rebranding and developing our offering to include operations strategy and multichannel customer experience, as well as our Design of Service Operations training programme, developed in conjunction with Loughborough University.

This recent phase of growth also saw us move to new premises in Oxford, where we have the ability to host client training and large workshops on-site.

Your focus is in helping clients improve their performance, particularly service organisations. What do you think are the main issues facing these clients and where is the change really needed?

Following the financial crisis, the main issue facing our clients was around cost. We have recently seen more focus on understanding what the customer really wants.

Clients are transitioning from being customer friendly and good at service recovery to a place where they are ready to design their entire service proposition around the customer’s needs, combining and leveraging technology and operations to do so.

In the face of increased competition and disruption this is a consistent theme which many businesses are struggling with, particularly as it can mean abandoning a legacy business model.

In the last year you have recruited vigorously, growing by 46 people. What are your ambitions for the company going forward?

We are seeing growth across our new capabilities in both existing and new sectors, as both customer journey design and new operating models feature increasingly highly on the Executive agenda.

Our overall plan is to grow the business by 80% between 2015 and 2020; and we are on track to achieve this goal. Currently, we have over 70 people on the payroll plus a number of trusted associates, meaning that we have 130 full time equivalent employees.

We are aiming to increase the payroll employees by another 12 by the end of 2017. These recruits will come from both leading UK MBA programmes, and via the established UK consulting job market. We also hope to hire talent at Senior Manager and Director level.

What are you looking for when recruiting?

We are looking for three types of profile when recruiting. The first being candidates from the top UK business schools with around five to seven years’ experience, with languages, drive and flexibility. The second is programme managers; candidates who have the ability to manage large transformation and change programmes. Finally, we are looking to recruit people with customer and business development capabilities who can engage effectively with clients.

Tell us a bit about your first impressions of the MCA

We enjoyed a very open and warm introduction to the MCA by colleagues and members. We are particularly interested in the Young MCA network and the Year of Diversity. We have been doing a lot of work internally around gender and ethnic diversity so this is a topic close to our hearts.

One of your consultants is part of the steering group for the MCA’s Year of Diversity. What would you like to see the campaign achieve?

We have witnessed examples of unconscious bias – both in clients and partners, as well as in our own organisation. We would be delighted to see this reduced – or eradicated – across the industry.

What does Consulting Excellence mean to OEE Consulting?

We run a similar programme internally, focusing on professionalising Management Consulting. The content is fairly close to our own programme and it is great to see similar thinking across the industry. The scheme provides a recognised badge of approval that clients can look for.

Last year OEE Consulting hosted The Future of Service conference, which discussed the role of people in a world of technology. What are your key takeaways from the conference?

There were two main points that we took away from the conference. Firstly, technology teams and business improvement professionals do not always work together. There are new and exciting frameworks emerging to overcome this structural flaw and we are seeing increasing examples of the two functions working in conjunction with one another.

Secondly, a consequence of technology investment is a significant economic dividend. Organisations are choosing to invest this dividend in different ways.. We believe that those reinvesting into redefining how they engage with their customers and how they provide value, will succeed. Those who are simply using it as a means to drive temporary margin increase or reduce prices will not do so well.

More broadly we are seeing a move from continuous improvement to continuous innovation, and this is a theme that will feature at The Future of Service 2017 when we return to the Kings Fund on the 9th November.

The consulting industry is helping clients understand and respond to the Brexit vote. What opportunities and challenges are there now as a result?

Being forced to deal with Britain’s productivity issue is a potential opportunity. This is something the country has not been traditionally great at. Many are in denial, choosing not to believe the numbers.

One of the main challenges we face will be access to talent. A large chunk of our company is made up of European and international talent, supporting international programmes and providing modern languages support. Lack of access to this talent in the future is worrying.

Can you tell us a bit about your career in consulting?

I studied Modern Languages and Economics at University and went on to do an MBA. I then started my career in automotive working for a large French multinational company in France. I worked in account management, human resources, production and management development. I also worked in the United States for a period supporting a large technology and capital equipment transfer subsequently progressing to Managing Director of a UK Division of the business relatively early on in my career.

In the early 2000s I was approached by a number of larger consulting firms and ended up securing my position as a management consultant at OEE Consulting. I then progressed to Director and by 2008 Managing Director. When I first joined OEE Consulting we had a turnover of £2 million. This has now grown to £20 million, with ambitions of £30 million by 2020.

What would you say makes a great consultant?

I think there are four key things that make a great consultant: organisation, interpersonal skills, drive and a clear set of personal values.