The year was 2007. I left my juicy job to swim in the deep waters of entrepreneurship. While at a big four audit firm, it was so easy to meet the managing directors and other C-level executives. All you needed was a display of your work identity card. “I am here to see the CEO.” To which, usually the Lady receptionist would ask, “are you on appointment?” Yes? “Where do you work?”
With a big smile, you would look at the lady and say the name of the big four audit firm in which you work. Suddenly, you would receive star treatment. The big four audit name would be the magic word especially during the end of year audits.
But this is not just it.
Some executives find pride in working with the big four firms. The CFO or CEO will speak with pride, “xx big four firm is working on the revenue assurance, blah blah.” The big four have invested big time in their brands that for many of them the issue is not about finding audit or consulting jobs. In fact, while still working at there, some prospects would bring jobs only for the partner to turn them down on the basis of ‘risky’ clients. Can you imagine! Many times, in big four firms, it is about lacking the capacity to execute the project. They are like the proverbial rich boy, who has all the beautiful girls falling for him, yet he is not a husband material due to his playboy tendencies. Ok, given how some big four firms treat clients, one could use that analogy.
Before leaving a big four firm to run Summit Consulting Ltd, I was asked by the managing partner to represent him at a client. And just showing my big four firm ID made doors to open so easily that I was mesmerized. I thought wow, consulting is so easy. I did not know that my boss had called and informed the CEO that he would be sending me to meet him!
With this kind of apparent “open door policy” for consultants, I got the motivation to go out on my own. Summit Consulting Ltd, www.summitcl.com, was born sometime in 2007. During my work at the big four firms, I had been given a copy of the firm’s strategy to study and understand the growth priorities. At the time, external auditing was increasingly coming under scrutiny following a series of major corporate scandals like Parmalat, Enron, Bearing Bank, and our own local Greenland bank, and several. Others. Audit firms were increasingly investing more resources in consulting or advisory business since such a business line is not regulated and no one asks “where were the consultants?” Shareholders and the regulatory bodies always ask “where were the auditors?” Big firms were reducing overreliance on audit revenue for sustainable firm management.
And that is where I got the inspiration.
Now I know that copy and paste strategies never work. Winning is a result of the interplay of the capabilities present within a specific context. How do you tap into the available opportunities by mixing your manpower, machinery, markets, materials, money through effective make-up to make the competition irrelevant?
When you copy and paste one’s strategy, you may have a plan. But it cannot work for you. The other company has different skill sets, machinery, markets, materials, money, and other capabilities that they deploy to fully optimize their circumstances to win. For you, may have resources in which the copied strategy is inadequate to win. It is like a brick and mortar bank copying a digital transformation strategy before doing a business transformation. At the end of the day, you could find investing in the best-in-class banking platform, for which the majority of the staff do not know how to use it! In the end, competitiveness is lost.
A plan is a commodity. Acting on the plans made in the art. That is where success happens. Focus on acting on the plans made. To do so, make organic plans, not artificial ones which are based on templates and generic models and management thinking developed during the time of blue-collar. Today, we are in the new normal. You need new approaches to win.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr. Strategy, 2020. All rights reserved.