Read the original article on Forbes.
Forbes contributor and business leadership journalist Roger Trapp interviews Andrew Hooke, who is the head of consulting sectors at PA Consulting Group and has also recently taken over as head of the firm in the U.S.. Andrew says he has had to change his leadership style. “I’m about setting targets. This is more about understanding culture … In the U.S. you have to work even harder to understand the circumstances in which you are operating. I’ve had to soften my approach and to compromise.”
Roger touches upon PA’s existing presence in the U.S, “with offices in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and a significant amount of business — but no office — in Seattle.” About PA, Roger notes, “split between the consumer, defence, health and life sciences and energy sectors, the work accounts for about a fifth of the firm’s total business. But PA — and, in particular, Hooke — want to expand this substantially. Explaining that the plan is to treble revenues from the current $100 million, he says the plan is to achieve this through a balance of organic growth and acquisition.”
Roger explains that PA’s U.S. business has been run by a national leadership team made up of the heads of the local sector and service teams. But Hooke, he writes, has been brought in because it was felt that having a board member with extensive experience of the global networks of both PA itself and Carlyle, the U.S. private equity group that took control of the firm in September 2015, would help drive the strategy. Roger goes on to say it is envisaged that once the PA’s market position in the U.S. has been strengthened, and as part of the ongoing succession process, the role will pass to a member of the U.S. leadership team.
Roger asks Andrew how PA can compete with its competitors.
Pointing out that in the 1970s, PA was the largest consulting firm in the world — until “the Big Four roared ahead on the back of ERP [enterprise resource planning]” — Andrew says a key message is offering a choice. “We are able to talk about other things we do. We don’t try to say we’re better, just ‘why not try us because we’re different?’.” Another key feature Roger mentions about PA’s pitch is innovation. Andrew says: “Accepting that a lot of people talk about innovation without necessarily living by it themselves — along with its practical rather than purely advisory approach — is central to how PA delivers.”
Roger notes some of PA’s clients: “Certainly, the firm has a few clients that most consultants would be keen to have. For example, it is helping develop Hyperloop One, the revolutionary rapid transport concept originally envisaged by entrepreneur Elon Musk (although he is not involved in the project) and is working with the U.S. Navy on a system to lengthen the life cycle of some of its vessels. It is also through its healthcare business working with Monica Healthcare, a pioneering company developing wearable devices that monitor the health of unborn babies, and with the Emergency Nurses Association on improving the quality of care through digital training.”
“The PA approach,” Roger goes on to say, “is to seek to use the expertise of its people – it has about 300 in the U.S. – to develop niches.” He continues: “That’s made all the more possible by the fact that this expertise isn’t just comprised of traditional management consultants. Sure, they’ve got people who hail from a management consulting background, but they’ve also got technologists, designers, engineers, and transformation specialists on the team.”
In the interview, Andrew cites the work PA does in defence as a prime example of how these different personalities create unique opportunities. Roger then talks about how this crosses into PA’s recruitment strategy. “He [Andrew] tells job candidates that they have the chance to provide practical solutions through innovation rather than just advise, they can build a business rather than just be a consultant and they can speed up their career by being part of a high-growth organization.”
Finally, Roger concludes: “Time will tell if the plan works. But Hooke is in no doubt of his need to satisfy his U.S. colleagues as well as the members of the PA board”. Andrew says: “If I don’t get my U.S. leadership team on board I’ll get nowhere because they’ll quietly assassinate me.”