Q. From all your experience in M&A, what’s the biggest takeaway that you can share with us?
I think it’s always more difficult than you think it is. The actual buying of a company, going through the legal and due diligence, is quite straightforward. It’s the part after that, how you integrate a new company within your existing group which is more difficult. To get value out of that acquisition takes years and years.
Having the right vision and culture and being clear on the reason why you want that company within your group. How it’s going to involve your client offer is probably one of the most important parts to the process.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about STRAT7 and the space that you’re operating in?
We launched four years ago, and we’re close to 400 people now with teams from Sydney to San Francisco. So it’s been quite a high growth charge from us, both via M&A as well as from organic growth.
STRAT7 are operating in that big white space between the market research and insight companies and management consultancies. The market research sector alone is forecast to be worth $85 billion. The data analytics sector has grown to about $40 billion. So we’re operating in a $100 billion plus marketplace.
Technology is driving rapid change, but so did the pandemic and the global economic outlook. The reason we launched STRAT7 was because we saw a real opportunity to help clients that are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.
Technology is also driving the amount of customer data that is being created and the digital transformation journeys that organisations are going on are creating a huge data footprint as well. We help clients to leverage the power of technology in data collection and enrichment, as well as technology to do the analytics, and how you bring these together to form a strategic interpretation and effective growth plans.
I truly believe you have to put customers at the heart of your business strategy. With all that change going on and how technology is accelerating change, what we’re looking to do is redefine customer centricity.
Q. Thinking about yourself as a leader and the other leaders that you’ve interacted with throughout your career, what do you think makes leaders successful, special, and effective?
That’s so difficult. I’ve had good bosses, bad bosses, inspiring bosses. Some are absolutely amazing, but utterly mercurial and sort of rule with fear. I think things have changed now. But you need leaders who have got resilience and ambition, and who will deliver on what they say.
For me, it’s really important to be a team. You’re only as good as the people around you. Someone who can make sure they’re getting the best out of their people and encouraging and motivating and supporting them is always being one of the best leaders. A person who can communicate well is obviously incredibly important. I think we’ve got to be clear about communicating the company vision.
Q. What are the fundamental ways of creating and disseminating a vision that can help create a culture in an organisation as disparate and diverse as yours?
I think it is super important to have a North Star, whether you want to call it your vision or your mission or your purpose. What is the purpose of starting and launching a group.
The chemistry and culture of the teams are really important. Probably more important than the strategy alone because if you haven’t got the teams working with each other and working towards that North Star, then it can so quickly fall apart. I’ll use the football analogy, an agency could be playing for its club, but then it’s got to be able to play for its country as well.
Communicating the vision internally, externally, over and over again until you’re almost sick and tired of saying it, then people will start to understand it and be motivated by it as individuals.
Q. What do you think is going to define the next generation of leaders of great businesses?
I think emotional IQ is really important. You’ve got to be able to understand and respond to the people around you. The world has become more complex, so we now have specialists rather than generalists. Looking at our business, our tech team are very different from our analytics team, our creative and cultural teams are different. People are becoming more narrow in what they do. We’ve got to operate as a joined up team.
I think the pace of change will only continue. We have to have a very open mindset of how we innovate, how we embrace change, how we keep changing. Even if you are becoming an expert in a smaller field, that’s got to keep changing as well.
Talent can move around and work from anywhere in the world. So we’ve got to look after it, manage our talent, look after them as individuals.
Q. Final question… What three people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party to make you smarter, better, healthier, increase your performance in some way?
Muhammad Ali, one of my big sporting heroes. Not just an amazing athlete, but his ability to communicate with wit and charm was absolutely incredible. And also he really stood up for what he believed in as well.
Frida Kahlo, a beautiful, wonderful artist. I’d probably choose her because of what she had to get through as a woman in such a male dominated arts world. Also coming from Mexico and breaking through onto the global scene. I mean her resilience must have been amazing, how she kept reinventing herself. Her unbelievable creativity and how she kept redefining herself.
Barack Obama, not my greatest political hero, but the first black US president, quite incredible. A huge intellect. I’d want to learn from Barack on his communication skills.
A bit of a mixed bag there, but I think all inspiring characters.