- Management consulting news
- 28 September 2017
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One of the London’s newest consultancies Advancy admits it has “zero brand recognition,” – but according to partner Stepan Wildt, that will all (hopefully) soon change.
Stepan Wildt remembers it well: “It was the morning after the vote for Brexit that we signed the lease on our London office [in Dover Street]”, he recalls. “We were like…what!!??” With shocked corporates now predicted to reel in their consultancy spent, the opening of its 8th office in the UK capital might not have felt like an auspicious time for French consultancy Advancy. But Wildt – though shocked by the result – says he was actually feeling upbeat. Speaking exclusively to Consultor, he said: “Our work is mainly in retail and consumer luxury goods, due diligence for private equity, the construction sector, and building services. That was when we realised being outside financial services was a huge advantage for us – for most of the clients we work for, Brexit is only one of many factors that impact their story.”
According to Wildt arrival of Advancy – a well-known consultancy in the continent – to the UK was a product of natural growth. Other offices had already sprung up in Sydney, São Paulo, Boston and Shanghai, so the UK, he says, was “the next obvious location – for the size of the economy and the market potential.”
Mainly focused on attracting the good talent
He adds: “It was always on our wish-list, especially as we were never too worried about getting business. Our existing business is highly international, often requiring a London component, so we knew a presence here would mean we’d hit the ground running.” But while attracting new business was less a concern, Wildt says he was (and still is), most concerned about attracting enough good talent.
“Our recruitment brand awareness is pretty much zero,” summarises Wildt candidly – who says he prefers to hire British people, purely because of their on-the-ground, local knowledge. “We have to convince people we’re the right horse to bet on,” he says. “This can be tricky if they’ve not heard of us. So our message is that we’re a growing, boutique firm – but generalist, on a par with Bain and McKinsey – meaning the benefit should be that we’re at the very beginning of our story, so there’s huge potential for people to grow as we do.”
Harking from a larger consultancy himself – at Boston Consulting Group from 2003-2007 – Wildt says he says there is an allure of working for a smaller outfit, where it’s possible to be a much bigger fish in a smaller pond. “This is a clear appeal,” he agrees, “but our message to applicants – and also to clients, by the way – is also that we want to do things in a bit more detail.
A handmade approach
We want to be more analytical; we don’t just want to look at things on the surface.” Although he is careful not to accuse the wider consultancy sector of re-hashing the same hypotheses to clients time after time, he does say there is a tendency in the sector for superficiality. “We don’t present a model and use it the same way ten times over,” he says. “That can be arrogant. You can’t apply the same metrics to different firms, at different stages of their development. That’s obvious. Us being smaller, we want to spend more time with clients, looking at their concerns more deeply. We need to do our job better than others. We want to leave a good taste in people’s mouths.”
Wildt is confident this can happen. “A private equity client recently came back to us for work, purely because he remembered that some due diligence I did years ago was the best he’s ever seen.” He adds: “This is the kind of impression we want our consultants to create.” Currently, the London outpost is just five-people strong. The ambition is to get to 10 by the end of the year, although Wildt argues he sees the natural ceiling being 15-20 – which means good consultants can really shine.
"We want to double our turnover each year"
“I’d rather we stay small,” he says. “I’d rather we have five offices with 50 people rather than two of 125. You lose being able to know your consultants well once an office grows physically too large.” He adds: “For the time being we’re targeting turnover rather than crude headcount. That’s the figure that really matters for a growing office. Currently, we want to double our turnover each year, and we don’t think that’s too ambitious. Some consultancies play on wanting to do things cheaper, or only taking on smaller-sized projects. In the way we’re pitching ourselves, we’re saying we’re as good as the familiar names, if not better,” says Wildt.
With a good pitch winning percentage (what it is exactly, he doesn’t say), the signs are Wildt will indeed set up a hugely successful London base. Eric de Bettignies, the founder of Advancy in 1999, regularly visits (every two weeks), and not just oversee things, but to actually get his hands stuck in. At the moment, Wildt says no work is turned down, because bits can always be siphoned off to France. For the time being, he also says there’s enough work for him not to be tempted to try and “bend the consultancy to the market” – ie chase business by moving out of its specialisms. “Maybe the business development market is something we’ll try to do more of, but that’s only because we do it already and are good at it,” he says. All of which means it’s essential those new hires do come – and crucially, stay. “We’ve not had anyone leave yet,” he says triumphantly. “I’d say that’s very a good start!”
Peter Crush for Consultor.news