When Hendrik Vanmaele established Möbius in 1997, little did he suspect that 18 years later he would head up a business consultancy firm with 150 employees in Belgium, Netherlands and France who deliver what they promise: to be “profoundly different” from the competition. “Our consultants get out into the field themselves if need be.”
“As a consultant, if you want to give your clients real added value, offering them your expertise is not enough – you also need to know their sector and fully understand the problems they’re facing,” says Hendrik Vanmaele, CEO at Möbius. “In the early days, our activities had a very technical slant, with the emphasis on designing business processes. To gain more insight into the mind of the client, before long we acquired a small company that specialised in customer satisfaction surveys. We also focus on specific sectors, such as hospitals, recycling, and local and regional government. And to achieve a process that meets the user’s needs, our consultants walk through the process step by step. Sometimes literally: if they need to get out into the field themselves, then that’s what they do.”
What does this mean in terms of the consultant profile you’re looking for? Is it not difficult to find people with both technical skills and the ability to empathise?
Hendrik: “Yes, that’s always been a sticking point. When you start out, you tend to take on entrepreneurs. But when our numbers topped 100 in 2005, it simply wouldn’t have worked if everyone had been an adventurous, entrepreneurial type. We’ve always preferred to have a mix of new graduates and people with a few years’ work experience under their belt. Consulting can be very lonely work so our consultants nearly always work in teams. A consultant also has to be able to deal with setbacks, and life can be a lot easier if you’re not facing something alone. What’s more, it enables us to put together a complementary team to ensure proper follow-up of a project.”
What challenges are your clients facing?
Hendrik: “The main challenge is increasing digitisation. One example is self-service processes, where end users perform tasks on their own – as with home banking or e-commerce, for instance. Organisations will therefore have to open up at least part of their IT system to the outside world and that system has to be sufficiently user-friendly. Users will be expected to have the maturity necessary to be able to handle it, but the system itself must be user-friendly and adequately secure, and the designers should be able to put themselves in the users’ shoes. Another challenge is big data. Organisations collect masses of data, but it’s up to us to order it, interpret it and apply it in a process.”
How do you go about it?
Hendrik: “First of all, by making sure our organisation is ‘fit for purpose’. We anticipated the growing importance of IT back in 2004, when we made LoQutus part of our Group (LoQutus specialises in business architecture). We recently created a new entity, Ground Lion, which will focus on advanced case management, a concept we use to tackle complex cases like an electronic planning application. Note that these entities do not operate as separate silos; they work very closely together.”
“The second aspect is training: if we want our consultants to be experts and to maintain their expertise, we have to invest in them. And we do that by organising in-house training practically every day and arranging for them to attend external training courses.
“Thirdly, we have to continue enhancing our knowledge of specific sectors, such as healthcare, industry, and local and regional government. And then there’s what’s known as the ‘blue economy’, where we’re taking the initiative of bringing together operators in a given sector in order to create a closed recycling loop. Here, we can draw on our years of experience in the recycling sector. For instance, we’re currently exploring how an aluminium producer can team up with other companies to recycle scrap aluminium. For companies, recycling is no longer done purely ‘because it has to be’; it’s now an economically sound business practice that’s also good for your image.”
What are your goals for the future?
Hendrik: “At the moment, Möbius is the largest local consultancy groups in the Benelux operating independently. And we want to continue along our chosen path: working in our niche sectors and using our own approach, which truly is profoundly different.”
This article has been posted in collaboration with Möbius.