Elixirr Partner Clare Filby on how getting ahead is a two-way street

03 October 2018 Consultancy.uk

With UK businesses still grappling with a persistent gender divide, despite generations of struggle to deliver workplace equality, many companies are exploring ways to promote the talents of women within their organisation. Elixirr Partner Clare Filby sat with Consultancy.uk to suggest which practical steps employers can take to help women rise through their organisations.

Clare Filby arrived at Elixirr in 2014, following more than 17 years with Accenture. Having become a Senior Executive at the global professional services firm, she had decided the time was right to pursue her own interests.

“I wanted new opportunities, dynamism and the ability to manage my own workload – work that I created for myself to fit around the other priorities in my life, such as investing time and money working with start-ups and charity ventures,” she explained. “Perhaps that was the entrepreneur in me! I wanted to branch out into new areas, new industries and not be siloed into any one function. Little did I know that I could have the best of both worlds – I just had to find somewhere where I could make it happen.”

Having arrived at Elixirr, Filby quickly learned one of the most important lessons of her career in this regard. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” She explained that working at Elixirr has enabled her to have the balance she was seeking, as when a consultant works is less important than what they deliver, thanks to the firm’s corporate culture.

Elixirr Partner Clare Filby on how getting ahead is a two-way street

“As a firm of entrepreneurs, it’s the value that you deliver that’s important, not hours. And this doesn’t affect client work at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. Even if I’m physically ‘at work’ 50% of the time, I’m putting in 100% of my effort whenever I’m there. This kind of flexibility is highly valued at a results-based business like ours, a trend I hope will become more commonplace as executives begin to understand that presenteeism does not equate to increased productivity. Output always trumps hours.”

Flexible working hours have increasingly been spoken of as a method of increasing productivity within a business, in recent times. This is particularly the case in regards of improving a business’ engagement of women in its structure, and a recent study suggested that working mothers lost as much as £1.3 trillion to inflexible UK employers last year alone. By addressing gender divides such as this, companies could tap into a neglected wealth of talent and productivity. When it comes to addressing how to best diversify their workforce, Filby asserted than there a multitude of tactics managers can leverage.

“The role of management is fundamental and can play a huge part in catalysing career development, especially for women in an organisation. Rather than expecting individuals to conduct business-as-usual day by day, executives should be encouraging their entire team to explore new disciplines and opportunities. Championing workforce versatility is a tried and tested method to help get the most out of individuals and propel business growth. Yet, why is it that we still see a lot of ‘talk’ amongst leadership around this topic but very few seem to be walking the ‘walk’, leading the way and proactively making the difference?”

Walking the walk

Proactive management behaviour can also be used to help encourage a greater diversity further up a firm. Many women involved in businesses remain reluctant to seek a promotion at work, unless they feel they are already adequately trained for it. This could be seeing valuable potential going to waste, and is something Filby believes can be challenged by management behaviours.

“As you get more senior, for both men and women, transitioning into better roles with more responsibilities is encouraged and will shape your development – if not, you risk being left behind. However, it is often said that women won’t put themselves forward for a new role until they are sure they can do 100% of it – and I think that’s true. Senior management must actively own their responsibility to encourage high potential women to apply for that next role at the same time as their male counterparts may apply – often when they can do just 20% of the role.”

“I was challenged to take on a really difficult project – way beyond my comfort zone, but with the promise of support and opportunity should I succeed. The result was incredible - it was one of the best experiences in my career.”
– Clare Filby, Partner at Elixirr

Filby elaborated using her own experience, recalling, “Given the right environment, which you can co-create with those around you, women will undoubtedly demonstrate their potential and shine. That’s what happened to me – I was challenged to take on a really difficult project – way beyond my comfort zone, but with the promise of support and opportunity should I succeed. The result was incredible - it was one of the best experiences in my career. I learnt so much and was tested constantly but we delivered for our client. Shortly afterwards I was promoted to Partner and there is unquestionably a correlation between the two events. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with the right support there’s a directly proportional relationship between professional success and self-confidence, tenacity and resilience.”

She was keen to stress that individuals also need to believe in themselves as well though. Filby expanded, “It’s a two-way street however. Everyone, regardless of gender, should be proactive when it comes to their own confidence-building efforts – but don’t do this as an island. Instead, build up a network of mentors and leaders around you who support and inspire you. This has proven to be an invaluable exercise on my journey. I made sure I weaved my own safety net whilst ensuring I championed the talent around me…and I would encourage you to do the same. Contrary to popular opinion, achieving success need not be a lonely endeavour.”

In line with that, Filby concluded, “My final advice? Push yourself out of your comfort zone, grab every opportunity and empower yourself.”

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Robert Park on the launch of his consultancy RWG Enterprises

18 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Following a lengthy spell as a General Manager at an international materials corporation, Robert Park was keen to rediscover his inner entrepreneur. With the launch of his new consulting firm, RWG Enterprises, Park spoke with Consultancy.uk to outline his hopes for the future of the company, and how he believes his boutique will be able to challenge the market.

Robert Park commenced his career in retail, taking up a string of General Store Manager positions with companies – including Poundstretcher and The Gadget Shop – before making the 2005 move that would lead him to a 13-year stay with Morgan Advanced Materials. First taking up a role as Production Supervisor with the organisation, Park quickly worked his way to the upper echelons of the group. By 2013, he held the role of UK Operations Manager for the company’s UK ceramic core business, Certech UK, before seeing out his final four years at the firm as General Manager, leading the senior management team and strategic direction of the business.

Despite his success with the firm, however, Park found himself getting itchy feet. A change of career seemed increasingly appealing, and by February 2019, the time to take a new path had arrived.

Park explained: “I was losing the ability to to use the entrepreneurial flair that I had enjoyed in the past; the organisation was moving more towards a structured and common approach for doing things, and that made me feel restricted. I also really enjoy the troubleshooting, problem solving side of my role. However, having been in my last post for four years, the troubleshooting and firefighting was long behind me. I realised that I am really energised by tackling difficult issues or turning around things that are clearly struggling.”

New consulting firm RWG Enterprises launches

His criteria for a new career seemed to point conclusively in the direction of management consulting, and while his CV has no formal experience in the sector, Park believes his career to date has provided him with a wealth of transferable skills. During his time with Certech at Morgan Advanced Materials, he became a Senior Manager at the age of just 21, and went on to succeed in a harsh factory environment where six former candidates had previously failed to deliver results.

Later, he became the group’s youngest General Manager in its history, and was involved in the turnaround of numerous departments. He also developed vast experience dealing with a wide range of ‘people’ challenges, including re-organisation, talent development, talent acquisition and leadership development. Along the way, Park noted that he learned to deal with large, blue chip organisations such as Rolls Royce, securing major long-term contracts worth upwards of £25 million.

Now, he hopes to take that know-how and apply it to the diverse world of consulting work. Park elaborated: “I really want to be able to help organisations that feel that there is no hope or have lost faith in the business… Having been there myself I know how helpful it would have been to have someone to refer to in times of crisis… The firm will also focus on leadership development, as I spent a lot of time with the global graduate program during my corporate career… and I was really motivated to see these individuals grow and develop… helping them to find their own way through challenging situations.

New enterprise

Park’s new Derby-based consultancy, RWG Enterprises, will focus on five key operational fronts. As stated, leadership development and business rescue will be two of these areas, as well as manufacturing – where the firm will tackle challenges such as new product introduction. RWG will also offer financial advisory services and strategic business planning offerings.

While Park is understandably guarded about the firm’s initial engagements, he revealed that he has been “speaking at length to a well-known university and business school about providing mentoring and coaching support to students.” In the long-term, the aim is for RWG Enterprises to take on engagements from clients across the industrial spectrum. He added that as “the company is very embryonic”, it would be “foolish” to become too focused on target clients at this stage.

When asked how RWG Enterprises intends to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack, in an ever-more-crowded UK consulting sector, Park is undaunted by the task ahead. He stated, “I think the main differentiator is that we are small... I have operated at a very senior level for many years but I have enjoyed a very diverse background having worked in most functions within my last organisation. I also won’t take on any work or clients that I feel I cannot deliver value for, I am honest and ethical and am really motivated by seeing others become successful… The main thing I am focused on is 'can I add value' and 'can I help?'”