A 360 Degree Approach to Management and Business Consulting: Analytical and Creative

I started my career with a decade dealing financial futures and international commodity trading. Then I created photographic images for major advertising agencies and their blue chip clients for ten years or so; and then another decade consulting to advertising agencies and large corporations in branding, marketing and pricing.

And for the last few years, my focus is on helping privately owned businesses.

As a result of my analytical and creative background, I have developed an approach to business consulting which integrates the core principles of understanding the market through consumer and financial analysis, and developing the business through operational effectiveness, and distinctive branding and marketing.

Much is made in management theory about the importance of integrating analytical and creative thinking, and the danger of thinking along narrow lines. Yet narrow thinking in business is difficult to avoid, and comes naturally from years working in a single discipline – and for most people this is the norm.

One can nod with recognition when thinking of the various business stereotypes; there are the accountant types, engineering types, creative types etc. each applying their own unique and frequently very different perspective to business problems. Business consultants are no different, and similarly tend to identify problems according to the lens of their unique background and discipline.

For instance, business consultants from a marketing background invariably focus on ‘Branding and Marketing’ issues, and rarely if ever consider ‘Pricing’ in any depth – even though Pricing can be the most powerful profit driver in a business. And finance orientated business consultants do a great job of understanding the finances of the business, but very rarely have the experience or tools to understand or advise on how a business and its products are best presented to the market.

Single track thinking in business consultancy, as in any other field, can and does lead to misdiagnoses and missed opportunities. In contrast, my approach is to first understand the essentials of a client’s business, the competitive drivers, the competitive environment, and then develop an overall strategy taking into account all of the key business, financial and marketing issues specific to the company. I’ve found that my all-round background allows me to better and more quickly identify the problems and opportunities that lie behind business challenges – which are rarely if ever specific to one aspect of the business – and to respond accordingly.

Services
The individual pages detail each of the services I offer, but it’s probably helpful to give a sense of how these can be used individually; for instance where a business requires a financial feasibility model for a project; or perhaps a management workshop to determine a new growth strategy; or else as a combination with several or indeed all of the services I offer.

To give an idea of how this works in practice, recent tasks for a single client have involved me taking responsibility for (i.e. doing): market research, advertising photography, directing web and brochure design, copywriting, identifying and developing external business relationships, and building comprehensive Excel models for funding purposes. And also negotiating key aspects of the funding arrangements on loan terms distinctly favourable to the client – a decade’s experience in negotiating large international commodity contracts not going to waste!

So when it comes to getting down and dirty, and ‘doing’ the job, I undertake a range of tasks that would normally require a small team drawn from different disciplines. The benefits to the client are: cost-saving, continuity, and time – dispensing with the process of briefing and coordinating different individuals on the same project.

But it’s the ability to work on both the creative side, and the analytical side, of the business that allows me to do what I do best. Namely, to develop and implement powerful business and marketing strategies that draw on strengths from all sides of the business; and to create a fit between what the market wants, and what the business offers.

In most instances, I work side by side with senior management. But where necessary, I liaise with external specialists. My business network, apart from legal and accounting specialists, includes experts in the fields of Economics, Statistics, Risk Finance, Advertising, Public Relations, Design, and all aspects of Digital Development.

Clients
As an advertising photographer I worked for blue chip clients via South Africa’s main advertising agencies: TBWA Hunt Lascaris, DDB Needham, Herdbuoys McCann Erickson, and Ogilvy & Mather. Clients included: Sprite, Old Mutual, Edgars and L’Oreal.

As a branding, pricing and strategic consultant, I worked for Corporate clients who are also market leaders in their fields: The Johannesburg Stock Exchange, NedBank, Nissan, Italtile, Karen Beef, Denny Mushrooms, and Young & Rubicam Advertising.

And as a private business and marketing consultant, I apply the same skills and experience working for smaller to medium sized businesses across the board; to companies as diverse as: Corporate Risk Financiers, TV Production, Printing, Advertising and Design, Manufacturing and Construction, Earth Moving Plant and Equipment, Property Development, Artisan Training, Horticultural Growers, and Digital Development – to give an idea of the range.

Diverse needs; diverse responses
Dealing with such a broad range of businesses, the value I provide is rarely in providing industry-specific knowledge. But it’s rarely industry-specific knowledge that a business needs. You know the technicalities of your business better than I can ever hope to. It’s seeing the wood for the trees, rather than identifying tree fungus, that I offer.

Frequently the greatest value I provide is by bringing fresh insight into a problem or opportunity. I do this by approaching a business with a set of best practice business and marketing tools honed by 35 years of experience, and a fresh perspective.  Ironically a fresh perspective is the one thing by definition denied to the business insiders, and yet so often, provides the key.

Diverse industries present diverse problems and opportunities – rarely drawn from, or affecting a single area of the business. Sounds like a job for a split business personality…