Each month we will be showcasing Export Champions as part of the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion interview series. The collection of interviews over the coming months will allow you to get to know our Export Champions better, gain some insight to the challenges faced by UK SMEs, as well as the sharing of valuable business start-up advice.
For the month of January we hope you enjoy reading interviews from Knowledge Management & Transfer, Avon Barrier, Aduna and Hive Education.
How did you hear about the CommonwealthFirst programme and what made you apply?
Completely by accident! I had a meeting cancelled at a conference and ended up talking to a UKTI defence expert. He took my email. 6 months later he emailed me details of the programme just 3 hours before the application deadline.
How did the idea for KM&T come about?
The usual gap in the market spotting. It was obvious most consultancy business ended up delivering reports, not results. We decided to be far more delivery based in bringing operational excellence. It turns out ROI is important after all.
What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
The single biggest barrier is getting a hearing. Once we get in front of a potential client we can show them what we have done for others and what we can do for them. Getting through the door of the big corporates is tough. With most of our global clients being household names like NHS England, Rolls Royce, Downer EDI and Shell Oil, its far easier these days.
What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
It’s a big world and our challenge is not to be kids in a sweet shop. We work in sectors as diverse as rail, health, marine, private equity and FMCG, we could run around the world meeting people all day every day but going nowhere. We also need to focus on areas where we can deploy our people with minimum bureaucracy and hassle with visas and work permits.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your company?
The two keys to our success have been, firstly, never compromising on the quality of our people. If we are going to assist in bringing operational excellence to the biggest and best organisations in the world, we always must have the best people, with the best skills.
The second key was being global. By setting up on 4 continents we minimised our exposure to regional economic cycles. Our choice of a predominantly Commonwealth footprint served us well in the Global Financial Crisis. Australia and Canada held up well allowing us to grow globally whilst our competitors shrank.
How do you measure your impact?
It’s all about results. Ensure you get a return on Investment for your client. Make sure that the clients staff love what you have done and value it. Ensure that the efficiency and quality we bring to our client sites is embedded and sustainable. All these things can have metric put to them. Assign those metrics on day one.
What does a sustainable return on investment mean in your work?
ROI does not have to have a £ or $ in front of it. But it usually does! We have helped listed companies regain their credit rating, hospitals save £10m’s in year. We’ve delivered operational turnarounds for PE companies that have resulted in $100m’s upside and we’ve even save a Ministers job by bringing a project back on track. The sustainability is the key though. Everyone involved need to understand that and want to maintain that. We often save 7 f and 8 figure sums for clients in year. We like to do what KM&T stands for “Knowledge Management and Transfer”, with a big focus on the “T”, if we do that they save that 7 figure sum year after year.
What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Primarily KM&T would hope that the CWF programme helps us get access to companies and governments we have struggled to engage with. We will also use the depth of knowledge that its mentors have to evaluate which markets we should focus on.
What is a typical working day for you?
There is no typical working day. Sometimes it’s a day in front of a screen conference calling New Zealand at 6 am and Canada at 9pm. Some days I’m visiting a hospital in England, others a Rail yard in New South Wales. The one thing typical about my day is that it is not boring.
Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
By 2022 I would like to see us operating in a few more nations. To date we have worked in 38. There are huge opportunities in Commonwealth nations such as India, and the continent of Africa is largely untapped for us save a little work in Kenya.
What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
Do what you enjoy and that you can be fantastic at. It’s that simple. If you do something that you have no interest in you will make no money and hate the whole experience and if you are not aiming to be the best at what you do, why should anyone buy from you.
Is there anything exciting you would like to share?
We have developed a new programme for small business, bringing the benefits of operational excellence usually only delivered to large organisations. Its first target was GP surgeries, they are all small businesses. It is now being deployed by NHS England to hundreds of GP’s and will create time and capacity for more appointments to be available in the NHS. We now hope to take this around the world, bringing better healthcare to millions. We are also about to roll out versions for small and medium sized manufacturers. In a world where productivity is key this is a crucial tool.
Knowledge Management & Transfer: View Champion Profile