Focus and Value...or bust !

Date posted: 05/02/2018

The clear message, laced with encouragement, was “don’t overstretch”, “focus on the big opportunities you are closest to.” - By Matt Oldham

At our recent Shareholder committee meeting the leadership team got to present our plan and strategy for the year. There was excitement at the growth potential, enthusiasm for new ideas and initiatives, but most importantly there was pragmatism from this small group of very experienced and hugely successful business leaders. The clear message, laced with encouragement, was “don’t overstretch”, “focus on the big opportunities you are closest to.”

For a business that outsources services (software and administration to banks and insurers) and in light of recent developments at Carillion and Capita, this is sage advice indeed. The situations at these two giant outsourcers are not the same: Capita have the strength and leadership to steady the ship. Unfortunately the families of Carillion employees and subcontractors will be left with uncertain futures.

The lessons we will take from this will be value and focus.  

Carillion seemed to have continuously doubled down on loss making projects, undercutting the market to gain scale. I’m sure we have all bought cheap shoes in the past for them to fall apart quickly. The Value we can give our clients will come from the quality and speed of delivery, not doing it on the cheap. 

We were with a client last week – a major financial institution - who told us they want us to be a partner, to grow and thrive. Although this sounds clichéd, their actions and behaviours over a long term commercial relationship reflect what they say. Perhaps we should be careful about who we do business with, to check they share our views on Value.

Capita CEO Jonathan Lewis has stated that their business is “too complex”, suggesting that they will focus on fewer sectors and spread their considerable resources less thinly. This sounds like a sensible approach and they have a talented team.

I was reminded of advice given by the CEO of a leading UK retailer – my client at the time - to his leadership team. He told them that most people were only really capable of focusing on 3 things at any one time. He told them to define those 3 things, know everything about them in intimate detail and push them through to completion before adding new projects. It’s pretty good advice.   

So at OPAL we will be focusing on what we do well and making sure we deliver value to our clients and shareholders. After we have finished doing that, we can go and conquer the world…!