6Clicks recently sat down with 460degrees Managing Director Werner Spies to find out what it takes to become a renowned innovator in global business transformation, in a new series called ‘Innovators’.
Werner, before we get into it, can you tell us how you got your start and take us through some of the key moments in your lengthy career?
As an accountant in training with PWC back in 1986, I quickly realised that the value-add to the client actually resides with the person responsible for executing the work. However, in the days when knowledge and intellectual property (IP) were still in the hands of the big professional services firms, the only way to get access to that knowledge was by engaging the firm.
All the firms quickly jumped on the Technology wave as new technologies such as ERP systems were launched. That is where I got the exposure to be part of a start-up as we launched the first SAP implementation partner in South Africa. The opportunity was great as we could just piggyback on the SAP marketing engine, train people from business to understand SAP, and sell our services accordingly. I learned all about starting and running a people-centric professional services firm, which eventually brought me to Australia.
When we sold the business to a global IT corporation, and I, unfortunately, went along to manage the business unit, I experienced what it was like to be a consultant, you are treated just as a number and an under-valued cost centre. This is where I spotted the gap in the market to create a management consulting firm where the consultant is front of mind, is king.
By unlocking their potential, value will be delivered to both the client that buys (the corporate clients) and the client that sells (the expert). With the evolution of the internet and Google, knowledge now is free and in the hands of the experts. The challenge is no more a search for finding knowledge. It is all about applying it. It is all about the expert.
This led to us founding the world’s first Expert Management Agency, 460degrees.
The journey from PwC accountant to governance and expert management pro must have contained some golden truths. What do you think ‘up and comers’ should always keep in mind during their innovation journey?
This might sound cliche, but the “why” is the key to everything. The reason why you get out of bed every day, your passion and your beliefs must be the driver for what you do. If you do not understand your purpose, you will not be able to find your destination. The “why” is not easy, as most people live in the “what”, as in what we do, what we sell, what we earn et cetera. To come up with a great idea is not hard. To deliver the idea is a different story; it requires endless passion, determination and tenacity.
Most innovative businesses have gone full circle (360 degrees) before they achieve what they have set out to do. They have to go 460degrees before they find success. My story is no different. I have been through the dot-com bubble and crash, the GFC and now we are in the midst of COVID-19. All unforeseen and unplanned global catastrophes, but I still get out of bed every day as my “why” is still intact, and the EMA vision is sound and clear.
Now, to your current agency, ‘460degrees’. The company has undergone some amazing changes, a long way since you founded ‘CharterMason’. Then more recently, the merger with ‘Certatech’. What was the catalyst that drove the creation of the agency?
The owners of Certatech and CharterMason formed the CMC Group. As a result, we were running a holding company and two operating entities but the “why” of all parties were the same. Through an intensive strategy review and research process, we concluded that the management consulting market was ripe for disruption.
Savvy clients, many of whom have consulting backgrounds and easy access to intellectual property, now challenge traditional management consulting models. Services are becoming commoditised, and the sought after consultants are highly mobile.
Clients are asking for more experienced and talented hands-on trusted executors to work alongside their teams, providing the capability they need, when they need it. This trend has created an opportunity for a new style of network-based communities of experts that services the clients’ needs, represent these talented experts, and addresses the opportunities and challenges that arise when the two groups interact. This will be known as the Expert Management Agency (EMA), the catalyst that drove the creation of 460degrees.
For clients, navigating the management/consulting services marketplace can feel like a minefield – what separates 460degrees from the pack?
We have seen how ineffectual “big box” consulting enacts value and meaningful change into organisations that engage them. How they have layers and layers of process and administration stacked above the industry knowledge experts. We thought that there must be a better way. And a way where organisations can accelerate their technological demands. We thought organisations should be tapping into the actual experts.
At 460degres, we found a way where we could flip consulting around. Put the experts out front. Let them become the hero. To use the latest knowledge and expertise in technology so that we can challenge the status quo. To make our clients more technologically secure with every area of their business. The old world of strategy firms that hand you a plan or a manual is being replaced by a growing 460degrees movement of powerful and passionate experts committed to making a huge impact on the world of business.
Through our assistance, big consulting firms will become less and less relevant and clients enjoy the advantage of dealing directly with the power of the individual expert. We recognise and respect the expert. At 460degrees, experts own their IP and are encouraged and supported to use it to improve the world around them.
Could you leave us with some final thoughts on culture and leadership for 2020 and beyond?
At 460degrees, we understand that our culture is what builds, blends and binds us as a company, it is who we are. By shaping and defining our culture with our people we create something that our competitors cannot copy, a company built. For experts, by experts. Our culture is the definition of who we are as an organisation and our brand is how we authentically express this to the market. We are evolving and transforming towards a new type of culture and structure. We are based on a meritocracy system to ensure a values-driven and empowerment culture.
By 2023, we will transition to an evolutionary culture of self-management. We understand that this evolution of our culture takes time, commitment and contribution of all to make the shift, and we honour this.
In this new and challenging world, we need new ideas, a new business model and new ways of unlocking the collective power of complementary expertise. We’re continually finding answers to questions that have never needed to be asked before. We’re leading the way. As a collection of ingenious minds, our creativity is borne from deep insight. Together we achieve things that none of us could alone. Adapting swiftly to new challenges, we think about things differently. We are the leaders, not the followers. We set the standards that others follow. We discover through ingenuity, we lead by breaking through.
At the heart of our brand is an idea – ‘Breakthrough Wisdom’. It’s what we stand for as a company and is the central organising principle for everything we do. Deep insight catapults our expertise, rich experience steers our solutions.
We discover through wisdom. We lead by example.