Episode 38 - Adil Khan - Boxwood

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Today’s guest is Adil Khan. Adil was one of the founding team of Boxwood, the business transformation consultancy that following years of successful growth was acquired by KPMG in 2015.

Since leaving Boxwood Adil now spends his time advising Consulting entrepreneurs on how to successfully grow their businesses and focusing on his own start up, Lifefyle.

The goal of Lifefyle is to provide people with a simple, organised platform for their life admin, to give them the freedom to unlock their potential and thrive. You can find out more about Lifefyle at www.lifefyle.com

Adil’s story is rather different to what you might consider the typical journey of a Consulting entrepreneur. Unlike most, he didn’t have a long track record in Consulting, having only spent a short time in the indsutry before stepping out to found boxwood with his co-founders who had spent equally little time in Consulting.

This limited time in the industry proved to be the key to their success as they set out to create something very different from the typical Consulting model that was common at the time.

We go in to detail on some really key parts of the Boxwood journey that I know you’re going to find really interesting including:

The importance of culture and how Adil and his co-founders defined their culture from the start and what they did to ensure it remained a core focus as they grew.

The challenges of being responsible for both people and finance as Adil was. The natural tensions these functions often come up against and how Adil managed this. 

The Boxwood approach to working with clients, why this was so unique and what Consultants in today’s Market could learn from it.

And Adil’s contrarian view on building a Consulting business to sell, why expanding internationally can actually reduce the value of your business and the sale of Boxwood to KPMG. A process I know a number of you have wanted to hear more about.

I really enjoyed this conversation and it was great to get the perspective of someone who took a less orthodox route to success in Consulting. If you’re not from the typical ‘big 4’ Consulting background and want to know how you can turn this to your advantage or even if you are and want to know how you can use the principle from Boxwood to grow your business or practice area I know you’re going to get a ton from this interview.

You can get in touch with Adil through his LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/adilkhan/

Or drop him an email - adil@blueastral.co.uk     


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Specific things we discussed in the show:

Equiteq - https://www.equiteq.com/home/

Managing The Professional Services Firm by David Maister - https://amzn.to/2HtEW3W

Good to Great by Jim Collins - https://amzn.to/2CJiH4o

Revinventing organisations by Fredric Laloux - https://amzn.to/2CGsI2i

Start with why by Simon Sinek - https://amzn.to/2S6RhiC

Adil’s book recommendations for those just starting out in Consulting which he shared with me after our interview. The commentary in italics is Adil’s:

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries - https://amzn.to/2HvzihH (both important from an internal as well as client perspective. You can use it as a guide to help clients develop their approaches to developing stuff and taking it to market rapidly and with agility)

  • The Third Wave by Steve Case - https://amzn.to/2B34e3g (truly inspiring)

  • Bounce by Matthew Syed - https://amzn.to/2sN65ES (useful for people wanting to specialize and achieve expert status)

  • Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath - https://amzn.to/2sUc7Up (Consultants wanting to learn more about themselves, their teams and understand how to play to their strengths.)

  • Seeing Systems by Barry Oshry - https://amzn.to/2Ufghl5 (Helps you make sense of organisations and develop solutions for some tricky challenges you can’t make sense of.)

What we talk about:

00:05:24 - Adil’s background and how he got to where he is today.

00:07:22 - How Adil and his co-founders launched Boxwood and why Consulting ‘experience’ isn’t the key factor to success when it comes to launching your own Consulting firm.

00:11:04 - The vision that Boxwood was founded on and why ‘building to sell’ wasn’t something they were focused on.

00:13:57 - How the founding team developed the culture of Boxwood and what they did in the early days to ensure they were all on the same page.

00:19:15 - Why Boxwood priortised cultural fit when it came to recruitment, the challenges this caused for them and how they overcame them.

00:25:22 - How the Boxwood leadership team managed to maintain their culture and feeling of being one team when deliberately recruiting introverts in to a company full of extroverts.

00:33:17 - Adil’s advice for shaping culture in the early days of your Consulting firm.

00:38:45 - How Adil balanced the dual hats of Head of Finance and Head of People for Boxwood and how he overcame the natural tension that occurs between these two functions.

00:47:18 - Adil’s contrarian advice for building a Consulting business to sell.

00:52:02 - Boxwood’s unique approach to project fees and how they were able to use ‘Risk/Reward’ fee structures to grow their business and build trust with their clients.

00:58:30 - The surprising factors that will actually reduce the value of your Consulting firm to prospective buyers.

01:09:30 - The detailed walk through of the sale of Boxwood to KPMG.

01:15:50 - The importance of considering the people aspect of an acquisition and what Boxwood did to ensure their team got the best from the sale to KPMG.

01:20:30 - The importance of managing the communications with your team throughout the acquisition process and how Adil and the Boxwood leadership team approached this.

01:28:20 - Adil’s book recommendations.

01:31:42 - Adil’s closing advice for you whether you’re just starting out in Consulting, In the middle grades or approaching Partner level.

01:37:10 - How to get in touch with Adil.