Episode 41 - Charles Vivian - North Highland

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Today’s guest is Charles Vivian, Managing Director and Portfolio Group Lead at North Highland.

Charles leads North Highland’s UK and north eastern US practices, a $100 million dollar consulting business.

While you might be expecting the typical consulting career journey, Charles has had the complete opposite and has a hugely varied career that has spanned working for a global consultancy, founding his own start up, working for a boutique consulting firm and then working his way up to where he is now.

Outside of work Charles has undertaken some phenomenal adventures including climbing Mont Blanc and running the Marathon De Sables, the world’s toughest foot race. In fact the reason that there was a slight delay on releasing this episode was that Charles was flying out the day after our interview to trek across the Artic!

Charles’s approach to growing a business, growing your career and enjoying your life were fascinating and no matter where you are on your journey there’ll be something in here for you.

We cover so many interesting topics in this conversation including:

  • Charles’ start up journey, what he learnt from failing and his advice to other thinking of going out on their own.

  • The importance of culture when it comes to building a consulting firm and how North Highland have created a culture that is open and supportive while welcoming challenge from all levels of the firm.

  • The differences and similarities when it comes to working across the UK and the US and the importance of understanding the culture of the region you’re working in when it comes to building a Consulting business.

  • How Charles fits adventures like his trip to the artic in to his schedule and his advice for others looking to balance work with doing more of the things they enjoy outside it.

I really enjoyed this conversation with Charles. His unique perspective having worked across such a diverse range of businesses gave some fantastic insights and I know you’ll get a lot from this conversation.

You can get in touch with Charles through his LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/charles-vivian-2931b72/

or drop him an email - Charles.Vivian@northhighland.com


This episode is brought to you by Create Engage the Digital Marketing agency for the disruptive Management Consultancy.

Digital Marketing has moved forward, but most consulting firms haven’t. Many Consulting firms still see their corporate blog as their sole Digital Marketing channel and find themselves frustrated when these blogs yield little if any results.

To help those of you who want to harness the power of Digital Marketing to grow your Consulting Business but don’t have the knowledge, capacity or in-house capability to do so I launched Create Engage, the first Digital Marketing agency for the Management Consulting Industry.

If you’d like to find out more about how Create Engage can help you use Digital Marketing to take your business to the next level then drop me an email at Nick@CreateEngage.co.uk or go to our website www.createengage.co.uk where you can download our free case study that breaks down down the Digital Marketing strategies used by one successful Consulting firm to help them grow over 400% in just 3 years and gives you the secrets they used, so that you can apply them in your own firm.


Specific things we discussed in the show:

Quedis - http://www.northhighland.com/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/north-highland-announces-qedis-rebranding

Marathon De Sables - https://marathondessables.co.uk/

The First 90 Days by Michael D Watkins - https://amzn.to/2HPIbkL

Get Abstract - https://www.getabstract.com/en/

Harvard Business Review - https://hbr.org/

What we talk about:

00:04:52 - Charles’ trip to the Arctic and how he’s able to take a week off the grid while running a $100m Consulting business.

00:07:38 - Charles’ advice to those who are looking to do the same.

00:09:00 - How Charles found his way in to Consulting and why he decided to leave his career as a surveyor.

00:14:54 - Charles start up journey and advice to you if you’re thinking of starting your own business.

00:23:31 - Failing in his start up and how Charles overcame the failure to build the career he has now.

00:26:18 - Charles’ advice to those who want to balance their family commitments with doing something more entrepreneurial in their career.

00:29:26 - What Charles saw in Paramjit Uppal - Founder of Quedis - that led him to join the company

00:32:28 - Charles approach to interviewing candidates and how it helps North Highland recruit the best talent for the business.

00:35:36 - North Highlands culture of ‘upwards challenge’ and how they manage it to ensure it remains a positive force for the business.

00:40:14 - Managing Millennials - how the workforce is changing and how Consultancies have to adapt to give millennials the careers they are looking for.

00:45:40 - Charles career journey with North Highland and how he’s climbed to where he is today.

00:48:00 - The cultural challenges when merging consulting firms and how Charles and the team had to adapt when Quedis merged with North Highland.

00:49:30 - The difference between running a consultancy in the UK and the US and why you need to adapt your style to the region you’re working with.

00:51:09 - Charles’s advice if you’re thinking of launching a US practice for your Consultancy.

00:56:15 - How Charles balances his entrepreneurial ethos with working in a larger corporate business and how his entrepreneurial experience has helped North Highland achieve the growth it has in the UK.

01:04:54 - Charles advice on career planning and the importance of life phases.

01:08:39 - How Charles has had to develop as a leader as the business has grown and where the biggest step changes have been for him during his North Highland journey.

01:13:29 - How North Highland have built their sales culture and the importance of everyone at the firm being a sales person as well as a delivery person.

01:16:15 - How Charles makes times for his hobbies and the impressive adventures he’s been on.

01:23:22 - Charles’ book recommendations.

01:27:34 - Charles’ closing advice for you whether you’re just starting out in Consulting, in the middle grades or approaching Partner level.

01:30:38 - How to get in touch with Charles.

Episode 40 - How to become a thought leader - Advice for overcoming your fear and creating great content

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Today’s episode is a huge milestone for the show. It’s the 40th episode of Climb in Consulting.

It’s been a great adventure so far and I’m looking forward to creating the next 40 episodes for you.

A big thank you to all of my guests who have appeared on the show so far and a big thank you to you for listening to it! Without you I would have packed this up long ago.

To celebrate 40 episodes I wanted to share my advice on one the biggest challenges I find Consultants, Consulting Leaders and Consulting Marketers face - Producing content.

I speak to a ton of Consulting leaders and Consulting Heads of Marketing who say that they struggle to get content from their Consultants. Likewise I speak to Consultants who are desperate to create more content but just don’t know how.

In this episode I focus on the two reasons that I believe hold Consultants back from creating more content - fear and time.

By resolving these two issues you’ll be able to create significantly more content which will only benefit your firm and your own career.

Specific people I mention in the show:

Nigel Walsh - https://www.linkedin.com/in/nigelwalsh/

Nigel Walsh’s interview for Climb in Consulting - https://www.climbinconsulting.com/podcast/2018/10/17/episode-31-nigel-walsh-deloitte-digital

Natalia Wiechowski - https://www.linkedin.com/in/nataliawiechowski/

Natalia Wiechowski’s interview for Climb in Consulting - https://www.climbinconsulting.com/podcast/episode-19-natalia-wiechowski


This episode is brought to you by Create Engage the Digital Marketing agency for the disruptive Management Consultancy.

Digital Marketing has moved forward, but most consulting firms haven’t. Many Consulting firms still see their corporate blog as their sole Digital Marketing channel and find themselves frustrated when these blogs yield little if any results.

To help those of you who want to harness the power of Digital Marketing to grow your Consulting Business but don’t have the knowledge, capacity or in-house capability to do so I launched Create Engage, the first Digital Marketing agency for the Management Consulting Industry.

If you’d like to find out more about how Create Engage can help you use Digital Marketing to take your business to the next level then drop me an email at Nick@CreateEngage.co.uk or go to our website www.createengage.co.uk where you can download our free case study that breaks down down the Digital Marketing strategies used by one successful Consulting firm to help them grow over 400% in just 3 years and gives you the secrets they used, so that you can apply them in your own firm.


Episode 39 - Lyndsey Oliver A.K.A The Chief MsChief Maker

Lyndsey Oliver Chief MsChief Maker

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Today’s guest is Lyndsey Oliver, AKA the Chief MsChief Maker

Lyndsey is the founder and director of M4 Coaching and creator of Back to Work without a Bump® and Making MsChief®, the groundbreaking programmes designed to help retain, support and unleash the true potential of all human beings regardless of their labels.

Lyndsey is a champion of working Mums and an advocate of gender balance in the workplace. She’s passionate about helping parents (both male and female), female leaders and female business owners become the best versions of themselves, both in and out of work.

I was introduced to Lyndsey by a former colleague and listener to the show who had worked with her through their parental leave and said that I had to get her on the show.

The challenges that Lyndsey helps Consultants with are ones that many people in our industry deal with every day but ones that rarely get the attention they deserve. Knowing the positive impact that Lyndsey had had on this listener and others in my network I knew she’d make a fantastic guest and she certainly didn’t disappoint.

We cover some really deep topics in this interview including:

  • The barriers that hold women back from climbing the career ladder - both structural and self imposed - and what Consulting firms and female leaders themselves can do to break through these.

  • The relationship challenges that can face some Consultants as a result of the job and the conversations you should be having with your partner to ensure you’re able to manage them.

  • The challenges that parents face when it comes to building a career in Consulting and what their firms and they can do to manage these to help them achieve the balance of home and work life they’re looking for.

  •  And finally, What those of us who are white men, like me, can do when it comes to diversity and inclusion in Consulting and how we can help improve it.

This was a fantastic interview and we go in to detail on all of these topics. So much so we got carried away after the interview and kept going. As you’ll hear towards the end of today’s episode I’ve actually put some of our post interview conversation back in because I thought it was such an important topic for you to hear.

For any regular listeners you’ll also know that I often ask my guests for resources that they’d recommend you check out if you want to work on any of the things that we discuss.

To help you with this Lyndsey has created a free workbook that you can use to help you identify your own biases - both conscious and unconscious - and start to think about how you can make positive changes to reduce these in day to day live. 

Whether you’re a senior leader who is looking to be the best role model they can be or a junior consultant looking to understand more about themselves I’d highly recommend checking this out.

 If you want to download the workbook you can find it on Lyndsey’s website - www.makingmschief.com/free-workbook and I’ve put the link in the show notes for you.

You can get in touch with Lyndsey through her LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/lyndsey-oliver/

Or check out her website - www.makingmschief.com


This episode is brought to you by Create Engage the Digital Marketing agency for the disruptive Management Consultancy.

Digital Marketing has moved forward, but most consulting firms haven’t. Many Consulting firms still see their corporate blog as their sole Digital Marketing channel and find themselves frustrated when these blogs yield little if any results.

To help those of you who want to harness the power of Digital Marketing to grow your Consulting Business but don’t have the knowledge, capacity or in-house capability to do so I launched Create Engage, the first Digital Marketing agency for the Management Consulting Industry.

If you’d like to find out more about how Create Engage can help you use Digital Marketing to take your business to the next level then drop me an email at Nick@CreateEngage.co.uk or go to our website www.createengage.co.uk where you can download our free case study that breaks down down the Digital Marketing strategies used by one successful Consulting firm to help them grow over 400% in just 3 years and gives you the secrets they used, so that you can apply them in your own firm.


Specific things we discussed in the show:

The DO lectures - https://www.thedolectures.com/

Making MsChief - https://www.makingmschief.com/

The Path of a Doer by David Hieatt and Andy Smith - https://amzn.to/2taGYfj

Tim Ferriss - http://bit.ly/2RMmPWW

Brene Brown - https://brenebrown.com/

Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown - https://amzn.to/2GsM9PC

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown - https://amzn.to/2WMGGsB

Brene Brown TED talk - https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

The Invention of Difference by Binna Kaandola & Jo Kaandola - https://amzn.to/2RNOUNi

Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés - https://amzn.to/2MU6rTm

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill - https://amzn.to/2TJzYSx

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson - https://amzn.to/2GfLdyH

What we talk about:

00:07:04 - Lyndsey’s background and how she got to where she is today.

00:11:04 - Why Lyndsey decided to leave her successful corporate career.

00:16:46 - The glass ceiling - what holds women back from climbing in their career, both structural and self imposed.

00:23:40 - Lyndsey’s recommendations for the best children’s TV shows from a diversity and inclusion perspective.

00:25:25 - Why a ‘lack of confidence’ is rarely the real issue that female leaders face.

00:30:20 - The Dilts Pyramid and why it’s so important for your career success.

00:35:29 - The structural challenges within Consulting and what firms should be thinking about if they want to improve diversity and inclusion within their firm.

00:40:59 - How can Consulting firms balance their career progression and reward structures to support both those who want to prioritise their careers above other areas of their life as well as those who are looking for more balance across the different areas.

00:49:06 - The impact that social media and external validation can has on our career decisions and choices as we pursue ‘success’.

00:57:52 - Why flexible working would transform Consulting and those that work in the industry.

01:00:51 - How Consulting leaders can support their team in balancing their career with other aspects of their lives.

01:04:00 - The challenges that ‘high flying’ couples face and what you and your partner should be thinking about if you want to maintain a health relationship while climbing the career ladder.

01:10:00 - The warning signs that can tell you whether your relationship is suffering as a result of your career.

01:15:45 - The importance of understanding yourself and why this is critical to developing a successful Consulting career.

01:18:00 - Self Improvement Books and whether they’re seen as ‘acceptable’ by our industry.

01:27:53 - The challenges that expectant and new parents face when it comes to their career and how they can successfully overcome them.

01:32:06 - How parents can manage the challenges of travelling for work with bringing up a family.

01:38:30 - The specific career challenges that men face when their partners are pregnant and what they and their managers should be talking about to ensure they get the support they need.

01:42:50 - The positive and negative impacts of company policy when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

01:47:10 - How the challenges that parents face change as their children get older and how they can manage these challenges are their children grow up.

01:52:42 - What ‘white men’ can do to support and improve diversity and inclusion in Consulting.

1:58:37 - Lyndsey’s book recommendations.

02:06:00 - Lyndsey’s closing advice for you whether you’re just starting out in Consulting, in the middle grades or approaching Partner level.

02:08:10 - How to get in touch with Lyndsey.

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     


This episode is brought to you by Create Engage the Digital Marketing agency for the disruptive Management Consultancy.

Digital Marketing has moved forward, but most consulting firms haven’t. Many Consulting firms still see their corporate blog as their sole Digital Marketing channel and find themselves frustrated when these blogs yield little if any results.

To help those of you who want to harness the power of Digital Marketing to grow your Consulting Business but don’t have the knowledge, capacity or in-house capability to do so I launched Create Engage, the first Digital Marketing agency for the Management Consulting Industry.

If you’d like to find out more about how Create Engage can help you use Digital Marketing to take your business to the next level then drop me an email at Nick@CreateEngage.co.uk or go to our website www.createengage.co.uk where you can download our free case study that breaks down down the Digital Marketing strategies used by one successful Consulting firm to help them grow over 400% in just 3 years and gives you the secrets they used, so that you can apply them in your own firm.


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.