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Why I joined beaton as a Partner: John Clay

September 3, 2019

I​ am delighted I've joined beaton as a Partner based out of our office in Sydney. In this introductory post I tell my story, reflecting on my career experience and why I'm excited by the prospect of working with our clients and my colleagues in the beaton team.  

 

My introduction to professional services
The first 15 years of my career was spent in the telco sector where I worked in marketing and account management for corporate and government clients. One of my roles was as Telstra’s segment leader focussing on professional services firms, so got to know many partners in the large accountancy, legal and some engineering consultancies. 

 

I moved out of the telco industry in 2005 and joined URS (now part of AECOM, followed by Arup for eight years. 

 

Differences and similarities between professional firms and other services industries
My wife, Cathy, used to be a sector marketing manager in a major accountancy firm. One of the things that she mentioned to me when she started in her new role was a partner

jokingly asking “Are you a fee-earner or a fee-burner”? I retorted “You should have said that you are a fee-generator”, because if you don't understand what clients need and don't communicate with them in the right way and deliver the right solution to them, you won't have a business!

 

Professional services have traditionally been quite different to other industries. The seller-doer model where a principal / partner wins business and oversees its delivery was certainly different to my previous experience in the telco sector.

 

But the fundamentals in a business-to-business or business-to-government engagement are the same. The business needs to deliver value that resonates with the clients’ mindset, and in doing so deliver consistently over a long-term engagement including multiple projects – to enable a mutually beneficial business relationship.  

 

Firms in which I've worked
My roles at Arup (CMO Australasia and Regional Board member) and URS (Regional Head of M&C) primarily covered the Asia-Pacific region from a functional perspective – Beijing to Christchurch, Japan to Delhi. But I was also the Global Practice Leader for Marketing and Communications in the Arup Group. This required me to implement best practice skills and practices across all regions through a skills leadership network. 

 

Client differences between countries 
When it comes to clients, one size does not fit all. Gathering insights from clients in NZ, Australia, UK, USA, Canada and Singapore is different to obtaining insights from clients in China, India and Japan. Knowing how to approach clients and how to uncover nuggets of insight, certainly varies.

 

During my time I've observed client- and supply-side trends.
Over the last 15 years I have seen increasing use of digital technology by professional services firms to win and deliver projects for clients.

 

Within the marketing technology stack this relates primarily to client insight apps, customer relationship management, content management systems, electronic direct mail and proposal development and delivery. Personal relationships, soft customer engagement skills and a cross-selling mindset are still paramount, but can be made more effective through the use of technology.

 

I have also seen increasing use of professional marketing and sales teams. Consultancies are supplementing their internal work force shortages with combinations of part-time, contractors and specialist external agencies.

 

Rewarding professional experiences
Among many rewarding experiences, Arup winning the Best Professional Services firm in the 2017 Client Choice Awards was a mega occasion for all of us. And being awarded the Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year by Australian Marketing Institute is another highlight for the work that teams that I have led have achieved.

I am particularly proud to have developed and implemented marketing and communications capability in each of the professional services firms that I have worked, only increasing brand recognition, but also being recognised for delivering first-class client experience (CX).

 

When Arup was awarded the 2017 Overall Best Professional Services Firm it was first time a consulting engineering firm had achieved this accolade. Coordination of company strategy and planning, brand reputation management and employee engagement all contributed and have led to numerous other highlights over the last 12 years. Probably the most satisfying has focussed around developing best practice skills and competencies of a professional marketing approach in organisations.

 

What I know about beaton
I've worked with beaton for around 12 years, originally subscribing to beatonbenchmarks reports whilst at URS and then at Arup. The data provided a guiding point from which to improve performance and to also celebrate when our internal goals and external awards aligned. 

 

My initial reaction when Paul and George approached me was "I like working with people that I like, respect and enjoy working with, particularly on business challenges where my skills are best suited". That's Paul and George I've known for many years, always enjoying their company and intellectual problem-solving capacity. Quite simply, they’re honourable guys to work with with a growth mindset and a joie de vivre.

 

Expectations of my first 365 days with beaton  
In the first year I hope to build our capability and client base across the built environment firms; both through increased engagements with major firms, but also increased interaction through the vast majority of consultants who are SMEs.

 

Having worked on the 'client side' including Board governance and fiduciary accountabilities, I understand the challenges that principals, business unit leaders, CEOs, MDs, CFOs, COOs and CMOs encounter on a daily basis. I'd like to think I could provide guidance on specific business challenges in the realms in which beaton specialises.

 

What I hope to achieve as a member of beaton
My expertise in building and delivering business capability in professional services firms operating in the built environment, provides an additional dimension to the beaton capability set. And when combined with beaton's pedigree of research developed over many years, I’m sure many organisations will be keen to see how they can improve their business performance, through effective market positioning and delivering a first-rate client experience (CX).

 

The beaton research is highly respected in the industry. I’ve seen many colleagues who were sceptical about online surveys change their minds and use results from beaton to validate specific business situations or implement a course of action with greater confidence. beaton provides client and market evidence like no other researcher or adviser. 

 

Something about me that I'm pretty sure no reader of Research.Reveal. knows about?
After completing my MBA at the University of Nottingham I worked in British Telecom’s Corporate HQ in London and on one occasion travelled to New York as the British Airways Speedbird courier – on the Concorde.

 

Now I prefer to ride my bike! 

 

 

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