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Client excellence and employee excellence: How ACOR are focusing their success on both

In today’s Q&A on Research.Reveal. we’re hosting Sean Page, ACOR Consultants’ National Strategy Leader – Clients.

I chatted with Sean about ACOR’s 20-year journey of growth to being a national consultancy and the role CX and EX are playing in their success.

Q: What are the things of which you are most proud about ACOR’s journey to where you are today?

A: ACOR has stayed true to the founders' vision whilst adapting our strategy for growth flexibility. This shows in the commitment and sacrifices that the leaders of the business are making in pursuing our vision.

Over the past six years we have grown the staff ownership to 15%. What’s not very well known is the extent to which the original owners and majority shareholders have sacrificed their holding in the company due to their passionate belief in remaining an employee-owned business as the foundation of a good workplace culture, which supports ACOR’s growth and broadens opportunities for all our people.

Since joining ACOR in 2013, I have witnessed our ability to adapt and empower a new generation of consultants as the business goes through challenging circumstances internally and externally. I am always proud of how the team, from newcomers to very experienced, bands together and adapts to succeed beyond expectation.

The inclusive, team-oriented environment in ACOR, fosters an empowered and content workplace with a culture of ownership that contributes to our ongoing success.

Q: You’ve grown impressively as a business. Sean, can you put that growth into perspective for us in terms of people, locations and services offered? What opportunities and challenges does growth present to ACOR?

A: In the years I have been with ACOR, we have grown from around 120 staff to approximately 450 across Australia. We have expanded our building and development offering by adding building services and niche value-adds such as dangerous goods, acoustics, security, facades and remedial engineering. We have invested a good deal of time in strengthening our internal and external processes and services to support our national portfolio of clients.

We strongly believe that we have only just begun to see the potential of the business. We, like many, are on a continuous journey of improvement. For ACOR this is a transition from a group of successful engineering practices to one powerful national consultancy. The strength in leveraging our broad reach and skill base to provide further value for our clients and the community is, I feel, yet to be fully developed.

The challenge is as always to make the right decisions for our people and our clients. This is a multifaceted issue; however, we believe it begins with consideration of how our decisions may affect the experiences of those around us whether they be internal or external.

Our formula is attractive to staff and clients alike, and our challenge is to continuously improve our systems and hone our resources to keep up with growth – and invest in our people so we stay true to our values and mission.

Q: Most businesses will state that their employees and their clients are their two most important assets. Increasingly the concept of happy staff = happy clients and vice versa rings true. Saying it and doing it, however, are not always the same thing. What is ACOR’s take on this? What plans and strategies do you have in place for your two most important assets?

A: Yes, I agree saying it and doing it are not the same thing. Our approach to bridging the gap internally is to simplify the message so it can be applied consistently.

Providing great experiences is symmetrical in its application to both clients and staff. Gathering feedback from clients and staff to improve continuously and provide satisfaction leads to attraction and retention which in turn creates trust. This applies equally to our clients as it does to our people.

We absolutely equate the happiness of staff and clients to each other – and as fundamentally important to our business. I can honestly say that Our mission to ‘Invest in the success of our clients and create an environment where our people thrive’ is the basis of everything we do, day in day out. A client knows when our staff are aligned because it shows in the service we provide by working together internally and with the client to achieve their objectives.

We continue to develop our operating model around these two key assets. Like many engineering-based consultants we can become quite broadly focused. However, the focus remains on quality over quantity when it comes to building relationships.

Q: COVID19 – opportunity or handbrake for ACOR?

A: The COVID environment has been one of opportunity for ACOR. Whilst we indeed focused on putting in place responses to what could happen, we also chose to invest deliberately in the opportunity to support staff and clients. The unprecedented set of circumstances provided a platform to deepen our relationships.

We observed areas of weakness and uncertainty; however, these provided a clear opportunity to prove our commitment to finding the best solutions. There is nothing like a worldwide market disruption to provide the imperative for self-evaluation. We took the opportunity to question the norm and embrace what the future may look like. This is also true for our clients; our experience was that they were looking for support and collaboration, more than ever.

For us, COVID reinforced the importance of having a clear strategy and sticking to it. Through 2020, we accelerated our growth through the strategic recruitment of key staff and grew 25%.

Q: Where do you see the business in 3 years from now? What are the things you need to start, stop or keep doing to get there?

A: We are on a consistent journey towards achieving our mission and continuing the legacy of our founders. I can’t say with any certainty where the business will be in three years, but I know we will be further along our journey of creating a great company that people want to work with and for. There will be a much broader collective understanding and implementation of our mission, i.e. the experience ACOR creates. We will be a more significant, more mature business with a broader and more diverse staff and leadership team.

With our experienced staff-base and national presence, we will be working on more challenging, diverse and significant projects while continuing to deliver the high-value services and experiences for which we are known.

In line with the 2020-21 experience we, like all businesses, need to stop looking to the past as a pointer to the future. I see this as further transitioning from an engineering company to a consulting company that can embrace change and apply our knowledge to new challenges.

Sean Page

As a Principal and National Strategy Leader – Clients, Sean has been instrumental in the growth of ACOR through the implementation of a national client strategy.

He is a leader of ACOR’s Defence group, providing critical services to enable operational readiness in areas such as Project Management, Contract Administration, Facility Upgrades, Defence Fuel Services, supply chain and explosives handling.

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