Curium Solutions – Simplified Change Management, Birmingham, West Midlands

A golden decade

By Andy Dawson

13 Jun 2018

A golden decade

Curium Director and Co-founder Andy Dawson reflects on the award-winning change consultancy’s first ten years and looks forward to a golden decade.

I can’t believe it. In only a couple of months’ time, we will celebrate Curium’s tenth birthday. It is coming up to a decade since James, Adam and I started the company in September 2008. Back then, Lehman Brothers had just collapsed and the world went into financial meltdown.

What a difference a decade makes. As a business, we have gone from strength to strength, navigating the odd bump and learning along the way. Our story resonated with the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Awards judges, who named us Business of the Year in April.

Later this month, we will thank the people – customers, colleagues and friends – who have helped us to reach this milestone with a summer celebration at the fantastic Library of Birmingham.

Across the region, the change over the last 10 years has been staggering. As we look out from the library’s Discovery Terrace, we will see HSBC Bank’s new retail HQ, PwC’s new building and work to create the new Centenary Square. Who would have thought of that back in 2008?

Birmingham is a city of optimism and excitement. The region is led by our mayor, Andy Street, who brings energy and collaboration to everything he does. We have a ‘golden decade’ to enjoy, thanks to the Commonwealth Games, Coventry City of Culture and HS2.

While I am extoling the virtues of Birmingham and the Midlands, here’s a thought for Channel 4. There are many fantastic cities in this country, but do yourselves and your employees a favour and pick Birmingham and Coventry. You will not regret it.

So how do the last 10 years look for some of the main sectors we work in? In 2008, our first really significant customer was Lloyds Bank, which quickly merged with HBOS to create Lloyds Banking Group.

Since 2008, the banking sector has had to cope with new regulation and market entrants. Some major players, like RBS plc, are yet to recover. Customers are less loyal than ever before and more demanding. The rise of digital services has presented opportunities for disruption, with fintech and insurtech among today’s buzzwords.

A really interesting sector we have been working in is legal service, where the Jackson reforms, increased competition, fixed fees and the introduction of ABS structures have created an environment ripe for change.

Some floated, with Gateley Plc a success story and Quindell Plc a controversial shambles. Others remain wedded (just) to the cosy LLP culture. Change will accelerate in the coming months and years: more mergers, more fixed fees and the need to act more like a PLC than an LLP.

The best law firms will invest wisely in change and not just hope that a new system is the answer – it never is. Just ask the NHS or Paul Pester of TSB plc.

The retail sector has been fascinating to watch. Amazon dominates, digitally-savvy businesses like Boohoo.com –  with a clear customer value proposition – have stolen a march on traditional high street fashion retailers.

High street rents, Living Wage increases and Brexit uncertainties have not helped. Retailers have been guilty of cannibalising their own customers, moving them online with free delivery but retaining the costs of a traditional retailer.

I think we are not far from the point where enough capacity has been taken out of the high street and the likes of Marks and Spencer – with a business hero of mine (Archie Norman) as chair and retail guru Julian Richer advising on culture – have the opportunity to flourish.

Culture is a key enabler of success. Looking after your people is critical and success is all about managing change and executing your plans well.

An interesting reversal of the digital-first mantra has been the success of Aldi and Lidl. They have absolute clarity on their target customer, clear pricing strategies and consistent customer experiences. The big supermarkets have been caught out with frequent shifts in strategy and leadership.

The lesson here is about complacency. The business world has never moved so quickly but, in 10 years’ time, we will reflect on how slow the pace of change was in 2018!

On reflection, the last 10 years represents a golden decade for Curium. With so much opportunity on our doorstep and in our chosen sectors, it is time to raise the bar once again and up our game.

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