I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea.

As a first time CEO of a global consultancy in the midst of reinvention, we’re learning to be a 70 year old lean start up, with a clear focus.

Right around the time I took up the top job at Proudfoot, I walked into IDH in Toronto’s Leslieville. IDH is the Irish Design House (www.theidh.ca ), a tiny little street side shop filled with all things Irish. Just Irish. Made in Ireland. And the owner is Irish.

On the counter of this cool little shop with neat Irish stuff, sat a postcard. The title of this inaugural post. I picked it up, slid it into my purse and have carried it ever since. That’s what it’s all about in my view! Business and life. You can’t please everyone. You need to find what pleases the clients, customers, or friends you value in your world.

In consulting speak we’d probably label it something corporately like ‘strategic sacrifice’, although I prefer the whiskey reference. But that’s what my first 100 days have been about. Removing all things noncore, as myself and my teams across the globe, reinvent our business and focus on the great work we do for our clients, in the space where we are brilliant, as a company.

It’s a tough strategy. It means we must walk away from work, people and industries that don’t fit in the short term with our shot-of-whiskey strategy. We must lean forward, lean up and lean out the very business that has been built over more than 70 years and the one I have worked in for 30 of those years.

It means we will once again be a niche, focused, boutique consultancy, while we narrow our work to that which we are brilliant at, sadly shedding ourselves of those parts of the business that won’t help us grow but might make us fail (high costs with no returns), and re-establish a brand through delivering great work and enabling our people to be brilliant.

As the new CEO and as my first CEO role, it’s both a daunting task and a fantastic opportunity; to reinvent this 70 year DNA and focus it on what it does best, stopping it from trying to be anything else. Some of my teams think it risky ‘.. but what if we can get work in that sector or capability? They ask. Shouldn’t we take it?’

Well, it’s a case of leading with your best work. At least, that’s what I truly believe. If you don’t have a track record of greatness, if you can’t tell a brilliant story about how you ‘changed the landscape’ of a business, or ‘brought innovation not just to our mine but to the industry’, then you shouldn’t play in that sandbox. Those two quotes BTW are direct from our client’s whom we are delivering great work to right now.

We have the added benefit and challenge of being publicly traded. We are well supported by our shareholders, but we also have total transparency, which can be a plus and a minus. When Proudfoot created MCG we were the premier, lighthouse brand. As we acquired, built, sold and divested other firms and brands, Proudfoot was the one consistent core company. Today, MCG has divested itself of all but Proudfoot. All the more reason to go where the whiskey is and take the shot at being known for brilliance in a narrowly focused client base, before we expand again.

So, here we sit. A group of people known as Proudfooters, holding the life blood of a business in their hands. Charged with building a better business fit for the future, and one that is ever-relevant and resonates with clients, constantly reinventing, but delivering our core and what we are known for: Tomorrow’s results. Today.

As we execute on our strategy our role is to apply our core skills, those capabilities we so aptly deliver to our clients, to ourselves. We want to inject that life blood with new energy, and spark. We want to slam that shot glass on the table and exhale, knowing we are giving our shot of whiskey clients all we’ve got, and then some.

So that brings me to why the title of the blog page? Wrestling Chaos. Well, much of the work we do with clients is to help them wrestle the chaos of their world. Today, leadership and their teams have so much coming at them, they constantly need to juggle today’s balls and the balls that are in the air to build tomorrow’s business. Manage their own business and deliver on what their customers want. The challenge of business today. It’s a chaotic world. You can’t stop it and you can’t get off. You can only wrestle it with a view to come out on top. Some days you do, some you don’t. But you must get up and do it again.

And so, this blog is built with the intention to do two things. Share my observations on wrestling chaos, as I work with my teams and clients across the globe, but also to capture those observations as a first time CEO, whom is happy to be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. The important thing is of course, to know which whiskey you want to be.

May you wrestle your chaos, and win.


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