From today, Valoro becomes Vogel Wakefield, the counter-consultancy. We see this as more than a change of name. We’ve been in business for nearly three years now and we have a much better appreciation than when we started of how we add value for our clients.
When we founded the business, we were spent some considerable time defining our company and our distinctive approach. In retrospect, this was more useful to us as partners than it was to customers. It helped us clarify the common ground that enabled us to work together. But all our clients wanted to know was who we were.
In fact, one executive, demonstrating refreshing plain-speaking, told us the Valoro thing wasn’t making much sense. “You’re Mark and Martin, aren’t you?” he said.
Over time, we’ve realised that that is indeed the essence of our company. Our biggest sell is that when you’re dealing with Vogel Wakefield, it’s Vogel and Wakefield who show up. We’ve dropped trying to define the kinds of scenarios with which we engage or the solutions that we can offer. We’ve learned to put aside preconceived ideas and simply be present to the complexity and diversity of people’s experience.
The value of engaging us arises from our commitment to see things though: we reflect back honestly what we see and work closely with our clients to tease out what their distinctive situation calls for.
We weren’t even aware that this is what clients appreciate in us until Ruth Hogarth, of King’s College London, mentioned almost in passing at the end of a project how she had seen our contribution. We were so surprised, we asked her to put it into a testimonial – as much so that we could reflect on it as secure bragging rights. This is what Ruth said:
“They were very effective in analysing what the team’s needs were; in providing an open space for people to explore and discover what works (and what doesn’t); in reflecting back to us what needed to be done to make us more efficient and less stressed; in rigorously holding us to our objectives; in providing work plans for us to ensure the momentum for change was maintained; and above all, in staying with the work programme to the very end, despite numerous changes of direction and postponements. A very refreshing ‘consultant’ experience, conducted with mutual respect and in an atmosphere of trust. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”
How we make sense of what we do is that we draw on years of experience of facilitating effective conversations and listening hard to what we hear. It’s where we started as journalists, it’s what we did as strategists and it’s what we do now as coaches and (counter-) consultants. People in hectic organisations often find it difficult to create the space for such conversations – their lives are too busy and their routines institutionalise modi operandi that imperceptibly preclude precisely the things it’s important to discuss.
Another characteristic of our approach is that we work collaboratively. Each of us works individually, but we’ve learned to trust the better judgment we can bring to projects when we gather and analyse insight together. This can be more costly for a client but generates better value. And since we’re a small agency with lower overheads, we offer competitive rates anyway.
Our defining characteristic is that we understand that people work in very challenging environments these days. We’re intolerant of mediocrity, as you’ll grasp if you read our blog posts. But we resolutely refuse to collude in the idea that everything is amenable to a simple and logical fix. Our aim is to help clients be the best they can be in the circumstances they face.
Nothing less will do. But achieving it is no simple matter. Sometimes a little help from the counter-consultancy can make all the difference.