The foundation of any successful business is the right people. “Once you have attracted the right ones, you need to invest heavily in their development,” stresses alumnus Francis ‘Frank’ Wilkinson, currently operational consultant in the UK whose ultimate dream is to build a consultancy of his own that specialises in cultural and behavioural change. Francis holds a BCom (Human Resources Management) degree from UP.
Q: What is your current position and what does it entail?
A: I am an operational consultant working in a fairly small consultancy in the UK. My roles and responsibilities vary widely from one project to the next, but I will try to be as concise as possible. First and foremost, I am responsible for delivering a change and transforming businesses. These transformations are typically worth £500k-£1.5m. It could be increasing productivity, reducing costs, minimising waste, improving efficiencies or enhancing quality; but at the end of the day, we must deliver value.
My work stream will usually form part of a wider programme that delivers £10m-£150m of value to our clients. On a day-to-day basis, I work on the client’s site (usually staying away from home during the week) and the activities I will do to drive improvement would be: data collection and analysis; cultural and behavioural change management; process redesign; trials and testing of new ways of working; stakeholder and risk management; team and performance management, etc.
Q: Briefly summarise your career since graduating from UP, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: It has not been long since I left UP (December 2018) but since then, I have moved to the UK and got a graduate job at one of the most competitive companies in the UK (less than 1% of applicants are given an offer). Since starting with Newton Europe, I have worked on three projects thus far, all of which have been public (local government) based, and at the start of this year, I began running my own work stream for the first time, aiming to deliver £800k (about R15.5m) of value.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
UP provided a well-rounded education for me
: not only was the academic preparation top tier (most of my colleagues – about 60% of them – are from Oxford and Cambridge) and I am one of the few that could compete in the applications process. But also the extracurricular, I was heavily involved in the faculty house (Commercii) and the leadership and planning skills I developed there have been key to my success in the workplace. I also made friends at UP who I still talk to frequently and that network of support has been incredibly valuable to my personal well-being.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: You have a very limited time at university; I would recommend you make the most of it! Dive in head first, you can’t do everything, but get involved in the things that matter to you – you don’t want to look back and wonder “what if?”
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful organisation?
A: People. It is very simple; no organisation can be successful if it hasn’t got the right people. Once you have attracted the right ones, you need to invest heavily in them! You need to invest time in them, you need to invest energy in them, you will probably have to invest money in their development, but the returns are fantastic! Some will leave and that is always sad, but many more will leave if they don’t feel valued and appreciated.
Q: What do you do to ensure that you stay ahead of the competition?
A: I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses and I spend equal time developing both. Why? If I don’t improve on my weaknesses, there are things I’ll never be able to do; but if I don’t work on my strengths, I’ll never be anything more than average.
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc.) do you enjoy reading?
A: I enjoy reading the Financial Times, The Economist, the Business Insider, Forbes, but most of all, I enjoy articles that I find in the Harvard Business Review.
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: I love people, I love working with people, I love talking to people, I love spending time with people, but most of all, I love developing people. The reason I get out of bed in the morning is to make an impact on someone’s life, to know that I have helped someone do something today that that person couldn’t do yesterday is the best feeling in the world!
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person - in any domain - who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: Elon Musk – I would love to talk about the lessons he learnt with Tesla, making an unattractive but sustainable product more attractive and still sustainable, and apply those to other industries. For example, how could we make solar – an expensive, low return on investment product – attractive, profitable and sustainable?
Q: Going forward, what are your goals, both for yourself and as a consultant?
A: My primary goal is always to provide for my family. My career is very important to me, but my wife is infinitely more important. My primary goal is to live a happy and fulfilling life with my wife.
That said, I would like to lead a full transformation programme in the next five years to turn around an entire organisation.
In the next 10-15 years I would like to take the lessons I have learnt and build a consultancy of my own that specialises in cultural and behavioural change.