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'Businesses That Do Not Support A Sustainable World Simply Won’t Exist’

Matt Crabtree, founder and principal partner of Positive Momentum, talks to BW Businessworld on how consultancy services can help companies, both global and domestic, work towards a better growth rate and what will drive companies in 2035

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Matt Crabtree, founder and principal partner of Positive Momentum, talks to BW Businessworld’s Brij Pahwa on how consultancy services can help companies, both global and domestic, work towards a better growth rate and what will drive companies in 2035.


You started Positive Momentum in January 2003, which is about 14 years ago. What was the initial idea that went into the founding of Positive Momentum?
I had a slightly unusual background. I grew up on a farm and spent first 20 years of my life in agriculture and later found myself in business. I was a sales guy, sales manager and through a series of events, I got myself on to the board of a half a billion dollar telecom company by the time I was 28. At 31, I was one of the youngest senior executives of Barclays bank.

So, I had this amazing 12-year period and had the opportunity to exit corporate life and do something slightly different. I had grown a little frustrated by the companies that were advising, consulting, offering, training but didn’t have practical experience of success and a little failure in corporate life.

So, in the last 14 years, I have been lucky to build a business and find a group of people to work with who are former senior executives, former managers from companies from all over the world. They help companies in a deeply practical way, as to what we call a no-nonsense fashion and here in India. We have an extraordinary team of consultants who work with organisations all over India and we are very excited about our growth in India.

What is the modus operandi that you apply with big firms like BNP Paribas, RBS with regard to your consultancy? How do you go about it?

So, let’s talk about modus operandi first at the moment. The experience of consulting globally is that many of our clients are multinational in nature and of course there are cultural specificities in different parts of the world.

Most of the organisations are facing the same challenges; how to get growth, how to control cost, how to engage staff, how to find the best talent, how to lead people through transformation, etc.

These challenges are universal and so we are very fortunate to engage with clients in lots of different parts of the world and in lots of different industries, commonly working on those challenges. Now what is our modus operandi? It is a great question because our modus operandi is different from many organisations. We go in with what we call a blank sheet of paper, we go in to learn about clients.

We don’t go in with a pre-prescribed notion of how we are going to solve particular client’s problem because two companies can be in the same financial services and the method by which you assist them in resolving their challenges can be completely different and I believe that consultants need to have a sufficiently open mind and of course, I would say practical experience to lean on, that understands the difference for different companies and is able to engage with clients in a no-nonsense and open-minded fashion.

What has been your largest consultancy assignment till date? Which company you have been with is doing wonders to the world?
Many of our clients are doing wonders, we are privileged to have dealt with some of the companies that you talked about like Paribas, FMCG companies like Red Bull, oil and gas companies like OMV. The common frame amongst all of them is the desire to examine why they run the organisation and actually all are almost as open-minded as we are.

Sometimes the people that we have known for many years can examine a problem and the clients who work with us to examine the problem and to accept that perfection is not possible. Running a business is complicated, people and customers are complicated, regulated governments are complicated. Perfection is not possible but better is possible. And I would like to think most of our clients have experienced better.

Are you working with any company in India?
In India, we are working pretty closely with and have done lots of work with American Express. We are lucky to be talking to lots of other businesses right now because our business here is growing significantly. So, just in the last year, 10 new consultants have been added to our team.

We are coming up with our 35th anniversary issue. My question is that as a consultancy expert, where do you see companies heading in 2035 globally? Will profits still be the mantra or will sustainability take over?
The choice between profits and sustainability is already a bogus one and by 2035 it will likely be irrelevant. Businesses that do not support a sustainable world simply won’t exist by 2035.

In any event, further extraordinary leaps in technology, particularly in the field of energy generation, will by then have rendered the sustainability discussion as outdated a subject as talking today about how amazing mobile telephones are.

What would your advice to young and budding entrepreneurs be?
The very first piece of advice would be, please come and get started. Have no fear. The generation of people who are entering the world of commerce right now is the largest ever that has joined the world of commerce.

So, the first advice is to get started and the second is to find mentors, or someone who can offer you a different way of looking at things, go and talk to people who make you think, who, may be, challenge your view. You don’t have to agree with them but understand the forces that might be against you and the forces that are behind you.

The third advice would be to read everything you can possibly read and anything you can lay your hands on; experiences, stories of people that have built businesses and that have had perhaps triumph and disaster in equal measure. Ask people for help because by doing this, you can expose yourself to divergent thinking.