Speaking of the importance of getting good people around you - from your team to your professional support network, Carlos Keener talks to BQ about his business, BTD Consulting.
What is it the company does?
BTD Consulting is an international M&A Consultancy that provides start to finish support helping companies realise long-term sustained value from their M&A activities.
It is surprising how often the full value that was intended before the M&A process doesn’t materialise afterwards. In fact, it is well documented that over half of M&A deals fail to deliver. Some M&As even fall apart completely – a costly and demoralising experience for all concerned. This is where BTD comes in. We help organisations put their M&A visions into practice, supporting long-term planning beyond the deal – which is arguably where the hard work of integration begins and where the mistakes are so often made.
BTD works with mid-market and multi-national blue chip companies including Amadeus, Bellrock, Centrica, Coca-Cola, E.On, GlaxoSmithKline, Kallo, Novartis, Sanctuary Group and Unilever.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As founding partner, my role has evolved over the years. With a partnership in the UK of three (soon to be four), my contribution to the business is focused now on ensuring consistency of quality and approach across all our client engagements, growing our overall practice capability, and of course continuing to be an ambassador for the business across our global client network, some of whom have worked with us for over fifteen years! As a group where our partners actively lead our work, I also spend a fair share of my time directly managing some of our client engagements.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I literally started on the factory floor, not your traditional route into the M&A industry! After getting an MEng in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London I went to work as a shift supervisor at Merck pharmaceuticals, moving into a technical and project management role over the seven years I was with them.
From there I went on to Logica, PwC and Accenture where my focus was advising on large-scale change programmes within blue-chip and mid-market organisations, including M&A and integration. I loved the role and I could see that there was a real gap in the market for a company that could advise on M&A and integration. There wasn’t really anyone else specialising in both the pre- and post-deal activity, connecting the thinking across all aspects. This is where success or failure generally lies, so I took the opportunity set up BTD (Beyond The Deal) in 2001 and haven’t looked back since.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
It may sound like a cliché, but passion and commitment are crucial. If you don’t absolutely, unshakably believe in what you’re doing, especially when building a company from nothing, which is what I did with BTD, there will be 20 rational reasons every week to simply give up and go home. In the early days, we relied solely on our experience as individuals, word of mouth and a lot of shoe leather. Through hard work and sheer determination to succeed as a company, we kept knocking on doors and companies started to take a chance on us. We still work with many of these clients today.
Getting involved in the day-to-day work is also important, but in my experience working with over 50 MDs and CEOs over the years, the key is not to make every decision or be the best at everything. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The best leaders I’ve encountered set a vision and direction, build a safe but challenging environment in which people want to perform at their best, then let everyone get on with their work. I hope I inspire my team by infusing this vision, energy and empowerment across the board.
I’m immensely proud of my team, and of the fact that it’s now them, not me, who deliver fantastic results for our clients around the world. While what we do is based on good, structured common sense, it’s neither easy nor simple, and requires a careful blend of experience, skills, EQ and dedication to pull off consistently, for each and every client. I’m pleased to say that our transition from an individual to a team and organisational capability has been smooth, and BTDs reputation is built on many exceptional individuals, not just myself as the original founder.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Growing the business sustainably. Like most other professional services firms, our business is largely engagement-based and requires top talent and focus on each and every client, so balancing supply and demand as they both increase takes a strong constitution. I used to think that as a business grows, the risks would decrease. I’ve found instead that success doesn’t necessarily reduce the risks, in fact, it simply makes them bigger in magnitude!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Other than the usual necessary breaks and holiday with my family, the team actually do a great job of keeping me centred and keeping it real. The atmosphere in the office, and via email conversations, is serious when it needs to be, but downright funny when we ‘argue’ over being given gold stars by our wonderful Practice Manager Carina, proposing outrageous water features in our office, or recommending team days at Peppa Pig world! If the team doesn’t insist on BTD being a fun place to work as well as a challenging and fulfilling one, then we don’t have the right team… and we do!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Either a concert pianist or a train driver. Fortunately for the world, I chose a different path.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I am actually having to think hard on this one. The fortunate thing about my position is that, if I do have something I don’t like, I can work to change it! We put a very strong emphasis on working in real, deep partnership with our clients, getting to the right result together. Clients who hope to leave us to ‘do it for them’, or conversely those who already feel they have all the right answers and simply need us to implement them, tend to be a challenge for us, and them. Any relationship not grounded in mutual trust and respect tends to be something I find personally very challenging, and try to avoid.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
BTD has enjoyed steady growth over the years and I want to see us continuing to build on this. When I first started BTD Consulting it was just me. Now I have a team of 25 experienced professionals working for me all over the world including Australia, the US, Singapore and India and clients across the globe.
Over the next five years, I want to see us working with even more globally recognised companies, helping them to navigate what is a constantly changing marketplace and opening more offices overseas. Despite the passage of time, BTD continues to provide a unique service in the market and my intent is to grow the reputation so that we truly become the ‘must have’ group for anyone considering M&A who wants their next deal to be better than their last.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
There are two things – the first is the one that everyone says but it’s still very true. Surround yourself with good people. A strong, multi-disciplined team is priceless, and I have spent a long time building a business that is made up of experienced professionals. Each one of them comes from a different working background and their skills and attributes complement each other wonderfully.
The second piece of advice is to keep challenging yourself. I learn so much from my team and their experiences and we’re constantly striving to be better - be that through individual learning, finding ways to enhance the service we give our clients or developing new products and tools. The market we operate in is fast-paced and dynamic and if we don’t find ways to keep up with this then we will quickly fall behind. The key to success is to stay ahead of the curve. Just like in natural evolution, survival of the fittest speaks not of size or strength, but adaptability.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
To focus on and nurture good relationships, and to be patient! Relationships are not just about new business and revenue, but even more importantly the BTD community has grown to become an extremely useful support network too. It’s really important to spend time building these relationships with your peers and expanding your network. At the end of the day, my business is all about people and having a good group of confidantes has been really important to me. Whether it’s been an external contact to bounce ideas off or share problems to discover solutions. The support is absolutely invaluable.
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